When I tell my lunch companions that my son doesn’t want to be a fireman, they ask, “Why? Is he scared of fire?” chuckling a little and waiting in anticipation for a story about matches or birthday candles or a campfire gone awry.
I could make up such a story. Maybe that would be easier. On me, but especially on them.
Instead, I plow ahead. “He doesn’t want to be a doctor either.”
Now that makes them think.
The one who fancies herself a riddle solver is enjoying herself now. “Too many doctor visits? I bet he hates shots, right?” She is imagining my son as a fearful lad, slinking away from fire and shots and strange dreams of the future.
“Well, he does hate shots, but that’s not really it either. He doesn’t even want to be a teacher.”
Now that surprises him. Because if there’s one thing my son really loves, it’s his teacher. Other parents watch him run to class with a fervor of a kid to an ice cream truck on a hot summer night.
He hugs his teacher so tight I can see her jugular vein pulsing while she continues smiling and keeping her contorted body from falling to the floor while my child, half her height, clings tightly to her neck.
“Well then what does he want to be when he grows up? A police officer? A lawyer?
Except for the riddle solver, the other ladies sit in polite impatience, apparently prepared for the conversation to shift to their children’s ambitions of the stage, soccer field, or wild-haired artistic passions.
I pause again, with full knowledge that they are not prepared for the reality that comes from a mother who parents without a safety net.
I whispered my revelation.
“He wants to be alive when he grows up.”
I spoke with full knowledge that their response might involve slack jaws and teary eyes, but surely awkward silence.
These ladies are not my normal lunch companions. They don’t know our story or my penchant for stark honesty. I was a last minute addition to this society set.
I fully realized that their normal lunch chatter does not include the death of children.
But my normal lunch conversation does. It includes death, feeding tubes, shunts, wheelchairs, ports, and selecting songs for funerals.
I doubt these ladies have considered songs for their child’s funeral.
But I smile, knowing the inevitable questions that will come from my frank revelation. Questions that bring mothers closer to my world of passionate love for every morning that I wake up to the smiling face of my son, still here with us.
It’s easy for them to forget that life is short. Soccer fields and birthday parties. Honor rolls and college plans. So much to occupy the mind and schedule.
So much so, that people look up and their child is in college. And their hustle and bustle busied themselves into forgetting that every day is a day we’ll never get back.
I know that now.
And I don’t mind shocking my lunch companions into considering that thought.
I think their children will thank me.