“I love you.”
“I love you, too,” said my 17-year-old son, just before he opened the car door.
And I did. (Some days I am not as sure.) On Wednesdays, Adam has to be on the college campus by 11, the same time he finishes his third period class on the high school campus. All semester we have accomplished this dual-enrollment miracle by his leaving third period 15 minutes early and having me drive him to the college. (Parking there at that hour is a nightmare.) He takes the bus back to the high school for seventh period. Other days he drives himself. Driving him is just one way that I tell him I love him.
When Adam was a little boy, I would tuck him into a bed after a story or two, and, thus, would begin our battle of “I love you more.” One of us would say something like “I love you as much as Clifford the Big Red Dog,” and the other would try to top it with something bigger. The battle always ended with “I love you more.”
To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I tucked Adam into bed, nor can I remember our last battle of “I love you more” or who won. I do remember getting a bit impatient with the nightly process — after all, the messy kitchen called or that last basket of laundry demanded to be folded before I could tuck myself into bed. But all too soon, those nightly tuck-ins were over; my youngest child was staying up later than his tired mom, and though I kissed him on the head and hugged him goodnight before I went to bed, we no longer said, “I love you more.”
Yesterday, my son played the first basketball game of his senior year. It was an away game, and he asked if I could drive members of the team. I was needed, he said. So I made the arrangements, met the team in the parking lot after school, and approached the coach. As it turns out, I was driving only my son — and I’m fairly certain other drivers had one space available, had he needed a ride. Other years on other teams, I had driven, to be sure. We always had a car full of players. This time I had just one.
I knew then that my son just wanted me there. We drove without the radio. Adam didn’t even use his cell phone, except for the GPS mode. (Miracle.) And we just talked and talked — there and back. In fact, when we got back to the house late that evening, we relayed the details of the game to my husband, and then Adam followed me around the house still talking.
His words didn’t literally say “I love you,” and I didn’t respond with an “I love you more,” but I knew the love battle was in full force. Last night, I didn’t get impatient or try to hurry to tuck a little boy into bed. Instead, I treasured the moment in my heart, knowing that this 6’3″, 17-year-old boy is soon to graduate high school; these days of driving my youngest child to away games will too quickly be over; he won’t be close enough to hear his ramblings or kiss and hug him goodnight. And I will want more of these moments.
I don’t think I can love him more.