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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Momma's Boy

Photo: 2008 Bolivia

No, he's not a "momma's boy" but I thought that was a catchy title. Since I did a blog post recently about my daughter, it's only fair that I devote one now to my son. My son is 23 years old last month and currently living and working in Uruguay. I miss him very much, and I haven't seen him since last June.

David was an easy baby. He cried a lot until he learned to crawl, but he always ate good, slept good, and was happy as long as he was moving around. That crying until he crawled was an early indicator of a common theme. David craves activity and loves the thrill of sports and action. When he was a toddler I tried to satisfy this need for speed by pushing him around on the floor in a laundry basket while he squealed with delight. Believe me, I was plenty happy when he went to sleep for the night. As he grew up he tried--and was good at--several different sports, finally finding his place with soccer and then rugby, loving both the speed and the camaraderie.

David's noteworthy academic credentials include getting A's on tests despite getting zero's on homework and spending 90% of his school time sitting in the hall outside the principal's office for being a class clown. He wasn't mean-spirited, just funny, and distracted the other kids like nobody's business. He finally got A's in his last year of high school which by that time didn't help him much getting into university. Luckily, because of high SAT scores, he had an automatic buy into Texas A&M where he had a series of rugby scholarships and graduated last year.

Another of David's claims to fame is having been bitten at least once by every pet we ever had. I'm not sure how he achieved this, but let's just say he doesn't have a natural affinity for animals. He also has a lot of allergies, and I know he suffered with all the dogs and cats we had. He told me, recently, out of the blue, however, that he is happy to have had that experience living with animals and thinks he is a better person for it. I was also amazed, the first time I visited him at A&M, to see one of our dogs as the wallpaper on his computer.

David's loud humor belied a gentle individual inside. I remember once on a snowy Saturday night I was playing Hearts with David (then aged 10) and his sister, me playing 2 hands and them each playing one. I was wearing one-piece pyjamas and a pair of those giant oversized kiddie sunglasses. The kids' father and I were divorced and I had not yet considered remarrying. All of a sudden David jumped up, threw his cards down, and started to cry.

"Look at you, Mom. You're never going to meet a man looking like that!"

I told him I wasn't planning on meeting any men in my Family Room while playing cards with him.

In 8th grade he told me one evening with a smiling serene look that he understood "everything."

"Everything?" I asked him.

"Yeah, Mom, you know--about life!"

"That's great son. I'm happy for you. Most people spend their whole lives trying to understand that."

One incident I recall from years gone by was the time David was showing me a tooth, a pre-molar, that was loose. It was slightly loose, but he wanted to show me that he could turn it this way, and That Way, and THIS WAY, and THAT WAY and THEN IT WAS OUT, and of course he was bleeding like a stuck pig because the tooth wasn't READY to come out. He once gave himself a black eye by accident while trying to practice a wrestling move before a match. I'm shaking my head as I write this. It's amazing what ridiculous things a smart ADHD kid can come up with if he's bored for a minute.

Photo: David's High School Grad 2005

It's hard to recreate how funny David was (and is) all day long. I want to be clear that Rachel is funny too, but a different kind of funny, a more deadpan, straight-man type; Rachel isn't as loud and overwhelming. We all had humor in the house, but David's was constant, in-your-face, razor-sharp, and electric. Just a few examples: as a small child getting real close to me with a conspiratorial look, then exhaling and shouting, "SMELL-O-GRAM"; creeping up real close to me when I was reading in bed and asking, "Are you enjoying your Encyclopedia of Brown Thread in 3 Volumes?"; standing outside the bathroom when I was in the shower asking louder and louder, "MOM, I NEED A CHRONOMETER." "What?" "A CHRONOMETER." "Huh?" "CHRONOMETER, YOU KNOW, A WATCH!"

David calling a friend on the phone:

"Bro, I have some great news for you. GREAT NEWS. UNBELIEVABLY FANTASTIC NEWS FOR YOU"



David and his sister, Rachel, have always been very close. I recall from the beginning them sitting arm in arm watching cartoons together on the couch. She was the quiet one, and he was the squeaky monkey climbing all over everything. One time she was sitting on the floor playing some video game on the TV and he was circling around her, trying to get her attention. He pushed her, she leaned over and then she straightened up (like one of those inflatable clowns that rights itself); he pushed her again, she leaned over, and then she sat up again ignoring him. He pushed her a third time and she wound up and gave him a good roundhouse punch. He looked at me wide-eyed like "I have no idea what's wrong with her!"

Photo: David and his sister, Rachel 2004

David going away to university was tough on all of us. Rachel had to come to terms with losing her best friend/companion and accepting him going on to live a life without her; I had to accept my first-born leaving home. It was especially difficult because he always took up so much SPACE and made so much NOISE! When he first left it seemed there was a vacuum. Of course, after he'd been gone for a while, we felt the same shock when he was HOME. I was relieved to see that when he *was* home, his relationship with his sister had not changed. They still sought out each other's company, wrestled around, bickered over the bathroom (even though we had several) and chased each other around the house.

Drawing Rachel did in 2005 when he left for university. We sent it out to friends and relatives with his new address.

I can remember him sitting in the kitchen doing a project in Grade 12 which consisted of creating a realistic monthly budget for living expenses. Listening to his budget details, I laughed until I cried. The biggest chunks of David's budget were not for rent and food and utilities but for soap and condoms. In those days he was very preoccupied with his soap and that no one should, God forbid, touch it. Since he spent as much time washing the soap as using it, he went through bars of soap like salts through a widow-woman.

I know he definitely got over the obsessive-compulsive-clean anxiety because a year later at university he didn't mind both me and his sister sharing his double bed with him, and the bathroom there....well, let's just say I needed a bio-hazard suit to go in it.

Now David is in Uruguay with a food and beverage manager job at a beach resort, surfing every day. I'm sure glad he got a Bachelor of Science in Physics to prepare him for that job. I don't know when I'll see him next, but my job was to prepare him to be independent and live his own life, and that's exactly what he's doing. For all my years as a parent I wanted two things for my children: for them to be happy, and to be productive members of society. It's bittersweet for parents when kids achieve all those things far away from home, but seeing them happy is the greatest reward.

This is my son.

Photo: Rachel visiting David in Guatemala 2009



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