By Luz Nereida Horta
I sit at the counter stool in my kitchen where I can look into the dining room and see my son conversing and laughing with his friends. I pretend that I can’t hear what is being said but I am taking in every word he is saying. I need to cherish every last word he says for soon he will no longer be my son. He is sharing childhood stories, telling his friends of things he has done to his siblings. He tells the story of how he once put a blue capsule in the shower head so that when his brother showered he would turn blue. Now I realize why my bathtub has blue stains that I can’t remove, still I laugh and cry silently – how can they take him away?
I stare at the clock, six more hours and my son will be no more. How I wish I could stop time. Where is my husband, why isn’t he near me to comfort me? I find him outside standing, staring out into the yard; his eyes are as red as mine. He says, “I could have been a better father,” and I say, “I could have been a better mother, but would it have changed anything?” We hug each other and I walk back to my place at the kitchen. Five hours remaining. If only I could stop time. He is much too young, why does he have to leave now, why are they taking him away?
My thoughts are interrupted as a wave of laughter comes from the dining room. My son is telling yet another story. He is recalling how he had cut out small footprints that led into the hallway closet. He told my youngest son that they were the footprints of a leprechaun or monster that hid in our closet. Now I realize why his younger brother is afraid to go upstairs alone or why he dashes quickly past the closet doors.
Well, I must confess that I don’t think this disclosure is funny, considering that I had spent time and money taking my youngest son to a therapist because of these phobias he developed. We couldn’t understand his apprehensions, until now. But I can’t get upset at a time like this, there are only four hours left and we will never see our son again.
Such little time left and he is choosing to spend it with his friends. I think he is trying to cope with the situation the best he can. I can no longer cry quietly, I go into the bathroom where I start to wail, softening my sorrowful cry by placing a bathroom towel over my mouth. Suddenly, my state of mind shifts and I quickly pull the towel away from my face and stare into it. Just learning that my son is a prankster I wonder if he had done anything with towels, too. I find myself laughing and crying at the same time.
Two hours remaining, I don’t know if I can make it. It is late and some of my son’s friends have fallen asleep on the couch, on the floor, wherever they could find a spot. My husband has joined me at the kitchen and we sit in silence. I start reminiscing about the first time we brought our son into our home and the mistakes we made as first time parents. Why is it that we prefer to place guilt on ourselves at a time like this? Nothing we could have done would have changed the fact that they are taking away my son. Truth is we did the very best we could and we did raise a good son.
One hour remaining and I don’t know if I can keep it together. Darkness only makes my sorrow deepen. I cannot believe my son is still reminiscing with the few friends that are awake. He should spend his last hour with us, his mom and dad, doesn’t he realize that we are falling apart, that our pain is so deep and rooted that it will change who we are forever? What I mean is, he doesn’t understand the ramifications of what is about to happen. He really is too young to be taken away. He is still a little boy at heart.
I can hear the minutes ticking away and silence is beginning to fill the air, no more laughter and no more talking. My son’s last moments and he walks into the kitchen. “Mom and Dad, I love you so very much and I am sorry that I have to go, you didn’t do anything wrong. You have given me a good life and I will never forget.” Forgetting his strength and size, an issue that has plagued him since he was born, he hugs me until I feel I have been deflated. He doesn’t want to let me go and I don’t want him to.
We sit in silence awaiting the foreseeable and then I hear the sounds of wheels as a car enters our gravel driveway. For sure my beating heart will wake the neighbors! Can I keep my heart in place, how can I stop this from happening? “Oh, God, please help!” The sounds of feet on my wooden porch get louder and louder as do my prayers. “Mom, its time, Mom, sorry for the things I did when I was younger, I love you.” The dreaded knock on the door and I can see the silhouette of this person who has come to take my son away. I should hate him but he is only doing his job.
My son’s sleeping friends leap up from their sleeping positions, boys and girls alike are now teary-eyed as they give their last goodbye to the person they knew.
I can’t open the door, that job is left to my husband. Standing at attention is a tall lean Marine; my son takes his position, and salutes the Marine, who yells, “Are you ready to be a Marine? “Sir, Yes Sir,” responds my son proudly.
I watch as my son walks away, his heavy footsteps making the old porch creak. He walks side-by-side, next to the Marine taking my son away. While I feel a moment of pride, the feeling is quickly overshadowed. I can’t stop thinking that my son is leaving, never to return as we had known him. As if reading my mind, the young Marine turns around and with conviction in his spoken words says to me, “Madam I am here to claim recruit George William Horta III – your son leaves today a boy but will return to you – a MAN.”
Luz Nereida Horta is employed as the Executive Director of a Child Care Center in Hightstown, NJ. Originally from the Bronx, NY, she has lived in the Hightstown/East Windsor Area for over 40 years. Married 43 years, she and her husband are the parents of five adult children and ten grandchildren.