I got to see my son on a Saturday this year for his birthday. I saw him again the following Tuesday. His parents and I got together for dinner so that we could chat and watch him play in the huge sandbox at the restaurant that we had picked. It was just time to have some conversation and talk about the fact that my son will be starting school this year.
Just like that, the weight of four years gone past had hit me in the chest and I realized that time was flying away from me much faster than I ever thought it would. Add to this friends seeing pictures of him and once again exclaiming to me how much he looks like me. He still does look like me. As I watch him get older, I see myself in him. I see my mannerisms. I see my creativity. I see my attitude. I see my stubbornness. This visit hurt. And it hurt in ways I hadn't expected.
Every time I part company with him, I have to turn away before I watch them drive away. It’s because of the first time he left me. I simply couldn't watch them drive away from the hospital the day they took him home because I knew I would run after their van trying to get him back. It was something I had to force myself to do. Once home, I had to heal and learn how to be me again.
Part of this was learning how to actually care for myself. I believe that I've mentioned before that I was living in my parents’ house at the time. Part of the downside to that was that we were all hurt. And we all deal with hurt in very different ways. While my mother wanted me to talk to her, I wanted nothing more than to be left alone. This was mostly due to the fact that talking to her would mean her then telling me how it affected her and effectively making me feel insanely guilty about everything, which wasn't what I needed at the time. Much like Terri has pointed out in her recent posts about boundaries, for the first time, I had to put down boundaries with my parents. I had to say to them, “No, you don’t get to talk about this with me.” They were hurt and they were upset and I don’t know that they ever fully understood. But it doesn't really matter anymore. It’s been a while now since all of that happened. Slowly I began writing again. I found complicated knitting patterns and tackled them. I looked at pictures of my son as he grew by the day. I planned visits and I cried tears with the door shut and I learned how to survive and later, how to live.
Over time I have learned better ways of taking care of myself. I've learned that talking to trusted friends and shutting myself up for a few days will always help me close those wounds that have been reopened during a visit. I've learned that in the days after the visit I always need to be careful about where I expend my energies. If I’m not careful, the emotional and mental hang-over from seeing him can last days and days. That’s what’s happened this time. My summer has been a very busy one, and the fall only promises more. But I know it’s not just the business. This visit really brought home to me the fact that my son is growing up faster than I ever imagined he would. This weekend will be less busy than the last several have been. But there are still things to do. And most of all, I have to remember to carve out time to rest, reflect, and heal once again.
I hope that all of you feel less alone when you read this. No matter how many years go by, this is always a difficult thing to live with. In order to survive this, we always need to remember to seek out help when we need it and to learn how to take care of ourselves.