“The love inside, you take it with you”
Please, please live long enough to meet your grandson.
In the early weeks of my son’s life, I called my mom in tears almost every day. “Crap, Mom, I just went to see another lactation consultant. I can’t make this work!”
My mom treated each of these conversations about breastfeeding as if it was our first conversation on the matter. Each time, she shared anecdotes, recommended research points, and told me she was proud of me for persevering as long as I had.
Each time, I hung up the phone with a smile. Yeah, I can do this thing! Then I’d remember my mom’s failing health and start crying anew. I prayed time and again that she’d live long enough to meet her grandson on Thanksgiving.
Planning my Thanksgiving trip to Eugene was a feat. I had the intellectual capacity of a My Little Pony but had to coordinate a combination of land and air travel for no fewer than three people. All my travel up to that point had involved searchin’ and purchasin’. Nothing more.
When my son was three weeks old, I posted a favor request on Facebook. I asked if any of my Los Angeles friends would mind driving up to Eugene with me if I flew them back down to Los Angeles from there. I was surprised that the first response was from my most recent ex, Nathan. He stated succinctly that it’d be just as easy to fly a Eugene friend down to Los Angeles as to do the opposite.
I loved the thought. I was pretty sure Ba.D. would be down with it, too, but wasn’t sure how to ask the question. “Hey, hon, mind if I spend a day and a half chillin’ with my ex? For budgetary reasons, by the way, we’d have to share a room . . . no problem, right?”
I don’t remember exactly what I asked. I do remember Ba.D.’s unimpressed look when I raised the question. “Why would I mind, Deb?”
A month later, Nathan flew down to Los Angeles and spent a couple days with me, Ba.D. and our newborn son. He was rather taken by Li’l D, and chuckled how it sounded like he was saying, “Yeah! Yeah!” when he cried.
The night before we set out, Nathan watched Li’l D for me and Ba.D. while we got my car checked and ran some errands. Upon our return, Nathan balefully informed us, “His crying? It doesn’t sound like ‘yeah’ anymore.”
I spent the next several hours packing and shuffling things around in the apartment. When I did finally fall asleep, I was too anxious to stay down for long. I shuffled into the living room and boggled to find Ba.D. and Nathan chatting like lifelong buddies.
A few hours later, in the darkness of the moments just before sunrise, Ba.D. and Nathan hugged. Ba.D. said, “Take care of my family.” Nathan said, “I will.” Just like that, our 1,000-mile drive north began.
Over our day and a half on the road, Nathan and I talked about everything under the sun. I remembered exactly why I loved him so much, if that love was no longer romantic. I felt overwhelming gratitude that he remained a part of my life after we broke up.
I dropped him off around lunchtime the day after we left Los Angeles. I sped off toward my sister’s house having conveyed only the tiniest fragment of the thanks in my heart. As I drove, I thought about folks I know who cut exes out of their lives completely and eternally the moment they move from “beau” to “ex.”
Sometimes that’s warranted. Sometimes, though? It’s like cutting off a hand to get rid of a bug bite.
When my mom held my son for the first time, I was blessed to see her smile—truly smile—for the first time in years. Until that moment, I thought I’d never see her smile again.
Whenever I look at this picture, that question resounds through my mind: Why? Why on earth would we create rules that cut ourselves off from love?
As I snapped a photo despite her protests (she hated being captured with her wispy cancer patient’s hair), I barely held back tears. And I wondered, why do we willingly let go of love? Why do we categorize it and break it into the kind we want to keep and the kind we can exile to memory?
Thanks to the kindness of an ex, one who’d known me half my life and knew my mom before schizophrenia claimed the lightness of her, a painful journey northward was marked not only by pain but by love and laughter. When I look at this picture of my mom and my son, I see the totality of all the love I have known in my life.
And I say a quiet thanks. For who knows what the journey might have been, but for the fact Nathan and Ba.D. agreed?
This was among posts accidentally deleted from this blog.