So, my son has been living with me for about a year and half (or if you ask him, it’s been forever) in order to save up money and invest it in the equipment needed for his professional photography business. Now that he’s on track, he’s going to be moving out this week for his own place, and I’m feeling such mixed emotions about it.
O was always my little buddy and we did so much together when he was a kid. I had summers off, and we always swam, fished, rode bikes, played basketball, and went to the library, children’s museum, and zoo.
During the school year, I was always room mom, and since I taught at the college level and could pretty much make my own schedule, I always was able to get him off to school in the morning and be there when he got home. It was a perfect set-up. As room mom, I was known far and wide (in a small school) as the “Goodie Bag Queen”, a title that had no sash, but a lot of respect to those under 4 foot tall.
When O was in Kindergarten, I subbed one day and O couldn’t contain his enthusiasm. While the other kids were calling me “Mrs. Palmer”, O would say “MOM” very LOUDLY just so everyone would know he was the teacher’s pet! Years later, when I volunteered as ‘lunch lady’, the most God awful job one can have for the Jr. High crowd, I came in the first day and my precious son said this: “Look everyone…it’s the friendly neighborhood volun-turd.” So, I responded: “Look everyone…it’s the kid that won’t get any Christmas presents this year.” ‘Nuff said.
During the summer when O was going to be a 5th grader, he had worked his way up by having short sleepovers at a local Christian camp, and was ready to spend 5 days there…overnight! I was a nervous wreck, but his dad most lovingly said, “Get over it. We’ve paid the fee.” Quite comforting. Anyhoot, we arrived, got him settled in, and after a sobbing goodbye (on my part), drove away.
The next morning, as I was in the process of painting his room to surprise him when he got home in 5 days, the phone rang and it was O, telling me he threw up and needed to come home. I threw down the paintbrushes, grabbed a bucket, and was on my way…speeding the entire 20 miles along country roads. He was quite subdued when I picked him up and held the bucket, but didn’t make a peep. We got home and I plopped him in my bed since his room was torn up. About an hour later, he came plodding out and said, “Mom? I LIED TO YOU!” I asked him what he lied about, and he said, “I wasn’t sick and didn’t throw up…I just wanted to be home with you!” I told him I was glad he lied in this case, because that was all I wanted too.
Fast forward to when he turned 18. (Actually, most of his adolescence is a blur…a defense mechanism that serves me well). One morning before I left for classes, he told me a buddy of his had an apartment and needed a roommate. I told him I would think about it and we’d have a nice long chat that evening. When I got home at 1:00 (a mere 4 hours later), he was packed up, guys were carrying boxes out of my house, and O said he took the offer. Great chat.
After a variety of jobs, O started working for Verizon and when he was 21, told me he had taken a transfer position in Fort Worth…about 780 miles from home. I was gobsmacked. How could I be that far away from him? What if he got sick? Hurt? In an accident? (I’m a very optimistic person). But, we got him moved down there and I stayed with him for a couple of weeks to help get his apartment fixed up. When it was time for me to fly home, O drove me to the airport, but dropped me off at the QUICK drop off where they rush you while yelling the entire time. He hugged me and said he would call me that night, and I trudged into the airport. I was at the TSA desk where you show your ID and boarding pass and this adorable Texan gal said, in the greatest southern drawl ever: “Did y’all have a good time in Texas??” I started bawling. Wailing might actually be a better word. She said, “OH MY!” and proceeded to help me through the line as if I was an invalid on my last leg.
And then he was back 3 years later.
Believe me, it has not been all sunshine and rainbows living in the same house together. It was hard on him to have to move back to a place where he felt like a kid again, and not the independent self he was used to being, and it was hard on me not to turn him back into my ‘kid’. Plus, he’s messy…I’m tidy. He’s quiet…I’m loud. He’s calm…I’m emotional. He’s a procrastinator…I’m a doer. We’ve had a couple of arguments, but really, this time has gone quite well, despite the fact that the one trait we do have in common is stubbornness.
I’m excited for him to be on his own again because I know that’s what he wants. I’m also so proud of him for building a business in a couple of years that’s already sustaining itself. His work is amazing. Plus, he’s only going to be 2 miles away, and I run by his apartment complex almost daily. He’s still going to be around a lot since my garage is storing his vintage car and Harley, plus, his darkroom will probably stay in my basement. He knows this is always going to be his home and he’ll never be without a key.
But, I’m going to miss him. In so many ways, he’s my crutch. The person I can talk to about everyday things. The noise in the house. The shoes on the floor. He’s the one that can see my moods and ask me how I’m doing. He’s the one I get a hug from The one who made me not wake up alone on Christmas. The one who’d watch a movie with me when his girlfriend worked late. The one who made me amazing dinners and ‘plated’ them so beautifully. The one who made me laugh again after J left me. The one that understood how broken my heart was and encouraged me to do things.
I’m not afraid to be alone in the sense of not being able to take of myself. Nope. I’ve been working non-stop since I was 16 and everything I have, I bought myself. I’ve always done everything around the house anyway, and have lots of interests to keep me ‘busy’. But I think that’s what bothers me the most…the word busy. It’s like kids’ worksheets in elementary school. When I was teaching 5th grade, I once had a parent tell me I should give homework. When I asked her why, she said, “Because that’s just what teachers do.” I told her I didn’t believe in busy work for the sake of busy work. After all, once you learn 2 + 2 = 4, you really don’t need to write it out another 100 times (plus, if you forget, for fuck sakes use your fingers). But, if the student actually needed more help on something with additional work, then that was another thing. She looked at me like I was nuts. (Hmmm…)
I don’t want the rest of my life to be ‘busy work’. I don’t want to just fill up my days so I can go to bed and have another day to face again. I don’t want to look out my window in the afternoon and say ‘What now?’ Instead, I want someone to go down this new path with me. To be my confidant. My partner. My sounding board. My comfort. And I want to do the same for them. I’m one of these people who need to be needed…if that makes any sense.
Maybe I’m just feeling sorry for myself…but hey, I’m a sensitive, feeling bipolar (had to throw that in there, in case you forgot or something) so what do you expect? I know I’ll be fine. I know Eddie and Dottie and I will have good days and not so good days. I know I’ll continue loving my teaching, spending time with O, ma, and sis, doing my art, reading my books, working in my yard, running and all, but I guess I just want to add someone to the mix to enjoy it all with me.
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