My almost three-year-old is a runner.
He will try to run across a parking lot unaware of the danger an oncoming car will cause. When he falls, he scrapes his knee.
“Mommy, my knee,” has become his everyday slogan.
My father eats a lot of starch whether it is part of a meal, in a casserole or a chip bag. The doctor told him he has to cut back for the sake of his cholesterol.
And, my husband – whom I love deeply – has two boo-boos. One of those is his battle with the economy, and the other is with his four older children, primarily his sons, who have banished him from their lives. Two years ago, I watched him cry on Father’s Day; watched with dread as he sank into Depression from which I could not summon him.
How do you heal your men’s boo-boos? How do you try to take the pain away?
If you have ever had a son, you know he will melt your heart. You know he will make you mad, and then he will reveal a certain look that makes it difficult for you, as a mother, to stand your ground.
A tropical storm twirls through our state. I take my son to an indoor pool. He wants to take a closer look at the mud in the middle of the parking lot. Since I keep him on a toddler leash, he anchors himself in the dirt while it pours rain. As he drops, he hits his knee.
In the Carolinas, where it warms up quickly, Son has adjusted to winter and an unusually cool spring. He still wants his jacket, and for many weeks, he wanted his jeans. Dressed in shorts, he scrapes his knee again and again. It does not matter what he is doing.
My husband and I have torn cartilage in our knees. When Son complains about his, we laugh. It runs in the family.
The other part of me wishes there was a way to show him how to slow down. You don’t have to be all-boy all the time.
But, how do you do that when every other question right now is, “Mommy, play baseball?”
Living in a house of six, it is difficult to hide your private conversations, concerns or health reports. In April, Mom went to the hospital. She had to change every part of how she ate and acted. Stuck in a tough situation, Dad worried, chewed his fingernails and prayed while I talked to relatives.
One month later, we discover Father – despite his tall, slender build – suffers with high cholesterol. My brother and I have been strict with Mom in how she eats. Growing up a Daddy’s girl, it is tougher to be firm with him. I realize the irony in kids being strict on their parents; but with them growing older, I see their weaknesses and worries. I know if they are not taken care of, later will come sooner.
I grew up with a dad who cooked steaks, chicken and rice. We ate out almost every night. Mom did not cook.
Now I cook with Dad and my husband’s help.
Dad asks for bread every meal in the way a child asks you why the sky is blue. What do you tell him when he brings your avocados home? How do you heal the health pain he is willing to ignore, but you’re not?
Two summers ago, I walked with my husband and newly one-year-old at a fair in North Carolina. My husband’s brother and his wife made a circle around us. His second son turned the other direction. He turned his back a few weeks earlier on his infant half-brother at a 4 of July celebration. After sending the second son chocolate chip cookies and my husband’s older son a birthday present, they continued to ignore him. At that point it had been one year since he left his ex-wife for his third son and myself.
“I’m done,” I said.
Those boys could not forgive.
I could not forget.
My son, an infant, in a stroller. His half-brother turned so he would not look at him. I was done.
But, my husband was not.
For three years, he has tried everything. Texts, calls and driving. For his second son’s birthday, he packed a card with money and made brownies. On his way to deliver the brownies that son texted:
“Please leave the store [his uncle and grandfather own] before I return. I do not want to see you today.”
He never received the card, money or brownies my husband took the time to make.
Before the second son’s high school graduation, my husband felt hopeful they were on the path to making amends. He received a text:
It’s okay if you come. Don’t bring anyone else. Don’t speak to me after. The day is for me, mom, [his brother], aunt and granddaddy.
My husband had planned to go alone. I had told him he was going alone. I knew the boy did not want me there, and I cannot look at him without a small bit of hatred.
I cannot look at him or the older brother without hatred just as they could not look at me without it.
Their father chose to be a father to their brother. That is not an easy pill to swallow.
And, after years, they chose to put backs to their brother.
But, my husband’s heart is not like mine. It is soft. It hurts and it breaks. When he hurts, I feel his pain. I don’t say what I think of his older sons. He would not have it because he loves them so. Whatever their many faults, he has forgiven them. But, it will be years – if ever – before they forgive him.
So, how do you heal a heart with missing pieces and parts? I don’t have the toolbox. I don’t have the words he wishes his sons would say.
I pray and hope one day my son will watch where he is going,
Dad will look at what he eats,
and, my husband’s older sons and his older daughters will return to say I love you again.
By Elisabeth Tressie
I write under a fictional name only.