I wish he were stupid or naive or believed in fairy tales, so I could tell him I’ll live forever and he won’t ever have to miss me that much, but he’s smart and sharp and he can see through myths as though they were water, and all I could do was hold him and fight back my own tears and stroke his perfectly shaped head, saying, “I know, honey” in the softest special Mom voice I could muster.
“I’ll have a mom-shaped hole in my heart,” he said through the sobs, and I thought of the Wilco lyrics that talk of a God-shaped hole, which made me realize the exact enormity of the loss Rebel fears. And he’s right. Every person we love and then lose takes a piece of us with them, and it just has to be the case that moms — and dads — take away some fairly significant chunks, more spiritually akin to limbs or organs than fingernails or skin cells (or even earlobes, without which we’d do just fine). And what can I say to that? Nothing, really. All I can do is hug him and wipe away his tears and try my hand at empathy, which isn’t particularly hard because thinking of those parent-shaped holes terrifies me, and I’m thirty-five years old and don’t even particularly like my parents all that much.
There are times being a parent is exceptionally rewarding, and others when it’s completely exhausting. This latest bedtime scene has been a bit of both; I’m spent and headachey and not sure if I did or said the right things, but I think what matters most — what has to matter most — is that I was there for the hugs and the wiping away of tears. And, of course, that I used my softest special Mom voice.