Have you ever been so excited about something that you just couldn’t sleep? That’s me. So excited.
My oldest son is one of the two total loves of my life, the other being his brother, of course. The relationships I have with both of my boys are completely different because they are so different. It’s a normal thing with children, I know, but I’m still intrigued by it sometimes. How two children from the same parents, with the same upbringing, can be so totally different. But different they are and I certainly wouldn’t have it any other way.
My oldest put me through some teenage hell that began 3 years ago when I left his father. “Teenage hell” actually seems like too mild of a term for what he put me through. It lasted 18 months. An ugly, long, painful, scary, 18 months. That was all I could handle before I threw up my hands and screamed at his father “you take him!”
It hurt my heart in ways I can’t explain to send him to his father. I had endured 23 years of the man’s unpredictable anger, unrealistic and unfair expectations for everyone but himself, and his egomaniac tendencies, but I felt like I had no choice. It was my hope his father’s unrelenting heavy hand would save him from himself.
It did just that.
I speak to my son just about every day. He texts me regularly because even though he lives with his father he looks to me to handle the day to day aspects of his life that require parental input because, as he puts it, I’m the one he can “count on to do what [you] say.” I wouldn’t have it any other way, really. I know I bitch about his father’s lack of financial input with respect to this child’s needs (most recently the cost of all things associated with high school graduation) but truly, deep down, I don’t care. As long as I can do for my child, I will do.
And even beyond that, as much as I dislike the man who is his father, I am grateful to him for saving the boy. I may not agree with his tactics, but over the last 19 months I have witnessed a change I feared may never come and I am grateful. Thankfully, during one very short period of time when his father and I were able to actually have a conversation, I was able to thank him and tell him that I credit his parenting with the boy’s place in life now – I expressed my undying gratitude and he graciously accepted it. I am thankful for that moment because there hasn’t been another moment like it since we parted ways 3 years ago.
Leading up to the boy’s 18th birthday, last November, the father had taken him car shopping. Every kid dreams about their first car and the father was playing into that dream. They bonded over the experience – test drove some vehicles, talked about it constantly. It was with joy that I listened to the boy tell me about the cars he had driven and what his father was telling him about what he was going to do for him. He was excited, I was excited for him, even though I was never one to think a child should just be given a car. I wasn’t going to tell the father how to parent, just as I wouldn’t expect him to tell me how to parent – we are not one anymore – so we have no say in each other’s style.
A few weeks before the birthday, however, the boy called me and mentioned that he would not be getting a car after all. He explained his father had chosen instead to spend the $5,000 ear marked for the car on a Les Paul guitar. It was a rare guitar, a once in a lifetime opportunity, couldn’t be passed up. Yea, whatever. I had heard that before, multiple times throughout our marriage. The boy wasn’t too broken up about it, but I was pissed off. I didn’t tell him though. I think my words at the time were “um, honey I need to get off the phone, I’ll talk to you later.” I was afraid I might say something not kind about his father, and I work HARD not to do that, ever.
In the last year, his senior year, my son has worked his ass off to ensure he graduates with his class. This, after fucking off his sophomore year to such an extent we were afraid it just wouldn’t be possible. He’s changed so drastically that I have to pinch myself periodically to make sure I’m awake – he’s been relentlessly applying for jobs and told me last Sunday that he’s pretty sure he’s gotten one, his first, at the theater a few suburbs over. He’s excited and worried about this. Excited because he wants a job, but worried because he has no way to get to and from work without imposing on friends or his father and his father has made it clear taxi service is not on his list of things he’ll do. He told me he would walk and/or take public transportation to make it happen though, he’s that motivated – and while those of you who live in big cities may think this is an easy task – we don’t live in Portland proper, we live out a ways in a suburb that has bus service, but it’s not frequent.
In addition, my youngest son told me his brother informed him that he will be a Cadet Teacher at the middle school starting next week and will be assigned to his brother’s class – he chose the period slot that coincides with one of his friend’s cadet teaching stints so he could ensure he’d have a ride to and from the middle school. This boy is NOT the boy I sent to his father’s. This boy is something much, much different.
So I’m excited and can’t sleep.
Last Sunday I bought the boy a car. It was an emotionally charged event, I’ll admit. I was married for 23 years to a man who handled that kind of stuff. I have never, in my life, purchased a car . . . let alone a used one that could fall apart the second it gets driven off the lot. I fretted about this for weeks (I know you’re not surprised since I fret a lot). I looked, and looked, and looked. I took Blue Eyes with me a couple of times to look and he was very helpful telling me things to think about with respect to the car, insurance, etc. I took a girlfriend with me last Sunday when I actually made the purchase and she was awesome – I probably would have paid $1,000 more had she not argued with the guy about some minor issues she thought the car had. Awesome.
My biggest fear about buying the car, and yes, I know this is stupid, but it’s still true, is that a month after I give it to him it will fall apart and his father, the man I am no longer married to, will be able to talk about (to everyone who will listen and even those that won’t) how incompetent I am and what a fool I was to think I could actually purchase a reliable vehicle. Biggest fear, right there. Twenty-three years in the making. But I swallowed that shit and bought the car last Sunday. My girlfriend took it to the mechanic on Tuesday so he could tell me the state of the tires, battery, engine and brakes. The report says the engine is really clean, the transmission has just been replaced, the brakes are good, the tires are practically new with a little wear on the front and the battery has a lot of life left in it. He added, after she told him what I paid for it, that I got a really good deal. Can you see my smile right now?
On Sunday, when the ex brought the youngest home, the oldest came in to say hey and give me a hug. I told him that I wanted to take him and his brother to dinner on Friday, when I picked him up. Just the three of us (I had to specify this because he has a tendency to invite his friends if I don’t. . . Seattle is a prime example). He said okay and we chatted a bit more and then he left. When I closed the door I said to the youngest “I have a secret, but you can’t tell your brother!” He gave me an odd look and said ok. We waited for his father to pull out of my driveway and then I opened the door. I pointed to the car across the street and said “you see that car over there?” He said yes. I said “that’s your brother’s car.” The look on his face was priceless. He jumped up and down and squealed, literally squealed, with delight. He said he was so excited for his brother, that his brother had been saving his change, cans and bottles, and every bit of money he could find for his “I-need-a-car-really-fucking-bad-fund” and he was certainly not expecting me to give him one.
I’m happy, excited and can’t sleep.
The youngest has been suggesting just how to give his brother the car. He thinks I should tell him I want him to drive and on the way out the door hand him the keys. They kind of look like my keys, but not quite. The youngest doesn’t think he’ll notice. He says when the boy tries the key fob and it doesn’t work I should say “Oh, I’m sorry, I meant you should drive your car!” As I point to the car across the street. It makes my youngest giddy to talk about it. He’s most excited because he knows that the boy is not expecting it at all. It’s the last thing Mom would do. The last thing. Or so he thought.
Is there anything better than making the love of your life happy? I’m thinking not.
Happy. Excited. Can’t sleep.