“Will you come lay by me?”
M spent Tuesday through Saturday on the couch, hit worse by the stomach flu than anyone else. For days he couldn’t keep anything down, couldn’t do much more than stare morosely into space. We watched TV, he watched K and I play on the floor. A few feeble efforts to join us ended almost as soon as they began.
On Saturday night, I showered him off. It was the first time I’d noticed how wasted he’d become. Both kids are thin–naturally so, I suppose–but now I could see not only his ribs but all the bones of his sternum. His arms were the size of my wrists. His face was drawn from the emotional and physical turmoil. I wanted to do nothing more than swaddle him up like the baby he once was and nurse him back to health.
M is now above my waist, and one of his front teeth is loose. He occasionally answers me with a shrug, a mannerism I find alarmingly teenager-ish, and one time he cried because I picked him up in front of a friend. That’s not to say that he doesn’t run to hug me when I show up in his classroom, or that we don’t still hold hands while strolling through a store, or the we don’t say our love-yous regularly and with affection. But I do sense that he is growing up while my back is turned. After all, he couldn’t have added two inches overnight, and yet I swear that yesterday I couldn’t see his head in the mirror.
I can’t swaddle him. I can’t fix every problem any more. It won’t be long before I’m not privvy to every problem, either. But I can lie down at his side until he falls asleep. It’s the least I can do. Change, turmoil, time–they exist outside of this moment, the one I have with my son, who needs me.
As we lay together in the darkness, his nightlight twinkling green stars above our heads, he reached over and rubbed my shoulder. I in turn reached for and found his hand. Clasped together, they fell to the bed between us.
He squeezed and I squeezed back. “Mom, do you think we can stay like this until you have to leave?”
Honey, I’m not sure I know how to let go.