My mom has my Caring Today article sitting out on her counter to proudly show to anyone who walks in her house (we moms are all the same, aren’t we?). She must have read it yet again the other day because she commented on how she too interacts with Austin “with a great deal more reverence.” It’s hard not to. Even though this shadow may turn out to be nothing, even though this episode may not alter his life’s trajectory, all those “what if’s” come rushing back and a new level of care, of intensity, of reverence colors all of our interactions with Austin.
Take art projects, as one small exmaple. If you’re the mom (or dad) of a kid in preschool or elementary school, you are definitely flooded with art projects. They come home every day stuffed into backpacks and folders, some special, some scribbles. I try to weed through them and save only those that really capture a time or ability in each boy’s schooling, while sneaking the rest into the bottom of the paper recycling bag. Braedan’s are filled with increasing detail and lists of all the words he can spell (even if those words are in no way related to the drawing they accompany). Austin’s are mostly indecernible markings in a single color. But lately, I’ve found it more and more difficult to throw away any of Austin’s work. There is this tiny voice in the back of my mind warning me that I might someday regret not having every shred of evidence of his being.
I know that sounds morbid and I assure you that we are not moping around awaiting his demise. But that sense of vulnerability is undeniably present and hard to shake. But it is the boys themselves, and especially Austin himself, who force us to move forward and live life in the present. Austin is a thoroughly alive child, intense in ways both positive and negative. He can get violent, especially when he’s frustrated, and is both a hitter and a biter. Poor Braedan, of course, bares the brunt of his brother’s angry outbursts. But he is equally intense with his affection. When he wants to show his love, it’s as if he simply can’t get close enough to you. He wraps himself around me so tightly and snuggles up, nudging in closer and closer until his body and mine are practically one. He gives squeezes and hugs, kisses and nose rubs, over and over and over. With his arms snug around my neck, he’ll even pat my back like he’s soothing or comforting me.
Which I suppose he is.