Thursday, January 31, 2008

Brother is 8, about to turn 9. Since he learned to ride his bike, we have given him more freedom to ride down the street about half a dozen houses to where he has two friends right across the street from each other. Their names are Camden and Marcus. Today we got lots and lots of snow and made a special trip to the store for galoshes and gloves. As soon as we got home, Brother was itching to throw on the new galoshes and have a rip-roarin' snowball fight with his buddies. He caught me heaving in groceries and girls and pelted me in the back of the head with "Hey, Mom, can I go to Camden's to play?" Knowing he'd been waiting anxiously all day, and it was already 3:30, I said yes and he said he was going to walk instead of ride his bike. I turned and looked at him. "Okay, but you have to be very careful," I warned, feeling uneasy about his decision. And he, of course, assured me he would.

Later I am in the house with the girls when I hear a knock on the door. I figure it is probably Brother and Camden coming in for hot chocolate or a Playstation break. When I answer it, I see Camden...alone. "Can Brother play?" he asks.

My heart stops and feels as though it will never beat again. "I thought he was with you," I said, already reaching for my shoes. He shook his head. I look at the clock and realize Brother has been gone an hour and has not been where he was supposed to be. "Camden," I reach for the phone. "What is Marcus' number?" "I don't know," he answers, "but I'll run down there and see if he's there." I begin to gather the girls, not bothering with coats, and somehow end up with my purse and car keys, though I don't remember grabbing them. My head is going to very dark places and I see and hear things in my mind on which I can't bear to dwell. My boy...I let him walk.

God, please...please.

I take the girls outside and look down the street. I look for his bike which could be down the street at Tommy's or Tabitha's, but they are not even home. Sister wants to stop and make a snow angel, but I yell at her to get in the van and though I don't want to scare her I can't think of what she is saying to me even though I hear her voice. I automatically buckle up Baby in her car seat but do not wait for Sister to buckle before I back out of the driveway. If he isn't at Marcus' house, where do I go next? What do I do? What will my husband say?

I park the van in front of Marcus' house and see Camden's bike in the drive in front of the gate. I run to the front door and knock. Camden answers the door. "Is he here?" I ask.

He nods his head "yes".

I grab the door frame to keep from collapsing on their front porch. Camden's mom is on the treadmill and calls for me to come in. Brother meets me and that face, with the freckles and the eyelashes and the missing teeth - that face I worried would be lost to me forever - and he knows immediately what kind of trouble he is in. "Get your things and get in the van," I said quietly. He apologizes and tells me he was going to call me but he forgot. "Get your things," I repeat. He is gathering his things nervously and Marcus' mom tries to calm me by showing me their new puppies. I try to be social but I finally just have to say, "I'm sorry. I can't do this...I'm shaking..." and she understands and gives me a smile as we leave.

Brother continues to talk and try to apologize and explain and make excuses but it is caught between my desire to scream at him and take him in my arms. Just before I open the door, I turn to him and my tears will be silent no longer. "YOU DIDN'T CALL ME! I DIDN'T KNOW WHERE YOU WERE!" I choke. He stares at me, his own gorgeous blue eyes welling up. "Don't cry, Mom," he pleads. And here we stand. It is though he sees through me to this love I have for him, so dangerous and intense, and he is wounded that he wounded me. In return, I try not to cry in order to keep from upsetting him more and I silently open the van door for him to get in.

He continues to cry and apolgize the entire 45 seconds home and even into the house. I do not respond except to tell him to sit at the kitchen table. I get the girls settled and go to the kitchen, still trembling. He tries to talk. "No talking," I say. "Just listen."

"But, Mom..."

"NO TALKING! JUST LISTEN!" He is quiet but is breathing heavily and loudly and I finally realize he is having an asthma attack. I hand him his inhaler. I sit across the table from him and wait for his breathing to regulate. Then I begin the emotional lecture. How do I impress upon him how dangerous this world is without scaring him to death? Morever, how do I handle this conversation without beating him?

In the end, he got up and came to me - came. to. me. - and hugged me and I grabbed him, thanking God all the time that I could feel his hair tickle my nose and smell his sweatshirt damp with snow.

And he didn't pull away.


Kelli said...

The love we carry for our children is an intense thing. And something we. as children. can barely grasp. I'm so thankful he messed up, and forgot to call- rather than it being something else.

It's a moment of pure love that neither of you will ever forget.

cjoy said...

Okay. I'm crying. Thank you Lord he was safe!! And good job, Mom. Good job. . .

Magi said...

I felt your terror along with you. I think it's only as an adult that you can begin to comprehend the love of a parent for their child.

Grafted Branch@Restoring the Years said...

*whew* I felt like I could use an inhaler during that one.

Rebecca said...

This brings tears to my eyes. I'm so glad he's ok.

I never knew how deep a mother's love could be until I became one.

Kristenkj said...

I am reading this, a few months later, and remember a similar incident with my son, Henry, who was only 3. He is hard of hearing, so he couldn't hear me calling him, and he went into the back yard from the front, where we all were. Oh my God, the thoughts that went through my head...

Anonymous said...

OH. MY. GOD. i can'r even begin to imagine the horrors you imagined when you realized he was not where he was supposed to be....i confess i stumbled upon your blog about 3 hours ago and can't seem to stop myself from writing is funny and inspiring....i am going to be a new mother myself in about 2 months and to have just finished reading this post i am truly horrified at the kind of society i will be bringing my little one into.....i hope i have your courage and strength to deal with these situations out there..........keep writing i am sure i will need all the help i could get...btw i am from trinidad thats in the caribbean and to tell you the truth our crime situation here is terrible as well as the child molestation criminals that are on the loose....they increase everyday.... i am litterally shaking thinking about what could happen without non stop vigilance.....this is what our world has become? my god how do we cope?