She is doing some dishes and I am sitting on a stool chatting with her, just passing time. We've been friends for 12 years now and there is always something to talk about.
"He's been gone for 7 full days now and I am done! I've never been away from him for that long and I hate it! I feel like just going there and telling him to get in the car and come home!" Her back is to me and she can't see my face. She is laughing at herself and doing dishes and I am sitting there with tears streaming down my face.
She is talking about her son, a boy the same age as mine, a boy I've known for 12 years and whom I tease and chat with easily even now. He is her firstborn, a son she sees everyday except for this year, this 10 days of summer camp. She misses him because out of almost 14 years she has never been away from him for so long. She keeps talking about missing him and I am thinking about all the days I've missed MY son. I think about how I had never been away from MY son before either, and now it's been week after week after week for months and months. I hate her almost, because she can miss her son but yet NOT miss him - because in a couple of days he'll be back in her arms, in her house, in the room she nags him to clean, eating the food she cooks, and their time apart will be nothing more than a hiccup.
She turns off the tap and folds the dishtowel while saying, with an embarrassed laugh, "I mean, really, how can anyone expect a mom to go so long without seeing her kid?!"
You'd be surprised at what people expect a mom to do.
We are sitting at the dining table chatting over a glass of wine. Her husband is watching tv in the other room and both her sons are in their rooms. It's nice quiet girl time for us. Special time because we have it so rarely. We are talking about her youngest and how he's changing as he moves into puberty and how she has some fears about what is up ahead. He is the same age as my youngest, but with some significant differences that make anticipating normal changes something worth fretting over and discussing.
"I don't know," she says, "it's always something these days and I can't tell if it's supposed to be happening or if it's a symptom of something I have to worry about!" I murmur to her, wordless mutterings of empathy, listening intently. "Like, his sleeping pattern is different now and it's driving me crazy. He has trouble sleeping even with his usual medicine. I guess it's the age, is it like that with Bear too?" She is so worried, stressed, and seeking understanding that she doesn't register what she has said.
My eyes tear up instantly and when I speak, my voice is thick and quivery. "I don't know..." and then she gets it. I mean it really, I don't know.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry! Oh God, I'm sorry! I didn't mean it, I know I know, it's ok..." and she is holding me and I am sobbing into her chest because the truth is that I don't know - I'm not there to know if my baby is having a hard time sleeping, if she is sad or lonely in the middle of the night, if she is scared or has funny dreams or is too tired. I'm not there, and no one tells me.
Important point about those speechless moments:
She never means any harm. Ever. This is my truest bestest friend who has seen all the parts of my life over the past years and has been instrumental in helping me be with my kids whenever possible. I know she would never deliberately pose such questions and the truth is that I don't want her to NOT pose those questions. I want to speak freely and for HER to speak freely. I want to talk about her missing her son - I know how it is to miss your child. I want to talk about her fears with her other son - I know how it is to fear for your childs future. I don't want her to stop talking about things just because they hurt me.
These moments happen all the time to me with other people. Moments when I find myself having to explain or justify or change the subject even. Moments when I have to bend down and pick up some peice of lint off the floor to disguise my tears, or start coughing to cover up the quiver in my voice. It's easier when they happen with her because I don't have to hide. I don't have to censor or explain - and I hope she never does either.
There are times I'm speechless, yes, but I'm still the mom.