September 11, 2021
When I arrived back in the US (June 13) for the summer, I didn't know what to expect.
- Henry wanted to spend as much time at the lake with me, but he has said that before and ended up wanting to be back in KC.
- I love summer as my favorite season in KC, but it is hard stepping into this season without Jen. We loved it together, and last summer was excruciating without her. I even tried to postpone summer last year, but alas time marches on.
- The lake has been a special place for me since 1979, but like everything else in life, it feels so empty without Jen.
With so much emotion swirling inside, I committed myself to a summer at the lake and for Henry to be the top priority. Here are some defining memories from those 7 weeks.
Henry never left the lake for even one night. If I hadn't witnessed it, I wouldn't have believed it. He must have found some comfort and/or peace. We drove three hours from KC to the lake on June 20 (Fathers Day), prepared to spend three weeks in the cabin. He has never spent more than a week straight here. And he never flinched. He settled in and found a summer home. He went back to KC August 5 to start 9th grade.
I bought Henry a used wave runner. He started asking two years ago, and I kept telling him no. I don't enjoy them and didn't want the hassle of taking care of it. But after everything he has been through this past year, I decided it was time to do something special for him. I found a used model on Facebook Marketplace for $4,000 and pulled the trigger on June 26. He showed his maturity by taking responsibility for it, and would ride it most days.
Henry worked his first "job". Ok, this didn't work out quite as we hoped, but it was a start. He got to work the July 4th holiday weekend at the Dogwood Acres gas dock. He rode his wave runner there each day and earned over $200. Not a bad start to his working life. We hoped he would get to work all summer, but that wasn't meant to be. At least he got this experience, and he wants to find a part-time job back in KC this school year.
Henry started driving. He got his learners permit in June, and felt uneasy about driving. He resisted driving all summer, but by the end, I finally forced the issue. I made him drive to the grocery store, which is about 10 minutes away. The first time he pushed back hard. The second time he gave in quickly. The third time he accepted it. And when we drove home to KC, he drove for 1.5 hours straight!
Henry and I ate dinner together most nights in the cabin, watching something from the Star Wars saga. The routine included popcorn and milkshakes. It was a thread that stitched together the summer. And while he initially fought doing the dishes, by the end of the summer he was doing them without being asked. And sometimes we would go out for an evening boat ride.
I realized Henry isn't anti-social as much as he is simply turned off by his fellow teenagers. Henry has maturity and complexity that few teenagers have. They are boring and even disgusting to him. So he keeps to himself. I can appreciate this because in my own way I do the same thing. I believe in time Henry will meet people he likes hanging out with and will develop the social skills to support healthy relationships.
Henry finally beat me in a game of ping pong. He has been playing with me at the lake for ten years, and he is really good. But I'm super good and I don't let him win. He would have to earn it. I noticed by the end of the summer that Henry had a tenacity for playing every night, which is unusual for him to not get bored with something repetitive. And then I realized he wanted to beat me before the summer was over. He had gotten close, even getting to serve for game-point before I came back and won. So he was determined to keep playing until he won at least one game. He will go on to win lots of games in the future.
At the end of the seven weeks, I was surprised by how much emotion I felt inside with him transitioning back to KC. I sat in it and pushed beyond the obvious surface-level observations of summer's ending, pending loneliness, and missing my son.
It became apparent these emotions were way deeper. They reconnected me to the trauma of losing almost everything last year...my best friend, my home, my family. My life instantly combusted on March 28, 2020. I've been untethered ever since. And for seven weeks, Henry and I found a resting place in the pain of it all.