The Heartbeat of 30 Years
Updated: Jan 25, 2020
My oldest child, Jake, will be 30 next month.
How is that possible when I still feel 30? Where have the years gone? My elders tried to warn me that the years would fly by, but I didn't listen. I was too consumed with the day-to-day struggle of just getting by. That man I held as a newborn has now held two newborns of his own. When I look at him, I see him clearly - 6"2, 240 pounds, green eyes, lots of tattoos. My heart, however, continues to see him in all his stages, from birth to present day.
He is the small, wiry newborn that looked like a cross between a newly plucked chicken and an angry old man. I still remember the weight of him on my legs, as I propped him up so we could examine each other more closely. Even as a baby, he had laser-like focus and his face seemed to say "I don't know about you, either, lady!" I can still see him as a toddler, carefully putting together the vacuum cleaner attachments so he could "shoot" me with them. "Hands up!" he would shout, never really understanding the point of surrender. Once my hands were up, he shot me anyway, while howling with laughter. I can hear his voice at five, saying his bedtime prayers. He used that time as confession, admitting to things I didn't even know he had done. Then he would slowly open one eye, gauging my reaction. He knew he had me on a technicality since a) he was talking to Jesus and b) he had already asked for forgiveness. He was always such a smart kid!
I remember a day at the lake when he was about ten. As I was putting sunscreen on his back, I suddenly realized I needed two hands to do it. His shoulders were so broad, one hand would no longer suffice. That memory still brings tears to my eyes. When he was 15, I taught him how to drive a stick shift. We would go to the school to practice and he would bunny-hop that Toyota across the lot, both of us laughing hysterically. His little brother once asked "Did we come off the ground that time?" while he held on for dear life! I can still feel the dust on my face when he drove down our long driveway alone, independent at last. I stood there for a good 15 minutes, praying and crying, as only a Mother can.
When he was 19, I took him to the airport as he prepared to move cross-country. Things were tense between us then and in my mind's eye, I can still recall every detail of the moment he walked away; blue jeans, black leather jacket and his guitar slung across his back. I wouldn't see him again for 2 1/2 years. Those years were, by far, the hardest years of my life. When he finally came back to me, he had just come home from Iraq. There really aren't words to describe what it feels like when your child is a soldier and you know they have experienced things that have changed them forever. When he stepped through the gate, a man had replaced the boy I knew. I will never forget looking up into his eyes, so happy to have him home, yet so sad, because war had swept away every last trace of his youth.War does that.
I can still smell the fragrant oil in his beard the day he got married. He was overcome with tears as his bride came down the aisle and I thought my heart might literally explode. I have seen him cradle his newborn children, his massive hands wrapping around their tiny bodies, the look of love on his face so profound, I could hardly breathe. These moments in time are forever imprinted on my soul and I am so thankful for each and every memory.
He is a good man. A strong man. A loving husband and father. Nevertheless, he is not only as he is today. For me, he will always be a combination of every stage of his life. It doesn't matter that he towers over me, has a mortgage to pay and a family to raise. He is my child and he is woven into the very fabric of my being. What will the next 30 years bring? Will I get to see them all? I don't know. It seems like such a long time, but as we get ready to celebrate his birthday, I can promise you ~
30 years is a heartbeat.