Dear God, make me an oak. I've written that before. And this last few days, I've meant it.Two nights ago, we had an accident in our home with our new puppy, Boo Radley. After some additional complications, Boo didn't make it. The images I have from that moment will stay with me for a long time, suspended in my memory... especially those of my son, who had finally found his "puppy brother."
My husband and I found out about Boo's death before Luca, and so we carried that knowledge around with us yesterday at work, dragging it like a cumbersome millstone. I went through the motions, all the while knowing that I was going to sit down later and rob more of his withering innocence. Indeed, the afternoon Luca would look very different from the one I had kissed on the head that morning.
I played with the wording, the syntax, the semantics all day, urging my sense of articulation to find a way to soften this blow. However, when I saw his face running to the car, eagerly bursting with excitement over any news of Boo's improvement, it simply spilled out of me, right there in the parking lot.
I watched his face twist in agony, and I heard the simultaneous wail, something akin to an injured animal. I opened the door just in time for him to melt into my arms. I rocked him, just like I used to do, and in the powerful rush of emotion, I traveled in my mind to the seashore, feeling the intensity of each wave strike my legs as I struggled to stand.
In a moment it happened. Clarity. As I breathed deeply and slowed my heart rate, I said to myself, "Be the center. Be his center." I knew instantly that I was his buoy in a raging sea. Tethered by those moorings, Luca needs me to be OK even though he is not. The security I provide him as a parent isn't an insulation from the pain. It's the panacea.
All day I had been trying to protect him, shelter him, shield him. As strange as this sounds, that's not really my primary job. My principal occupation is to assure him that even when (not if) the tornadic winds shake our home, the foundation is sound. We can always rebuild. Rooted in strength, he has to be certain that the infrastructure is stable, that pain, although searing isn't lethal, and that in the days ahead, he will feel hope spring again in his heart.
Parenting. It will undo you. It will shake you to your core and test your mettle. And there are no merit badges, although there should be. There are just scars. Wonderfully redemptive scars that instantly bring to mind where you have been and what you have already conquered. Each jagged line a reminder that you are stronger than you ever knew.
Writer Jennifer Christensen is a high school English teacher and writes a blog at insecuritydigest.com. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.