There are some words a mother never expects to have to come out of her mouth. Things like, “Please, PLEASE tell me this isn’t a jar of scabs,” or “Cats poop in the litter box. YOU do not poop in the litter box”, or “This year, please don’t roll your eyes to the back of your head again in your school pictures”.
Just a few short weeks ago I found myself saying, “Last night, someone tried to kill my son”.
My son Ryan is 26, and he was my first born. I still remember holding him for the first time and feeling the infinite depth and power of my love for this brand new baby I had laboured long and hard to give birth to just a few hours earlier. There was a door in my heart that motherhood had opened and the amount of love and protective instinct I suddenly felt flooding through it was indescribable and momentous.
Very recently, and decades later, events happened where I was as blindsided with that feeling of a mother’s protective instinct when I had to speak words that sounded both strange and horrifying – words that I never expected to have to say. That day, and in the days that followed I could feel my lips forming each word, but it felt like my mouth had been injected with Novocain. I heard my voice speaking, but it didn’t sound like my own. It was like I was in one of those dreams where I knew I was me, yet I didn’t look like me at all.
I could never have imagined saying these words, yet I had to. Just a few short weeks ago I found myself saying, “Last night, someone tried to kill my son”.
Imagine a mother’s panic to pick up the phone on a quiet Sunday afternoon to learn her son had gone missing and nobody knew where he was. It was a call I had always been afraid to receive, yet never expected that I would; that something had happened to my son. Between my daughter and I, it took several phone calls to the hospitals and police before we could piece together even a few details, and find out he had been hurt and was airlifted from one hospital to another one two hours away. My beautiful son woke up in ICU with tubes and monitors attached to him, and no memory of being randomly attacked, of being thrown to the ground and of having his head stomped on over and over again long after he lost consciousness and was no longer breathing. His skull was fractured, and there was enough damage to one ear that he will never regain his full hearing and may never have the feeling restored in his face. Neurologically, we don’t know what long-term effects my son will need to learn to live with; articulating himself now is a challenge because his previous advanced vocabulary is lost inside a brain that is trying to mend itself. For words he does remember, he sometimes stumbles in the effort of moving them from his brain to his mouth.
When I spoke to Ryan that morning on the phone just after he woke up in ICU, I could barely understand him as he tried to speak, but the fear in his voice cut into my heart, and my world spun. I was surrounded by nothing but a dizzying white blur of Ryan’s pain and panic. All I wanted to do was to reach into his heart, put myself between Ryan and his pain and stay there like a shield so it could not get to him.
My son and I have always been close. He has always come to me with his hurts and struggles and his victories and achievements. As a little boy, more mornings than not, I would wake up to find Ryan had sought me out in the night because he would be sound asleep next to my bed with his pillow, blanket and ratty old stuffed dog, Number. I have cried with him and for him (more often than he knows), and cheered him on and encouraged him. What I wanted for him – for all my children, was to believe in their own strength. Telling them how to solve their problems was not my thing – I needed my kids to discover and trust in their own problem-solving capabilities. As Ryan grew to adulthood, our conversations became more intellectual and philosophical. His intelligence, his advanced understanding of the world, and his passionate determination continually left me in awe at how I could be so blessed with the gift of being the mother of this miracle.
Traditionally, Mother’s Day is a day where children honour their mothers and express their gratitude and love for them. A few weeks ago I was so close to tragically losing one of my children, so on Mother’s Day this year, the gratitude was all mine in that I am still able to be the mother of these four beautiful human beings;
Ryan, Hunter, Robyn and Rhys.