Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Low Moment as a Mom

I've wondered if I'd know with certainty that I had done something really bad as a mother.  And now I know.

Over and over I have told Mason, who has a hard time listening (ask any of his teachers) watch where you're going, look both ways before you cross the street, stay to the right when you're biking (except in Chiang Mai, where cars drive on the left which I admit could be confusing).  To try to scare him into compliance I have told him how hurt he could get, how horrible it would be if he got hit by a car and died, how much it would change our family if he weren't with us.

So one evening around 5pm in rural Laos he gets hit.  Because he runs in front of a line of motorbikes roaring to the Old Brige in Luang Prabang.  He wants to walk on the OTHER side of the bridge this time, so darts across to the left side without checking to see what's coming.  A young girl on a motorcycle hits him, falls off her bike, loses her side view mirror and her shoes, and cuts her hand.  She's shaken up and rubbing her wrists, trying not to cry. A crowed gathers around us.  Mason is mute and kind of shell shocked; he's been knocked to the ground too.  But I'm just angry at him for not listening to me.

The girl pulls out her cell phone and starts to dial someone and I have visions of Mexico where the moment you have a run in with an American you call the traffic police and try to extort your Yankee compensation. Probably she was just calling her dad.  Or her boyfriend.  But I start digging in my purse for any few kip I have.  We were actually heading to the bank, then dinner, and I was down to nearly nothing.  A guy who speaks a little English says, "She says you can give her whatever you like."  Or something like that.  There weren't that many words.  I shove about $10 of wadded-up tissue-paper bills into her palm and say sorry for the 20th time and walk away with looking back.

We head down the right side of the bridge--this third-world structure of red steel and rotting wood. high above the Nam Khan River. The interior has two lanes of wood planks for bikes or motorcycles (no cars or tuk tuks allowed) and this shaky, frightening pedestrian walkway on the outside where you can see the river rushing through the wood slats about 400 meters below.  All I can do is yell at Mason.  I am so angry at him for not listening and for nearly killing himself and hurting someone else that I cannot stop to see if he's OK.  Which it turns out he's not.  When we get to the other side of this incredibly long bridge I turn around and leave him with Redding and Sam, telling them carry on without me. I am going back.  I can't be civil and I can't make myself care about Mason.

Bo is still at the hotel where we left him because he was being churlish.  (The night was already tense and sad before Mason got hit.).  I debate whether or not I will find him and make up with him and suggest we have dinner together.  When I get back and walk into the foggy garden with the pool below it surrounded by palm and banana trees, shrouded in the perpetual mist that comes with the humidity of Laos, I see Bo in the open air dining room, eating alone with a book.  He has a glass of lemon juice with a lot of ice and a single place serviing with a linen napkin and a charger under his plate.  Jump to the future: he could be a 30-year-old guy eating by himself after leaving work, his trusty book at his right, his head down.  I am slightly amazed that he left his room and got himself a dinner reservation for one at the restaurant of  My Dream Hotel in the middle of Laos and order himself a juice and a plate of chicken fried rice.  I am still sad from Mason and slightly sad from the earlier mess we made that left Bo in the hotel alone in the first place. 

So I go to him and sit down and he's clearly pleased that I am there with him. I start to tell him what  happened and express my shame that I could not have had more heart to look after Mason and ask about his bloody ankles (both of them I find out later are scrapped and bleeding, along with his wrists--he must have been cut by the bike when it hit him and when it fell on top of him).  Bo gets up and comes to my side of the table:  "Don't blame yourself, Mom.  You're the best mom.  You did whatever you could," he says.  "You look like you could use this," and he bends downs, hugs me, and then returns to his place o wait for his food.

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