It’s your birthday and I want to pick up the phone, but I don’t. I want to call you and tell you the story I tell you every year. The story of how I waited and waited for my firstborn son to arrive. I could tell you how nervous we were when the pains started because no matter how prepared you think you are, everything becomes real with that first tugging.
I could tell you how we waited at the kitchen table with a watch, trying to follow the directions of the doctor to a tee…but I could also tell you how much waiting I’ve done since then.
On the day you were born, this day oh so many years ago, I waited for the cry that would change our lives, but since then, I’ve spent endless hours waiting by the phone for the call that would do the same. I’ve waited for your life to begin and I’ve waited for it to end. That’s a mother’s curse. That endless waiting to see where your children go, where they will succeed and where they will fail. Where they will rise and where they will fall. You don’t know what path they will take, but you wait and see. I didn’t know when I held you in my arms for the first time how far away from your path you would roam.
I’ve sat up late in our living room waiting for you to come home. I’ve waited in hospital waiting rooms to hear if you were alive. I’ve waited in visitation rooms and family rooms, on polyester couches and in stale air and smoke-filled halls. I’ve waited and waited for you to just come home, to once again find your path.
Not all who wander are lost, but some are, and it will break a mother’s heart waiting for them to get found again. When you first lost your way, I waited patiently for you to come home again. And you did. But it was always short-lived.
I move from the counter to the kitchen table wondering when I realized just how lost you were. The first time you stopped calling? No. You came back that time, and many times after that. My heart grew and then broke with each homecoming until I worried the pieces were too jagged to put back together. Until I knew that the next time you veered had to be the last time.
When you once again stopped calling, I knew this was it. You were either lost forever, or you would come back one more time, this time for good. Call it a mother’s intuition. Call it a gut feeling. But after years of wondering and waiting and watching you wander, I knew it was time for you to make it home, whether that was to me or to your final resting place.
So I sit at my kitchen table on the day of your birth and wonder what choice you will make. Whichever it is, I will have to make peace with it. Even a mother has her limits and I’ve waited too long, my heart is in too many pieces and the cracks are too deep.
I stand from the table, ready to face a life without the son I’ve spent so many years waiting for, when the phone rings. The cracks in my heart shiver as a wave of hope rolls through me despite my best efforts. I pick it up but before I can say anything, I hear your voice and the cracks get smaller. Because no matter how lost you’ve been, no matter how far you’ve roamed, your sweet voice will always be the string that mends the broken pieces of your mother’s heart.
“Mom? Can I come home?”
This story was commissioned as a gift from a mother to a son. How did she like her gift?
“I want you to know I treasure the piece you wrote “A Mother Waits” that Brandon gave me for Christmas. I keep it on my nightstand and read random paragraphs when the spirit moves me. It’s written so well and really touched my heart.”