There is no perfect. There is no clarity.
I forgot. Again.
Can you miss someone who you know in your heart like the back of your hand? Can you miss someone who you can face time?
Can you miss someone who is where he wants to be doing something he loves?
California is a long way away. Tuck came home in late July for over a week. I went to see him in October. And both times I planned to post a thousand pictures and reminisce about “my sweet boy”- My Tucky Lucky. And I haven’t.
I feel hesitant to claim him- post his picture with the family like this is our everyday when it isn’t. And I don’t want to admit that he isn’t mine. Admit the inevitable. Like the saying – Our children are not ours. I googled it and I think I was remembering this poem.
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth…
From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.
So he isn’t mine. And I knew it the whole time. But now Another STAGE. Another passing. He is of himself. I get on his nerves like every other mother got on the nerves of their 21 year old son. I disappoint myself by saying the wrong thing and not knowing the right thing.
He knows things I will never know. He can speak in words that allude me. He surfs. He perseveres.
While his peers are going to college paid for by their parents, Tuck works and waits for his in state residency to come through. I feel proud and guilty at the same time. I wish I could give him all that was given to me. And yet I see the strength and independence he has earned and I marvel.
He shares his thoughts, his loves, his favorite books, his politics, his knowledge freely and I feel fortunate to be in his presence. He is the same as he was at two and he is unfathomably different. He is the colicky baby who pinched my bottom lip as he fought sleep and he is this man frustrated with my parking. He loves me dearly and lets me feel cherished and he moves to the other side of the country.
As a child, my dream was to be a mother. My only dream was to be a mom. At 25, I had this sweet boy. I immersed myself effortlessly into the life of babies, toddlers, school kids. I stayed in this world longer than most because I had six children. I look up from mothering the youngest and he is gone.
I think he and Addy noticed. I think they saw things I did not acknowledge. Years before I knew. I was playing patty cake and driving to soccer practice.
And now he’s gone.
He isn’t gone. I can facetime him. I can text him. I can look at his old photos or I can catch his instagram posts. And yet I feel so ill prepared to be the mom of grown ups that I can barely speak the words. What if Tuck never lives by me? Will he still love me like he did when he was 8? Will he still need me to watch him catch a wave? Do people wonder if he moved away to avoid our brokenness? Is that true? Would I have a better chance at holding on to my grown children if we were married? How far will they scatter? Who will I be without them needing me?
My kids took so much of their values from Walt- atheism, California above all else, independence, never rest and stoicism. My offerings feel paltry in contrast.
I know the truth. I know their love. I know the peace of being the mother that I dreamed of. I know the kindness I gave is reverberating into the world.
Here I am facing change. I’m not in the crisis of Addy dying and I’m not in the frenzy of parenting young children. I can actually look up occasionally and see the change. I see that Tuck isn’t just going to school in California- he is living there. He is a grown up there. Mim allows me enough consecutive minutes to see how much things have changed. The house is quieter. The dinners are smaller. The moments are less constant. The toilet paper roll lasts longer.
And I dislike that it is ending. There will be more. There will be Mim becoming a teenager and then there will be grandchildren. There is no end. This is life. And death is even part of life.
The part that I dreamed of- the babies and pacifiers and strollers, the juice cups and letters home from summer camp, the fish sticks and driving lessons and outgrown clothes, the braiding hair and folding footie pajamas, the finger paint and walks to nowhere, or feeding ducks and shoulder rides. It ended.
I proudly photograph all the moments of motherhood. And I’m unsure how to photograph adulthood. But I’ll try.