Tonight as I put my son to bed I lay beside him, under the covers snuggling his skinny 8 year old body. As we do when I am privileged enough to tuck him in, we spend a few minutes playing the “I love you more” game and we shared a few of our favorite and our least favorite parts of the day. After a few moments of silliness and chatting, I turn off the lights and we lay together as he says his prayers.
“Thank you God for this day. Thank you for my family and friends who love me. Please take away my bad dreams. Amen.”
As he rolled over on his side I wrapped my arms around him for one final snuggle before slipping out of the darkened room and away to do all the chores that await me each night. Trying to hold on to a few more minutes with me he grabbed my arm and put his little hand on top of mine trying to line our fingers up so he could determine whose hand was bigger. He seemed almost discouraged, or at least pretended disappointment, when he saw that he still had a bit of growing to do to match my size. I said to him encouragingly that one day very soon his hands will be much larger than mine.
And at that moment I felt an overwhelming urge to hold him and never let go. I want to say that this feeling came from a primal desire to protect and comfort him. To shield his childhood innocence and vulnerability; to shelter him from heartache, sorrow and the sure pain of life. To pull the covers over both of us and squirm lower into the bed. But as my eyes filled with tears my heart swelled with a heaviness of loss. Of dread. Of this child growing up and leaving me to grow old. Alone.
You see I will be 35 in just a few days and this year I find myself alone. Not a good time to celebrate for someone who is terribly afraid of growing old alone.
But I have a secret weapon that I keep hidden close to my heart; hope. I have hope that what I seek is seeking me as well.
“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
whispering ‘it will be happier’…”
– Alfred Tennyson