Oldest left early this morning and flew back East. My Mom, making up for every disappointing thing she ever did to me, picked him up at the airport, took him out to dinner and then drove him back to her house where he had left his car. Then he drove the two hours back to school. I saw he was online and checked in with him. He was unsettled because for this week he is not staying in his own dorm room but in another dorm on campus with the rest of the volleyball team. Also, it was cold, he was lonely and the months between now and his return for summer seemed very long indeed. I tried to commiserate with him on all fronts and then he wrote with an almost audible sigh,
ya im gonna try to go to bed
pray for me
Pray for me? Did he actually ask me to pray for him? This was new. And it actually made me nervous. Not that I have anything against praying. It is just that, up to now, we have not actually been what anyone might call a praying sort of family.
Well, that is not entirely true. My grandmother had a trick for finding things, which I passed down to my boys, that goes like this:
Little flower, in this hour, show your power, and …
That is where you fill in what you would like to see happen. I usually end with "find me a parking space." The other day, Youngest ended with "let Best Buy have a nunchuck controller in stock." Last night, according to my inordinately pleased mother, Oldest had ended with "find my car keys" to great success.
Invoking the little flower has been about as close to praying as we have been in our family.
So there I was, staring at "pray for me" on the screen and trying to figure out exactly what that meant and how I could best respond. Some of the thoughts that went through my head:
Is he suicidal? (I always make a point of going to the worst place first.)
Could I possibly have missed something as big as, say, a religious conversion?
Did he really just write that?
We had spent a lot of time over the vacation talking about how he has a tendency to only find happiness in anticipation and not in the present. What that means, of course, is that he isn’t happy very often because, well for one thing, the future never actually arrives. We talked about how meditating might help him train himself to spend more time in the present. I knew he was discomfited and unhappy, but had I seriously misjudged his state of mind?
All this and I still had no idea what to say back. All I knew was that I wanted to tread lightly – something that is not, actually, my forte.
But then I had a fortuitous inspiration which I credit directly to the many thousands of hours and dollars I have spent on psychotherapy. Because, in a twist on the old psychiatric trick of answering every question with a question, I wrote:
What would you like me to say in my prayers?
The reply came swiftly:
that my life gets better. duh.
I can’t tell you how relieved I was by the "duh." I tossed out all the really anxiety provoking thoughts that had been coursing through my brain and, with my confidence in myself and my sense of reality restored, sent this back:
How about if I pray that you find a way to be present in your life, no matter how strange, uncomfortable, cold and lonely it may be at the moment?
And my Oldest graciously replied:
k u can pray for that
Little flower, in this hour, show your power…