It happens every few years that my son’s birthday and Mother’s Day coincide. That overlap is recorded in his baby’s book on the day he was born, along with some pressed lilacs a neighbor brought me from her garden.
Today, I find myself taking my emotional temperature all morning as friends and family send Mother’s Day greetings tinged with their pity and love. At the psych hospital that has been Sean’s home for the past year, birthdays are celebrated en masse once a month. So I have no idea when his public acknowledgement will come around or if it even matters to him (I doubt it; he was never big on birthdays). But I’m wondering if he is tending his birthday carefully, privately, as I am my motherhood. And if we share a secret that way, just for today.
Here’s what I’m noticing: I woke to an open bedroom window with a lovely light spring rain outside and new leaves soughing on a distant tree. The smell of bacon actually wafted up from somewhere–a beautiful, smoky cloud. My cat son, Ruben, is curled on the bed beside me where he’s been since last night when I traumatized him with what was supposed to be a cute remote-controlled mouse, but which turned out to be a huge, black terrifying rat from China that bowled him over in the hallway.
Later today I will call the nurse’s station and ask someone to wish Sean a happy birthday from me–since he won’t take my calls. Okay. No longer a gutting. I will hope he at least took the money from the card I sent before tossing it, unread. Practicality. I will envision his delight when he gets the book he requested–Oliver Twist–which is on its way, an incredible little edition with gilded page edges and original engravings that fits perfectly in your hands. Call this hope.
I used to despise it when people who had been on this path longer than I told me it would get easier, even if the situation didn’t improve. But even I have to concede my Mother’s Day thermometer does read something less than a fever. Sean is safe for now so I can afford to wake up a little to my own life, even if I’m not crazy about living it this way. He will always be my mercury, but I am finding ways to cool myself down.