Note: This post was orignally written in July, 2012 but it just now being published with one minor addition: the sign in sheet for the Eagle Scout project. Otherwise it is in its complete form as it was written that evening in July, on the dock on the Western Shore in Nova Scotia.
He carries the world on his shoulders, the boy who is a man but not yet.
He carries the load, it's burdensome and he puts it down but he cannot resist and it is picked back up again. To become a man is a funny thing, you want it but yet you don't. How I remember listening to a small voice, yet to crack, saying, "I'm not sure if I want to grow up?"
How to lighten the load? How to help him carry it gracefully with strength and dignity and integrity? Or can I?
The burden of becoming and being a man will only push on his shoulders to the extent that the woman in his life allows it to.
I wish I had the hat or better yet, just a picture of it. The hat is long gone, maybe in Newfoundland, maybe in the North Pole?
It is our first day here, really here, that is. We have covered the particulars, food that is, and we are unpacked and settled. Maybe too settled so that familiar causes us to stumble.
A majestic setting, a beautiful place where there is nothing ugly or hurtful, or just plain inconsiderate until I find the hat.
An old hat, very worn, sitting on the workbench, very ugly. Awful ugly,awfully dusty and probably mildewed. It boasts a "Corona" beer label on the front without the bottle so I deem it wearable. I have no hat. I always have a hat, especially in summer, but the one thing that was forgotten was my hat.
My husband is buying me a hat today in town when he goes into the city to teach his class but right now, today, this time, bright sun, I slip it on, grime and all. No one wants this hat, it has been left behind for years. I slip on sin; it coats me, but I don't recognize it yet. I seem to have a tough skin and the Lord, gently as He does, works on me patiently and then when I see, so clearly, I cry, but right now I don't see anything but a grand adventure awaiting us.
For now, there's just the hat and this beautiful day and we can't wait to go out to the dock.
We are not out long and there's a stiff breeze, the kind that feels so refreshing on a hot day, the kind that whips your hair to your face, that lifts your hat from your head and sails it into the water. The hat, the one my oldest son made fun of, in a loving way. So like his Daddy, the boy is a man, teasingly good-natured, loving me the way he knows how, with words of fun and tease. "There goes your gorgeous hat, Mom."
"Oooh, that's not my hat. We have to get it! Scott will you jump in and get it please? "Aw Mom!" "I don't have my bathing suit on yet and the water's pretty cold today. "Please Scott, it won't hurt you; you didn't seem to mind yesterday?" "Yesterday I had my suit on." "But it's not a big deal; just go in with your shorts on." Meanwhile the hat is floating further and further from the dock. I am tense, getting a little ruffled. Why won't he just dive in after the hat? He doesn't mind cold, he loves water. What's the big deal? "Scott I need you to go after the hat. It may belong to someone and I don't want to lose it since it's not mine especially." "Oh, Mommy, I really don't want to go in. It's an old beaten up hat, let it go." "If it's your clothes, then run up and change real quickly". "There's no time for that Mommy." "Ok, I'm going in after the hat." I get an incredulous look from the boy is a man. The hat is way out there; the wind has sailed it and skimmed it along the water tops. I'm not sure if I can get it but I must, I have to get the hat. It has become all or nothing to me. "You cannot get it now; it's too far out. I don't think I could get it now", he says. "But I must!" "By this time there is an element of heightened frustration and perhaps a little fear. Will there be trouble if I lose the dusty, old, long-forgotten hat? Is it worth it? Do I demand my boy is a man go after it? "Scott, just jump in and get it." No response. He looks at me as if he has no idea who I am. Now the littles are taking up the tirade, pushing on him, pleading. He pushes back and disgusted; he turns to leave. "Okay, that's it, I'm going in, " I declare. His response, "You can't do that. It's way too far now. Look at this wind, this wind has made the current way to strong for you or me. Plus, it's very cold and remember you're cold-blooded." This last comment hits me hard. It is the quip of a good-natured joke without the tease this time. This time, it is a hard look.
Time stands still; the hat is nearly beyond our sight. I have two options. Force it
or let go. Am I giving up too easily, allowing something that shouldn't be allowed, or is there something different entirely going on here. I am mad. Yes, I said it, inside I am upset. Because of why a voice says? Because you lost the hat? Because you didn't hang onto it in a strong wind? Because you know better? Because he wouldn't go get it? Because you know it's not worth it? Because it's worth jeopardizing relationship over all else?
Now, you don't know my boy is a man. You have no idea the extent of our relationship, the time invested, the laughter, the hours we spent building train tracks, listening to him compose music, watching him ace Chemistry when I almost couldn't pass it, the fun, how amazing he is and wonderful to be with; there is no way in any amount of words I could ever describe any of this adequately. You will have to believe me. We are tight; thick, majorly connected. When I signed in on his Eagle Scout Project sheet, I signed in this way: February 10, 1998, 10:09 pm CST. I did not sign out that day nor will I ever sign out. When I pass away, there will still be no signing out.
My influence will be forever and reach other generations. I am now risking it over a hat.
I can try to kill myself literally by going after the hat and I'm not as strong of a swimmer as he is. He would have to come after me; he would in a heartbeat, no hesitation, and rescue me, the boy is a man. Now he turns to leave; he's leaving the dock; the one place we all wanted to be. It is now past tense. The littles are playing and having a grand time. Everything is over or is it? Time stands still. I stand still and watch him slip away to the house.
I stand for what seems like hours though it is only minutes for me to come to grips with it all. The hat is gone but who cares, this has nothing whatsoever to do with a beer logo hat. I know what's next and I sigh as the Holy Spirit prompts my heart. I know. Don't tell me, I know. I am pressing on the burden. My boy is a man and I am in the process of disqualifying him for that position. I must reinstate him.
Everyone must get away from the water and closer to land, up in the yard. Sarah Kelly is in charge and I take the longest walk of my life up to the house. Silence is golden and I use it, just silence. We stare at each other on the sofa; he is glaring somewhat but underneath it I can see it, smell it, feel it, there is pain. This is so simple but yet so hard. I want it so badly I can barely contain the "I'm sorry. I love you so much; I asked you to do what you didn't feel was worthy. It's my fault and for that I am sorrier than you will ever know. It's not your responsibility that I lost the hat." And on and on until there is nothing left and I know I will cry. But somehow the tears are held at bay. At bay, until the boy is a man speaks and with tears in his eyes says what I could never imagine. "I'm so sorry Mommy, (yes he still calls me that sometimes), I should have jumped in immediately and gotten the hat. This is all my fault. I didn't want to get it. I weighed it and realized it really wasn't that important; that it should just not be worried about. But I would have gone for you because you asked me to but by the time I realized that I should, I couldn't get it anymore. I am so sorry."
Speechless and now not tearless, I am at a loss. I thought I had this figured out. It is like a double face-palm. What? He really was thinking this way?
* * *
There comes a point where the boy is a man and has to be in charge; he has to be in control. He has to start thinking like a man and being treated the way he deserves to be, with respect for his decisions. This boy was wrestling with doing what his mama said. This man was making a decision, a firm, affable, intelligent decision which he will be required to make more and more as time goes on. No one is a boy one day and a man the next. At this point, a major thing has happened. I see him in a different light. Many times I have deferred to him, which route Scott? Which exit do you think? These are our choices, which do you think is best? More times I have thanked him for bringing in the groceries, opening the door for me, taking out the trash, keeping the younger ones, printing something for me, putting pictures on my blog, researching for me, taking care of the baby, helping me at a minute's notice, working hard at school, acting with integirty, and on and on. And always, always he is saying, "Mommy, what do you need me to do next?" I have turned over some decision-making and while still in a guidance and consulting position, I have tried today on the dock to take it all away.
No, it is me who is so wrong and I tell him. But I am also glad that I can see so clearly. We are both excited now. Both happy to be going back down to the dock. He cannot wait to spend the time down there that we had all anticipated from the beginning and I'm sure some littles will be glad to leave the yard and return as well. As we walk down together, laughing, I tell him exactly how it is. How his father, in the same situation, would look at me and make the same decision. He would say with firm and definite words, but with a huge boyish grin, "It's just a hat and I'm not going after it and neither are you. Let it go." I tell this boy is a man how that would be balm for my soul; someone stepping up and making that decision, firmly with skill and thoughtfulness, taking care of me and my problems and then of course teasing me for long afterwards about my inability to keep an ugly, old, hat on my head during a fierce wind. He laughs and says what pierces my soul, "That's what I wanted to say." A photographer following us now would have a priceless picture of a taller than me boy is a man with his arm loped over my shoulder.
My boy is a man stays on the right path. He has a good model of a manly father
and the Holy Spirit hasn't given up on me yet as his mother. I'm so glad I can depend upon God and I have complete trust in my soul.
* * *
We have yet to ever speak of the hat again. It is buried in my heart where mothers keep that which they never mention but what they always ponder.
"But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart."