It’s Monday. There’s a pork roast, raised here, slow-simmering in the oven flanked by chunks of potatoes, carrots, and onion. The kitchen smells of rosemary and olive oil and meat. Apples sit on the counter waiting to be peeled in turn and boiled down into a tasty, warm sauce. A meal fit for Sunday dinner. Except it’s Monday. And because cooking is therapy for me, and because tonight there will be nine places set at the table instead of 10, I’ve prepared a large and comforting meal. Because the void I feel in my heart for that 10th is like a fresh wound that must be tended carefully, and near continuously, I’m finding.
My oldest has left home – semi-permanently – whatever that means. I suppose it means that he may be back, but there’s also a good chance he won’t. At least not to stay. And like any mother who’s bid good-bye to the first of her children to leave, I’m flooded with memories, mostly good, fun, precious memories of his eighteen years home. Jokes we shared, dreams he’d confide, how he liked his coffee, and the sight of him coming through the door each day after one of his runs, or his incessant foot tapping to the drum beat in his head.
But unlike many mothers, these memories are mixed with the bitter tang of the frustrations and heartbreak brought on by a child who’s heart left home long before his body. And the process had been long, and it’s been tough.
And that is what’s been so hard. That his heart left home a long time ago, and struggling with the impossibility of staying somewhere that his heart no longer resides has brought with it turmoil and anger and fighting against, or maybe for, the relationships that have been broken in all this leaving, along the way.
And so dinner around the table tonight with nine rather than 10 will be typical of sit-down dinners here- loud and a little chaotic, messy with interruptions and spilled over food. But it will lack the anger and resentment that’s become too commonplace, too ugly for family dinners. Yet, it will still feel incomplete without him.
I’m wearing old yoga pants that may have a hole, glasses because I’m not feeling formal enough for contacts and have declared a movie/book reading day to fill our minds with things other than his large presence, so lacking. We’ll cuddle and talk about how we miss him, all the while sadly and silently aware of how good for everyone (including him) that he’s gone, for now. A hard pill to swallow. And I’ll write. I’ll write on the couch on this beat up Kindle with children crawling all over me, because like cooking, it’s therapy.
Because I never thought, after eighteen years of loving this child with all that I have, that the circumstances around his leaving would leave us so frayed. Circumstances, that out of privacy for him and us, I’ll leave unwritten. Circumstances that could be worse, but I wish were better. Circumstances that many parents would understand, but many also would not.
I never thought motherhood could take so much more than I thought even possible to give, and leave me so empty.
Hard questions fuzzy my mind: Why didn’t this go better? Did we discipline too much? Too little? Were we wrong to homeschool, or would things have been even worse in school. Did we expect too little or too much? Guide him too little, or too much? Did we miss something? I’m filled with a desperation to figure it out so as not to repeat the process with the other seven. I cannot repeat this.
Yet, in my desperation I hear Him, the God of comfort, whisper,
Be Still. I am not finished. And I will uphold you through this.
Sometimes, you do the best you can and leave God the broken pieces, and you trust. You trust that there is a plan amidst the sorrow, and you pray. You pray for stubborn hearts to yield to that plan in order to see it come to fruition – the marvelous plan God has for each of us.
I am not in control, and there is no formula for motherhood guaranteed to turn out a perfect child. There is no perfect child. There is no perfect mother. So you do the best you can and leave the rest to God.
I dedicated my son to God as an infant, 18 years ago. Perhaps I’d forgotten that. Time to let go.
I’ve done my best. And so I’m leaving the rest to Him who loves Connor even more than this mother who loved so hard.
I’m letting go of control and holding on to love. I’m surrendering to heartache and clinging to what I know to be true:
He holds it all in the palm of his hand, and will never let us go.