There are very few announcements a mother expects when her son comes to visit, along with his long-time girlfriend, and declares – as they sit beaming together, side by side on the sofa – “We have some news.”
There are some possibilities, among them:
- “We just won the lottery!”
- “We walked the last mile here! Can you help us get our car out of the ditch?”
- “We could really use a loan!”
But no. What he said was the usual thing, the thing that is so traditional yet miraculous that when he says it, everybody starts crying. What Dan said was (if I remember this correctly), “We’ve decided to get married.”
After gasping audibly, I could have responded in a number of ways, including:
- “It’s about time!”
- “You’re kidding!”
- “What? I didn’t catch that . . .”
But no. What I said was more along the lines of “OMG!” because, really, Oh. My. God. They’ve been together seven years. We love her to pieces. They make such a great couple. His stepfather and I figured it would happen eventually. We hoped so, anyway. But we didn’t want to ask, or hint around, or do anything that might make them feel at all rushed or pushed or manipulated. We wanted it to happen, but in its own good time.
I have been saying for years, decades even, that my son is a really good boyfriend. Not that I know many details, but it has always seemed that he is really smart and kind and monogamous and, you know, one of those guys who think nothing of changing your flat tire no matter how far out of town you’ve driven on a minus-20 day.
He once came home to get something for a girlfriend who was at work, and while I would love to give you more details, I don’t want to embarrass him any more than this piece is already going to. Let’s just say that he had to ask Allison and me where to find the thing his girlfriend needed, which he then he brought it to her, like it was no big deal.
What a guy. A prince among men. I mean it.
As far as I know, Dan hasn’t even had that many Major Girlfriends in his life. One cool thing is that he’s always seemed to get to know their parents well enough to stay for dinner, watch a movie, and help shovel the snow, even if he knew that once he got home he would have to shovel the snow there, too. At least one Thanksgiving, he ate the traditional dinner at our house, and at his girlfriend’s mother’s house, and at his girlfriend’s father’s house. Had his father still been alive, he would have politely done so a fourth time.
I’m not saying he’s perfect. Like many sons, he has put me through the wringer more than once. I can only hope that some of you Parents of Boys are nodding your heads here. I can also hope that your boys, like mine, somehow, at what seemed like the very last minute, the very last possible opportunity in the cliffhanger that a boy’s life so often is, got their act together and learned to fly. It was touch and go there for a while, and not just once. I hope his high school counselor is reading this, because I owe her more than I can say for hanging in there with him, in those weeks before graduation.
Then there were his teachers, especially the men who, when I would sit down to chat about Dan’s progress, would all get the same misty look in their eyes. They all said the same thing, too, after first chuckling a bit darkly. “Hoo, boy,” they would start out. “Dan reminds me a lot of me at that age.” I took this as a good thing, even if it was a bit of a cockeyed good thing. If they made it, so might he.
I tried to teach him so many things, a challenge made infinitely harder by the example of his father, whom you probably know by now was an alcoholic, chain-smoking, gun-pointing, abusive-in-every-way man. He could also be warm, and sweet, and the best hugger I ever met. By some miracle, my son inherited the good stuff, and managed to let the bad stuff roll off his back. I learned as much from him as I tried to teach him; maybe more.
One thing I learned was to give him his lead. To stop pushing so much. To (finally) not ask, for instance, “Are you ever going back to college?” When I stopped asking, he started working admittedly crappy jobs, saving his money, and then spending it on one great trip-with-friends after another (Dublin! Rome! Paris! Machu Picchu! New York!). I could think of worse things. When I stopped asking, he enrolled at NICC (an institution to which I am eternally grateful) until he’d earned all his general education credits and secured a transfer to Iowa State. Once there, he got the degree for the career he just wasn’t sure of when he was 18.
Dan didn’t tell me about NICC and the transfer to ISU until it was a done deal. He didn’t want to disappoint me again. I learned my lesson. When he and his last, best girlfriend started dating, and kept on dating, and started living together, not once did I ask for their plans. I’d learned to wait him out.
So when they made the announcement, I got to be genuinely surprised. Also happy, relieved, proud, moved. All those things you want from your kid. All those things that, if you’re a guy, are harder than you might remember. OMG.