I have heard many moms repeat
“You never stop being a parent.”
Sadly, I don’t see or hear that quite so much from the dads,
although I know of remarkably nurturing exceptions.
I thought of this as my impossibly young,
yet oldest son,
stopped by for an early birthday present, cash,
before heading out in his car
with a fellow rap artist friend
on their way from this Atlantic coast
to that San Francisco Bay.
D.B. never drove away to college,
or flew off on a great summer excursion,
or even went off to a technical school,
nor the military.
He did try to make Job Corp fit.
But, two suicides
and one stabbing on his dorm floor
and he decided not to return
after Holiday vacation that year.
He has been the last driver of not just one,
but two, of my totaled cars.
The second crash he walked away from
was when a drunk young white male
hit him head on
in the middle of a gorgeous New England sun-bright June
as he was coming home from his first,
out of home employment
busing tables in a casino diner.
D.B. was approaching the end of his three month probation period
when they let him go,
primarily for his ADHD challenges
with getting to work on time
with all the pieces of his uniform
clean and intact.
But, he also had trouble showing up
ready to set aside the dramas of his personal-political life,
which often feels like a race
and gender profiled
and commodified life.
It was hard to stay focused;
to be there when he was there.
Tomorrow D.B. and his friend since high school days
will see a slice of these continental States
from coast to coast and back again
for the first time.
I am ravenously happy for him.
I wish I could have given him wings,
some outrageous pile of cash.
My heart stops
when I notice how he is so vulnerable
too often despairing and perhaps even terrified
more about himself
than intimidated by a hostile world closing him out.
on all the ways his particular black life will not matter
in Earth’s vast history.
Not significant enough to be sure if it could become possible,
or even safe,
to love himself,
to allow himself a long and warm regard,
as I embrace him.
I don’t know if I could finish being a child
without becoming an everyday
relentlessly caring and nurturing parent.
I can think of nothing so binding both feet to Earth
yet so free flying impossible to control.
For many reasons,
whether despite or because of my single gay male identity,
I chose the second class Mommy Track
instead of going for the Ph.D.
And not just the Mommy Track;
I adopted only the older broken kids
who would never safely drive or hold a job,
or would never talk or walk,
or would never thoroughly clean off her own poop,
or sleep through the nightmare night,
or would not feel safe outside our home,
stalking the boundaries of life while high school friends head on and out
to colleges and new friends
while he struggles to tolerate two classes each semester
at a nearby community college.
It feels good to know I am needed
but frightening to realize I cannot retire from this parenting profession
except through my own growing incapacity.
These four charges of mine
remind me we are each such a precious gift
for each other.
I have never regretted my more generous choices
rather than less magnanimous.
Not necessarily because the return on investment has always been better for my kids,
but because those were the moments standing out most clearly
in my column for Fully Living,
rather than continuing to draw out a stingy half-life,
under invested in our shared future regenerators.
I hope D.B. and friend have the time of their young lives
as I have had mine,
and even better,
It is so much easier,
to have old and happy memories
when we have had both young and generously happy times,
reasons to smile
and greet each fleeting dawn.