Friday, May 28, 2021

Waiting Room: 2

I was in a new waiting room with my son, waiting for (yet another) evaluation for speech therapy, when I notice her.  A woman, somewhere in age between me and my parents (masks make it hard for me to really tell these days) with long blonde hair... who was *fixated* on my son.  

He was playing with one of those "bead maze" toys that I'm convinced they hand out along with a diploma when a person graduates with a medical degree. I was getting some paperwork sorted out at the front desk when she started talking to him. 

"What about the green bead," she asked.  "Can you move that one?" 

I turned around to look.  My son studied her for a second, then dutifully moved the green bead. I could see her eyes smiling over her mask.  I finished my paperwork and headed back to my seat, when suddenly a loud voice trumpets from the hallway off of the waiting room.  

"MAMA!"

A boy, all legs, and probably about 13-years-old, bounds in the direction of the woman. 

"Hey, buddy!  How'd it go?" she asks with those smiling eyes. 

I tried to respectfully ignore their conversation at that point, but I will confess that I had one terrible thought: I don't want to be in this room when my son is 13.  God, please don't let me still be in this room in 8 years.  

Now I understood why she was looking at my son the way she did.  The reminiscing and nostalgia that many parents feel as their kids age, of course.  But I'm also convinced that she was remembering. Remembering the beginning of her special needs journey.  Remembering her own son playing with the "bead maze."  Remembering when their biggest issues were how to properly hold a pencil, how to find the words to interact with friends and teachers, and how to use your voice to let others know what's upsetting you.     

I wonder if she thought she'd still be in the waiting room when he reached junior high.  

But my next thought, after my shameful gut reaction, was about that "MAMA!"

If we weren't in this waiting room... would she still be getting that joyful greeting from her teenager? Probably not.  

Maybe I do want to be in this room with my son a little longer. 

Maybe I'll take that slower start, those endless IEP meetings, the unceasing worry about how he'll be treated by his classmates as he ages.  Maybe that's a fair trade for a little more time spent as the center of his world. A quid pro quo to hold off those teenage eyerolls for a few extra years.    

They walk out the door into the rain, and I'm watching her son jump in puddles and laugh.  

Yeah, I'll think I'll keep coming to this waiting room for a few more years.  

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Treehouse Memories

I want text you so much that I'm fighting back tears... and I've never texted you before in my life.

It happened during those early hours of the morning when it feels like my son wants to cram in way too many activities while I'm still half asleep. This time, he built a creation out of Legos that kind of looked like a treehouse.  As he yelled, "Treehouse!" over and over in a melodic way...  a moment from the early 90s hit me like a truck.

We're sitting in your childhood home, booting up your DOS computer to play THE TREEHOUSE.  I can't say that I remember the actual gameplay almost 30 years later, but the theme song resurfaces in my brain like I heard it last week:

 🎵 "Hanging out... at the Treehouse!  Hanging out... at the Treehouse!"  🎵

I wish I could text and ask you if you remember that game. I feel like you would, and you'd probably remember way more details than I do.  


I'd also ask if you remembered playing that "Are You Afraid of the Dark" game that I don't think you really liked, but that you'd agree to play because *I* wanted to play it (and be terrified by it at the same time.) Or I'd ask if you remember that game where we were supposed to be surgeons and follow directions to do medical procedures?  ("Life and Death" or something like that?) My strongest memory of that computer game is when you jokingly carved your name into the patient's forehead and then the game called you a "quack" and we lost.  

I'd like to imagine us making each other "LOL" via text message this morning. 

To be honest, I just like to imagine that we'd still be friends.  

I got together with some of our mutual friends from high school the other day.  I masked up, and took my kids to a park to play with their kids.  (The four of us have 9 kids now, can you believe that?) Would you have been there if you could have been?  Would the kids have been excited to see "silly Aunt Jess?" Would they have begged you to chase them around and growl like a monster? 

It feels odd to miss you during my current season of motherhood, seeing as you were never a mother yourself.  I don't really even remember you babysitting. It's also so strange to have this longing to text you (because it's hard to find a quiet moment to talk on the phone these days) when I didn't even own a cell phone until about 8 months after you passed away.

But in the 17 years since you've been gone, I've learned to let the emotions come.  The happy, the sad, and even the ones that don't really make sense.  Today, I'll build Lego creations with my son.  I'll do a load (or two) of tiny laundry.  I'll put your photo on Facebook and let other people see your face and remember you in their own way.  

And I'll miss our carefree days of hanging out "at the treehouse" a little bit more than usual.