Slowly, I walked to the podium. The deep breaths I was taking felt as if I was depleting my body of the last bit of air inside of me. For an instant, I wanted to run. Run away from here, from everyone, from my life…at least what I felt was left of it. I wanted to hide out in a hole, and fall into a deep sleep. When I was found, i would be awaken and it would turn out to be a bad dream…a nightmare.
I looked out in to the crowded room, but saw no one. I began with thanking everyone and expressing how I hadn’t been sure if I wanted to speak . It had only been a passing thought and I had painstakingly, debated it all week. The decision was finally made when I came across a story I had written 15 years earlier. I convinced myself that maybe this was a sign.
The time weathered pages were describing my emotions when I first learned Joey had passed his drivers license test. I recounted the overwhelming emotions of worry, panic and fear. Would he be OK? Would I be OK? Would he recall the lessons we taught him? Did he know that if anything would ever happened to him, I would be devastated…my world turned upside down and ripped apart?
Life is demented. Here I was, years later wondering the same things I had put on paper 15 years ago. Below is what I spoke about that day:
“When we were looking for pictures for the slideshow for his service, my middle son, Anthony, came across parts of a letter I had written 15 years ago. I was taken by surprise that the scribbled pages had survived the years of being stored in closets, garages and dresser drawers. Only 2 pages of the original 4 page letter were there. The time weathered pages were laying methodically on top of pictures of my kids I never got around to organizing in a nice scrap book. I dumped the container looking for the other pages. I asked Anthony if he had seen any other pages. No, he answered. I sat down and started reading my words written what seemed like a lifetime ago. I started quietly weeping. In an inexplicable reason that only God knows the answer to, this is what was left of that letter.
‘I walked back to my office after lunch. There on my computer screen was a note, “He passed.’” I felt my stomach turn. I sat in my chair and I really think I stopped breathing for a few seconds. My son, my oldest, had passed his driver’s license test. That evening, he came bouncing in through the front door after football practice, yelling out “HEY MOM! Did dad tell you?!” I walked into the living room and said “Yes honey, he told me.” He followed with “Dad told me I could take the car out this weekend! I’m taking Cassandra to the movies!” My head started spinning….WHAT?! Drive…ALONE??!! Without me or dad?! What was he thinking??!! Just because he had his driver’s license didn’t mean he could drive, right??!! I sat on the couch and memories of him at 2 years old came rushing back. Santa brought him a motorized jeep for Christmas that year. His legs were still too short to reach the pedals but he was determined to get it figured out. Every afternoon, after lunch, he had his routine. He would jump onto the Jeeps hard plastic seat, adjust his baseball cap and ask for his sunglasses, a pair of blue plastic sunglasses that he wore even when he was taking a bath. His foot would barley reach the pedal but as soon as he made contact, off he went! The little car would jerk back and forth and he would screech at the top of his lungs. He had this belly laugh that made all those around his laugh along with him! I would run alongside him yelling, “STOP, honey, slow down! You are going to fast!” He would hold up his hand as if to tell me to back off and would say to me “TOP momma…..I ok! I happy, happy…tank you…uv you..bye, bye!!”
That Saturday came too quick. He spent hours washing the car, making sure it was perfect! When the time came for him to leave, he walked over to give me a hug. I hugged him tight, buried my face into his chest and started shedding tears. He kissed the top of my head and told me he loved me. “Thanks, momma. I love you. Its OK, momma. Please don’t worry.”
As he walked out the door, he stopped to fix his hair…we used to joke that if there was a fire, Joey would burn because he had to stop at every mirror to check himself!” I stood at the front door, tears falling down my cheeks, my heart pounding from fear, and watched as his dad went over all the rules one more time with him. I looked out towards him and he suddenly looked like he was 2 years old again. As he pulled out the driveway, he glanced over in my direction, waved and he blew a kiss in my direction. He rolled the window down, yelled out to me in a laughingly way “Mom…stop crying! I love you! I’ll be ok! I promise! Bye, momma!”
Are you OK, honey?…..