It is thirty minutes into Mother’s Day. I have been in bed for a few hours escaping the sudden arrival of winter.
But I’m not waiting for Mother’s Day greetings. I am awake, reading and waiting to hear from the second of my two teenage children.
They are both out at parties.
The girl child, a whip-smart and feisty package who is a worldly sixteen years old, has gone to a birthday party with her boyfriend’s family. She has checked in the entire time, travelling by herself via train, towards this other family, an hour out of the city.
She is the walking embodiment of my heart.
She has checked in, again and again. An hour ago, the message I am waiting for. She is at her boyfriend’s house for the night. Safe. Fear relaxes its grip from deathly to white knuckle.
It is a risky thing to put what you value most out into the world alone.
The boy is 19 years old and we have been straddling the child/adult fence for a while. He chooses to live at home while at university mostly for money saving reasons. At half past midnight, he is still out.
His soul is connected to mine by an invisible but strong thread. Tonight, he pulls on that thread, letting me know in some realm, that he is not ok. I doze, hearing every sound, the way I did when he was small and suffering from a heavy, wheezing cold. I will not go into a deep sleep until he is home.
Eventually, the front door bells jangle and the dogs don’t even stir. They know it is him.
I wait for the sickening feeling in my stomach to ease. It doesn’t. So I make my way downstairs. He is in his room, distressed noises coming from behind the door.
I knock and he says, in response, “Mom, help me.” My heart doesn’t change rhythm, it was already beating too fast an hour ago.
His day has been the battleground of early adulthood. Friendships, a potential love interest, and alcohol. He tells me he should be better than this. He apologises again and again. He rambles about kebabs being a cure for anxiety and about wanting to spend his scholarship money on a girl. Several times I clean out the bucket he hunches over. I rub his back.
He reaches for my hand and squeezes it tight.
I tell him it’ll be alright.
His bleary eyes meet mine and he asks “How do you know?”
I don’t have a good answer. He has the only answer he needs because he sleeps.