I think I have completely lost it. My son’s Bar Mitzvah is in exactly one week and I just broke down sobbing in the middle of Summer Winds plant nursery while trying to select a few trees to beautify the front entry of our home. My husband, a bit taken aback by my sudden onset hysteria, asked me what seemed to be so upsetting about two Red leaf banana trees and a flat of succulents. To which my only reply was, “They’re going to die. They’re all going to die.”
You see while many may miss the logic of my distress, it is more than obvious to me what is transpiring inside my twisted psyche. My baby boy is becoming an adult, at least in Jewish terms. What does that mean? It means in 5 years he’s off to college, then grad school maybe, a job, a marriage, his own family. The cycle continues. The same will happen with my youngest, at least that’s what I hope and wish for. But it also means that my reasons for existing are only temporary and will go off to live their own miraculous lives and leave me as a distant (and likely annoying) memory. This feels unbearable to me.
I complain bitterly about never having enough time to do the things I want to do, to read the books I want to read and write the stories I want to write. The pressures to work and mother and create meaningful art overwhelm me most of the time. But the reality that in the not-too-distant future I’ll have nothing but time is the most painful acknowledgement of life’s tragic progression that I’ve ever experienced.
I am fully aware that I was somebody else once; before I was a mother. I was somebody who lived alone and went out with friends, who always cleaned up her dishes after she ate, who worked 80 hours a week and went to the gym whenever she felt like it and sometimes just laid around the house watching reruns of “Dick Van Dyke” and “I Love Lucy.” But I don’t do those things anymore, mostly because I’m too busy running errands, supervising homework detail, carpooling or doing perpetual loads of laundry. Yet suddenly it seems impossible to imagine meaning in any life that doesn’t include my eternal sorrow over dirty socks on the floor, unpicked up dog poop in the yard, or two day old breakfast dishes still sitting at the table wistfully hoping that some thoughtful child will place them neatly in the dishwasher.
I don’t enjoy every moment I have with my boys. For that I am grief-stricken. I waste the precious time we have being angry about stupid things and longing for time to be alone, with my own thoughts, my own agenda. Can it be different? Can anyone keep her eye on the essential reality that everything is fleeting, that each moment brings us closer to loss, emptiness and solitude? How can anyone live life with that kind of uber-awareness? Ernest Becker explains in The Denial of Death,“To live fully is to live with an awareness of the rumble of terror that underlies everything.” Getting caught up in the minutia is our only escape from the devastating reality before us.
I long to appreciate the fleeting moments I still have with my children. I promise to try to relish every second in this tumultuous week of family drama, party plans and Bar Mitzvah preparation. My goal is to celebrate the amazing young man my son is becoming, to love him with every ounce of my being, and to joyfully release him to become his own man and forge his own path through life.
I’ll let you know how it goes. Sniff sniff. It’s not likely to be an easy week.
Mazel Tov Deborah! I know how you feel. enjoy the moment. Shabbat Shalom, Liz
OK, so here’s the good news. It may not be an easy week my friend, but often, the things that are most meaningful for us and part of the legacy we hope our kids will carry on, are not. If you need anything, I’m here.
Hey Deb– Great piece! I saw Mark and Levi today at Temple Chai while attending a Bat Mitzvah with Marty. It was so nice to see them. Can’t believe how tall Levi is getting! He will be AWESOME next week. Congrats on this upcoming milestone!
Mazel Tov!!!!! I am sooooooo happy for you! I can’t believe that Levi is thirteen already because I remember you when you were thirteen! Have a wonderful Bar Mitzvah and a beautiful party! This is a truly special day so enjoy every moment! Please give Levi a big hug and kiss for me and give my love to the rest of the family. I love you!!!
Mazal tov to Levi. I am sure he will do great. I remember is first day in kindergarten with Shani . His kindeness and swetteness as a young boy I am sure will continue as a young adult. lots of luck and love. We miss you
This is a great reminder that we all need to try our best to take the precious time we do have to enjoy every day with our children! But, as a mother of adult children who has experienced similar tears and fears as yours along the way, I am here to say: you will ALWAYS have your boys! Believe it or not, you will also love the days knowing they are happy and successful-on the their own!!