He brushes past me on his way to anywhere but here. "Wait!," I cry inwardly. But I neither voice the command nor have any idea what I would ask of him, or tell him, next. I feel these days as if they are a countdown, which I suppose they are. A countdown to his leaving home, to his being done with childish things. I have the sense that I have not imparted everything, or, in my more punishing moments, not imparted anything at all. I want to tell him about life, and love, and grief, and time, how it opens and closes, how it doesn't really obey the principles he's been studying in physics.
Even if I were to find the words, or believe that my experiences might be condensed into universal application, he is not, at seventeen, in a listening sort of mood. So I leave things unsaid.
We joke at the dinner table - at least we still eat together as a family - and in the pauses between the light banter I see that he and I are more alike than I'd ever guessed. We catch each other's gaze in moments of mutual understanding, and I know that he likes who I am and trusts what I think. (Of course I feel the same about him, but that's less of a surprise, for the obvious reasons.)
That will have to be enough for now. There will be no heart-to-heart conversations. Idly I wonder if girls and their mothers have these, or whether adolescence trumps gender in this regard.
I miss him already. No one told me about this, the pain that arrives even before they leave to start their own lives. Is it possible that experiencing what I am now is preparing me to handle the actual leavetaking with stoicism and grace?
When my mother dropped me off at college, she drove onto a pathway on the main quad, a pathway meant for foot traffic only. I was mortified. A group of my fellow freshmen was clustered near the door to my dorm as I emerged from the car red-faced with shame and rage at my mother's incompetence. At that moment I wished desperately for her to disappear. Later that day when we said our goodbyes I was nonchalant, surprising myself by not crying. But as I watched her car crest the hill at the end of the street, I swallowed back a lump of sudden pain and whispered, "Come back."
I was, like all seventeen-year-olds, overwhelmed by the variety of feelings I seemed capable of having, feelings that seemed external to me, even foisted on me, like the weather.
And now I think: as my own seventeen-year-old brushes by me on his way to anywhere but here, I might try seeing him not with a mother's eyes but with the eyes of the seventeen-year-old I was in 1985.