The work whistle blew yesterday and I had just settle in for the evening when the phone rang. On the other end of the line was the shaky voice of my stepson, Brandon. It’s midterms and he was stressed and feeling alone and missing his father. Keenly aware of my own feelings as of late – of feeling Keith’s absence, we sat on the phone with both of our voices wavering. There is so much of Keith alive in his son. That boundless energy, that passionate stance, the dogged determination. And yet he is still so young, so much to learn, that he hasn’t mastered his father’s seasoned skill of harnessing all that – well – stuff. Knowing this, I want to protect him from his own whirling dervish. It’s not possible. Like his father, he has to figure it out on his own.
So I sit on my cell phone, across the miles, trying to find the right words to say to a young man desperately wanting to find his place in a scary world, find his emotional footing without a father to extend a hand to steady him. All the while, I find myself searching for the same things – my place in a scary world, my footing without a man who so adeptly steadied me when I would spin out of control. I know it’s his father’s voice he wants to hear on the other end of the phone. I know that when I hang up, I just want to bury my head in my pillows and smell Keith there as I once did. We can not get that back. We can’t replace what was lost. We can’t even lean on each other since we both are so precariously perched on the quicksand of our grief.
I could tell him that although I can’t fix it, I can understand it. I could tell him that if he can get through this, he will be stronger, smarter, better. That I am proud of all he’s fought for, gained, learned. But most of all, I could promise him that I will always love him – in a voice without wavering, crystal clear across the miles, as if I was right next to him, as if Keith was saying it through me.