Breathe

There were another half-dozen reasons today that my son said I was mean, but now I’m giving him a look when he says it, and he says, “Sorry. You’re nice. I’m just upset about (whatever).” This is an improvement. Mr. “Sleeping is Stupid” also refused to take a nap with me and I said that’s fine, I’m going to relax for an hour in bed and read, and you can lay here with me and relax, or you can play or do something else. He grumbled and got into bed with me, then flipped around like a fish out of water for awhile. Then he was asleep. We both racked out for like an hour and a half, which I felt was necessary as I planned to take him to an evening event involving loud, live music, a good deal of walking and staying up late – the Irish Festival. I talk about being Greek a lot but I am as Irish as I am Greek, and we have a lot of Irish people in Cleveland so it’s a good festival. I have a somewhat distant relative that’s in a band that was playing at 7:15, and since I live all of 5 minutes from the fairgrounds, I set out 45 minutes before their set, thinking we’d have time to grab a bite to eat first and check things out before showing up. I’ve been to the festival a few times and it takes about 10 minutes door to door.

Life had other plans. For reasons I can’t fathom, even though we have more Irish people here in Cleveland than any other place outside of Ireland than New York City, the city also decided to let some themed race (Glow/Foam something) hold their 5K at the same fairgrounds the Irish fest was taking place. We started down the main road and traffic snaked down the street as far as I could see in both directions. I thought maybe there was an accident. Surely the festival wasn’t THAT big of a draw. So we turned around and came in the back way. All the back/side entrances were closed, and that’s when I started to see runners with numbers pinned to their shirts. Since traffic was at a complete standstill I asked a couple of them what was going on, and discovered this was a sold out 5K that people come from all over to attend. Dear God.

We sat for more than an hour and proceeded about half a mile, and I finally gave up. My son was starving and so was I, so we went home, and I heated up frozen things for our dinner, and let him watch too much Teen Titans Go. I served him first because he was starving, then sat in the kitchen eating my meal. While I was eating, he came in and stood in front of me and touched my cheek. “Mom,” he said, “Do you remember when I accidentally hit your face with the Hulk when I was playing?” We had just talked about this a day or two before, an incident that happened when he was small enough that he really doesn’t remember it, I think it was his 4th birthday or so. I guess it was still on his mind because of the recent conversation about it. “Sure,” I told him. “Does it still hurt?” “Oh my, no!” I told him, “My cheek is just fine, D, and that was YEARS ago.” “I wasn’t looking where I was playing,” he said, “I didn’t mean to do it.” I told him I knew that, of course, and that even if I had been hurt, it was an accident and I know he didn’t mean it. I was so touched by his caring and I hugged him tight. Just when I think all he does is yell and run and break things and call me mean, something like this happens, and I feel like he’s going to be ok.

I hugged him a lot today. A four-year-old autistic boy was at his grandparents yesterday and ran off, as little kids can do. Maybe they were playing hide and go seek. Maybe someone was in the bathroom, who knows. Kids see an opportunity and sometimes things happen right in that terrible magic window of the moment someone isn’t staring at them every second. I’ve been following the story since it broke on Twitter yesterday. I felt an urgency when I saw the pictures of the boy: he needs his Mom. He’s missing her. I FELT it in my gut. I retweeted and posted and did what I could, which was a lot of nothing. A search started, and continued for hours. When I awoke this morning and they hadn’t yet found him, I knew it couldn’t be good, and as the day wore on, the news finally came that, in fact, it wasn’t. He was found in Lake Erie, drowned, his arm caught between some rocks. I saw some pictures of the divers and emergency workers who were working around there, and had a thought: whatever I’ve ever thought about becoming a doctor, EMS worker or other first responder, I really don’t think I have the character to dive into the water and work to free the body of a little boy who has drowned. I cried just looking at the picture of the first responders. I could feel how sick they felt just looking at them.

I think I knew when D was in swim class this morning. For the first time, the teacher wanted them to attempt to swim just a couple of strokes alone to get to her a short distance away. D is not capable of this yet. His strokes are flailing and untamed and he can’t keep himself afloat. I saw him trying, and sinking, and going under, and I got up. The instructor gave him a second to see if he could recover and then she was there, holding him up so he could attempt the strokes while she held him, but just those seconds were terrifying, and somehow I knew what happened to little Sidney. I spend all of D’s swim class trying to look as uncaring as the other parents, looking at my phone until it’s my kid’s turn to do the action requested, and then I put everything down, planning how I will dive in and get him, preparing my mind for how heavy I will feel going in with all my clothes. I pretend nonchalance and let the instructor run things. But today made me nervous.

So I hugged my sandy-haired boy a lot today, his tan, lithe body still so small, so wiry, but still soft the way little kids are. I let him watch a little too much TV and eat a little too much garbage. I let him stay up too late and didn’t make him do any chores, other than coming with me to get some of mine done. I helped him ride his bike, pulling or pushing it when he got stuck. The thing is too small for him and the front tire is flat. I know he needs a new one. I don’t think I can swing it.

I gave him the time on the playground he wanted with me at enough of a distance that I wasn’t cramping his style, at his request. I marveled at his strength as he climbed the bars, arm over arm, and shimmied up poles and went down the slide over and over.

I saw his ache to be older, as he watched some kids from the complex playing a pickup game of basketball. He so much wants to be invited to that game. Don’t rush it, son. I need you small right now, and touching my cheek, and sleeping next to me still sometimes, all tan and sweet and tiny blonde hairs on your skinny legs. I needed to find that little knight on the edge of my bed frame, for me still to be able to impress you by out-balancing you on the parking curbs. You’re catching up so goddamned quick, and I need to catch my breath.

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