Feel My Pain

Despite breaking my heart and quitting football, Younger had continued to take a weights class until last semester, when he simply could not fit one in his schedule. At the start of the new semester a few weeks ago, he was able to once again join the class, although he did so with much trepidation after missing several months of workouts.

And now when I ask him to perform simple tasks — feed the dogs and cats, throw his trash away, actually put his plate in the dishwasher — I hear, “But my muscles, Mom — they hurt.”

Apparently not satisfied with the level of sympathy he was receiving one day, he decided to elaborate. “Mom, I don’t think you understand just how much I pain I am in. I woke up in the middle of the night last night because I rolled over.”

Then this morning, as we prepared to leave the house, I asked, “You have everything you need for weights today?”

“Yeah,” he mumbled.  “Except for muscles, endurance, and a will to live.”

One class I know he doesn’t need — drama.

He’s already got that all figured out.

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Kids These Days

Elder was home last weekend.

When his phone alarm started bleeping at 6:00 in the morning on Saturday, I just smiled with eyes still closed, enjoyed that one moment when everything was right in my world, and stuck my head a little further under my pillow.

Late Sunday afternoon, Younger and I were sitting in the living room, flipping between the Cardinal’s baseball game, the Royal’s baseball game, and the Ram’s football game — the Chiefs had already disappointed us for the day — when Elder wandered into the room, scatting random noises in his own indeterminate rhythm . Completely ignoring us, he grabbed a movie then wandered back out.

Our eyes tracking him throughout the process, Younger and I exchanged a glance of shared amusement once Elder disappeared from sight.

“You know,” I said, my voice soft with nostalgia, “the place just hasn’t been the same without him squeaking or squawking or whistling or trilling his way through a room.”

Younger lifted an eyebrow. “I can do that if you want, Mom.”

I sighed. “It just wouldn’t be the same.”

When Elder eventually decided to leave for Mizzou, I tempted him to stay longer with apple pie and chocolate milk while my husband checked oil and tires. But after his third hug, Elder hefted his bags and abandoned us once again.

Kids these days…

It’s like they think they have their own lives to live.

Pffft.

Not Ready

Last week, between a doctor’s appointment in one town and weight training in another, Younger and I stopped at a convenience store where he bought a sports drink. Back in the truck, he twisted unsuccessfully at the lid, shrugged, then shoved the drink into a cup holder.

I glanced at him, raising an eyebrow. “Don’t you want the drink before weights?”

He flashed a palm, grinning sheepishly. “The lid hurt my hand.”

“Want me to open it?”

He shook his head. “That would hurt my pride.”

Ahhh, well, he’s honest, I guess. Although at one time, not all that long ago I feel, I was allowed to open bottles. And straighten mussed hair at church and hold his hand as we crossed a parking lot and kiss him on the head in public.

On Sunday, he will be sixteen.

In the midst of senior year and then graduation and then college preparation for Elder, I just shelved the reality of my baby becoming a young man.

And all those compartmentalized boxes are now falling around me.

Those really hurt when they hit you upside the head.

I’m not ready.

I’m just…

Not ready.

My Little Boy

Baseball season has arrived.

We’re all very excited.

Before Elder’s first game — last Saturday at a tournament — I watched him pace beside the fence bordering left field. Elder has always had to fidget in one way or another, whenever he’s bored or nervous or concentrating or eating or talking or, you know, awake.

But then he paused in front of me, his cheekbones streaked in black to help shield his eyes from the sunshine, and I smiled at him. “You’ve been touching your face.”

One corner of his mouth lifted in a grin of acknowledgment. “I know.” Then he glanced at his fingertips. “How can you tell, by my face or my hands?”

I glanced lower to his legs, just above his knees, and the four streaks of black marring the gray cotton, perfect replicas of four long fingers. “Your pants.”

“Oh.” He glanced down. “Yeah.” And he rubbed his hands against the marks. “Huh.”

Of course, he left the diamond with a lot more than four streaks of black on his pants. He always has. Never met a boy that didn’t. And despite eighteen years and seventy-four inches, he’s still my little boy.

I’ve watched him play his last game of football. And his last game of basketball.

And, now, we’re down to baseball…

And the last of stains on a uniform.

When even four black finger streaks across gray cotton are precious.

My little boy.

The Nose Knows

The other day, my niece and nephew visited at my house for an hour or so. And, at one point, when I ventured into the living room, Younger and my nephew were twisted into a wrestling knot, with one of Younger’s socked feet in the vicinity of my nephew’s nose.

“Is Younger making you smell his feet?” I asked. “I think that may be a bit of foul play.”

And I turned to leave them to burn their excessive energy through their tussling, except I heard my nephew crow, “Smell that!”

Glancing back over my shoulder, I saw he had wiggled until he could shove one sole against Younger’s face.

Still working to twist my nephew into his own particular design, Younger remained unbothered by the younger boy’s attempt to influence his behavior through smell. “No problem,” Younger assured him, his voice sufficiently bored. “I spend hours every day in a football locker room. Trust me, your foot right there is a meadow of rainbows and daisies.”

Well.

Nice to know I’m raising a connoisseur.

No Problem

Elder is now playing basketball.

Well, actually, I guess, technically, he’s playing football on a court with fewer guys and a rounder ball.

After one game, his aunt was teasing him about the pushing and shoving in which he and an opposing player had engaged beneath the basket. A battle of pure wills that had the other player in such a state of agitation he had earned a technical foul.

A little sheepish, Elder shrugged with an air of confusion. “Yeah, I don’t know what his problem was. All he had to do was let me stand in front of him.”

Such a simple view of defense in any sport.

Just allow me to prevent you from winning.

All I want to do is keep you from putting that ball through that hoop, into that net, across that line, over that fence.

All you have to do is let me.

So where’s your problem?

Elephants

Happy Thanksgiving!!

As I am sprawled comfortably on my sofa, watching a football game, stuffed and sleepy from a tasty Thanksgiving dinner, I thought I would avoid the hard work of writing a new story and share an old one from the 2002 holiday season. Elder would have been six years old…

Last night, as we drove to the Christmas dinner for my mom’s family, Elder rattled happily about the Junior Monopoly game he had received at another Christmas dinner on Saturday night. “Next time I see my cousins, I’m gonna bring my game. I think they would like to play it. But we’ll have to be careful with the baby. We’ll have to make sure she doesn’t swallow any of the pieces,” he chattered as we neared the house of some dedicated Republicans who had installed a large replica of the party symbol in their yard. “That’s what you have to do when you have two- or one-year-olds. Right, Mommy? If she swallowed one, they might have to take her to the hospital. Hey. I JUST SAW AN ELEPHANT! I sure would hate for them to have to take the baby to the hospital. Wouldn’t you, Mommy?” He paused before continuing suspiciously, “Why are you laughin’, Mommy?”

I told him I was just laughing for no reason, which he accepted as it has been an excuse I have offered before to prevent insult and he is coming to believe Mommy balances precariously on the edge of insanity anyway. And I tried to stop laughing. I did. But it was like trying not to think about an elephant.

Sorry. Really couldn’t resist.

ELEPHANT, ELEPHANT, ELEPHANT.

Really, really sorry. Just try not to think about it.