I have been dreading this day since June 21, 2015. As much as I’d like to stop time, today is the day we let our surviving son leave the house, alone, in a car. I won’t mince words. It’s terrifying. And I’m sure every one of you has thought, “how are they going to find the strength to let him get into a car after what happened to Noah?” We have been thinking about it every day since June 21, 2015. The answer is that we have no flipping idea.
We waited well past Gav’s eligibility date before we even let him get his permit. For the past six months, my mind has raced to every possible worst-case scenario (because I know the reality of what that feels like) every time he is behind the wheel. I’ve tried to hide my crazy from him, but I’m quite sure it comes through loud and clear anyway. At night, as this day drew closer, I have cried in bed with Dan, trying to work through the anxiety that plagues every fiber of my being when I think about letting him go.
I let Noah go. I took him to the DMV for his learner’s permit. I was with him at the DMV when he failed his first drive test. I was with him when he passed and got his license. I let him get in the car that morning. I watched him pull out of the driveway. I was the one who arrived at the hospital when the social worker handed me Noah’s license and asked me, “is this your son?” I still carry it in my purse. It’s been there since the day of the accident–since that man asked me to verify that it was my child that was in surgery. My child in that accident. My child who wasn’t coming home.
Only now it’s my other child. My only. other. child. I couldn’t take him to get his permit. Dan did. I scheduled his drive test at a different DMV because I knew I couldn’t set foot in the other one again. I have agonized for six months over whether I could find strength to be the one to take Gav for his test. Part of me wanted to share the special moment with him, just like I did with Noah. The other part of me questioned whether I could put aside my fear and anxiety–my crazy–so that I wouldn’t make Gav more nervous than he already was.
I took him to the appointment. Gav was just as nervous as his brother was. I put on a happy face and reassured him–just like I did with Noah. I helped him gather the necessary paperwork, quizzed him on his hand signals and car functions, and sat with him as he anxiously pulled Dan’s car around to the drive test area–just like I did with Noah. Inside, I felt like I was dying. But Gavin had earned that moment for himself. He deserved a mom who was there for him, present, and not stuck on everything that has happened leading up to that moment in the car.
The DMV employee came out, I squeezed his hand and wished him good luck, and walked away. The minute I was out of his sight, I let it in–the fear, the anxiety, the tears. And then I watched him drive away with her. There just aren’t words to describe how torn I was between wanting him to fail and wanting to celebrate this moment with my LIVING son. I called Tiff. She helped keep me off the mental ledge for 20 minutes while we waited. And when he pulled in with a thumbs up and a smile, I plastered that happy fucking grin back on my face like a good warrior mom who celebrates the living child and congratulated him, terrified inside.
Getting his license is one thing. Driving is different. Last night, we talked to Gavin. We set rules, just like we did for his brother. We explained that having his license didn’t mean we were just planning to let him run all over, that it would take time and we would start slow. He is so stinking excited. I want to be so happy for him to experience this right of passage. But I’m not. I’d drive him to every practice, every game, and to and from school every day if it meant I did not have to see him pull away and know that there is nothing I can do to stop a freak accident from tearing apart our lives all over again. Last night, I handed him the key to my car and completely broke down. He gave me a huge, Gavin hug, and promised he would be careful–that he would be okay. I’ve heard it all before. The reality is, he can’t promise that. No one can.
But this morning, I let him go. I watched him back out of the garage. I watched him pull away. And then I came inside and cried.
Noah: Please watch out for your brother, this day, and every day. Surround him with your love. Protect him from danger. Help him make good decisions. Help keep him here with us for a lifetime. Remind me, every day, that Gavin is not you. That he will be okay. That he will live a long, happy life. Help us be strong as a family. Help lift our hearts and guide us every day. ~Amen