Awhile back I wrote of the ease and sweet memories of loving little sons. Loving grown-up sons is more complicated. Maybe not so much the loving as the letting go.
Their adult lives have been shaped by experiences I have not lived and do not understand. They have wives and children, careers, friends and activities to fill their days. I am only a small part of that.
As adults, they are well able to see me for who I am. My vulnerabilities and imperfections are on full display.
But it wasn’t always that way.
When Daniel was in elementary school, he hopped onto a bicycle that was too big, drove into the middle of the street and smack into a car that had (fortunately) slowed down to make a right turn.
He was on his feet with a bloody arm, headed to the house before the driver realized what had happened. I wrapped a clean bath towel around the wound because I didn’t want him to see it and be afraid.
I didn’t want to see it and be afraid. But even at that, I could keep it together. I could make the decision. A trip to the ER, a few stitches and all was well in our world again.
I expected loving and caring for sons would cover uncharted territory as the years went by. I just didn’t expect it to come in the form of war and bullets and 3 a.m. phone calls from strange-sounding places on the other side of the earth.
I didn’t expect it to come from jungles in Ecuador, or helicopter flights from Oregon to Alaska. In winter. That briefly lost power. No, I didn’t like hearing that.
And I didn’t expect it one year ago on Labor Day, when I walked into the house, arms full of groceries to, “Courtney called, and Daniel… motorcycle down… hospital…call later”.
I didn’t expect to hear my son had been hauled out of a blackberry thicket by paramedics, broken and bleeding.
When I saw him the next day I realized there was no bath towel big enough to wrap around this wound. Because it was his whole, alive self. The most important word in that last sentence being – ALIVE.
So I sat next to him awhile as his sweet and capable wife managed and charted his pain meds. I made a lame comment or two. I patted his arm.
And I presented him with a bag of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies… which he could not eat because of the stitches in his mouth. Talk about lame…
He asked me to pull the cover over his exposed ankle. Maybe because he was trying to give his poor mother something to do. Maybe because he wanted to cover the wound so I wouldn’t see it and be afraid. Or maybe because his foot was cold.
Whatever the reason, it was the only thing I did that day that felt the tiniest bit helpful.
Happily he is mostly recovered. It’s been slow and steady and painful. The need to get back on his feet and care for his family has pushed him forward. And bonus, he can eat chocolate chip cookies again!
I’ve never been the hovering sort. But still, this inward process of letting go and loving grown-up sons has been much like Daniel’s recovery. Slow, steady and occasionally painful.
They don’t need me to be a giant Mom bandage of protection. They never did..
I think they just need me to trust and relax and cheer them on. To have the answer when they call for that recipe I used to make. To gather us around the family table when time permits.
Since there’s no point hiding it, I will let them see the good, the bad, and the silly of me… and hope they will do the same. Leaving that open space of vulnerability is, to me, the only way you can honestly love anybody anyway.
And I will continue to hand them over to God. Every single day. His love is bigger and stronger than mine. And I will do this over and over and over again until the day I die.
Which I hope isn’t soon.
Because there are still beach trips that need to happen, trips to anywhere that need to happen, grandchild adventures, craft days with daughters-in-law and my photographs aren’t sorted.
And there’s still a zip-line in a forest calling my name.