There once was a time.….when you let me cradle your warm, bony body in my arms. We had a routine at bedtime, you and I, that involved many story books and endless back scratches until you drifted into slumber. I would say, “I love you.”
Now, when night has fallen, we check in with one another in a different way. I stand at your bedroom door and you look up from typing furtively on your laptop, your long, muscular legs sprawled across the bunched up bed clothes and your textbooks spread all around you. We nod to each other and perhaps, exchange a brief conversation. “Go to bed,” I demand. “In a minute,” you say, “I have to finish this.” Sometimes, before I go, I make reference to one of the many adorable sayings from your Little Boy Repertoire. I’ll stand there, waiting, until you smile, maybe laugh, at my mention of it. I whisper, “I love you.” You mutter back, “Love you, too.”
There comes a time, when the directions in my maintenance of the household can no longer be barked out and adhered to by you. You are becoming an adult and you have your own ways, your own procedures for… brushing your teeth, showering, choosing your clothes, putting food into your belly. I can make suggestions, but you, the near-adult, will only take notice of me if I speak in quieter tones and if my thoughts and arguments, for doing a thing this way or that, are well-reasoned and well-debated.
Son, you used to come to me to ask, what should I do? How should I say it? How should I write it? How should I present it…to the world? But now you do so many of these things completely on your own, without my opinion, and frequently, without my knowledge. You’ve gone ahead and answered the questions without me. When I do, in fact, hear about some situation that you handled by yourself, I see that you have managed it in a way that I never would have. You are your own person. You remind me of this revelation time and again. I am learning.
There will be a time when we come together once more. On visits home from college? Maybe at your wedding or when you have a child of your own? But it will never be like these younger years, our night-time rituals with the whispered “I love yous.” I hope, as your birthdays come and go, you’ll hear my whispered “I love yous” which are constant, just waiting to be heard.
Happy Birthday, Max.