I just said goodbye to my son. I hugged him tight – all 23 years of him – and told him he is my favorite son. I always tell him that. He hugged me back. He hardly ever does that.
I told him I loved him so much I didn’t even have words for it – “And I have a lot of words,” I told him. “Mmm-hmm,” he said.
These days, I have to reach up to rest my chin on his shoulder and the scruff of his five o’clock shadow is rough next to my face. Where has the time gone?
I reach my right hand up and place it on the crown of his head. I squeeze my eyes shut and stop myself from saying something that will ruin the moment, and I realize it’s not so hard anymore to know exactly what that might be. Instead, I say it to myself and hope that God can hear me. “Bless him, please,” I say inside of me.
I say it three times, and the third time I realize I am squeezing the crown of his head and I wonder if he’s noticed. I’m the one who breaks away, trying to beat him to it.
The other day I asked my dad, “When you were raising us, did you have any idea what you were doing?” He looked past me to some place on the horizon, or some place long ago and shook his head. “No,” he said.
I used to lay out my prayers for my children in front of God the way my dad used to spread out the map on the hood of our light blue Pontiac Tempest. I used a yellow highlighter to show God the path I wanted him to make my children take. I’d stand there at the crossroads, my bossy words blowing air through a whistle that hung from my lips, squeaking and squawking and waving a bright red stop sign, as if I were the one in charge. God was patient with me, but my plans were not his plans, and I was never the one in charge.
These days, I try my best to do the one thing I know I am good at. I am good at loving my son. That is all I know how to do. I am good at loving him so much that the words run out and I stand there and whisper blessings over him, on the inside of me.