Evan used to be terrified of those small fork lifts that emptied trash cans into dumpsters at the city park. Thoroughly engaged in play with his friends, at the sight of a fork life he’d come crying and wait safely in my arms until the machine went far away. If I were a Mama bear, I may have advised the driver to be aware of small children at play, or timed our visits to the park to avoid the fork lifts, but I’m not a Mama Bear.
As a five year old he was both fascinated by and scared of big dogs. He overcame his fear by going up to strangers and saying “Sir, sir, sir . . . and when the pet owner finally acknowledged him, he’d ask, “May I pet your dog?” If I were a Mama Bear, I might have insisted the person acknowledge my son sooner, instead of passively waiting to see what would happen. But, I’m not a Mama Bear.
When he was eight or nine, while celebrating a holiday in Guatemala with fireworks, one exploded just before he threw it. His fear was much worse than the burn. He ran to me in the house, fist clenched, crying loudly, sheer terror on his face. I can still hear his inconsolable howls echoing in the stairwell. He wasn’t badly injured, but it took several minutes before he ‘d open his hand so I could see the damage. When he was finally calm enough to look at the charred skin, he laughed and ran outside to light more fireworks. If I were a Mama Bear, I definitely would have interfered with the lighting of fireworks in spite of impassioned arguments from his dad. But I’m not a Mama Bear.
I’m not sure exactly when Evan stopped running to me to calm his fears. I wasn’t there for many of them. Some he tearfully or angrily told me about years later. Others, I am certain, he never shared.
It’s easy to blame myself, my “everything will be all right” attitude for not protecting him better. Maybe . . . I think, maybe if I were different he wouldn’t have been such a risk taker, maybe he wouldn’t have joined the army and suffered PTSD, maybe he would have graduated from college, got a job and lived a safe life.
If I were a Mama Bear, maybe he would still be alive.
When I write them out, I see how ridiculous such thoughts are. The truth is, Evan would have been miserable playing it safe. Maybe even more miserable than I can imagine. More truth, my love for him is real and it will live forever.
Mighty waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.Song of Solomon 8:7
Neither Evan’s river accident nor the waves of grief that followed can diminish our love. I guess it’s okay that I’m not a Mama Bear.