It's been four days since this happened, but I haven't felt much like sharing it with anyone until now. I did tell MC, since I had my counseling appointment on Tuesday and the minute I got there, I couldn't really talk about anything else. Then, of course, as soon as I opened my mouth, I just sat there and cried the entire rest of the hour. I suppose MC's office is a really good place to be if I'm going to melt down like that.
I ran into Matt on Monday, outside the highschool. If you're new here, you can read this and this to catch up. I haven't seen him since Christmas, when he stopped by unexpectedly to deliver gifts to Jack (not to anyone else in the family, mind you). He just appeared on the doorstep (with his dad no less!) as if it were perfectly normal for them to pop in on Christmas Eve. They didn't stay, but the brief foyer gift exchange was awkward enough for the whole month.
On Monday afternoon, I was killing an hour between Jack's basketball and baseball practices, and thought I'd grab a snack at the market. As I passed the highschool, I saw Matt walking along the sidewalk, all by himself, an hour after school let out.
Seeing him, I was struck with a profound sadness...much different from the anger and resentment I have felt in the past year. I was sad that he was all alone - not even any Emo/Goth/Criminal friends walking with him, not a girl, not even a teacher. Or a cop. Just Matt, all by himself.
I wondered where he was going, and why he was there so late. I wondered how he was getting home these days, since he wrecked his car in November and his Dad lives a half hour from here. I wondered what I would say to him if he would let me, if .... and then I started bawling and had to pull into the parking lot of the grocery store to get it together.
MC and MC2, my therapy partners, and I are working on feeling things. I'm supposed to let myself cry when it hits. Up until now, I've been pretty good at fighting it, because I'm sort of afraid that if I start, I won't be able to stop. I'm afraid it will become a full on breakdown, and I just can't afford that right now. I've got another kid to take care of.
But I went ahead and felt for a few minutes. I felt sad and helpless and very much like a failure, although I'm not supposed to blame myself. It's not always that easy. I sat in my car and cried for a bit, then I took a deep breath and said a prayer for him, and me, and all the moms and kids out there who have lost each other.
When I pulled back onto the road, I was looking for him. I hadn't really seen his face the first time, and I just wanted to see his face. Suddenly, he was there, sitting at a table outside the Starbucks, and before I knew what I was doing, I pulled my car into the parking lot and walked up to him. Before I could talk myself out of it, and before I could devise a plan as to what the f*%# I thought I was going to say to him.
"Hey," was a decent start.
He took his earbuds out and said "Hey," back, which I thought was a groundbreaking next step.
And our conversation went like that, about one word at a time, for a minute or two. Then I asked him if I could sit, and he let me.
I asked him if I could buy him a cup of coffee, but he said no.
Oh, I forgot. You don't need me.
He was waiting for his train - the one that doesn't come until 4:40, two and a half hours after school lets out. The one he takes every day since he lost his car.
He asked me what I was doing, and I told him. Then, without thinking, I asked if he wanted to go watch the end of Jack's practice, and he agreed.
He agreed to be with me.
He still didn't want a drink, or a snack. I wanted so much to give him something, but I settled for the company, gladly.
We drove in an awkward semi-silence over to the middle school; I asked him weird, distant questions about the classes he was taking. It was better than nothing. At the gym, we stood ten feet apart and watched practice until it was over, and the excitement of his little brother discovering him there eased us up.
Jack introduced him to all his friends, who said things like, wow, you really are tall! and I laughed inside. I was too afraid to laugh out loud, to be a part of that relationship, the only one he hasn't severed, afraid I might ruin it for Jack. Still, I giggled as the 6th graders craned their little necks to see what 6'3" looks like.
When it was time to go, the little guys piled into the back seat and Matt sat up front with me, chatting with them. We drove him to the train station, where Jack got out and hugged him. They exchanged I love yous, then Matt leaned his head back into the car and said,
"Thanks for the ride."
"I love you," I said.
"I love you too."
Oh yes, he did.
And then he was gone. It wasn't all better. It wasn't anywhere near normal. But it was nice.
And I was back in my real life, driving 12 year olds all over tarnation, pretending that I didn't ache every day for the first born son I somehow lost and didn't know how to find.
Maybe it's just like that. One tiny little baby step at a time. One awkward meeting that feels like strangers talking at a bus stop.