July 30, 2008

The Passage of Time

I have 2 sons, as I've mentioned before. I also have a rather large extended family. I have a cousin who is soon to be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan in the Army. He's an...interesting young man. He's a father of one son, divorced, and for a long time, we thought he would be on a downward spiral to nowhere good. Several years of bad choices landed in him in a variety of jailed situations, and gave him a little list of felonies. The birth of his son apparently changed him, though, and after countless futile attempts to find a job, he did the only thing he could think of to do: he went to the judge, and pleaded to have his felonies converted to misdemeanors so he could join the Army, and therefore support his son. He's just completed basic training, and once he completes this other training he is in, he will be off to Iraq or Afghanistan. I can only hope he comes home safely, for the sake of his son, his parents, and the rest of my family.

Around the same time that I learned my cousin was doing this, I heard on the news the story of a little girl who's gone missing in a nearby town, and her mother did not report her missing for 5 weeks. Every time I've seen the mother on the news since then, she seems to show no concern, no fear, no sadness that her daughter is missing.

When I found out about my cousin, my thought was: Ok, he's doing this to support his son, and that's wonderful, but what happens to his son if something happens to him? Has he thought of that? Don't get me wrong, I'm not judging him. I just wonder, as a parent, has he thought of that possibility, or has he put it out of his mind because it's just too horrific a thought to consider?

When I heard about the little girl, my thought was: How the hell does your child go missing and you don't report that for 5 weeks?! If my sons were to go missing, it wouldn't take me 5 minutes, maybe not even 5 seconds, to report them missing. Her excuse is that she was using "other resources and conducting my own investigation." Huh? What other resources are there? What better resource is there, than the police, who have the equipment, the resources, the ability, and the manpower to mount a true search and find my missing child(ren)? They've found pictures where she's been out partying at clubs since her daughter went missing. What the hell kind of parent can go out clubbing while their daughter is missing, her whereabouts and safety unknown? With the fear that her daughter could be hurt, dead, or having who knows what done to her, lurking in the back of her mind, she can go out and dance, drink, and have a great time? I find that interesting.

My oldest son, C, made me a little felt and popsicle stick picture frame when he was in Kindergarten. He glued a Kindergarten picture of himself to it, and put glitter around the edge of the picture. The frame had gotten put up for a while, but my son found it the other day. He hung it on the doorknob of the linen closet of my bathroom. Last night, I saw the frame hanging there and I plucked it up and looked at the picture. What I saw made me cry.

My baby was 5 yrs old in the picture. Chubby little cheeks and chin peered out at me, framing a quicksilver innocent grin, the grin of a little boy whose life couldn't be better. His eyes were bright, eager, curious. The photographer was his friend, you would think. Wearing a blue T-shirt, his hair just a bit too long, brushing against his shirt collar, he looked like a baby.

Now, my baby is 7 yrs old. Time has carved away the chubby little cheeks and chin, bringing to the surface the bones that will give him the face of a man. His hands are already showing the veins and the strength of a man. His eyes are more guarded now, he's begun to realize that not everyone is his friend, and that some people can't be trusted. That loss of innocence has changed his smile, too. It's no longer so innocent, so fast to form. It's slower, a bit wary, as if he wants to be sure there's a reason to smile before he does so. It's a smaller smile, as though he doesn't want anyone to know he's happy. He's not as cynical as an adult, he does still laugh and smile, just not with that same bright innocence.

He's nearly as tall as I am already. Granted, I'm short, so it doesn't take much, but still. His height, and weight, prevent me from picking him up anymore. He will still crawl into my lap and cuddle with me, but more and more, he doesn't want to hold my hand, and he certainly doesn't want to be treated like a baby. He'll still come to me when he gets a boo-boo, and wants a kiss for it, but the kiss is becoming more and more of an afterthought than a necessity.

When I look at him, I see the baby he was, the child he is, and the man he will become, all rolled into one little body. And it's strange. I always wanted him to stay little forever. But, I always thought, as he got older, and began to look more and more grown up, that it would be easier to let go, to let him grow up. But it's not. In fact, I think that makes it even harder. Seeing him need me less and less makes me want to grab hold all the harder, and squeeze him even tighter.

My 4 yr old, J, he still looks like a baby. Still has the chubby cheeks, the little belly, and needs his Mommy's boo-boo kiss to make it all better. And yet I know, all too soon, he too will begin to look more and more like the man he's going to become than the baby he is. He starts Pre-K this year. The first steps toward that fateful day. I look forward to it, and yet at the same time, would be perfectly happy if time stood still all of a sudden for a few years.

My oldest will be in 2nd grade. He'll show the baby the ropes, help him find his classroom, all that good stuff. I asked him to do that. It was a bittersweet moment, to ask my firstborn baby to be a grown up and show the baby what to do.

These moments, these realizations, are what makes it so hard for me to understand a woman whose child goes missing, and she, from all appearances, does nothing about it for more than a month. Every day, my children are growing and changing, and I don't want to miss a moment of that. She's missed a month of her child growing, and if something has happened to that child (I hope nothing has), then she may never again get the chance to see her daughter grow or learn something new. How does she live with that knowledge?

My cousin, I can understand. I couldn't do it myself, but I can see what he is doing. He's doing what he can to ensure his child is taken care of, is healthy and happy and has what he needs. What excuse does this woman have? She let 5 weeks go by without telling anyone her daughter was missing. 5 weeks....her child could be anywhere; anything could have been done to her by now. Any clues they might have had could be gone by now. According to the news, she keeps asserting that the person who has her daughter loves the girl. All I can say is I hope she's right, and that if the person who has her does love her, then perhaps she's better off there. It would appear her own mother doesn't care.

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