and now he’s home…
I wrote an article last year about my son leaving California after our family moved out here (after 45 years in Jersey/New York). My son wanted to go back to the East Coast and finish his senior year. It wasn’t a surprise, and in the back of my mind that was one dream left to fulfill (for both of us). It was a hard and selfless decision – but the right one. I never published the article, and although many people have read it and told me to publish it, I just couldn’t bring myself to press the “red button.” I think at times I am superstitious, or maybe I was secretly awaiting his return so I could “finish” what “I” had started.
Let’s travel back in time…Sunday June 3, 2012
My family and I are on a plane headed back to California and guess who’s with us? It’s my son, Michael. I attended his graduation today at Don Bosco Prep (http://www.donboscoprep.org/page.aspx?pid=345) in Ramsey, New Jersey. I was over the moon proud, and I know my parents were as well. They were looking down at their grandson knowing he was the first of great things to come and that his brothers would follow by his example. It was extremely hot, and I was surprised when I did not shed a tear! I had gone “back home” to a place that I once knew, but realized there was nothing left but my son to collect and bring to his new home. I had a secret the other parents sitting next to me didn’t know about, which was that Michael was going to college in California. There was no need to cry because I had my son back – closer than I had expected.
As I saw the procession of graduates enter the stadium, I stood on top of the bleacher seats and feverishly looked for this beautiful face and gorgeous wavy black hair. I nervously scanned the boys’ faces until I fell upon his. My chest softened up, my heart warmed, my breathing lightened, an enormous smile took hold of my face and I yelled out, “Luch!” He looked up in the bleachers packed with hundreds of people and found me. He saw my face and for a moment, time stood still. We smiled at each other and I felt a wave of love wash over me. I looked up into the sky and said, “thank you God.”
Through this painful process, I felt like I had died everyday waiting for him. In my mind, I had to “right a wrong” regardless of my own selfish feelings. I wanted to show him that even though I have the power as his parent, I chose to hand it over to him. I watched (from a distance) as he navigated himself through the death of his grandmother (with whom he lived at the time), the pain of commuting to school from NY to NJ (car, train, bus, and walking) every day, while battling the weather, shopping for food, doing his own laundry, feeling homesick, taking care of his grandmother, making decisions on his own, fulfilling an online college course and finally achieving a 4.5 GPA in AP classes.
I thought to myself, this was the best plane ride I have ever taken! I thought about his accomplishments and digressed back to countless conversations I had with my parents. My Mom would refer to my boys as “her boys”, which warmed my heart because I knew she was so proud. She was proud of everything from the way they behaved to the sacrifices they made to better their lives. My Dad would always say, “If you want to show a child an example, use yourself.” Guess what, Dad? I was listening and it shows! One of the greatest things you can hear from a parent is I’m proud of you! I remember my parents saying that to me and I pay it forward to my boys. I learned by many examples growing up, including the good, the bad, and the black sheep. I share everything with my children so they too can learn by examples. Everyone can “talk” but only a few can “walk” (a great conversation I very recently had with my eldest brother, who was such a great example to learn from and I am blessed being his sister)!
In order to “check” myself, I often reminisce (in my mind) of the ten months I lost with my son. I missed all the little details of his days, I missed ten months of laughter, ten months of hugs, ten months of hearing him say, “hey Mom.” What have other people gained? They gained his adorable smirk, his big pearly white smile, his eyes that welcome you home to his soul, his jokes, hugs, and personal stories. They walked away feeling like they met a young man with a head on his shoulders, who wants to better the world by helping his fellow man. “They” in essence gained all the little details about him and I consider them lucky! I am proud and no one knows “your story” like your Mom.
Even though my son sacrificed, he gained! He gained priceless moments with my Mom before she had to leave us. It’s ironic how the time Michael spent with Nona reminded me of the time I spent with my Mom. I would rather stay home with my Mom, make us tea, and play name that tune on the radio than go out with my friends. It was a relationship like no other, and those moments fill my soul when I grieve for her. My Mom once said to me, “who better to watch over your son than me.” Once again, my Mom was right! My Mom is like the priceless gift she gave me, and I wear it proudly.
My little guy was watching Blue’s Clues the other day. It was the episode where Steve was heading off to college. My little guy turned to me and said, “Mama, RaRa (another nickname for Michael) is like Steve! He’s headed off to college!” I laughed and hugged my Nick while thinking to myself, I love these moments. Life is about the small little details and when our time has come, that’s what we will be thinking about before we pass on.
A closing thought: Everything I learned, I learned from my parents.