The boy—no longer a boy but a young man, yet still her boy—sat before her, sobbing uncontrollably, trembling, his head buried in his hands. “I don’t know who I am!” he bellowed. “I don’t know what I am!”
“You’re my son. You’re bright and intelligent and creative. You’re the first in our family to attend a university.”
A tear ran down his cheek. She quickly wiped it away.
“He hates me, doesn’t he?”
“Don’t lie! He’s always hated me. I’ve never measured up to his expectations. Never! And now this! I really am a mistake. The runt!”
“Don’t say such things! It’s not true. He loves you just as he loves your brothers.”
“Really? Did he ever call them sissies? Pansies? And then when he found out what happened, what I did, he called me a coward, and then he called me the runt!”
She looked away. She didn’t know her husband had actually said such words to their son. For this, she thought, she might finally just leave the man. But now was not the time for such an act. It would destroy the boy even more.
Taking a deep breath, she leaned forward in her chair and delicately placed the tips of her fingers upon her son’s wrists, caressing the bandages, before working her way down to his fingers, grasping them. “Your father has many faults. You must forgive him.”
He lifted his head, looked into her eyes, and asked, “Do I disappoint you?”
“You realize I will never get married?”
“I’m okay with that. Really.”
He began to cry again.
She ran her fingers through his hair, just as she did when he was young. “And you’re not a coward or a runt. You’re just in pain, like the rest of us.”
words: Shane Ryan Bailey, Nebraska (more)
image: 'reticulation' - Steve Wing, Florida (about & more)
another family story: The Sea Lions (#20)