Our house is way too big for the two of us, but we simply don’t have the heart to sell it.
Back in the day, with five bedrooms and four bathrooms, it suited our family of six—three daughters, one son, and me and my husband, very well.
When our children moved out of the familial nest, we anointed each bedroom officially and forever theirs.
When we refer to a bedroom, it is always by their first names. “The lamp in Amy’s room is out.” “The fan in Amelia’s room isn’t working.” “We need a new mattress in Elsa’s room.”
But any mention of Dane’s room is always a painful reminder of the decision our son made to disown us.
There have been sightings of Dane by some of us, here, there, and everywhere. A painful reminder that he is so close, yet so far.
I once spotted him on a train, and it broke my heart to sink down low into my seat for fear he would reject me.
But he made a decision a long time ago to walk away. To try to explain how his decision affected our family would take several chapters from a clinical perspective.
Our loving family unit of six was now painfully and heartbreakingly down to five. Besides me, the remaining four family members have their own personal and painful degrees of hurt. But I can unequivocally assure you that Dane’s decision to leave us in his past was the single most agonizing event of my life.
But I can only speak for myself. The rest of my family have their own tales to tell. Or not.
I realized that Dane was never coming back when he stopped sending me an obligatory text two times a year. To be clear, I waited months upon months for those two texts.
Even though the slightly veiled brusqueness and unsigned texts of “Happy Birthday” and “Happy Mother’s Day,” showing up on another mother’s phone might send them into the depths of despair and depression. But they lifted me up. They made my whole birthday. They completed my Mother’s Day. I felt near to his heart for 2 out of 365 days.
Five words over twelve months painstakingly and slowly turned into 50 words over 120 months. Ten long, mournful years.
And then in the eleventh year, no birthday text. I was devastated but convinced myself Dane simply forgot it was my birthday.
On Mother’s Day, I checked my phone every few minutes, until late into the evening, when I finally gave up. And the reality of the horribly sad situation finally sunk in. It wasn’t possible that he had forgotten about Mother’s Day. Dane’s refusal to send me a Mother’s Day text could only mean one thing: I was no longer his mother in his eyes.
As I write this, the pain sweeps through my entire body, and I find breathing difficult. My beautiful and once-loving son is gone from me.
Back to our house.
We now have four beautiful grandchildren, the oldest is seven; the youngest is one. And several times a year Dane’s siblings and their ever-growing families sleep over for a weekend of chaos, lovefesting, and bonding.
Each of the siblings’ bedrooms has a particular plus: Amy’s room has the crib, Amelia’s room houses all the games, Elsa’s room has a king-size bed and a cotton-top mattress.
And Dane’s room has the most impressive collection of classic children’s movies you can imagine. At least a hundred of new and old, which has been the delight of all of the grandkids since they were born. They all crowd around the movies in Dane’s room, and each one has a favorite.
For years now, every time the grandkids visit, they immediately invade Dane’s room to pick out movies and insisting no matter what time of day or night it is—that we watch together, and I make them popcorn.
On the family weekend sleepovers, the bedrooms are parsed out by their given names. Amy’s room goes to the daughter who needs the crib, and the two other girls fight over which will get the king-size bed. The two youngest grandkids sleep with their parents.
The two older grandkids enjoy the privilege of staying in Dane’s room by themselves, which not only houses the revered collection of movies but also has an enormous pullout couch so that they can curl up, lay back and enjoy a show before going to bed.
And that is how Dane’s room came to be deemed the grandkids’ favorite.
Sometimes after the grandkids have gone to sleep, we all hang around, drink wine and reminisce. Once in a while, one of the siblings will ask: “Why?” “What happened?” And when my tears start to flow they try to reassure me. They try to soften the blow. “He’ll be back.” “He knows we love him.”
On a recent visit, as my seven-year-old grandson helped me put sheets on the pullout couch, he couldn’t stop talking about Dane’s room. He chattered non-stop, revisiting and extolling its virtues.
“Dane’s room has the best movies ever.”
“Dane’s room has a secret door to the best bathroom.”
“Dane’s room has the best television.”
“Dane’s room has all the cool blankets.”
“Dane’s room has so many awesome trophies.”
Every sentence that my loving grandson threw out there was like a stab in my heart.
As my grandson stared at a photo of Dane as a young boy, he quietly asked, “Do you love Dane more than me? Is Dane your favorite?” The look on his innocent face just about broke me down. I tenderly explained that I could never pick a favorite.
I was weary. I’d had enough talk of Dane for one day.
“Come, we’re done here,” I murmured softly as I took his hand to leave Dane’s room.
“Can I ask you one more question?” my grandson queried, as I shut Dane’s door, hoping to also shut down my inner screaming.
“One more,” I answered him, the all too familiar pain sweeping through my body; my breathing quickening, praying that his question wouldn’t send me over the edge.