My son turned 18 today. Tomorrow he returns to his university, where he's majoring in Astrophysics. He was home for the holidays, and tonight we are watching vintage 4th Doctor Tom Baker Doctor Who episodes. I wrote a little story about him last October, and I want to share it, because time passes so quickly, because my son is a Time Traveler, and I am stuck in linear living, because I knitted a long colorful scarf when I was his age, when Tom Baker ruled the TARDIS.
He's So Who
Life is tough, is dangerous. You can step off of an eroding Anasazi cliff and end it in the arms of the ancients. You can ride a rodeo steer, lose your grip. I've thought about it. But I don't take deliberate drastic measure. I keep putting one foot in front of another, size 8 footsteps in wind-sifted dust. New Mexico doesn't love me as much as I love her. And Life itself, well, She - capital S of course - doesn't hear me. I keep yelling prayer toward the very center of the earth. I yell it into the ground, sometimes into the sky. I never get an answer
My son, 15, wonders why I'm so strange, why I stand outside some mornings, my back to the west, hands extended toward something I can't see, can't ever know. He sees the world through pixel and Skype. His friends look like every kid on prime time television. They wear jeans just baggy enough to skirt the edge of decency. They drink vats of Mountain Dew. They live through screen and cam. I can understand this; I wish I grew up in a time when you could send your digital soul across slow Kansas mile, when you could encode your thought into emoticon and brush it upon some unsuspecting boy's heart. These days aren't mine. I belong to the old world. I belong to twisted corded phone lines, to Jordache jeans. I belong to feathered hair and mix cassette tapes. This day ain't my day, and I'm having difficulty transversing it. I'm having trouble in general. My older son, 17, left for college a couple of months ago and life just ain't the same.
This morning, on my way to class, I stopped at the local Co-op. I've been a member for a couple of years, ever since I moved to this neighborhood. I buy organic tomatoes, locally sourced milk and eggs, olive oil soap, cilantro, apples. I walked through the automatic doors, saw the produce section. I lost it. He would have wanted lemons, red peppers, the most bitter green apples they have.
For so many years, my son, 17, has been my constant companion. He was born old, was born 10 pounds 2 ounces, was born 24 inches, was a pharaoh that late winter afternoon. He surprised everyone at the birth - midwife, doula, nurse. He almost didn't make it into the world; his heartbeat kept dropping, necessitating an emergency swirl to the nearest hospital. I remember asking my midwife if he would be okay.
"I don't know."
I approve of honesty, but this time I didn't accept it. I told that kid, told that traveling stuck big baby to suck it up, to make it through the birth canal, to see the fading light of day. It was 6 pm in Atlanta, it was a time and place of soft light and delicate manners. I told him to make it through the kudzu, to enter this world of freestone peaches and collard greens. I remember using my mind to dive into my belly, my own uterine lining. I remember melding my mind with his. I remember this. I never did this, before or since. I have multiple children, can recite birthday and hair color and weight and current likes. But this kid, it was different from the beginning. I told him to Live. I told him. And he lived. I could feel him responding to me, could feel him letting me guide him through my scared, scarred body. It was a miracle, his birth. It was. I made him happen. And now, he Is.
I cry as I write this. I have just experienced my college midterms. My son just finished his, too. He is taking a third year calculus class that would require so many years of remedial and advanced study that I find it difficult to imagine. He's taking a physics class that must discuss things like wave packets and quantum leaps. At 17, he had 66 college credits prior to this semester. I have none. I'm so old, that my 1983 studies don't count. Whatever I did before I got pregnant for the first time, whatever I tried to accomplish, it no longer exists. My time is dead, is current, is ticking in the 2012 bursar's office.
When we arrived at his college, no less than four students yell, "Doctor Who!" Of course they do. My son is tall, thin, smart. He wears Converse sneakers and a long overcoat like David Tennant - the doctor prior to Matt Smith. His face is chiseled, angular like mine, with my high cheekbones and solid nose. I drop him off at his dorm, and no less than four people look at him and remark, "The Doctor in IN!"
When you live with a Time Traveler, you live with the certainty that life will be okay. I learned through my son that I could redo moments, could travel backward and forward in time until I got things right. Mess up a recipe? No problem! Go back in time, do it again! He lives in the time between lives, in the space between planets and sun, and when life gets complicated and terrifying and full of unpaid bill and dust bunny takeover, he taught me to laugh and relax and know that the next moment brings miracle and light. Just like his birth. Just like the sunrise, the sunset, every breath you take when you see danger recede into unexpected distance.
We're both studying Astronomy. Of course, mine is the calculation of basic orbit and doppler shift, and 17's calculating the very God particle, I bet. Phone calls came twice a day at the beginning, then once a day, then every other day, then once a week, perhaps. Today I'm wishing the cell would jar me from this weepy reflection, but I know it won't. But like I said, the guy's a Time Traveler, and when that call comes, when the Doctor spins TARDIS into view, I will jump inside, say "Take me somewhere - anywhere!" Our conversation will explore the stars. It will.
He's so damn Who.