Single Mom Slice of Life:
Talking and Walking
As promised, an update on the-birthday-to-never-talk-about-ever-again-in-life. (Yeah, we’ve been too busy to work on a new name – sorry about that.) But first, in case you’re just now joining the birthday party, a recap.
Nick has wanted for years to go paint-balling for his birthday. As he was officially turning 18, I figured – eh, why not? Well, the reason is because exactly one hour after the fun began, my son was shoved by – we’ll say an overzealous – player. Spending his birthday in the emergency room while his friends continued his party without him, Nick was sent home with a brace, crutches and the diagnosis of a sprained knee.
Well, after three doctor visits and an MRI, we’ve gone from sprained, to dislocated, to officially a torn ACL and cracked knee in two places. He had surgery over the Christmas break so that he could recuperate without missing school. That part was hard to deal with. We both had tears in our eyes when we were told the final decision regarding his knee and what would need to be done… but for very different reasons.
My tears were pretty easy to understand: my baby was having surgery. Routine or not, I’ve managed to go 18 years with the most intense doctor visit being stitches. No matter how much Grey’s Anatomy I watch, when it’s real life and my kid, it’s scary.
Nick’s tears were, well, borne of frustration. He has lost his ability to walk. Because of it, he wasn’t been able to attend his senior homecoming dance. For three months he and his friends had been planning a camping trip that he had to back out of, along with a group trip to the state fair. Because of surgery, he missed his entire Christmas break, and will be rehabbing for six months after. No driving, no walking, no fending for himself.
Self-reliance has been the hardest thing for him to lose. Between his younger brother and myself, Nick has had to learn to adjust to a forced life of dependence. That may have been his hardest life lesson to learn to date. From showers to getting in and out of the car, he has had to ask for help.
It turns out, like grief, there appear to be stages to learning how to relearn. He was embarrassed in the beginning. Then he was resigned. Frustration was a tough stage for all of us. I’ll admit, he almost didn’t make it through that stage. Both his brother and I were meeting in the middle of the night plotting ways to sell him to our nearest relative. Now… he’s accepted his situation.
I will never drive past the stoplight at 105th and Thunderbird the same way again. Not since last week when he and I were waiting for the light to turn green, and had one of the most honest conversations we’ve had to date.
“I’ve been an ass. I’m pissed. I’m hurting. I’m selfish. I’m mad because my friends are having fun without me. I’m spending my senior year in my bedroom with my knee on a pile of pillows. I have to have surgery. I can’t walk. I can’t climb stairs. But you and Justin have had to do everything else for me. You wake up early to help me. You stay awake late checking on me. You do my chores. You carry my backpack and carry my water cups. Before I thought being waited on would be cool, but it’s not. It’s sad. It’s humiliating. I miss walking, I miss being me. I’ll deny it if you repeat it, but you’re an awesome person mom. I’m lucky to have you. Plus, this is life, right? I can keep getting mad, or I can just learn to work with it.”
WHAT? Can it be? I mean, I didn’t record it or anything, and no one else was in the car, but I swear to you, it happened. I was there. I may have been hallucinating, but I don’t think so, and I didn’t start drinking until later that night when he tripped over the dog and fell against the wall. But trust me, those words were spoken. Aloud. To me.
Now, this isn’t to say that we don’t slip back into old habits every once in a while. Justin tried to extort an hour’s worth of XBOX time for washing Nick’s laundry. I may have (did) roll my eyes when he asked if I could go rent movies for him because he had already seen everything we own. But other than those few minor setbacks, there are a lot more genuine thank yous, pleases, and I love yous. I’ve had spontaneous hugs, and was even given some his birthday money “because you’ve had to drive me around everywhere.” My little boy. All grown up.
What about you? Have you yet witnessed that crossing over from childhood into adulthood? What was the circumstance? How did you adjust to it?
Wendy Syler Woodward has been a single parent since 2002, with two boys ages 13 and 18. Originally from southern California, Wendy moved her family to Phoenix where she manages a law firm for work, writes for fun, and has returned to college for her B.A. Follow her on Twitter @WendySyler.