Empty nest is such a trite term for feeling like one's heart is ripped out - stomped on repeatedly - stuffed back in one's chest - yanked out again and boot-kicked across the freeway. I mean if you think about it, if you've had a really wonderful relationship with your child - it's like having a divorce for no reason other than - the time has come.
My friend's son died at age 25 recently and the news ripped into the marrow of my bones. I borrowed $450 to get my car fixed to attend the memorial in Laguna to sit with my friend who was one of three people I knew. His two remaining grown children and he.
His concern of how he'd give his speech lifted when I told him if he spoke from his heart, the love would lead his words and it did. Three teens called his daughter and told her that they entered rehab because of that speech.
I never thought I'd use my cell phone to record a moment that I would be asked to put out for the public. It is not easy to watch - I asked my son to do so and I am glad he chose to see the pain of loss.
I was in awe at the clarity within that gutteral grief, the kind that makes no sense, demanding questions be addressed within family relationships. It had struck a chord with parents and their kids of just how much we don't listen to each other or attempt to understand just how similar we are. We're bound by blood and then there are those years that separate us.
As I drove home, crying and yet fondly thinking back to when I knew this vibrant, beautiful boy I thought about my own beautiful son, Dylan. We've been on our own journey since he was 4 months old. Just the two of us.
I thought back to when he was a toddler and how hard I cried because as a young widow I didn't know if I was going to raise this infant without repeating my own childhood history. Dylan laughed when I sobbed - his tiny hands reached towards my face - as he giggled at my tears. It made me laugh.
He could't walk but he could pull himself up by any desk drawer, door knob or shelf and reprogram my computer by tapping keys on tippy toes, blast music and turn on the TV, very proud of himself, dancing in place.
As he grew, so did our moments together and apart. Our closeness grew as much as it would yank us in opposite directions - ahh...those growing pains.
There was a day he came in very seriously and asked me if I knew anything about condoms. I instructed him to hold up three fingers and showed him how to use one. He stared in awe at this new glove and then quipped, "How'd you know how to do this? Where'd you get these?"
I never stopped to think he'd question me! I was thinking of protecting him.
When he lost his luggage in the airport on a trip back from visiting his Godmother in Mississippi, Dylan was amazed I wasn't angry. "Why aren't you mad?! They lost my luggage!"
I smiled and said, "I've got you. The luggage I can replace but I can't get you back."
When my inebriated relatives got into a huge fight one Christmas - the police (not L.A.P.D) gave Dylan and me a ride to a nearby hotel, one even drove my car. Dylan got so excited he sang with all the might an almost 4 year-old can, "Bad boys, bad boys, what day gonna do when day come for you!" I weakly smiled at the officer and relayed he loved the show "Cops" and wasn't poking fun. The officer laughed.
When a death that is so sudden, so unbelievable and hits homes so deeply - it's amazing what goes through the mind. I wanted to get home and was stuck so I continued to go through mind memory photo albums.
Fighting with my boy who wanted to give up basketball until he made his first basket, felt that connection and then turned into a little bouncing demon on the court.
His first crush and first heartache. His first death of note, our dog. First suit. First performance that changed a young boy's perception of how entertaining could help.
Dylan chose memories over a larger place to live when he was 12 so we'd have memories. He made one that altered the way we lived in the best of ways. At age sixteen, we went on a writer's vacation to Hawaii and fought until we snorkeled side-by-side in the healing waters of the islands. I fell in love with my angry teen again.
A year ago he did his first art show and it took many years to fight for his right to be given the opportunity to learn a craft he loved. It was on "Cancer, Racism and Education" at Miceli's Hollywood store. I've lost many to cancer and am, as late friend, Wendie Jo Sperber said, a "cancer warrior."
This summer he looked at me and said, "It's time you did your art show." It surprised me that Dylan viewed me as an artist too. He pushed me as I had pushed him the year before. I got a dose of my own parenting when he wouldn't let up until I did a rough draft in one afternoon. He read it, smiled and said, "Keep going."
In a month I was crewed and cast then we shot the short film, Shorty & Morty. We worked together, not always easily but always with mutual respect. Our admiration for one another grew as well as the ache in my heart, when I realized that it was my turn and time for me to leave the nest of being safe.
No more hiding. No more hanging onto old things. To look but not linger.
I've been single many moons and given up even more opportunities but have no regrets other than I wish I had some years back, not many but some.
The next month we opened on October 15th at the Beverly Garland Reel Festival. That morning before we left I got the email about my friend's son death. I was supposed to visit them within a week...and I did. I wish I had had the guts to ask to have my car fixed a week earlier...
Daily I get texts from an ex-homeless man who takes the time to encourage me and more importantly, to listen. We have been friends for a year now from GettLove and he has his own apartment.
I have hope again - that even when things seem like the light out of the tunnel is an oncoming train - and it can be - there is always someone there to hear the tiniest, eensiest of whispers - if we just reach out.
Sometimes asking for any kind of help is the most courageous thing a person can do. Sometimes moving forward and trying to make any kind of difference is equally as hard if not more so.
Thank you, Kim Friedman for allowing me to tell this story. My heart is with you, Kim and your beautiful boy.