My eldest son learned to drive in a town where most people have "driven" long before they are allowed or can even see over the dashboard. They have driven tractors, four wheelers and pick up trucks down long gravel roads without names. I never worried. He was safe. There was no texting, smart phones or road rage. By the time he drove the treacherous I - 95 up and down from Miami on a whim to hang out with his parents, who he generally regards as fairly cool, semi-contemporaries, I had learned to breathe.
My second son is another story. He made the appointment for his driving test without asking and I was unnecessarily furious with him. How could he be so irresponsible? My husband and I both have jobs and I might have to be in Court. Clearly, this was indicative that he is just not ready to take on this type of responsibility. Just another reason, one of many in my long list, that I reminded him of out loud every single chance I got. He is on the phone while watching TV, always distracted. He regularly watches streaming episodes of Big Bang Theory while he simultaneously attempts to conquer 6 hours of Chemistry, AP English and Honors Calculus. Clearly this means he might text and drive. Or someone else will. He might pull too close to the train tracks. My life had become a macabre recitation of the latest accident. Everything was becoming "I know someone who knows someone who...." In Court the other morning the estate of a young high school senior was being opened. The death certificate was not yet available so they used the funeral program. She was young and beautiful in her graduation picture, and my heart ached for her, for her parents. A sign from God we should wait, just a little bit longer, a few months or possibly years. He pressed, and I responded with the latest in the litany of his irresponsibility. You forgot to take your clothes upstairs and you forgot your homework. The black shirt you need for graduation is crumpled up in your saxophone case and you want to drive a car? Have you lost your mind?
He was not supposed to be here. I was in the hospital being treated for other injuries sustained when the nurse came in and said, "Oh, by the way you are pregnant," and can I get you anything? Apparently, my admittedly inappropriate humor (one of my finest qualities, I previously thought) that I could use a couple of Cyanide pills and a vodka chaser was not as amusing to her as I thought it would be. "Ma'am you are in Florida and if you are serious, we will need to Baker Act you." Umm, ok, duly noted, and just kidding. This auspicious beginning was followed months later by a hemorrhage so severe they went to do an immediate D&C, only to find a viable baby still remained. A big fan of Karma and meant to be, he arrived in the midst of something that was clearly never meant to be, and this tiny little baby would be the start of all things good to come. He was my second chance.
I had already made so many mistakes and felt some sort of societal perceived "three strikes and you are out" rule would certainly be imposed on the latest scenario. After all, who would possibly accept I could have 10 years later made another mistake. Really, didn't I learn my lesson? Who would ever want to be part of my life with all this baggage? Well let me tell you who. Someone truly exceptional, and maybe even a little shell shocked by the whole idea, entered my life. My "baggage" was two pretty cute kids, after all. Maybe we fell in love because of the whole big crazy mess of it all, not despite it. Those tiny feet pounding the pavement in Winnie the Pooh slippers on a walk with his dogs seemed to be in control of the direction we were all taking and sealed the deal. We had become an unintentional family. Now we are bigger and now we are stronger, with a few more little feet around our house. All this because of my now almost 6 feet tall little guy.
Maybe this was the first time I got things really right. I was not longer a child as I was the first time I became a parent, but a grown up with full accountability for my screw ups and the effect they would have on my little guy. We worked to make his life easier, to give him all we could and to somehow make up for the mistakes with my first son, mostly attributable to being, well, a kid myself. The family grew and the time passed quickly as it does. But his one, this kid, got me every time. Talented and blessed with brilliance like my first, I wanted him to have all the opportunities I never had. We pushed him to excellence. We agonized over every decision from preschool to high school. Now we are here in this moment, handing him the car keys. Panic overtakes me causing a grip so tight on the keys they begin to dig a little into the palm of my hand. The pain is overshadowed by the fear, so I tighten the grip even more. Not yet, I am not ready. Then it is done, I hand him the keys. The mark on my hand stays for a while and then goes slowly away. Can you get me a Starbucks? Can you pick up the milk? So for all of you reading this please be careful, slow down, don't text, my heart is on the road and yours is too, I am sure of it.
© Krista Barth- 2015
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