The past two weeks have shaken us all to the core and have left us feeling raw, exposed, and vulnerable. There was the vicious bomb attack at the Boston Marathon, the devastating fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, and the catastrophic earthquake in China. Closer to home there have been great sorrows that have not made it into the news cycle, but have made the people around me painfully aware of how precious life is and how cruelly capricious the tides of fate.
This morning I realized how much these events have crept into my psyche. I had been up to 2:30 am (the only time I could find to write) and had woken up at 6 am to help my son get packed for his three day school trip.The night before, when he had announced that he was too tired to pack and would wake up early to do so, I knew with absolute certainty that this was a terrible idea. I knew this morning would not be pretty, but I didn’t have the energy to argue the point or to start the packing myself.
So this morning at 6, I sat on my bedroom floor with an open suitcase and my laptop opened to the emailed packing list my son’s teacher had sent.
“Bring me three pairs of long pants and three long-sleeve shirts!” I called out to him.
He slowly shuffled into my bedroom with one pair of pants and one t-shirt.
“THREE pairs of pants and THREE LONG-sleeve shirts!'” I bellowed with exasperation, “CHOP CHOP!”
Seasons changed, my skin began to sag, and more grey hairs sprouted as I waited for him to reappear. Finally he showed up bearing…another t-shirt and a sweater.
When I protested, he claimed that he couldn’t find what was asked for in his drawers.
I rifled through his drawers myself and discovered one or two of the things he needed, but confirmed the fact that the rest of the items simply weren’t there. They were buried deep in the mountain of unwashed laundry that I hadn’t been able to get to all week.
You can probably imagine the snarling and generally churlish behavior that ensued, but we finally did get him packed. Already running late, I began getting myself ready for work. As I was getting out of the shower, I could hear that my husband was about to leave the house to drop him off at school for the field trip.
There was one crucial thing I had forgotten, and I didn’t want to miss my chance. If I’d learned anything in these past two weeks, I’d learned that sometimes you never do get a second chance.
I raced out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around me and my hair streaming with water. At the top of the stairs, I barked out his name.
He turned around, and from the bottom of the stairs he looked up at me with a doleful stare and sighed, “Yes?”
The word was imbued with that unique teenage inflection that makes it abundantly clear that behind that monosyllable is irritation, a lifetime of suffering, and the sure expectation of more unreasonable parental behavior…
I tried to modulate my own tone, but failed.
“I LOVE YOU!” I snapped.
A momentary flicker of surprise registered in his eyes and after the briefest pause, he muttered “Love you” and ambled out the door.