I saw you in pain today. Not a physical pain, where I could hand you a Band-Aid or two Advil and provide reassurance that the hurt will go away. You tried to mask the agony by hiding in your room. But it was too obvious to miss.
When you were a child, I could place you in my lap, hug you tight, and whisper, “Everything will be alright.” I could protect you from scary monsters and the neighborhood bully.
Reluctantly, you would tell me your fears—you talked, I listened. Then, I talked, and you listened. We’d recite a line from a book, “I love you forever, I love you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”
We set a game plan and sealed the deal with milk and cookies, a late-night trip for ice cream, or a slice of pizza and a kiss on the forehead.
We both knew things would be better.
But, eventually, you outgrew my lap. So, we sat on the edge of your bed for what seemed like hours. High school drama: failed tests, heart-breaking wrestling losses, unrequited love, and endless tears shed when a peer chose death over life or disappeared into a haze of drug abuse. Some survived, some succumbed.
Our talks took on a more serious note, and I reassured you again, that I was always there for you. “As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”
High school made way for college and then adulthood, but we were still a team. I could still soothe your fears. I’d always be there to lend an ear or a hand. Despite my own problems, I promised you I would be there for you and your brothers, judgment-free. As long as I had it, there would always be time, a warm meal, and money to help you out of any crisis. Slowly you settled in, secured a job, pursued your dreams, and sought out a romantic partner to accompany you on your journey.
I knew I would have to take a backseat, but I reminded you that I was always there if you needed me.
In the ensuing years, there have been several lost jobs, missed opportunities, medical emergencies, car accidents, failed romances, grief, and a life-altering pandemic. As much as I tried, I couldn’t shield you from these problems, but ironically, they brought us even closer.
Once again, we were together 24 hours a day. Family meals, watching movies together, and heated discussions about the “strange new order.” They had taken on a more serious tone: fear, rejection, and emotional pain, which required more than an over-the-counter solution. All of our hopes and plans were put on hold, except one.
The dream of finding a soulmate—a lover, a friend, and another ear. Someone to accompany you as you find your way in life. Eventually, I was honored to witness the five stages of a new relationship, through your eyes: initiation, experimentation, intensifying, integration, and finally bonding. In this way, we exchanged places in the world.
You had a partner, and I was suddenly alone.
So, when you walked into the room, I could see it in your eyes. You tried to shield me from your anguish. but I knew how much you were suffering. Life was beating you up and beating you down. I wanted it to be like old times, pull you into my lap, and say, “I love you forever, I love you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”
Instead, I listened while you talked, and talked while you listened, and then we hugged.