My 19-year-old son said something to me not long ago that stopped me in my tracks.
He is not one to be overly sentimental; he lives half a world away from us now, and I don’t think he has told me he loves me since he was 9 (as his mom, I know what that means, and what it doesn’t mean). I can’t get what he said to me out of my mind, because I missed it. And it’s haunting me.
He asked me casually the last time I was with him if I remembered the last time I picked him up, carried him in my arms? ‘You know mom, there was a last time. The last and final time you ever picked me up. Do you remember when it was? Think about it. For every parent, there is a last time that they pick up their kids and carry them.’ Wow.
The thought stunned me. It’s true of course, and of course I have absolutely no idea when it happened. Where were we? What country were we in? What had happened? Was he sad? Hurt? Crying? Scared? Angry? Or was he sleepy or playing around? How heavy was he? How old was he? What did he look like at that time? What had we been doing? Was anyone else there? It was the last time I ever picked him up. It never crossed my mind to pay attention to that moment, now lost, because at the time I never would have expected it to be important, for it to be the last time.
If I had known, if it happened after the advent of the ubiquitous, ever-present smart phone, I would have tried to capture it with a photo I suppose, although how I would do that while carrying a fairly large boy raises some creative questions. Maybe I would have tried to balance him on one hip, with one arm, while fumbling for my phone to take a selfie. Maybe I would have posted it on Facebook or Instagram “The last time I ever picked up Zack… LOL” Cringe. The understanding of what that last time meant, what it means now, catches in my throat and blurs my eyes. The recognition makes my heart hurt, makes me pine for my little boy, the child I used to carry around and comfort and parent.
But it must be said, that while I am stunned that something so seminal in my life passed so unnoticed, on balance I feel GRATEFUL that I didn’t know. I am retrospectively, privately grateful that I didn’t scramble to immortalize that moment, to document it, capture it, to share it. We were both unaware that we were present to a very poignant and important moment in our lives together. Neither of us remember it, but we both know absolutely that it happened, that it was an authentic occurrence in our relationship, a rite of passage that slipped past quietly. The real event that we can only now imagine conjures instant, strong emotion without a single tangible visual.
We have left just the inarguable certainty that it happened, and that seems more than enough.
This post was first published on Executive Lifestyle Magazine and has been reposted on Executive Lifestyle with the permission of the author.