“Mrs. Spaulding, when you decided to marry Bert, were you 100% sure”?
“Course Not!!” she replied without pause, and shook her head. “Course Not Michelle, you can’t ever be 100% sure about something like that”. It was probably 1998. We were sitting on the couch in the tiny Family Room, an opened book face-down on her lap, her arms folded across her chest as she lay reclined in the seat. Entertainment Tonight was on the t.v. That’s one of the things I remember most about my husband’s mother: the way she would say “course not!”, with no “of” before it, like the urgency to dismiss something was so great, she had no time to start it with “Of”, and how adamant and sure she was when she said it.
With only a month and a half left of the school year, I was feeling the increasing pressure to make the right decision for Silas and found myself wishing for her unflappable conviction once again. She had been through this. Twice. Out of her three sons, she held back two in elementary school and everything turned out completely fine. I sometimes pictured myself sitting with her at her kitchen table at night, the overhead lamp casting a soothing light over our heads, telling her about Silas and asking her if I should keep pushing him forward, to which I always envisioned her replying, “Course Not! He needs more time Michelle”. I felt so sure that is what she would tell me and I would have that conversation with her, in my mind, often.
Despite having an inner knowing that we should hold him back, I was getting so many other, contradicting opinions and suggestions from others that I felt like I was playing a game of ping-pong, Forrest Gump style. I would switch weekly in my mind: Nope, we’re going to hold him back. Oh, no I guess so and so feels we should push him forward. Nope, holding him back, end of decision! Oh wait, but all of his friends will move up, maybe we should keep him going. At times, I felt like I was losing my mind with worry, and even lost many nights’ sleep as I lie awake in my darkened bedroom feeling as though his entire future hinged on this decision.
Easter rolled around and as the holiday drew near, I began to think more and more about Eleanor.
She died of a brain aneurysm 11 years prior. I missed her and always thought of her at every Spaulding holiday gathering, as did everyone else. Being a very religious woman, her absence was even more poignant during Easter. This year, Jon’s older brother was hosting Easter at his house and everyone was able to make it, which meant no less than 20 or so people, half of them, my boys’ cousins whom they adored. Spaulding family gatherings meant my boys would be enthralled with their older siblings the entire time and I could have wonderful, uninterrupted conversations about them.
We arrived at Jon’s brother’s house and I soon realized I had absolutely no cell service. I’d been seeing a teenager who was having a particularly rough time and told her to let me know if she needed some extra support. After walking around the house, holding my phone high up in the air to no avail. “No Service” was all it said. So, I put my phone away in my purse.
I absolutely love hanging out with Jon’s family. There are just so many of them and they are all so fun. But even this Easter, I had the nagging anxiety in the back of my head about Silas. I found myself approaching a few family members about our struggle, to which everyone agreed that giving him an extra year was a good idea. And while I appreciated and concurred with everyone’s thoughts, I still felt such a strong wish to have Eleanor there to say the same thing. I spotted Silas sitting quietly in the corner of the living room petting one of the dogs. He had the same dirty-blonde-colored hair as Eleanor had.
At the end of the day, as we said our good-byes, and once back in the car for the trek home, I told Jon all about the advice I received and how everyone was echoing my sentiments.
“Ya know, I know that everyone here is saying the same thing, and I’m so, so glad, but I just wish……I just wish your mom was here. I know she would agree with me and I know she’d be adamant that we hold him back. I just wish she was here so I could hear her say it out loud”.
Immediately after I uttered those words, we must have finally entered cell service because my phone lit up. I grabbed it from the dashboard, opened it up and saw that I had a work e-mail from a potential new client. It read:
I am looking for a therapist in your area. I had a traumatic brain injury a few years back and am looking
for someone to help me work through some of the effects from it. I can be reached at XXX-XXXX.
Anyone who knows me at all, will believe me when I say that I basically started to lose my s*it in the passenger seat of my Jeep. Jon, trying to drive through the early May mud and slush and see what I was spazzing about began asking “what?” what!?”. When I read him what it said, even my skeptical husband didn’t know what to say. He didn’t quite believe me and made me show him the e-mail.
That e-mail was all I needed to solidify my decision about Silas. I am certain Eleanor had been aware the whole time of our struggle, and my strong wish for her to be there to help us. This was her son’s son after all, and as any mother knows, nothing can stop us from getting to our babies and taking care of them when they need us.
When I responded to the e-mail the next morning that I did have openings, the person replied that she had already found someone else, but thank you. So, somehow, between Easter Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, she had made an appointment with someone else. And when I called the phone number provided, (just out of curiosity), all I got was a generic automated male voice-recording that said, “Hello. No one is available. Please leave a message”.
I will never, ever forget that moment for the rest of my life and I held onto that moment as Jon and I walked into what would be our last school meeting regarding “what to do about Silas”. We stood our ground and made the final decision to hold him back in the 2nd grade. Despite not everyone at the meeting agreeing with our decision, we were listened to and respected and given the final word.
Now it was telling Silas about our decision and how he would feel about it. We prepared ourselves to hold tight to our convictions and know that this was what was best for him, no matter how he might respond……