Coming home was a tough time of day. It signaled the end of the occupational work day, and the beginning of the personal work evening…preparing dinner, doing laundry, taxiing kids, whatever else kept me going until 11 p.m.
My 5 p.m. homecoming blues had often been softened by seeing my oldest son Brian’s familiar dark blue Chevy Citation sitting in the driveway.
His bumper stickers read: “Free the Beaches” and “Save the Whales.” My heart was always warmed to know I’d raised a son who was a caring person.
As I deftly balanced grocery bags, a trick I’ve learned over the years, Brian sat snacking at the kitchen table with the newspaper opened to the comic strip section.
“Hey Mom, what’s up?”
“Not much, Sonny Boy,” I replied, ruffling his thick blond hair that had made people downright jealous for the last 19 years.
Brian helped put the groceries away, checking out all of the goodies.
“How’s school going?” I asked.
“Alright. We’re getting psyched-up for exams. Ugh!” He held up a jar of pickles.
“How come you’re still buying so much food?” he said. “You’re forgetting I’m away at school.”
“No, Sonny, I’m remembering that you pop in two or three times a week with your friends. Actually, our grocery bill has inflated. You’ve forgotten you have a teenage sister and brother who are human eating machines.”
“Yes, that’s true,” he said, reconsidering.
“How are they, Mom?” he asked.
“They miss you, and I do too.”
“I miss all of you, too,” he said slowly. “But, after I graduate from the Mount, there’s a possibility I can come home before I go to Southeastern.”
“That would be great, Brian. It’s not the same without you. It’s an adjustment period for all of us with you away,” I said, my voice trailing off.
“Is everything really alright with you?” I asked.
“Well,” he hesitated before beginning again. “Between studies, the job and girls, I’m not sure which is worse,” chin in hand, his elbow resting on the table.
“Remember that personal and educational plan we worked out for you?” I said. “Well, maybe you should review it,” I said, looking at him from the corner of my eye, trying not to sound like a mother.
“It’s tough out there,” he said.
“Yeh, I know it. Life truly tests the soul,” I said.
Darkness began to fill the kitchen the kitchen. I switched on the light and decided to have some tea.
“Gotta run, Mom.” Brian gathered his books, his jacket and an apple.
“Why so soon?” I asked.
“I promised to give a friend a lift. Her car has been in the shop.”
“Oh,” I said, trying not to show too much disappointment.
“How about dinner and conversation on Saturday?” he asked.
“Sounds good, Sonny. My treat.”
We hugged and kissed goodbye.
As my head left his broad shoulder, I couldn’t help feeling the years that the years had gone by too quickly. How could he have become a man so fast? Wasn’t it just yesterday that he laid his head against my shoulder?
As I watched him leave, I kept the door open, letting the December coldness inside. My old mother’s heart ached for simpler times; my new mother’s heart felt pride and joy in seeing him become an independent young man.
“Thanks, Mom. I love you.”
“Thanks, Brian. I love you, too. Always know we are here.”
He smiled with renewed confidence and waved. His boyish grin found a place deep within my heart.
The next time I saw Brian was five days later. He was in a coma and died, after a tragic car accident caused by a drunk driver.