My practically 25 year old son (I’m only counting because I read in National Geographic that my teenagers’ brains won’t fully develop until they are 25 and my held breath is getting thin) called last week and informed me that he “might be coming by” tomorrow.
This was call for celebration, as he moved thirty minutes away and now sighting him is as rare as seeing Bigfoot.
My response was a bit enthusiastic and I didn’t really ask him, you know, why he was coming over.
Enough to know the child cared.
I cleared my schedule, just in case.
When his car pulled up in front of the house the next day, I speed dialed Hubby.
“He’s here!” I told him, opening the front door, “Just now!”
Hubby immediately left work, calling an extended lunch break, and raced home to see the kid.
I hugged my tall, skinny firstborn and pulled him into the house, saying, “Come sit down and let me feed you!”
This is what moms do. Feed kids.
I put some leftover chili into a big bowl and said, “Wait. Why aren’t you at work today?”
I checked the giant wall calendar to see if I had missed a major holiday.
“I’ve got the next two days off work,” replied the kid, reaching for a spoon, “I can’t use my hands right now.”
I did a double take.
His palms, forearms and elbows were ground up.
As in, there were holes where body bits should be.
I stood there speechless as Hubby walked in.
“Hey!” said Hubby, “Long time no see, kid! How’s it going?”
He paused as the kid held up his hands for inspection.
I lost my appetite.
“Well,” stammered Hubby, valiantly reaching for a bowl, “um, that looks painful. What happened?”
Our eldest rides a vintage 10-speed bicycle that he loves, whether he owns a car or takes the train. Last week, it was in the shop for a tune-up and new tires, and it had just come back, sparkling clean and itching for a ride.
He lives at the top of a hill.
The hill bottoms out onto a major roadway.
“Mom,” he used to say, “you know I love to ride fast…”
He admits that he was going much faster than his usual way-too-fast down the hill and that his rear tire must have hit a small pebble.
Our son has never worn a helmet, not even after he split open his head on a brick wall in high school.
“Mom,” he says, “you know I know how to roll when I fall. I never come close to hitting my head.”
His sounds of imminent destruction alerted a gardener doing yard work nearby. He ran over to my son, lying sprawled in the middle of the road, and tried to drag him out of harm’s way.
“Mom,” says my son, “you know a car has never come near me.”
His girlfriend drove over and carried him and his bike back up the hill and they put his pieces back together.
“Mom, you know that doctors can’t do anything.”
I fell into a seat half-way through his story and eyed his body up and down, wondering what mangled body bits under his clothes were being hidden.
“Mom, you know I heal fast. There’s nothing broken or anything. My shoulder hurts a little on the inside, but I think it’s fine,” he said, tackling the chili with gusto.
“The shoulder you broke when you were skim-boarding a few years ago?” asked Hubby, trying to choke down some lunch.
The kid reached for more cornbread, “Oh, I’m fine, I just can’t lift heavy stuff because of my hands.”
I passed him the butter.
“This probably isn’t the best time,” continued the kid, “but I’ve been shopping around for a while, and as long as I’m here I thought I’d ask you guys if you would mind co-signing with me on a motorcycle.”
Hubby gave him one long look.
“Well,” said the kid, “I had to ask.”
He pulled out his phone. “Here, let me show you the helmet and jacket I’ve picked out for riding.”
I stared out the window, one hand on the cool, smooth countertop.
There were my sturdy, giant oaks and distant hawks, circling overhead, and a leaf had fallen into the pool.
This is what moms do. They breathe.
Unless, of course, they are holding their breath, waiting for certain kids’ brain cells to mature.
As Hubby prepared to get back to work and the kid gathered himself up to leave, I hugged them both good-bye.
Hubby’s was a little fierce, but he’s a solid guy.
Then, cuddled in my arms for one brief second was a pudgy dimpled ten-month-old with a smile that could light up Christmas.
Hugging me back was a limber young man who turned his bright smile to me and said, “Love you, mom.”
And this is what moms do.
They let go.