“The beginning of the end,” a friend of Davis’ tweeted that morning, the first day of his final high school year. Davis then repeated the phrase to me.
I said, “No, its the end of the beginning.” The writer in me couldn’t resist rephrasing the tweet. “Or what about one of those (University of ) Oregon slogans?”
He replied through a mouthful full of waffles, “What, like Win the Day, or Earn Your Wings?”
“Yeah, earn your wings.”
I was making a feeble attempt at being prolific, for the benefit of a young male high school senior at 6:30 a.m.
“Yeah, I like that,” he responded.
“No, I meant, like earn your wings for that Europe trip next summer.”
We both fell into laughter. I hugged him while he kept warning me, “Oh God, you’re not gonna cry…”
“No, I’ll leave before you, so you won’t see me.” I picked up my laptop, a bag with my packed breakfast and walked out the door.
For almost seventeen years, I had an easier time leaving Davis, than watching him stroll out the door and leave me.
I was soon at the hospital, entering my mother’s hospital room where she had been for several days, fighting off an infection. The damn bastards were under control, but the strength of her eighty-six year old body was waning. Her appetite would take time, as long as a four course meal in Italy, to return.
When I walked in, I had hit the tray table, mumbled “ouch” and woke Mom up. Her eyes lit up. She called me “Ette”, my father’s nickname, but really just a name interchangeable and representative of someone she had been connected to for forty plus years.
Most days, I was first to say, “I love you.”
But she beat me to it. “Love you honey,” she whispered, and grabbed my hand with a death grip of a pro wrestler.
She quickly returned to sleep, and I sat on the oh-so-uncomfortable pink vinyl hospital chair, caught my breath from the morning, while a tears of gratitude rolled down my cheeks.
For the mother who still laughed with me, as we watched old Sinatra performances on Youtube. A technological gift from heaven.
For the son, who still laughed with me, who, as a four-year-old, a week after his dad past away, went off to preschool, left me to my own devices for three and half hours, and returned home to provide me with hours of entertainment and consolation.
The start of school always brought about a revisiting of that grief. In warm weather, I could cast off the grief, aloneness, and the sadness, to the summer breeze and chlorine pools. But as autumn progressed, marched into our lives on the heels of a cool morning, I retreated to a place of comfort.
My son will never understand what he meant to me those years. He’ll never comprehend the long look back over thirteen years of school days.
How every Fall represented a beginning, but it was unlike Spring and the cheeriness which accompanied that season. Fall was a season of overcoming the sadness, and moving with the shifting of the leaves, birthing something new, watching it earn its wings.
However, I decided when he returned home that day, I would offer up a new motto. Mens agitat molem. Mind moves the mass.
It’s the motto for the University of Oregon, a motto that had nothing to do with Ducks football, and yet, everything to do with life. Davis was always the one to move me, when I couldn’t.