The sound of his truck coming up the driveway woke me, and then his dog was in my room, all whipping tail and twirling with muscular excitement. I’d left the door to the front garden open and had fallen asleep reading.
My son was in a dark mood and unusually humorless. The hood of his truck was open, the battery wasn’t holding a charge, the alternator perhaps, he was meant to meet friends in Oregon and go backpacking. He usually lets me know when he is going to stop by and I was surprised he was taking time off work, having only started his job two months prior.
There was more to this story. I asked about the house I’d recently leased for him and his brother, who was in summer school. I asked about work, and the progress I hoped he’d made with registering for classes at the community college. He said he was on a wait list for the intro welding class. This was the condition for which I would pay for his rent, if he were in school full time. He’d given his brother his word that he was committed.
The next morning over coffee I pulled the more truthful threads out of him: He’d quit his job. He hated Santa Cruz. Boring, doesn’t make enough money at the berry farm to fix what needs fixing on his truck, commuting is ruining his truck, needs to fix the headlight and the suspension. After he left I found a discarded pot dispensary receipt for two quarter ounces equaling $100 on the floor with a cliff bar wrapper. The college campus felt like an institution, he didn’t like being there. He wants to be in nature. He’s going back to Humbolt to work on another farm with a friend.
I learn in this same conversation that his brother got 100% on his midterms. I should have been leaning into this great news, celebrating the focus and dedication of his accomplishments and not dwelling on my disappointment and concern for his older brother. But I am so very disappointed; I could barely sleep the night before and I remembered him at preschool drop off, hurling himself against the closed door, screaming for me. I sat on a bench outside the classroom and cried. A year later his younger brother barely looked over his shoulder when I left, totally engrossed in the Brio track he was assembling. They could not be more different.
I always feel an empty hole in my chest when I think of my son, an equal mixture of love and concern. I asked him if he wanted to see a therapist, as he seemed so depressed. He scoffed, mocking me, insulted. I reprimanded him for being rude. I want to help, but he wanted only for this conversation to end and his truck to start. He hugged me and he left.