03.05.04 @ 10:24 PM
It looked too small to be real, the coffin, there sitting in the distance. It was too delicate, too fine, too much like the box that my son used to keep his toys in.
When I had a son.
When I was a mother.
There are so many people here today, here to remember the boy that he once was. To grieve for the man he won't become.
There's his first-grade teacher, the one who never smiled at him, never did more than reproach and rebuke. The one who told my boy, my bouncy babbling boy, that he must sit still in class and be quite like a good little man. The one who couldn't steal away his spirit, couldn't break him down, for all that she tried.
She stopped me earlier, stopped to clasp my hand in hers and tell me how sorry she was, how unfortunate it was. What a tragedy, she said, voice hitching in her throat as tears formed in her eyes. What a wonderful boy he had been, she said, perfect student, example to all others. What a beautiful laugh he had to share.
When I had a son he had a beautiful laugh.
When I was a mother I watched him make the world laugh with him.
There's his junior high football coach, the one who made him run miles in the rain, run until his wet shoes rubbed blisters into his feet, rubbed sores into his soles. The one who bent over near my son, doing push-ups in the mud, and told him to go faster, harder, better. This is the man who shouted from the sidelines, whose frustration and anger was heard more often than his encouragement and support.
He looked at me in the church today, eyes shining from tears unshed, looked at me and the grabbed the side of my arm, squeezing in a show of support. This man who so often yelled, or shouted, or screamed at my son could barely form his words today. His voice wavered, choking with emotion that he would not voice, as he squeezed out the words. He was a good boy, he said.
When I had a son he was a boy, not yet a man.
When I was a mother I had a good son and I hoped that one day he would become a good man.
There's his high school girlfriend, his only girlfriend. The one who captured his heart in the early half of eighth grade. She gave him his first kiss, he came home with lipstick on his chin and a big grin on his face and then his father sat him down to have a man-to-man talk. She's the one who encouraged him to write, and that he wrote well; the one who kept all his secrets; the one he told everything and anything to.
She came over last night and sat with me while the night dragged on forever. She wore his favorite sweatshirt, the one that still smelled like him, and sat next to me on the couch, saying nothing as she stared at the shrine to his boyhood. In the glittering light reflected off the trophies and metals she told me that she missed him, that she loved him, that they had had such plans for the future. We spent most of the night in silence. In the early light of morning she told why she loved him. It was his beautiful smile.
When I had a son he had a beautiful smile.
When I was a mother I had a son who could make the saddest day a bit brighter with his grin.
There's his favorite high school teacher, the one with the military haircut and the dog tags and the wonderfully terrifying stories that enchanted my son away from me. The man who sat in front of the classroom, in front of the green chalkboard, and told my son of duty, of country, of loyalty, and of sacrifice. The man who never knew that the sacrifice would be my son.
He came up to me just minutes ago, this man in his uniform, and told me of the son I never knew. He told me of the son who believed in a dream, the son who wanted nothing more than peace, for all. The son who was a man.
When I had a son he was a man for just a moment.
When I was a mother I couldn't see the man he had become.