Without Limping

I had a border collie.

I named her Libby.

My first dog since I was a kid. And she loved me.

Whenever I would go out to the car, to leave the house on days when I felt ill or wrong-footed somehow ... she would limp.

Libby started limping after she suffered a broken leg, the result of trying to herd a moving car out on the road. She was tossed to the side of the road, and the people from the car came up to our house, distraught, apologetic, ready to write me a check for my foolishly optimistic border collie.

Her desire to herd wasn't their fault. I sent them on their way.

We drove to the vet, me in the back of the station wagon with my broken, patient, black and white dog with the big brown eyes. She kept lifting her broken leg for me to hold it. Her occasional whimpers sounded confused. She sounded like she was trying to be brave.

We brought her home in a cast.

She stayed on the back porch for weeks and weeks.

She was supposed to lie still so her leg could heal.

But every time we (I) ventured onto the back porch, she was overcome with happiness, and her tail and her body ... and her cast - wriggling, tap tap tapping on the cement - trying to stand - making it impossible to heal the broken bone. My husband used to say that if I'd let her, that dog would've gotten into my clothes with me just to be closer. She couldn't hold still because she loved me.

I finally went to a naturopathic vet and got some remedies, and Libby's leg - her front left - the same "arm" on her as the arm I broke a few years before when I fell on the ice - her broken leg finally healed.

But ever afterward, my dog limped whenever I didn't feel good.


This morning, my son drove away down the driveway, headed off into his life. I do not know if I've ever seen him quite so keyed up - taut - concentrating. He wanted to go. He is ready.

I have a lot in common with the dog named Libby. She couldn't help resonating to the human she loved. Today, the young man who used to be my little curly-headed boy headed into his life with a laser-like focus. I did not weep on his shoulder, or make a large, long good-bye. The part of me that begat him knew that he didn't need such a moment. I could feel his intention today. He was okay. I didn't limp when he went to the car.

But then, after I had shut the door ("Want an orange or something?" "I have some already." "Okay ... call us when you get there so we'll know you made it." "Bye.") I came back upstairs and opened the door to his room. Most of his stuff is still there. He will come back and get it when he has found a place to call his own. I stood in the middle of the room, his, but no longer his, and watched through his window as his car went down the driveway. This feels different from college. This feels permanent. The sign of the cross. On me, on him. ("God bless you. Godspeed. Goodbye.") When his car reached the bottom of the driveway, I burst into tears.


Please understand. I did not want him to stay. I raised my kids to find their lives and live them. Last night when I came home from work and my headlights moved across this young man and his dad headed up to the barn in the dark together, I started to think - without this moment, there can never be moments of grandchildren, families coming to visit, babies born, careers and adventures and travel and all of the things that will flood our home in the years ahead. He cannot stay here - none of them can. They - and we - all of us have futures to walk toward. And so far, nobody's limping.


Missy Hempe said...

Stop being such a talented writer - you make me tear up!! And don't forget, when things get rough and mommy isn't around . . . YOUR BOY WILL BE MISSING YOU TOO and you will never know it. ;) He will be comparing his girlfriend's cooking to yours, and no matter how much he tries not to, he will find things irritating about her that you did RIGHT. I know, that's an immature thing to say, but it's TRUE!! He is leaving home but he is leaving YOU and I've never known a boy (or man) who didn't wish for his mommy. :)

Stephanie said...

Thanks, Missy. In these months since college, it's become obvious to me that we don't have a boy anymore. He's a man. And he probably will miss certain foods, and from time to time he might miss me and his dad too, but I think he'll mostly miss the property. Not me as a mom so much, but this place as his motherland. Our roots in Place - in this place - they're under the very trees and rocks.

But I hope he's too happy to miss us much at all. That's my job, and I want him to do his.

carol whipps said...

Like Missy, I got all watery-eyed too. Your kids have been blessed!