She said that she would forgive. That she doesn’t want anger and bitterness taking up places in her heart where memories of her son should be. She asked if we will light a candle for him on his 17th birthday…next Thursday. And she told all parents that they should hug their children.
This is one thing that we all should do for our children every day; no matter if they’re ornery, whatever they’re going through, she said. You grab your child, even if they’re mad at you, they’ll get over it. Life goes on. You grab your children, you hug them and kiss them and you tell them you love them. If you can’t tell them, you show them.
So that’s what I try to do when I say goodnight to them last night.
The little one is easy—he’s always the cuddly one. He is always the one to tell me he loves me first. But when I cross the hall to his brother’s room, I face a closed door. It feels like the thickest, most impenetrable barrier. Is there any way through this dense wood? I tap lightly.
When there is no response I push in, peek through the crack. There he is: ear buds in, laptop open in front of him.
May I come in?
He closes the laptop, scoots over and makes room for me. I don’t know where to start. He’s wondering with his eyes—newly rimmed. I wonder what he sees.
I rub his back, smooth his hair, grapple for the words. I tell him I love him all the time, but this…this feels different. I want him to know. I need him to know.
Do you know those kids? In Ohio?
It’s a weak start, but he nods. And I tell him what Demetrius Hewlin’s mother said. About forgiveness. About saying the love. And showing it too.
She said to hug your children, I say.
And I wrap my arms around him, breathe in his bedtime smell—all soap and mint and a little bit of him; the way he has smelled his entire life…before deodorant and acne wash and fluoride rinses.
And my head spins at the thought of losing him and I want to tell him what a strange and scary place this is, how the world is full of danger, and look both ways before crossing the street and be on the lookout for trouble, and he…he is studying for his learner’s permit test. And I see the study book on his bedside table and it just adds another layer of fear.
I want to tell him to be careful. Always.
But when I open my mouth, I am surprised by what comes out.
Life is so beautiful, I say. I’m glad you’re in mine.
And we talk some and he smiles and when I leave through that door, it doesn’t feel quite as heavy as when I opened it. And I make a mental note to keep opening it…to keep walking through it.
No matter how heavy it seems.