As Nevada High School prepares to send a fresh crop of graduates out into the world this week, Facebook has been helpfully reminding me of what I was doing a year ago.
Namely, waxing nostalgic every single day of the week leading up to graduation about memories of my son.
One year ago today:
Wednesday. You made it. This is it.
Dang it, kid.
Do you remember the show Extreme Makeover? Probably not. It was a lot like Extreme Home Makeover, except instead of houses, IT WAS MADE OF PEOPLE. (Sorry. Obscure SNL skit about Soylent Green. Irrelevant.)
The point is, we watched that show when you were in the first grade. And one episode featured a man with very long hair. The man agreed to have his luxurious, thick mane shorn…with the stipulation that the hair be donated to Locks of Love.
That was the first we had heard of the organization.
You were seven years old. And you turned to me, emotional and serious at once, and said:
“I want to do that.”
Little did I know that you would spend the next 22 months focused upon that statement.
This last year has been the ultimate exercise for me in letting go…of everything. I had forty years in Nevada and almost 19 with Hunter, but I was fortunate enough to also have two stepsons in my orbit for seven years. On Sunday, Zane, the youngest, will graduate.
I also had three amazing years managing a revolving cast of roughly 15 other teenagers, all of whom became my associate children.
In addition to that, I worked as a case manager focusing on the four- to 12-year-olds at Heartland Behavioral Health as well as a pharmacy tech stocking meds for all units of acute care residents.
It was a lot of kids.
But I digress. This is really about Zane, in spite of the fact that I’m all over the place.
In the last year, I made a series of moves. I mean, like, literally. All three of my boys grew up and moved on. I left the theater. And, finally, I left Nevada and my long-time work at Heartland.
Day to day, I feel that I have handled this very well. My biggest struggle is not seeing my son or stepsons. Not hugging them. Not automatically knowing how their lives are going, or what they think about, or spending the day with them going out of town somewhere.
It goes so. fucking. fast.
And so it is, on the cusp of my stepson Zane’s graduation, that all of this loss has swooped in and enveloped my emotions in this dark, dark hole of complete, awful emptiness. The last two weeks, I have alternated between general pissiness and random teariness.
Although I was the mother of only one of my boys, I loved them all like my own. I am so proud of each one of them, for vastly different reasons. There is nothing so awful and beautiful as watching someone you love grow and become an individual consciousness, with his or her own thoughts, own belief systems, own loves and losses.
And to know, first generally, then far too specifically, that you will lose them. You will still communicate with them, but it will be different. The teenage years prepare you, of course. The attitudes, the joy of their freedom as they learn to drive and can come and go as they please. All of this in preparation for the day when you, as a parent, discover that you have succeeded. You have raised an independent human being.
And your reward is that they will move on. You will, of necessity, learn a new normal. And it WILL become normal. You will learn that not hearing from them unless they need something is okay. You will learn that you may not know when you’ll see them again. You will cushion your bruised heart, console yourself with new friends or outlets. You will even believe that you love this time in your life, this rebirth of your own.
And you WILL love it. There will be so many new and wonderful experiences. You will learn about the many phases of life in wholly fresh ways.
But every once in awhile, you will see friends with younger children and feel the arrow of loss pierce your soul. You will become awash in memories of those times in your life, when you were the center of your child’s orbit, when they reached for you with the ease and confidence of one who knows that you will be there.
And then you will see your newly-adult child achieve small and large levels of success, or deal with crushing loss, and your heart will swell with pride and pain and you will know that this is exactly as it should be.
Zane will graduate Sunday, and the Marines will claim him soon after. He is strong and confident, intelligent and handsome. He is one of the funniest people I know, and has one of the best dry-humor deliveries I’ve experienced (and I was raised in that shit, so I know what I’m talking about).
I am so, so proud of him. I have not seen him much in the past eleven months, and I miss him more than I can really express, but he has emerged from loss so maturely and capably that I am completely blown away.
You’re gonna be alright, kid. I know you love attention like this, but no need to thank me. Just know that I’m only one of your many fans, and that we are all cheering you on.