Jason turned 18 last Friday. James and I took him out to a nice restaurant – the middle class version of fancy – and celebrated with a quiet night out. We toasted to him and to Sandra and how this family has changed in the past year. It was…nice.
I never thought about it until I was toasting my son but I’m proud of him. He got out. He managed to create his own world away from the family drama and suffering. Not even his sister could do that. Sandra succumbed to the family curse but not Jason. I wonder why that is. I wonder how he made it.
James got called into work near the end of the meal so the two of us finished up and indulged in a tiny slice of cheesecake – “to spoil ourselves” I told him. I don’t understand restaurant portions. Appetizers are bigger than entrees; desserts are either miniscule bites or whole cakes. Balance, my friends, balance is so important.
For the first time in recent memory, I sat down with Jason, just the two of us. Immediately after James dashed off, we sat there in uncomfortable silence but I couldn’t stand how fidgety he got as soon as we were alone so I just started asking him questions. We talked about his school life, how he was feeling about his finals starting next week, how his girlfriend was – Sara, I remembered her names was Sara – how his job was turning out, how he was feeling about university. School was crammed with information but otherwise boring, exams will be easy except for the essay portion of his English exam, Sara just got her acceptance letter and the two of them are looking forward to studying at the same school in the fall, the future is bright. CliffNotes version: He’s doing just fine. He’s happy and hopeful and committed to doing his best.
I never thought I would be happy to see my child not pursuing the family history of addiction and destruction. Of course this revelation comes on the day I stop being his legal guardian. Now I’m the aunt he lives with rent free.
No, that’s a lie. I will always be his mother. Always.
He brought up his sister towards the end of the meal. He’d been quiet for a few minutes while we finished our dessert, and then he just blurted it out. He doesn’t think her death was random. The more he thought about it, the more personal it seemed and he now thinks she knew the person who killed her. He was clinical in his statement. Barely any emotion. I can accept that. But why now? He was so close to freedom. I asked him if he was going to do anything about it but he’s still in the first stages of curiosity. He still has a long way to go before he gets to Sandra’s level of obsession.
Speaking of which: her room is still relatively untouched which means her corkboard detailing my murders is still in the back of her closest. Shit. I need to find the courage to clean out my daughter’s room. It’s going to get my in trouble.
I think – I hope – Jason just really misses his sister and doesn’t want to believe what the police told him; it was a random attack and nothing else. Either that or he is genuinely afraid of what he might uncover if he investigates. I don’t blame him for that. For either scenario. Death does things to a person’s mind. The suffering of those dying is temporary but the ones who are left with the grief can go crazy – clichéd but not untrue. I don’t want that for Jason. I took care of Sandra’s killer for just that reason: closure.
What I loved about that conversation is that Jason actually opened up to me. He trusted me with something and I couldn’t help feeling that tiny moment of victory. We haven’t talked about his sister’s death in nearly a year and all he said to me was “I’ll be fine.” I admire and fear his ability to work through his emotions. I honestly don’t know how he handled his sister’s loss because I was so focused on my own healing. In that way I’ve been very selfish these past few months.
I’m actually surprised it took him this long to bring up the possibility to foul play. I suppose this means he’s more controlled and intelligent than I am. Jason is more mature than I have ever given him credit for. I think I just assumed that his sister was the strong one and he just followed her lead – I’ve said as much over the years – but he is his own person and he deserves my respect. He’s an adult now. I don’t expect him to move out next month but what I’ve discovered is that I shouldn’t underestimate my son. I no longer have a child to care for. I don’t want children of my own – raising two broken teenagers was enough – but I sometimes wish I’d had more time with them. More time to really get to know them as people instead of pawns against my mother, or reminders of my sister’s fuck ups, or any number of mistakes I’ve made over the years.
All week I’ve been feeling restless, like I need to be doing something. Maybe this is what they mean by “empty nest”. Sandra is gone and Jason is grown up. Now what?
As always, dear readers,