This was a dream I had the other night, and woke up crying.
She awoke to the sound of the refrigerator opening. This was her nightly cue that her son was awake again, and to make her way to the kitchen. Ever since the accident that happened right after his seventh birthday, this has been his ritual. She wished there was something more she could do for him, but for now she was more than willing to supervise his nocturnal venture.
She thought back to the accident as she wandered down to the kitchen.
The two of them were on their way back from a shopping trip at the mall. School had just started, and she did her best to fulfill the long list of wants and needs submitted by his teacher. The ride home was not very long, especially since she always took the interstate instead of driving through town. He was a happy boy that night, with a belly full of hamburgers and French fries, and several shopping bags full of new pencils, paper, notebooks, and crayons. Neither of them saw the pickup truck come barreling down the highway before it slammed into the back of her little economy car.
She remembered very little from the accident, and suspected that he couldnt remember much either. She does remember an ambulance ride, and desperately trying to ask the paramedic about her little boy. She couldnt seem to speak clearly, and no one was telling her anything. She remembered waking up in the ER, looking over to her little boy and watching as doctors and nurses feverishly cut, poked, prodded, and otherwise tried to keep him alive. Somehow she found the strength to drag herself away from her own bed. Somehow she was able to kneel at her sons bedside, willing him to live. Somehow she did not get in the way of the hospital staff. It was as though they did not even notice her there. It was a long haul, but he pulled through, and she never left his side.
After he was released from the hospital, he was a sad boy. He woke up in the middle of the night crying, and she always came to his side to comfort him. She would sit at his bedside stroking his hair, humming soothingly, and telling him how much she loved him. Finally, one night he decided that he was hungry. She followed him to the kitchen and poured him a bowl of cereal. This became their nightly ritual.
As he ate, she engaged him in conversation. He told her about his day, shared his joys and concerns. Little boys are resilient, and he recovered from the accident.
As she watched him pour his own cereal and milk, a thought occurred to her. Maybe it was time for him to get his rest. As he dipped his spoon into his bowl, she asked him, "What is a seven year old little boy like you doing eating a whole bowl of cereal every night? Are you not getting enough to eat during the day?" He dropped his spoon into his bowl and sighed, a very serious sigh for a little boy. "Mom" he stared, unsure of his next words," I'm not seven." She tried not to chuckle as she responded." Oh you arent?" He shook his head. "No Mom, Im thirty seven. You've been dead for thirty years."
She stared into his face and saw it. Crow's feet, thinning hairline, and five o'clock shadow. He was a grown man, no longer a little boy. She was struck speechless by this realization. "Mom," he spoke soothingly, "remember the accident? You died. The doctors said that I shoud have died too, and can't figure out why I survived and you didn't. When I came home from the hospital, I missed you so much. I had deams that you were there sitting on my bed every night. They weren't dreams, were they?" She shook her head. "I was there" she whispered. She would always be there for her little boy.