I don’t know anything. Nothing.
Just ask my son.
I used to know stuff. Mothers with sons older than mine assure me that eventually I will know stuff again. I try to hold on to this promise as I watch his eyes glaze over during conversations with me. I stifle the urge to lean toward him with my water glass poised directly over his head when he sighs loudly or says for the tenth time during dinner, “MOM! I KNOW, Alright?” I conjure up images of the person that he was when he still thought I knew stuff. When I was the person he came to when he wanted answers to the millions and millions and MILLIONS of questions he had about the world. He used to ask me questions! Imagine that! Memories of the small, sweet boy keep me from strangling the not- so- sweet young man who ducks and dodges and struggles against my love for him. The person who demands to do things his way. The one who is so very sure, every time, that I am wrong about so much.
I drove away from Mr. Certain one dark evening last week, making my way east to visit his sister, a more diplomatic and female version of her brother. An hour from the place where she lives her own Quite Certain life, traffic on the interstate began to slow. An accident, perhaps? I drove on, feeling tired, frustrated and hoping that whatever was going on would be cleared soon.
Then, I saw it. On a highway overpass a half mile up the interstate, dozens of lights twinkled. From a distance, it was impossible to make out the source. I wondered if someone had decided to decorate the bridge for Christmas. Moving closer, I realized that it was actually five large emergency vehicles, their blue and white strobe lights flashing. My car was almost to the bridge when, from the other side of the interstate, eight squad cars, lights flashing but no sirens, sped along in the passing lane in single file.
Had those of us traveling that night witnessed an Honor Guard? Were the lights a silent show of respect for a young police officer from the area recently gunned down in an apparent ambush? From news reports, I know that he died serving the community where he was raised and that he was in his thirties. According to the same reports, he leaves behind four young children. His grieving mother was recently interviewed. She talked about her late son, and how he’d known since he was a little boy that he wanted to be a police officer after he’d become separated from an older sibling at a shopping center and a police officer had stayed with him, bought him ice cream, kept him safe until they were reunited. She mentioned during the interview that he had graduated from the police academy early and that he’d been too young to buy his first service revolver so she and her husband had done that for him. As I listened to the interview, I thought about that kind of love and was awed by it, by her. My own frustrations with my own son seemed trivial, inconsequential, small, by comparison.
The thing about all of us raising sons is that, eventually, we all get our hearts broken by them. If we’re very lucky, it is because they just grow up..or fall in love….or make choices we don’t agree with..or move far away from us. Or tell us that we don’t know anything.
But sometimes, for some mothers, the stakes are much higher.
I might not know much right now, but I learned this on the first evening of the month of miracles and mysteries…on a dark ribbon of highway illuminated by flashes of lights on a bridge in the sky.
In the Season dedicated to another Son. And his Mother.