UPDATE: I finally told him and he took the news with more grace than I did--moved through all the stages of grief in one evening while I was still stuck on denial and barganing after four days. Thanks so much for all your compassion and support.
The good news is that Midland has agreed to keep him enrolled "on paper" while he takes classes at community college next fall so he can do his last year of high school and first year of college simultaneously. Should be a no brainer. Unfortunately, it's the heart, not the head, that took the biggest hit in all this.
That's J practicing the zen of blowing bubbles in the back yard this afternoon. I could learn a lot from this kid.
It started with a ring, then another as I stood next to my van at the beach considering whether to answer. Without looking at the number, I flipped open the phone and said hello.
"This is P. I'm sorry. I have bad news."
"No," I said, knowing how anxiously we'd waited for good news.
"J's not being invited back to Midland for his senior year."
My heart cracked, leaving a ragged fault line along its center. " Why would they do that?"
"I'm sorry. I advocated for him, but a vote was taken. Your son lost."
This is J standing if front of his cabin on his first day at Midland, his freshman year, a day that seems ions ago. Ever since he first set foot on campus, he's dreamed of seeing his name inscribed on the chapel hall alongside the others who've graduated from the school over the past seven decades. The last three years have been an up-and-down struggle, but no matter how many times he screws up or how many laps they throw at him, he's remained committed to the Midland Way. He doesn't drink, smoke, do drugs, or screw around with underclassmen and he's been more than willing to live without the Ipods, heaters, and other modern conveniences many students can't forego.
I know it's not been easy for them or him. J is disorganized and impulsive, a classic case of ADhD. But he's also brilliant, writes stunning poetry, has become a confidant among his peers, and is the kind of kid who'd pack a tuxedo to hike Grass Mountain, just to make his friends and teachers smile when he breaks the peak. Or paint his whole body green and jump up and down at the sidelines as a self-appointed Midland-Man for a cheerleader-less team. Or sing his heart out as the lead in Grease! and thrill audiences with spot-on renditions of a French Maitre' D and a Middle Eastern Interpreter. Or wear silly nose and reindeer ears during a surprise birthday party for him one evening in December.
"No," I finally answered. "Midland lost."
"I'm sorry," he said again.
How is it that in one moment you can feel on top of the world as you absorb the massive panorama of ocean and sky in front of you and in the very next, the world suddenly turns on itself, crushing your chest until it's all you can do to pull in a single breath? Fighting against a wall of inertia, I hefted my heavy heap of grief onto my back and climbed the stairs toward my massage studio, hunched over like the man in Diego Rivera's painting. I hoped no one would notice that the flowers were dead and my eyes were holding back a flood.
I made it through the massage; drove home in a daze wondering how I'd ever find the right words to tell J about the phone call. When he asked for a ride to the store for sunflower seeds and soda after dinner, I stuck my feet in slippers figuring I'd somehow break the news on our way back home. Sitting in the car while he ran inside Albertsons, I thought about his story of two butterflies accompanying him on his way to Midland's graduation ceremonies last Saturday, how sure he was their presence was an omen. A good one.
When he got back in the car, I opened my mouth to speak, but all that came out was, "Your hair is getting really long."
"Yeah. I'm not cutting it until after I graduate from Midland next Spring."
Oof. That foot in my stomach again. Maybe I'll tell him tomorrow.
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