Oh, What He’s Missing

I just had the most beautiful conversation with my now 13-year old son. (Yes, that’s him, pictured, at age 4, handing me his “hand-print bouquet” at his preschool’s Mother’s Day Tea. Be still my heart!)

Yesterday was his birthday. He’s my Ephipany child and every year he embraces that identity on a new and deeper level. Of course, like most good epiphanies, we have to travel quite a ways before all is revealed, but the outcome is always worth the trip.

My sweet child, who was born to entertain, to turn everything into a pun, to play music and games and pranks, has kept all his emotions close to the vest since his father left. Even the day, the moment, when it happened – when I temporarily forgot how to breathe, while listening to my older son beg his dad not to go – my youngest looked at me flatly and said, “If he wants to go, let him go.”

Today, we were arguing over something ridiculous, although, even if the subject were something truly important, it wouldn’t have mattered. Once we’d worn each other out, we discovered we weren’t really mad at all – we were sad and both missing the one who left us. I realized this first and began apologizing for my misdirected anger, in addition to crying and then apologizing about crying, because it’s not fair for me to burden him with tears that he didn’t cause. Soon he was adding his own tears and apologies, as our argument became a conversation, and his irritation with me turned into empathy.

Both of my boys seem unaware of how far they’ve come in the last three-and-a-half months, but I see it as clearly as I see their broadening shoulders and the beginnings of their beards. Perhaps it’s because I hold them so much closer now – something I might not have done if life hadn’t changed and my focus remained on the less endearing qualities that come with the teenage years. As tempting as it is to complain about life as a single parent, while my husband is off simply being single, I know I got the better part of this painfully raw deal.

This afternoon, I started to draft an email to my husband, because it’s still my first instinct to share our children’s milestones and moments, like this one, that I’m privileged to see and he is missing. But I stopped myself and deleted the email, the way I’ve done countless times since he left, because I don’t need an epiphany to realize if he wanted to see these kinds of moments or share in the joy of raising these boys, he would have stayed. I’ll just never understand it.

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