James is a strapping 12-year old, rapidly approaching 13 – with the body of a jock. He is fearless in rugby; a natural daredevil on the surf or up a mountain. His favourite pastime with his mates appears to be wrestling. But, oh, oh, that boy has the soul of an artist. He feels. He hurts. So so deeply. His hide might be tough but his skin is paper-thin.We went through babysitters like water when he was small. One night we actually got to go out without being called back after half an hour. We returned to our isolated farm, punching the air. ‘We’ve cracked it at last,’ said Adrian. Except. Hmm. There were four cars in the driveway.
‘She’s had a flipping party,’ said Adrian.
‘She didn’t look the type,’ I said, worry creeping in.
Sure enough, the poor girl was frantic. James had cried non-stop – for five hours. She hadn’t wanted to disturb us so had called her mother…..who’d tried, failed, and called her mother….who’d tried, failed and called her mate, the baby whisperer….who couldn’t believe any baby could be so dogged, so determined.
I took him in my arms and felt his little body, rigid with tension and exhaustion, relax. The crying stopped. The party broke up. And so it went on. Year after year. But not now, surely?The trip was so full-on, I barely had time to think or sleep, let alone keep in touch – two hours’ time difference didn’t help either – it was always too early or too late. So we didn’t talk much. James sent me links to YouTube of songs he thought I’d like (and I did - my boy is getting good taste). I mailed back. We Skyped a bit but it was kinda unsatisfactory – crap sound, time-lapse images and – is it just me or does everyone look like the Living Dead of Manchester Morgue on Skype? Tell me people don’t seriously have Skype sex? It’s just plain wrong - for aesthetic reasons alone.
Sorry, slight digression there. Anyway. I got back and Adrian came to pick me up from the station – with James. On a school day? What? He was home sick? On the last week of term, missing the swimming gala, missing Sports Day?‘His stomach hurts,’ said Adrian with a shrug.
Ah. Those mysterious stomach ailments. His appetite was fine – put it this way, he made serious inroads into the small mountain of snacks and sweets I had brought back. Was it psychological? Stomachs often hint at other problems – but he swears blind there is nothing bothering him, nothing worrying him at school. And I’m loathe to dismiss it because last time we accused him of malingering, it turned out to be Lyme Disease.
But then, this morning, he just held onto me like he never wanted to let me go; like I was a glass of water in a desert.
‘Oh Mum. I missed you so so so much.’Can you be sick with missing, I wonder? Was the cure a day or two of full-on hugs and kisses? I dunno. I’ll take him to the doctor to check it out but, you know, I think my boy is just plain exhausted.
I figure he just needs some time and rest and a big big dose of love.
This is one of the songs he sent me... :)