I wrote a few weeks ago about an encounter my son had with the police, and how this affected our family. Ben is back in school now, and things have returned to normal — and yet, they haven’t.
On most schooldays, I walk Ben to the subway before hitting the pool at the health club and then going on to work. At 16, he certainly doesn’t need his mommy to drop him off, but it’s a ritual we developed when he first started traveling by himself, in the eighth grade, and we both enjoy it.
Last Thursday, though, I had promised to accompany a friend to an early medical appointment, and I needed to leave home much earlier than usual . I realized as I was getting ready that I had forgotten to tell Ben this, so I went into his room, where he was trying to wake up, and said, “I need to leave in a few minutes; you’re on your own.” He nodded, and I left.
That evening, I went to a talk by Oliver Stone with some friends. We decided to go out afterwards in my neighborhood, and I called Ben to see if he might like to join us. (Bill wasn’t feeling well and had already announced that he needed to make an early night of it.) I called home first, and there was no answer. Then I called him on his cell, then texted him, with no response. It was after nine, long past his 6:15 schoolday curfew. “He’s got the TV turned up high,” my friend Peter, himself the stepfather of two grown children, soothed me. “Besides, Bill is home.” But Bill hadn’t answered either. “Maybe they went out together. If there was a problem, you’d have heard. Just relax and enjoy your meal.” He was right, and I tried. Then, when we were nearly finished, Ben texted me, saying he was home & sorry he’d missed the phone. I got home to find both Bill and Ben asleep. I wondered, though, about the unanswered phone calls, and whether Ben had just beaten me home.
On Friday morning, I asked Bill what time Ben had arrived home. “He was here when I got home, at around five,” he said. “Then he fell asleep on the couch at maybe eight o’clock. I guess we both slept through your call.”
Ben is usually on the computer well past midnight. “Do you think he was high?” I asked, not a question that usually occurs to me in connection with my son.
Bill laughed. “I think he was tired,” he said. “He had a rough soccer game in the afternoon.”
Later that morning, after Bill had left for work, I knocked on Ben’s door, per usual, to remind him that it was almost time to leave. He didn’t answer, and I thought he must still be asleep. But when I looked inside, his bed was empty.
A few times in the past, I’ve been delayed by a phone call and Ben has had to leave without me, but he always announces that he needs to go and hugs me goodbye. Coupled with his odd sleepiness the night before, this behavior seemed ominous, though I couldn’t imagine what the omen might be. I called and texted him, and again he didn’t respond. It was too early for him to be in class.
I spent an anxious half-hour, telling myself that there must be before-school sports or band practice I didn’t know about. Then he texted me. He’d just gotten off the train on the way to school. He had fallen asleep again after I left the previous morning, and been late to school. He thought that when I said he was on his own, I meant from now on, not just that day — that my schedule had changed, as it does periodically. He assumed I’d already left when he woke up, so he dressed and ran out, to be sure he didn’t oversleep again.
So, yes, we’re back to normal, and no, I, at least, am not.
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