Recently my youngest son hit me with the news that he was leaving home to move to the big city… a 3 hour drive away. Now this is not the first time that this has happened. He spread his wings once before, only lasting 6 months, after discovering for himself that the grass is not always greener in the big city.
And maybe I am still overly tired from our recent travels. It was (for various reasons) a very physically demanding trip for me. As fun and exciting as it all was… it has taken a tremendous toll on my body… and subsequently my emotions. But hearing my sons latest news has really thrown me for a loop.
Every parent knows that sooner or later their children leave. It’s expected. Sometimes even welcomed. I am not even completely sure as to why his impending departure is affecting me as deeply as it is. We have had this dance before. I know the routine. Or is that the problem?
The first time he left, I grieved. I sat in his empty room and wept (as I am sure many mothers have done). Then I repainted it. Then I turned it into my massage room/gymnasium. It took some time, but I got used to his absence. Eventually learning to enjoy the added freedom. Less laundry to do. Less meals to prepare. Complete freedom to come and go as I pleased without another living soul to consider (except of an evening when hubby came home of course). It was liberating. It freed up all kinds of time. But then he came back. And I remember so clearly the day he told me. I was SO happy. I got my baby back.
You see… youngest son and I are best friends. Every day we share lunch together over an episode of the Office. We share the same jokes, the same taste in music. He understands me in a way that almost no-one else does. We are both a little odd… an acquired taste, as someone once put it. We both love animals and fear humans. We have a similar spiritual outlook and can have serious deep and meaningful discussions on the nature of reality and other such nonsense. We both feel deeply and hurt easily.
But maybe there comes a time in every parents life when they have to face the very unpleasant fact… that the way they feel about their child is just a little more one sided than they had realised. Once upon a time, his eyes lit up every time I walked into a room. I was his world. He loved me totally and completely and without reservation. All he ever needed to be happy was me. Those days are gone. And as they should be. But that doesn’t make it any easier. He is grown now. He barely remembers the days when I was the light of his life. Only problem is… I remember them like they were yesterday.
Every mother earnestly fears the loss of a child. From watching every breath they take as they sleep as infants… to the day you watch the front door of the house in eager anticipation of their return in the wee small hours. From that very first step they take… each and every step is a step further away from you. And if we are truly blessed and truly lucky, our children will out live us. We will never know the pain of them crossing over before we do. But there did come a time when I realised that I had lost my child. The little boy whose face lit up. The smile that melted my heart. The open arms and the loving embrace. That squeaky high pitch “mummy”.. that I will never again hear. I still have my son. And he will move away. And I will see him less and less. And he will forge a life of his own.
But the gap he leaves will never be filled. Not because I don’t want it to. Not because I can’t move on and find other things to fill my life. But because some things are irreplaceable… no matter how hard we try. 10 years ago, my mother left me. That hole in my heart is as big today as the day she left. Some things are irreplaceable. I don’t think my son understand this yet… how could he. But if he is truly fortunate… one day he will.