Last night as I was snuggling my son during our nightly ritual (I will lay next to him and we'll read books or talk, and I'll stay til he's asleep - I know a lot of people disagree with this, and if you're one of them, say what you will, I'm still going to do it), we were discussing the movie "Shrek". He had just received it for is birthday, and even though we'd seen it before, we watched it last night because a) there was no school today, and b) we'd missed the time for the movie showing in town. We were laughing about Donkey and he was saying that when Shrek and Fiona kissed he felt shy but happy. Then he said "I want to marry you when I grow up, Mom. Even though you'll be really old." I laughed, and told him that he'd most likely marry a girl his age, and when I said this, he started to cry.
These were not just quiet tears, but huge, gulping sobs that I was unprepared for. I asked him why he was crying, and he said, in that choking, gagging way you have when you're completely at the mercy of a huge emotion, he said "I don't want you to die, Mom! Don't ever leave, don't ever die". I quieted him, and soothed him and held him, and told him that hopefully we wouldn't have to worry about that for a really long time. I told him this: "Sweetie, the odds are that I'll live a really long time, and so will you, and we won't have to worry about this big feeling for a while." And after a ten minute digression to cover what "odds" meant (try it - it's hard), I admitted that I too, was afraid. I said, "I'm always afraid of losing you. I'm always afraid that something bad might happen, even though I know it probably won't. But it's just that I love you so much..." I trailed off. But that's the thing. It could happen. My son was born with a rare syndrome, called klippel-trenaunay syndrome, and it involves vascular malformations, as well as larger limbs and abnormal lymph flow. We've been lucky, and blessed that his involvement thus far is minor. But honestly, even without that upping our "odds", I would probably still live with that fear. Like any other parent that opens the newspaper or watches the news (I've limited myself - I don't watch the news anymore) and reads of some awful tragedy that's happened to another parent, I close my eyes and send them my heart, and feel horrible that I'm thankful that it wasn't us. This time.
Part of this too, stems from losing my own mother at a really early age. I was eight, and I don't know if I've processed it properly even yet. I remember distinctly her telling me she had to have an operation. We were washing windows on our french doors - I was doing the bottom half, and she was doing the top. I remember telling her I didn't want her to die, and she said "Oh, honey. I'm not going to die". And then, she did. Not from the operation, just from being sick in a small town, and not having adequate medical care. I think. That's what they tell me. I was eight, and my older siblings all have a different take on it. In a way, I guess I'm the lucky one, because her death, to me, is just loss. It's not colored by anything I can remember, like how she fought with my dad, or that I knew she was unhappy, or that the doctor was stubborn. For me it's just a childhood without my mother. I miss her, but I don't remember life with her that much. But I know life without her - It shaped everything. I got away with a lot, I never believed in my own goodness until years later, and now her loss informs who I am as a mother. It reinforces my need to tell the uncomfortable truth.
So I told him what I know from my own experience. Bad stuff happens all the time. I probably won't die for a long time, but I can't say that for certain, as much as I'd like to. We just have to focus all our energies in the love we share now. Store them away for later. I pray I'll be around to bug the crap out of him when he's a teenager. And I pray that he'll grow tall and strong, and bug the crap out of me, too.