Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash
A stiff breeze blew a strand of hair across my cheek. I tried to ignore it and recapture the calm I’d been feeling by burrowing deeper into the warm sand. It had been a near-perfect morning spent with my teen-age son. These moments of synchronicity between a boy journeying from childhood to manhood and his mother dipping her toes into the water of middle-age were rare. But today our paths had crossed and fused in a few, sun-kissed hours at the beach.
After a picnic lunch, he’d hauled his wind surfer from the roof of the car and hit the lake. I’d hit the beach blanket with a good book. Within minutes, with the sun high in a clear, blue sky, my eyes began to close. I’m not sure how much time had passed when I awoke to the wind whipping sand around, wreaking havoc with beach umbrellas and sending beach goers scurrying to gather their belongings and run to their cars.
I scanned the lake, looking for Robbie. The gentle waves lapping shore a few hours ago were now choppy, foaming waves bullying their way to land. A few surfers were struggling to make it to shore, but I couldn’t see Robbie’s familiar orange and black sail anywhere.
The wind kicked it up another notch and, on cue, rain began to fall in hard, diagonal sheets. One last surfer dragged his board up onto the sand and I rushed to his side. My hair now stuck to my skull and my cotton T-shirt and Bermuda shorts were plastered to my skin by the rain. “Did you see another surfer out there?” I asked. “His sail is orange and black. He’s my son and he’s only 16,” the words tumbled out of my mouth. The man shook his head and said kindly but unconvincingly, “No, but I’m sure he’s fine.”
Lightening suddenly sliced the sky followed by a loud clap of thunder. I pictured my son clinging to the metal mast in the middle of the year’s worst thunder storm and I lost all semblance of control. Panic took a firm grip of me and squeezed hard. I dropped to my knees, sobbing and imagining the worst. I tried to organize my thoughts and figure out what to do next, but couldn’t get a hold of myself. When my kids were little, I’d always feared losing them in a shopping centre or other public area. I thought those fears were behind me now. Tears turned to an anxiety-fueled laugh as the irony of the word “lose” struck me. I’d been using it in the sense of “misplaced” but I now realized that today it could mean something much worse.
Then, over the sound of the wind and waves, I heard someone shout “Mom!” I turned to see Robbie pounding across the wet sand. I rose and ran to him, grabbed him and hugged him hard to me. “Are you OK?” I asked. “Yeah, I’m fine but I had to leave the board under a clump of trees farther down the beach. Do you think we could go back for it?”
Almost as suddenly as it had come up, the storm abated and calm was restored. We walked toward the car and I kept my arm around Robbie’s shoulder. I needed to keep a physical connection between us. I had to be sure he wasn’t a mirage conjured up by my mind. I couldn’t help but notice that he let my arm rest around him. Usually, he would have been uncomfortable with any display of affection and shrugged away from my touch. I didn’t want to break the magic of the moment by pointing this out, but I like to think in some ways he still needed his mother as much as she needed him in her life.