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Son and mother.

By       Message Beth McKinley       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink

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From a review of 1995's "Waiting to Exhale":

"Gloria (Loretta Devine) feels the cold chill of love. Not only has it been 10 years since she has had a serious relationship of any kind, but the man who fathered her child (although he's only seen a few times) has confessed he's gay and her son who has been her lifeline is planning to travel to Europe."

OK...so Chris' dad isn't gay and Chris didn't plan to travel to Europe upon graduation from college...but I relate to Gloria's character in many ways, especially as it pertains to my son. Gloria and Tarik's emotional son-and-the-single-mother dance is compelling. Watching Waiting to Exhale (as I just did) always shifts me into contemplation mode regarding my life and my son.

I've often said that Chris and I sort of grew up together. I think I can safely say the mother-son relationship was ever-present and I was THE MOM (i.e., the boss), but Chris, born an old soul, was born to a woman who is just now beginning to grow up. Chris often seemed more mature and deliberate than me when he was just a child. The maturity and deliberation grew along with him.

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Chris was and is a stunningly sensible person. He definitely didn't inherit this trait from me. I can only assume that he benefitted from my mother's presence, my father's undying devotion and love, my drive to always think outside the box, and his father's relatively good genes (in terms of temperament and steady affect). I did what I could to make everything possible for him, and I think I was more than moderately successful.

When Chris was 17-18 and finishing up his senior year in high school, I assessed my life, my circumstances at the time, and his future needs. I had no idea what happened to his father after he moved away from Pueblo, but I had a few "leads" and decided it was time to find him. Chris had always claimed to be disinterested in finding and meeting his father. He has said there was always some curiosity present, but he also felt that his life was good and he didn't need to rock the boat (that's the sensible old soul in him).

Chris and his dad hit the ground running, as did the rest of Joe's family. It was as if Chris had always been their son/cousin/nephew/brother. It was somewhat bittersweet for me and my parents, and maybe even for some other members of my family. But it was definitely much more sweet than bitter.

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Chris graduated from college on a Thursday; that Saturday we had a blow-out of a graduation party for him. Eight days later, on a Monday night, Chris came by my townhome to say goodbye prior to leaving for New Jersey/New York to start a new life on the east coast. I can still picture and feel that night as if it had just happened a moment ago. He was so excited and happy. I stood at my front door watching him drive away, sobbing to myself and thinking "So, that's it?" All these years of our lives being so closely intertwined and that's it?

Thinking of this late spring evening still makes me cry, but yes, that's it, and that's how it's supposed to be. I didn't raise Chris to be timid or limit his life in anyway. Children are supposed to grow up and become independent, healthy, self-sufficient adults.

It took me at least two years to get beyond the grief and emotional adjustments. The ending of the mother-son relationship I had with a wonderful child named Chris. But the mother-son relationship with a wonderful man named Chris has just begun. Perspective sometimes blurs the view, but when I take a moment to consider how he and I are NOW as mother and adult son, I marvel at how interesting, beneficial, and wonderful the relationship is becoming.

Chris seems to be close to if not completely individuated from me and therefore more capable of looking at me as an acceptably imperfect normal human being and not "just" his mother. He and I can now think of each other as people--a social worker, an architect, a liberal, a sports fanatic. We are finally moving toward that point where we can be friends.

Raising a kid is like creating a masterful piece of art. You work on it for years and years and give it everything you've got. Then when you're almost done someone or something else requires that the piece of art to which you've so lovingly devoted yourself now must be made unconditionally available to the rest of the world.

Another thing I've learned through this process is that life holds different possibilities for me now that the person I have to raise is me. From the little things (eating Lucky Charms for dinner) to the bigger things (volunteering for the Obama campaign) to the existential things (newfound creativity), it's now time for my life to be about me. That's somewhat scary. And powerful.

 

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Elizabeth "Beth" is a 48 year-old Colorado native, and mother of one son, Chris, 27. She has a BS in biology and an MA in counseling. Chris graduated from CU-Boulder with a BA in architecture and currently works for CodeGreenSolutions in Manhattan (more...)
 

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