Posts Tagged life

My Son: Holding Tight, Not Letting Go

He fidgets. We wait. He jumps up, runs over to the machine and looks all herky-jerky, happy, just wanting to play with one of those toys they give to kids. You know the toys, right? They’re packed into this glass case, and a kid deposits a fake coins into the dispenser after he gets done with the pediatrician.  In the old days, we got lollipops for our troubles, but modern kids, they’re all obese, or heading that way, so they get these cheap toys. Or so they say.

I look in the mirror and I see a fat woman and for the life of me, she won’t seem to go away. Stop, El. This isn’t thinking. It’s abuse, another form of it, and deep down, you don’t want that anymore.


  “Mom! I want this one! The jelly-wiggle!” He grins, all dimples and elbows, and dances around, in a circle, each hand raised with index fingers wagging toward the ceiling. When he dances like this, his face breaks into sharp angles that accentuate his Eastern-European chin dimple, which is, I just learned, caused by some strange genetic malformation of the chin bones. My husband has it. So did Kirk Douglas, and so does his son. The funny thing about this chin dimple is it makes a man look incredibly handsome.

It’s funny, isn’t it? The things that are malformed, not right, a little off, unique, can be the things that make a man, a boy, most loved. I always was taken with a chin dimple, and the fact that it’s a mistake, a genetic error, makes me even fonder of it.

“Shh,” we whisper. “Calm down, love.” He runs back and sits next to my husband, who wears a dark gray suit. Before I can count to ten, he jumps back up again, and stares, intense, eyes narrowed, at the jelly wiggler toy.


She leaned over and scribbled something on his chart. I squinted. 160/102. No. The muscles around her eyes flexed and then she let go, and as her eye muscles retracted, she undid the blood pressure cuff, all the while speaking to my son. Rip, it went, and it sounded so loud in that coffin-quiet office with the pictures of our aging doctor and her three sons on the walls, and I leaned over and shut the office door.

“160/100,” I whispered to my husband, who was watching Dr. M while I held onto my tiny creature, not so tiny now, but in my mind’s eye, I see him as a baby.


“Mama, was I this big?” He asks, holding his arms about a foot apart.

            I grin.

            He grins, and the grin is as big as his face. “The size of a football?”

            “Yeah,” I nod.

            “I could fit inside a football?” The light dances inside his eyes.

            “Yep.” Now I smile back at him. “That big. No bigger.”

She ripped off the elastic that makes the cuff grip his right arm so tight, and wheeled around, writing something down in his chart. It’s a thick chart for a six-year old. After all, we always joke, he’s our medical scare baby. When I was pregnant with Maddie, I got laser surgery on my eyes, and with those surgically-repaired eyes squinting, I could read her handwriting. 160/100.

It passed quickly. The appointment, I mean. But how fast will this pass? How fast will he pass?

Just a few days ago, he stood in front of the fridge in a Cambray button down shirt and baggy khakis, all serious and tiny, and in my mind’s eye, with both eyes fixed on all fifty-two pounds of him, I saw him as a fifteen or sixteen year old. He was tall and lanky and searching for a glass of water. For some reason, I often see him projected, his tiny form onto his future form, older, taller, a vision, a future ghost of the man he is becoming. It always makes me smile, he always makes me smile, this little boy of mine, this unique, quirky, challenging imperfect child, this sunshine, my sunshine, and I know I can hold on only for so long.

I never wondered if God was giving me this vision to comfort me, to let me know what this youngest son could have been, because he was no longer to be. But it’s weird, because I never see my other two children as older versions of their little selves. Just the baby of the family, my baby, this dimpled man-child of mine. Is God sending him to me, this future man, as a message, as a reminder, a letter of love and comfort and a promise that he will make it through this okay? Or is God reminding me to hold tight, so tight, because his time here is fast fading, fading?


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Petals Running Across the Street

Petals at Rest

The March wind blew and Ben squealed with delight. “Look, Jim, the petals are running!”  Ben’s voice carried at 120 decibels and I gripped Ben’s hand and while the breeze rustled my older son’s wavy, dark blond hair, my throat ached and I worried that my youngest child would scream about the petals for the rest of the morning.  So I held his little hand and watched the petals running and part of my brain laughed with Ben; and yet, I lectured him in a stentorian tone that he needed to “behave in class.”

“Dolly!”  Ben spotted the neighbors tan, nondescript new not-puppy and raced across the street after her.  My neighbor is my age but she manages to look like a grown up every time I see her and today was no different.  It’s hard to explain but when I am near her I realize I never really grew up.  I don’t know why.  She always knows what to say and when to say it and yet I stood beside her and another mom and wanted to cry, “Watch the petals run,” but Ben yelled it for me.  She nodded, cheekbones set in a kind but serious way and she took the leash for Dolly from her daughter and never lost a beat in the conversation she was having with another mom.

“BUS!!!!”  Screamed a sixth grade girl at the top of her lungs.  She does this every damn morning, and it makes sense when the bus arrives early and the safety patrol needs to sprint two blocks to catch the bus but on mornings like this when we’re all standing two feet away it makes no sense so I tightened my jaw and hugged first my daughter, and then my eldest son, and then I came to Ben.  He was turned the wrong way and hopped up and down and the wind kicked up again and he watched the petals running . . .

“Ben.  Ben.  Look at me, Ben!”  I leaned over and cupped his face between my adult-size small hands Tulip Tree in Bloomand his eyes followed the petals while my eyes followed the sun glinting off the massive tulip tree between my house and our neighbor’s colonial “Five, four and a door.”  The tulip tree’s leaves were blooming today, not yellow, but the lightest shade of green I’d ever seen and it looked and felt so damn gorgeous against the clear blue morning sky . . . I tore my eyes away and focused on my son.  “Ben!  Look at me, Ben.”  One eye shifted to me and the other eye followed the petals.  “I need you to pay attention hun.  And give me a hug.”  I gripped his shoulders and propelled him from the back of the line toward the bus and I waved at him but he didn’t wave back because he didn’t see me.  He only saw the running petals.

My neighbors spoke to one another in quiet, grown-up tones and one of them mentioned the brisk wind and all I wanted to do was watch the petals running.  I shoved my hands into the pocket of my old jeans that fit just right and the wind gusted and the petals careened in a circle dance in the middle of the street.  Then about Running Petals25 petals rolled end over end from the other side of the street toward my house and it could have been a team of cheerleaders performing cartwheels until the petals glided to a resting position beside the white, concrete curb.

I smiled.  The wind blew again but I did not feel cold.  Ten more soft pink-white petals danced up and down like horses prancing with delicate, shod feet in a dressage competition.  I don’t know how you make a horse dance like that but I know now that soft, pretty petals from a massive cherry tree will dance and run across the street all morning if the wind blows just right.

And about a mile away, a 5-year old named Ben is sitting in class, grinning with mad élan, as he imagines petals running across a dark grey, almost black asphalt street.

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