The clock ticked just past noon, and I decided to see if you were awake. Not that I hadn’t been checking on you – it’s the habit begun when you were tiny and I was so full of love for you I was sure I couldn’t go one more minute without seeing your found little face. I quietly turn the door handle, take three steps in -sometimes four, depending on your position -and wait until I see you breathe.
It’s stupid, I know. You’re seventeen, far past the stage when SIDS or any sort of sudden, unexpected loss of breathing would occur.
At 6’0”, 155 pounds you’re considered skinny by some measures, but far, far bigger than the tiny little preemie I brought home. That’s when it started, you know – when you were in the hospital. I’d tiptoe into the nursery just to check that someone was watching over you. I’d stand there for a minute, watching your chest gently rise up and down, bird-like. It was the only way I could sleep.
Lately, you’ve spent a lot of time alone in your room. I guess it’s what 17-year olds do, but it still feels unsettling. I’ve learned to knock and wait – you say I’m getting pretty good at it. My normal inclination, to walk in and ask a question or share something funny, has been squelched over the last year. I wait, tentatively, as if requesting permission to enter. Sometimes, just to get you to laugh, that’s what I say through the closed door.
Today it’s Sunday, and the cinnamon rolls have been cooling on the counter for well over an hour. I tried to wake you when they were pulled from the oven, golden brown and oozing with brown sugary goodness. You didn’t growl this time – you didn’t even open an eye, but I swear I heard you say, “I love you, Mom” before you rolled over. I pushed your bear into the space between your pillow and the covers and noiselessly backed out of your space.
This time, I decided it was too late to still be sleeping. My grandmother’s mantra, “You’re going to lose the day” ringing in my ears, I went downstairs and checked for signs of life. Nothing stirred. Walking down the hall, unusually quiet music wafted over the sounds of the lawnmower next door. Could it be true?
With all the gentleness I could muster, I tapped on the door. “What?” you responded, slight annoyance in your voice. Surprised, I turned the knob. It was dark, even though the midday sun was high overhead. You looked up from your chair, school binder balancing on your lap.
Surprised, I turned the knob. It was dark, even though the midday sun was high overhead. You looked up from your chair, school binder balancing on your lap.
“How’re you feeling?” I cautiously inquired.
“Fine. I’m doing homework,” you muttered as if I was interrupting your favorite video game. Your hair is tousled to one side, and I notice how small your black and white bathrobe suddenly looks on your elongated frame.
“Did you see what I made you? Are you hungry?” I question, hoping food will make the connection.
Do I sound cheerful? Pulling out conversation with you is oftentimes the most difficult part of my day.
“No, I’m doing homework. I want to get it done before I eat,” came your reply, your eyes never leaving your notes.
“Ok, I…umm…” Defeated, I backed out of the room.
Your voice was just a touch softer as if you knew.
“Nothing,” I softly replied as the door inaudibly closed between us.
In the kitchen, I wrapped the now cold cinnamon rolls in plastic and walked back up the stairs.
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