My Sons for Life

There is a phrase that makes my heart ache. No, it is not “the toilet is clogged. Again.” Well, actually that one does, too.

No, I’m thinking of a different phrase. It is this: “A son is a son untill he takes a wife but when you have a daughter, you have a daughter for life.”

Who made that up? Where are you? Shame on you.

How in the world could you feel justified in making such a sweeping generalization? And not even sign your name, so I could personally berate you. Honestly. Sheesh.

But it has been said. So I can’t help but wonder if you, you inventor of mean phrases, know something that I don’t. 

I have three sons who are so similar in so many ways. And so different in others.

I have learned to smile sweetly and keep my mouth shut when I happen upon a conversations that begins with, “oh, well, that’s a boy!” and end with eye rolling and son slamming. Since having my third son, I have chosen my sexist language very carefully. And have tried very hard not to judge by gender.

One of my sons selects his clothing carefully. Doesn’t wear the same pants twice in the same week. Showers several times daily. Gets a hair cut before he needs one. Another son bathes when I beg him. Or threaten him. And even then, I must yell into the bathroom, “Wash your face, too!”

All three of them prefer really messy rooms. And put their clean clothes in the hamper. When they can find the hamper. All three have clogged the toilet. More than twice. Each feigns ignorance on the nuances of unclogging.  All three have the greatest senses of humor. Just like mine. And also like their dad’s (who I married mostly for this sense of humor).

One son tells me everything. I mean everything. Too much. Another, even when he is visibly upset, shares nothing. Once I begged him to tell me why he was sad, so terribly sad. He answered, “Mom, I don’t even talk to myself about that stuff.”

And so. I don’t know about the whole “takes a wife” thing. Maybe. I hope not. I do know one thing, though. And that is simply that we don’t know how the story ends. Until its over. We don’t get to know if the daughter really is a daughter for life or if the son ever gets a wife.

When the boys were young, but not too young, we spent a wonderful week at a friend’s house in Key West. It was not our only week at their Key West home, but it was one of the most memorable. The weather was perfect. The fish were biting. The boys were the right age to play in the pool and jump in the ocean all day long. They wanted nothing more than what existed in this back yard paradise. I think I read several books that week. Always my gauge of a perfect vacation.

Towards dusk one evening, I looked out from the back porch and saw my son sitting by himself on the dock and looking into the distance. I sidled up near him, assuming that he was admiring the beautiful sunset. “What’s going on?” I asked.

“Well,” he replied. “I think I have figured out my life.”

Ok, I thought. Here goes. Let’s hear it. Bracing myself for his story of future mother-desertion and wife-getting.

“I think I’ll work really hard in middle school. And then get really good grades in high school. I’ll go to a really great college. I’ll get a really good job. I’ll make a lot of money. Then I’ll get old and retire and come down here and fish.”

I know that I should have been proud of my son for this grand plan to become a successful old angler. But ugh. It sounded like so much work for something so simple.

I wanted to tell him that he could cut to the chase. Simply skip out while he’s ahead of the game. Before the math gets too hard and he has to read Hamlet. Just drop out in sixth grade and come on down here and fish. If that is what you want, I ached to tell him, you don’t need to do all of that middle stuff. Just fish. Key West is full of those kinds of fishermen. And they look pretty happy. Pretty content.

Instead, I said nothing. Because it’s not fair to make up someone else’s ending. Or beginning. I put my arm around my boy. And looked out at that sunset. Because it was beautiful. And we were here. And the air was still warm and the breeze was ever so gentle. And that was enough.

Maybe some day my boys will have wives. And who knows? Maybe one, maybe more than one, will be like a daughter to me. That would be nice. And I would be blessed. But, also, I already am blessed. And although I don’t know how the story ends, I have a feeling, a pretty strong feeling, that I will have these sons, these sweet sons of mine, well, you know. For life.

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