On Wednesday, my sixteen-year-old son went to his girlfriend’s house after school. Usually we expect him home for dinner on school nights, but it was clear that Thursday was going to be a snow day, so we allowed him to stay and watch a movie after dinner at her house, with the proviso that he stay in touch and let us know when he was leaving.
He did. The last several entries in our text message trail were as follows:
Sue, 8:56 PM: When will u b home?
Ben, 9:14 PM: Not sure im leaving before too long
Sue, 9:15 PM: Soon pls & let me know.
Ben, 9:16 PM: OK
Then nothing for over an hour. I resisted the urge to panic, and waited. Finally:
Ben, 10:32 PM: Omw sorry about that
Sue, 10:32 PM: Just get home
Then I read for a while, and I must have drifted off, because when I looked at my phone again it was nearly 11, and I read the above message as “Just got home,” and thought Ben had sent it to tell me he had left the train at 10:32. I looked in the living room and in his room, in case he’d come in without my noticing, but he was nowhere to be found — not surprising if I’d been completely awake and in my right mind, since his girlfriend’s home in Washington Heights is over an hour away from Brooklyn, where we live. But the snow was coming down with violence, including thunder and lightning, and there have been two shootings in my neighborhood lately, one right outside our building, and my imagination went into overdrive.
I called and got his OGM. I texted him, “So where r u??” and when I didn’t get an immediate response, I threw on pants, boots, and my down coat over my pajamas and prepared to go out into the storm and look for him in the stretch between the subway exit and our building.
Just as I was leaving, I got a return text: “On the train.” I looked over the trail and realized that of course, the message was “Just get home,” and it was in the gray balloon that marks my messages, not the yellow of his. I took a deep breath, disrobed, and settled in to wait again.
When he arrived home about a half-hour later, I was still distraught. He explained that he had thought he could wait out the snowstorm, but when it eventually became clear that it wasn’t going to let up, he texted me and left. I told him how worried I’d been. In an attempt to lighten the atmosphere, he wrapped me in a huge, clownish bear hug. As he squeezed, we both heard a distinct cracking sound, and suddenly I was doubled over in pain. Apparently in his enthusiasm he had cracked one of my ribs.
I told a childless friend about all this the next day. “You know,” he said, “sometimes I regret not having children. Other times, I really, really don’t.”
I know what he means. Parenthood is exhausting, terrifying, crazymaking and definitely not for everyone.
On the other hand, there is an amazing person who wouldn’t be here on earth if not for his dad and me. One who still loves to give me bear hugs.
And there is this: http://soundcloud.com/salem-road
(He plays guitar and is the male voice on harmonies.)