The moment I first held Jesse in my arms, I noticed that he was perfect. I never changed my mind about that. He wasn’t perfect in the “my Jesse would do nothing wrong” kind of way. I had to pick up at the police department once because he’d been picked up for shoplifting something he didn’t need and had the means to pay for the item on him. He had his flaws, but and no mom could have ever asked for a better son than Jesse was to me. I doted on him, sometimes to the degree that it embarrassed him. When I’d praise him, he’d roll his eyes and say something like, “Well, at least my mom thinks I’m great.” I never apologized for doting on him. I always told him that children didn’t their parents to be objective, and about Jesse I never was. Still, he fit with me perfectly and became integrated with every aspect of my life. I teach freshman writing and literature at Auburn University, and when I taught, he was everywhere. When I didn’t a writing example, I’d say something about him. We talked all the time about what I was teaching, and he even recommended one of the books I taught in American Literature. When I wrote, he was there to, as my biggest plan.
I took the semester after he died off, and started back teaching in Fall of 2021. It was then I discovered how much he was a part of everything I did. I wrote the following poem to express what I felt. I’m a writer of fiction, but I’ve written few poems, and none that I’d consider good, so take the following as an offering of my heart, not necessarily a literary masterpiece.
October 12, 2020, I died.
A hand reached inside and tore out my heart,
Tore out my soul,
Leaving a raw, bloody, festering nothingness behind.
Yet still I breathe.
Now land mines lurk in every thing I teach.
When the smallest scab begins to form, one explodes.
How could I know they’d be dangerous?
Sentimentality seemed their own flaw.
An apostrophe lesson shattered me last month.
I love my son’s cat.
I love my sons’ cat.
For one son, for Jesse, the apostrophe before the s.
After the s for the two other sons I never bore.
But where does it go now that I have no sons?
Help me breathe.
“The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” lay in wait in my literature class.
A mother, as she dies, reaches longingly for her child
Only to find her daughter isn’t waiting in heaven.
There is god, no afterlife.
Oh, no, there’s nothing more cruel than this.
I’ll never forgive it.
Like Granny Weatherall, I didn’t see the danger until too late.
Twenty-seven sets of eyes watched that one kill me.
When the mines explode, I cannot breathe.
The worst mine yet crouched in a lesson on song lyrics.
An ellipsis is used to indicate a skipped line:
“Like Rod Stewart, I know that someday my son will leave home,
but my love for him will not end then:
‘And when you finally fly away
I’ll be hoping that I served you well. . . .
Whatever road you choose, I’m right behind you win or lose.’”
But the road he chose brought him between an abuser and his victim.
How can I be behind him in a choice that took his life?
How can I breathe without him?
Jesse also lives in everything I ever wrote.
My queen holding her newborn child.
“Brianna, I’m your momma. Your momma loves you.”
But to call what she felt “love” was wholly inadequate.
She’d felt love before but this intense desire to hold, nurture, and protect?
This she couldn’t even name.
Those words differed from my own only in the child’s name.
When I read them now, I can’t breathe.
Jesse shared my love of stories.
“Mom, read to me.” |
How could I say no when my pleasure equaled his?
We started Harry Potter when he was four.
Harry Dresden took Potter’s place ten years later.
I dreaded the day that he’d stop asking.
But that day never came.
Months before his death we read Peace Talks together.
And saw Dresden again facing the destruction of his world.
That novel ended in the middle of the story.
But how can I read Battle Ground without Jesse?
I won’t be able to breathe.
If I root these land mines out, how many others lie in wait?
He was my heart, my soul, made from me, a part of me.
If I take out all the mines, will there be anything left?
Will I then be able to breathe?
No mother ever, ever should have to face this unbelievable, unending grief. I can’t even imagine the emptiness where your heart is but I can almost see your struggle to breathe. I have no words that can lessen your grief but I hope that your own words give you the strength eventually to breathe.
Condolences from the father from across the world with a son about Jesse’s age.
Thank you. Losing Jesse nearly destroyed me. But it has shown me how many kind people the world holds.