by Beth Saadati
My nine-year-old son slides his hand into mine as we wander the aisles in search of a gift for his sister. He desires closeness. He wants connection.
I cherish the moment. After all, I know what he doesn’t—that the days before he’s no longer a young boy are numbered. That time speeds by and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.
That’s why we’re here. Because, after nearly three years without a teenager in the house, we’re about to have one. In a few days Christa will turn thirteen.
“Do you know what you want to get your sister?” I ask. Reaching over, I brush his hair to the side so I can see his eyes.
“A sword. I already told her.”
“Yep,” he says, “so she can fight. I just need to find the right one.”
The mom in me is tempted to tell him to save his money since she’ll outgrow it too soon. Instead, I hold my tongue, because Josh is smiling. He looks happy.
It’s been a long week of uncommon bickering with the sister who’s secretly his best friend. He’s deep, battling thoughts no nine-year-old should have. He’s been fighting fear.
Fear that, lost in new teenage ways, Christa will pull away. Fear that she’ll enter a world of hurtful bullying, listen to lies, and lose her way. Fear that he’ll lose a playmate and sister. Again.
I speak words to comfort and assure him. “Christa’s a great kid. She’ll be a terrific teen. Everything will be okay.”
But, as much as I look forward to the joy of living life with my own teen in tow, I feel the fear too. I know no family is immune. And I couldn’t bear the grief of suicide a second time.
“Mom, WalMart doesn’t have it. Can we try another store?” Josh’s words pull me from imagining what I don’t want to see.
So on to Target we go. Same scenario, same warm fingers wrapped in mine, same perusal of plasticized products.
“There it is,” says Josh. He points, and I pull the Nerf sword down.
“It’s $15.99. Are you sure you want to pay that much? Maybe there’s a cheaper one.”
“No, Mom. The black and green is cool.”
“There’s a problem. Read the title.”
“Zombie Strike,” says Josh. “Dad will never go for that.”