Building A Village

“Sons are the anchors of a mother’s life.” – Sophocles

It is now 2002 and life has taken on a sense of normalcy. I was working more now that the girls are all in school although I try to make it home each day in time to greet the school bus. I didn’t want the girls to be ‘latch-key’ kids as Sara was only ten and it was too early for her to take on all that responsibility. Frank (a.k.a. Francis) had been away at college and I missed him fiercely, not just because he was a great help but he – in many ways – was my equalizer. That’s a lot of emotional responsibility and I’m not absolutely sure he felt it but when he was in the house I knew I wasn’t alone, which I can’t explain because the girls were also paramount in my heart.

Taking him to college was mind bending. We had a bond, at least in my mind, that went beyond the nuclear family we were a part of. He was evidence of a lost love. His presence in my life motivated me to wake up and keep going during very sad, dark days. He was the only ray of sunshine in – what felt like years – of stormy weather. I was excited for him to get out of the house as his relationship with Hubby had become difficult. Actually, I truly believe that the age of 17 is designed specifically so that we are emotionally ready to have our children leave. That senior year of high school where they are teetering on the edge of childhood and independence can be tortuous on both child and parent. I counted my blessings and feel very privileged that none of the kids were plagued with heavy problems but for sure, there were some challenges. I wanted him to have experiences of college that I had missed – living in the dorms, parties, building lifelong friendships, etc., Hubby and I drove him up with a truck full of supplies, unpacked, and helped him settle in. I organized and fussed as an excuse to stay – for him it was like Christmas in July as he noticed all the female co-eds seemingly in every corner or direction he gazed. He, as sweetly as he could, ushered us out with a hug and “I’ll call you” quicker than he could unpack his Jack Daniels.

I walked back to the truck with a heaviness I hadn’t felt in years. It’s an interesting experience to both want something and dread it simultaneously; to be happy and sad at the same instant. It was the first time I was acutely aware of this dichotomy; the first of many. The drive home was quite literally, a slide show of memories flashing across my eyes. Feeling him kick for the first time, his birth, the elated grin that spread across his face when his father walked in the door from work, holding him in the rocking chair as tears ran down my face, our car trips, his sweet smile as he posed for the first day of school picture… etcetera…  I was leaving my only son and it felt very familiar, like the abandonment feelings I had as when the other men in my life had left -when they died.  I used every rational thought in my body to fight away the pain that didn’t belong to this scenario. ‘He was only away at college for crying out loud Leslyn’!! I berated myself until the message stuck but it wasn’t until I had laid across his bed in his empty room that called me the minute we returned home and sobbed myself dry.

I tried to explain that when I called (almost) every day, it was because he had been a part of my daily life for 18 years and I just couldn’t – automatically – embrace the idea of not talking to him. Call me crazy or overbearing or whatever but I missed my kid. Just to be clear, it’s not that he was a ‘mama’s boy’, he was quite independent but I was ‘my son’s’ mama. It was me… I was dependent on his presence. I would eagerly drive the 5-hour roundtrip during breaks and holidays to get him home just so that I could spend the time catching up and talking. I cherished those drives and waited for them. I’ll admit I was disappointed when he was eventually allowed to take a car back to campus. It took me almost the entire four years to adapt.

Thank goodness I had the girls. Without Frank, our home was ninety percent female and there were estrogen hormones in every crevice. Tears, fighting, bickering (as opposed to fighting), hair ties, Barbie dolls, training bras, and shoes filled at least some space in every single one of our days. It was never quiet and while I did occasionally complain about that, I was secretly storing sound bites in my memory bank for the eventual time that I knew I would miss it. It was even more intense when Mom and Abee were there – which was a lot.

Our business was growing steadily. A few years earlier, around the time I was reading Celestine Prophecy, I asked Hubby to concentrate on earning a six-figure income. It was a bit before ‘The Secret’ appeared in mass publication, but the concept of ‘creating your own reality’ was robust in the New Age market. It was similar to the SAGE days when we were taught to imagine your life – exactly as you want to live it – and you will attract it into your experience (i.e., the law of attraction). As the century turned and we pursued a business vision, it manifested almost exactly the way we envisioned – almost.

Some of the decisions we made required a fair amount of travel and night time work. We were hiring and breaking into ‘teams’ of which I was a part but then our children were void of parental attention. Abee was learning quickly and she either stayed at home with the girls or she worked on a Team. Between work and home, it was obvious that all of us were somewhat invested in making day to day life work well. Francis wasn’t home but Mom and Abee were filling in many of the gaps that existed. I didn’t want someone else raising our children so I scheduled her to work with Hubby and I took the bulk of the responsibility for caring for children more often than not. It wasn’t long before I sensed that something was ‘off’.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but I knew that Hubby and I weren’t ‘in sync’ as much as we had been. I shared my frustration with Abee as it unfolded. We would sit outside during long lunch breaks at the office and I poured my heart out as she listened closely and emphasized. I was beside myself with not knowing what to do to make things better, to make them work. I wasn’t sure what felt different but there was something… she agreed to talk to him – to listen for clues. I felt like I had a comrade – a partner – someone had my back. It took a village after all.

My village was powerful – it consisted of friends, church, work, and family.  I was one of the lucky ones!


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