Yesterday, my oldest son came home from college for the weekend. Came home so that he could go to his younger brother’s lacrosse game tonight and so that he could spend time with us, hanging out, watching basketball, eating mom’s cooking, making us laugh. And, of course, on the way home he wanted to know what food might be available. And, as soon as his younger brother walked in the door after practice, his first question was about dinner. I have learned that much more than dinner is conveyed in this simple query, even though they may not realize it yet. It’s about coming home and knowing that someone is there who loves you and takes care of you—and the hope that some things in life never change.
Such innocent words, ones we hear almost everyday for years, as our children run in and out the door, playing with friends or heading to ball practice or catching a movie, until one day they run out the door on their way to Life On Their Own and suddenly we miss those innocuous words.
It’s as though the echo of the screen door slamming reverberates through the years, leaving memories to march us through the days after they are gone. Memories to help us grow into our new lives as we adjust to having time for ourselves, perpetually clean homes, cash in our wallets for more than a day, and perhaps something exotic and “ewww, gross” for dinner. We learn to treasure both the memories and the new life, as we understand that our offspring are making their way through the world just as we planned and hoped they would do.
For some, those memories are cut horrifically short. In February 2006, a young man who was in my older son’s grade at a neighboring high school was killed in a car crash. I knew his mom just slightly, as she was the team mom when our boys were on the same middle school football team a couple of years earlier. I have thought of her over the last five years, as my son hit milestones that hers would never see: driver’s license, college visits, girlfriends, prom—all those things that are so taken for granted as being part of teenage life were things that she would never experience with her son.
“Mom, what’s for dinner?”
I’m thinking of her now because a movie opens today that is based on the story of her son and the family as they grappled with his loss. I thought of her when my son graduated from high school in May 2008, the same day that hers would have. I thought of her a few months later, when I was driving home from moving my son into college, knowing that she would never have that opportunity.
And I think of her when one of the kids gets into a spot of trouble, or does something that annoys me or forgets until the last minute to ask me to wash a uniform—I try to remember that she would give anything to have one more load of dirty socks, or one more day to be annoyed, or one more grade to fret over. If I can think of her in those moments, I can remember to be so thankful for the blessings that I have even when those blessings get on my nerves. I can pull from reserves of patience usually untapped and respond with a little more love and a little less irritation, because I know that life can change with dizzying speed.
“Mom, what’s for dinner?”
Something special, Bud. Welcome home.