Last evening was Garth’s wrestling banquet-senior recognition. As he and I have but one vehicle which doesn’t have hand controls and his high school is about 30 miles from our home, I don’t always get to attend such events. In fact, I missed almost all of his wrestling matches. Last evening though, he was able to speed home and pick me up for the event. How eternally grateful I am for not missing it.
The dinner, intended only for the boys, began at 6:30. The parents were invited to the recognition which began at 7:30. I anticipated sitting in the truck for the hour he was having dinner with his coaches and wrestling team. To my surprise, shortly after going into the auditorium, he came out, grabbed my wheelchair from the back of the pickup and invited me in to have dinner. He prepared a plate of spaghetti, salad, and bread for me; how very tender and sweet. “Where are we sitting?” I asked.
There were a few parents in early attendance; and as much as I wanted to sit with my son, I totally understood when he said, “I’m right over there,” pointing to a table next to the table he was setting my plate on. I was placed at a grownups table with two other parents. Sitting there, I watched my son interact with the other boys, his coaches, I took it all in. I wished his dad was there with us, sitting next to me, although I knew he was in spirit, I wanted him there in body.
I don’t believe Garth would have participated in this or any of the numerous events he has, had he and I not moved from the big city to this smaller community his junior year. The move was an arduous and painful one for him, however, he was man enough to open himself up to the adventure, the change, and along the way he grew; finding this new and often strange place had a fit for him or maybe it was he who had a fit for this new, strange place. Watching him this evening I recalled the day we took the miserable drive from the place he never wanted to leave to here, his new home.
Over the sounds of rambunctiousness high school boys I could hear my son’s infectious laugh. The sound filled me with gladness but, between another bite of spaghetti and pleasant chit chat with the other two parents at the grownups table, my mind tossed out a few memories of my boy.
One evening shortly after I had gotten home from the hospital, I heard not his distinct laugh but uncontrollable sobbing. I wheeled around following the heartbreaking sound and found him sitting at the bottom of the stairs. His little 4 year old body up against the wall, small enough to fit under the handrails, his knees pulled up and his head buried in his hands crying his tiny heart out. “Oh baby, what’s wrong?” I asked.
“Momma, I gotta know when you’re gonna die.” He managed to say between his broken up breath and tears. “Can’t you just carry me up the stairs again?”
I transferred from my wheelchair onto the first step of 14 on the stairs. There were 7steps, a landing, and 7 more steps to the top. I picked his little self up, placed him on my lap and said, “Hold on tight.” It must have taken an hour, but with him on my lap, I pulled us up one step at a time, most thankful for the rest at the landing. Finally, at the top of the stairs, out of breath, I said, “Honey, I don’t know when I’m going to die, but I don’t think it’s any time soon and look I carried you up the stairs.” Then we played.
Again, between another bite of spaghetti a bit of salad, some conversation, there was another memory. This memory was an afternoon, just over 5 years ago, when he was in middle school.
Most of our family had already gathered in the hospital waiting room outside of ICU. The elevators opened revealing my brother-in-law, my young niece, and my two youngest sons. It was my youngest of the two boys whose face I saw. He was bouncy, exuberant, and I knew what he was thinking, “Yes! After 3 long months my dad’s coming home!” Then our eyes met and Garth knew. His emotions shifted immediately; yes, he knew; Dad was going home, but not to ours.
One of the coaches whistled, the rowdy crowd settled right down and I was pulled back to the now. The coach did the usually acknowledgements and thanked all who helped throughout the wrestling season. Once all the typical formalities and comments were made and the applause for their outstanding year dimmed, the coaches began to recognize the senior boys. After about the first two recognitions, the coach said something like this, “I wish we could have had this boy for 3 more years. He worked his heart out. He wrestled hard. We put him up against some touch, guys; guys I think some would have walked away from; but not him, he never walked away. He gave his all, all season and continues to give. He never gave up…”
Yes, he faced some tough matches and he undoubtedly will face more. No, he didn’t give up, he didn’t give in, he didn’t walk away and undoubtedly, he won’t. I am so very proud of you Garth, thank you son!