The grass reminds me of Tim: so many shades, growing at different lengths, in different directions. And he is not here to grudgingly mow the lawn. When will these growths of grief get cut?
Tim was arrested a week before his fourteenth birthday for breaking into a car and stealing a cell phone. A police officer came to our house looking for him. He asked me if I thought my son would do such a thing. I said I didn’t think so. He asked me if Tim would tell the truth. I said he would not.
I didn’t hire a lawyer. I wanted him to face the consequences of his actions. In fact, I liked the idea of him being on probation. It would give me support and back up. He’d have some one else to answer to.
Tim went to a counseling group, and I attended a parenting class. He made new friends and learned how to play poker. I received a book with systematic instructions on how to set and maintain boundaries.
In 11 months, he passed his probation and entered the ninth grade a free teenager. He started smoking pot, but of course lied about it. His attitude went down the toilet along with his grades.
I failed my class. Confronting Tim was like stepping in front of a wild moose protecting her baby. To live in denial maintained the peace. Asking questions would break our delicate truce. It would require action.
I clung to my memories of him as a young boy. He loved to cook breakfast and make me coffee. Science intrigued him and his teachers wanted him to join a group of student ambassadors going to Australia, but I couldn’t afford to send him. He snowboarded like a god and played goalie on a soccer team. He picked wild flowers and, grinning, held them behind his back and made me pick which hand he held them in.
The pipe that fell out of his pocket and the empty beer cans in the trash demanded attention. He dared me to call the cops. I did, and handed them his pipe, and watched them take him off in a police car. I went to court, sat and cried when they brought him in: manacled and cuffed, hands to feet, in white and bright orange stripes.
His arrogance, disrespect, and anger swallowed him and almost devoured me. We fought and fought until I couldn’t fight anymore. I told him he had an option. He could move.
It was a surrender of sorts. I was weak and tired and couldn’t stand the thought of coming home to him — stoned or unstoned — a dirty pipe, an open container. Not my bright-eyed boy with the laughing eyes and lush hair, so black and curly.
It would have felt different if I had shipped him on his way to college, green behind the ears but going somewhere. Does he miss the emerald grass on this side of heaven? Or just crave the leafy bud he tried to grow in our swamp? Can he smell the difference between the dry brown air of San Pedro and the blue-green air of Idaho? Is there a bridge for him to jump off, a creek he can ride his bike to, a fresh water lake with perch and rainbow trout?
A year ago, I called his aunt and uncle in California, packed up his gear, and brought him to the airport. I apologized for all I’ve said and done to hurt him. He said the same and then walked away, toward his new destination. I couldn’t go into the airport waiting room with the uncomfortable seats and expensive coffee. I didn’t have a boarding pass. I turned and walked back to my car and drove home alone.