So this is it. The last blog in my 40 day journey through the Lenten season. I’m writing this on the day before the most holy and glorious day in the Christian year, the day we celebrate because it is so joyous. And the most glorious and joyous part of my life, since the day he was born, is my great kid.
When he was about 3 he started calling me Ellen – instead of Mommy – for about 6 months. When I asked him why, he said that everyone called me that so it made sense to him that he should too. It somehow evolved into him calling me Donna over the years (the reason why somehow eludes me) and now he calls me Beautiful. How can you not adore the kid who does this?
Starting from when he was little, he had a huge heart and a soft spot for those he felt were wronged. He would kiss the hand of any woman he liked and draw beautiful pictures to thank people for things. He made me elaborate handwritten cards for all occasions in which – even as a young boy – he promised to love and take care of me forever.
I have told this story before but it bears repeating because it epitomizes how he lives his life. One Christmas Eve we were waiting for Mass to start and my son’s classmate and his mother were across the aisle from us, in a small row saving some seats for the Dad and his classmate’s autistic sister who wouldn’t arrive until right before Mass started. When an usher repeatedly try to seat other people in the seats without listening to why they were saving them, the mother began to cry. My son – this amazing kid – got up, walked across the aisle and sat with her and his classmate to fill up the row so that the usher wouldn’t bother her anymore. I know they still remember his kindness and I still do, some 15 or so years after it happened.
He adores my mother and has flown across country more than once to surprise her on an occasion. When he is at school in Vegas and she heads to Salt Lake City to visit my sister, he always drives up to greet her at the airport and – even if he is just able to spend a few hours with her – will do the 6 hour ride there and back at a moment’s notice to make her happy.
He couldn’t spend enough time with my darling Dad and loved every chance he had to shadow him everywhere we went. Those last few months of my Dad’s life when things here were topsy-turvy and we never knew whether we’d be spending the day in an emergency room or a rehab center or taking care of him at home, he was there every step of the way and I know I could not have managed it without him. And as my Dad left this world one early March morning, he was there holding his hand and telling him how much he loved him and that it was OK to go. Because he knew in his heart of hearts that when you love someone, you need to love them enough to not want them to suffer any more. And that’s a hard lesson for an adult to learn, let alone an 18-year-old. He was my rock, my touchstone, my foundation then as he is now.
He has worked hard, and harder, to be a great student, a great social citizen, a great friend. He will graduate soon with a double major and a minor and wants to pursue a career that will allow him to be socially responsible. He does virtually any favor anyone asks him and spent long days and weeks last year volunteering for Bernie Sanders’ campaign. He worked hard recently with his fraternity brothers to raise money for the Jimmy V Foundation and is very involved with the student government at his school.
As a parent, we all want our children to have a happy and fulfilling life but we also know that it is not something we can control and that our kids need to learn life’s lessons on their own and hopefully grow and flourish from them. I hope – as a single parent – that I have given him the same tools my parents gave me in my life: hope, faith, honesty, compassion, caring, a love of animals, a belief that hard work pays off, character, determination, the knowledge that I believe in him and always will, and the willingness to be as great as his desires take him.
So thank you to my parents for teaching me how to be a parent, thank you to God for entrusting me with this boy, thank you to the friends and family along his journey who have been there for him and with him. And thank you to my great kid – my Brendan – whose birth, life, wishes, dreams all made me the person I am today. He is my everything and I hope he will always know that.