Wednesday, 3 February 2016

139. Time is elastic

My son turns 18 today.

I am now the * mother of an adult.

*The word "elderly" springs to mind here, fitting in well with the creaking bones and the grey hair. (Oops, sorry, I forgot I wasn't going to mention the hair again.)

I am not sure how it happened. One day you fiddle with socks like finger puppets and you sort out their playground troubles; the next you trip over shoes like ships and they sort out your computer problems. One day you nurse them through the misery of inocculations; the next they fetch you drinks whilst you're hooked up to the chemotherapy drip.

There must have been days in-between, but they are a bit of a blur. And it certainly cannot be true that there were over six and a half thousand days between his birth day and today, his 18th birthday.

The thing is, when you are looking ahead at an unimaginable future moment, time stretches like elastic.

The road from here to there looks like a tightrope, and off you go, looking at your feet because otherwise you'll fall off. The end of the elastic is nowhere in sight.

But when you look back, time can suddenly concertina towards you. Sometimes it still stretches and you cannot quite remember the person you once were. (The one who spent all day covered in goo, singing nursery rhymes to a fretful baby. The one who thought she was invincible, healthy and strong until the day she'd die in a bicycle crash, aged 107.)

Occasionally, it is as if someone has let go and that far-off past moment pings you in the face. But mostly, the elastic sits on the floor behind you in a messy heap. That's when you realise it wasn't half as long as you thought.

I'll keep that in mind when I look at the nine years of hormone treatment I've got left. I'll try to remember how impossible it seemed that my tiny baby would one day be a man. How long it seemed, having to go through an entire year of cancer treatments and another year (or two, or nine) of trying to wobble back to normal. Now, I look back and the time seems to have collapsed with a gentle twang.

It's both frightening and reassuring. Frightening, because I like to think that the time still ahead of me stretches on and on; but today is one of those days when it suddenly hits me how deluded that thought is.

Reassuring, because last night I sat down and looked back at those 18 years, picking up the pieces of slack time on the floor and remembering. There was something peaceful and happy about that. Something hopeful, too. Somehow I have ended up with a charming young man, despite all that wobbling on tightropes.

And if, one day in the future, there is not much going forward, then that will somehow be OK too, because I shall enjoy looking back.

Now, if you'll excuse me. There is a case of vintage wine in the cellar that has been waiting for this very day. Let me go and get the glasses ready.

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