It is the last day I am technically responsible for my son. He turns 18 tomorrow. I shake my head and wonder where the time went, the years went, the moments went. Where did that two-year-old with the blonde curls and chubby cheeks go? Surely I must have just misplaced him somewhere, he must be hiding somewhere. He must be because that day when I could carry him around on my hips and feel those grubby fingers wrapped tight around my neck was just yesterday.
Odd though that it also feels like it was a million years ago, a million moments. I have this old movie reel in my mind that plays these epic films of Tad over the years. The showing times are at odd moments sometimes. I can be thinking about fixing spagetti for his birthday dinner and suddenly the film of him at 18 months sitting in a highchair making a mess of his "sgetti" will start playing. I can be working an auto claim and reading a police report when the film of Tad crying in the backyard at 15 years when he told me about his first ticket will start playing. So many moments, so many films. They run the gamet - tragedies, war movies, comedies, love stories, westerns, sci-fi, action, kid movies.....there is at least a dozen films I can play in each of the categories.
Through all of them though is one constant; Tad is the star, the leading actor. I sit here now, at this moment, and wonder what movies he and I will coproduce now as he moves into a new chapter of his life and my life and our life. Because that is what I am going to have to do more and more, I am going to have to learn to be a coproducer for awhile and then sooner or later I will have to settle for cameo appearances.
Fortunately we aren't quite there yet. While he may become a legal adult tomorrow he still has growing up to do and I still have parenting to do.
Tad, I think I've told you before that parenting is a verb. There are lots of people who are parents without ever parenting their child. You may have got the slightly short end of the stick on that one since I REALLY parent. But that was what I signed on for, to not only BE your parent but to actively parent you. I almost didn't, you know? Of course you don't because I've never told you. I've never told anyone. No one knows but our immediate family. I hadn't really ever planned on telling you either but it seems appropriate in this moment.
I was at a pretty low point in my life when I got pregnant with you under less than desirable circumstances. I was a mess. Immature, irresponsible and without a direction. Sure, I was....does the math.....27 years-old but I was by no means an adult. Not even close. I was pretty awful. And I was pregnant. I didn't want a baby. How could I when I was such a damn mess? I couldn't take care of myself so how could I take care of a baby? I didn't know who I was - I had gotten derailed and sidetracked, by my own doing, and had lost my way.
I contacted an agency and made arrangements to put you up for adoption. Yep. I did. I can't tell you how the thought of that now, in this moment, on this day, makes me bawl as I type this. It leaves a ginormous dark hole in my heart at even the thought of never having been your mom. But I did it back then. I wasn't in contact with Gma or anyone in the family. I had dropped out, quit, run. At about 7 months into my pregnancy I finally reached back out to Gma. Mind you, all this time I had been going along with this lovely mormon couple in Utah to have them adopt you. Gma saved me, my mom saved me. And in doing so, she saved you. I came home to Gma and broke the couple's heart by telling them I had changed my mind. And a couple months later I had you, on January 17, 1995 to be exact.
You saved me, Tad. Or rather, being your mother saved me. I wonder sometimes, rarely but I do, at what kind of life you might have had with that couple. While I regret forever breaking their hearts because they already loved you when I didn't, I don't ever EVER regret having changed my mind and I know with everything I am that there isn't anyone who has ever lived who could possibly love you as much as I do. Through it all, all these last 18 years, I don't regret any of the moments you've been in my life. I regret some of the choices you've made and I've made but never could I ever regret having you, Son. You are my heart.
That's a hell of a story to drop on you on this day, huh? Heh. I guess I tell it to you because I want you to......know that.....know that you still have growing up to do, just as I did at your age and for many more years and still today. Know that you are going to fail sometimes and possibly get lost. Know that even if you do get lost you will come through the other side and find yourself. Know that I have every faith in that last sentence because I know the man you are becoming. You will make your own mistakes and you are not me. You will not live the same life that I have lived but will rather live your own. You will find love and lose it. You will hurt people and be hurt. You will make mistakes and fix them. You will have regrets and make peace with them. You will seek forgiveness and be forgiven. You will have failure and triumph. You will love and be loved.
You will do all of these things in your life, some thousands of times over. Through all of that, Tad, please know that I am always here and will always love you. When you get lost part of me will be lost with you even if I am not there. Just as Gma is always my home I hope and pray that you know I will always be your home. When you are lost and find you need a torch to help you find your way home, look for me because I will be burning up the darkness with my love.
You kid me these last few days about how I am feeling as we approach this day. I tell you the truth. I am terrified and I am excited. I am terrified that I will lose my way when you are gone. I am excited to see what you do with your life. I think though that maybe I told you the story more for me than for you. To remind myself what a mom is. I know at some point you will move out and move on with your life. I know you won't be as physically present in my life when that day comes. I know that you will make choices that I won't have a say in or won't approve of. But I also know you will always be with me, just as I will always be with you. And I will always have these old films in my heart that I can play back anytime I want to. You are my son and That. Never. Changes. Truth be told, I am a little excited for me too, to see what I do with MY life in this changing phase.
We are going to be just fine, you and I. We will continue to laugh and cry and fuss and fight and find our way through this. Our relationship will grow and change just as you are and I am. We will navigate these next 18 years just as we have the last.....with love.
Happy Birthday, Tad. Enjoy it, enjoy your life. Celebrate it every day. Celebrate yourself every day. Make a life you can look back on with laughter and tears and regrets and accomplishment and failure and success and love. Always always love and laughter. Do good things. Do stupid things (not really really stupid shit though). Screw up. Get back up. Grow. Live. Laugh. Love. And while you are doing all those things, don't forget to call your crazy mom once in awhile, huh? Just because I am learning to let go doesn't mean I won't hunt your ass down for a big ol' Tad hug. Remember that as you go through phases in your life where you won't need me as much I will still need you.
I absolutely cannot wait to see what you do next, Son. You've never disappointed me in that regard nor will you. Until one thousand years after you have taken your last breath I will love you. To the moon and back. That. Never. Changes.
Thank you for being all that you are and for being my son.
I love you.
That. Never. Changes.
PS. I leave you with these words by an author and book you know. Fly with perfect speed, Tad.
"You will begin to touch heaven, Jonathan, in the moment that you touch perfect speed. And that isn't flying a thousand miles an hour, or a million, or flying at the speed of light. Because any number is a limit, and perfection doesn't have limits. Perfect speed, my son, is being there."