I haven’t cooked sausage in a long time but I’ve done so twice now over this Thanksgiving break. The feel of grease and meat under my hands intrigued me. I had absolutely no desire to partake. I cooked turkey on Thanksgiving without tasting it, a cardinal sin according to the Food Network. Stir, taste, season, serve. I skipped a step but no one seemed to mind.
Seven days has flown by and my son’s departure looms. I enjoyed our visit. We saw friends, rode the streetcar, looked at his latest projects, and talked about the future of America. Now he’s returning to Chicago, to his world — his job, his apartment, his girlfriend, in a city where public transportation provides no novelty and the walls of the train station hold grime and graffiti.
When he leaves, the house will fall silent. The old dog will wander through the rooms, sniffing and wondering where he’s gone. Patrick and I speculated on her awareness of him. The first time he returned from college after several months away, she threw herself down on the kitchen floor, whimpering, scooting over to him, breathing in his scent before going crazy with happiness. I understood her reaction. I barely contained my own ecstatic response to the return of the prodigal son.
But I’m used to it now. I can’t complain about his situation. I encouraged him to leave from day one. I’ve been accused of being over-protective but I’m not guilty. Charges have been levied that I’m “too close” to my son but again, I’ve committed no crime. He’s grown into a man despite or because of me, take your pick. He has values, and compassion, and empathy. I can ask for nothing more. I suppose I could have raised him to care about money and fancy houses. Another mother might have. This one didn’t. But he’s better at budgeting and financial matters than I am, thank heavens. He’ll get by.
As for me, I’ll return to my solitary existence. I’ll see him at Christmas in Chicago, universe willing. None of us know where the future will take us. Your children can live next door and never visit; or they can live in Zanzibar and call you every day. Connection does not depend on geography. I don’t know if blood is thicker than water but it’s as thick as your intentions make it; and ours runs sure and steady in the veins that bind us.
It’s the twenty-eighth day of the thirty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.