Today was the day my 22-year-old, exasperated with my “helpful advice,” finally asked me, “Am I an adult, or am I a child???”
Today was also the day the doctor told my mum that her post-radiation assessment indicates “no change in the size or pathology of the tumor.”
* * *
It occurs to me that we grow through several adulthoods.
There is, of course, the first adulthood–18. This is when you can drive in most parts of the world, drink in some, and pack a gun in these United States. 18 is when you can get into all manner of trouble, but you’re still too chicken to try. That’s for 21.
21 is f’realz adulthood. It’s “Vegas Baby!” adulthood. It can be “on-your-own” adulthood, but not for everyone. Some have parents. Some have student loans. But still, it’s the big time. When you’re 21, there is good consensus that you’re an adult.
Then there are those unspoken adulthoods. The adulthoods that go unmarked.
The first-time-you’re-groped-on-the-subway adulthood. When you look down at your feet because you don’t know what just happened, but you sure as hell don’t want to look into the eyes of the guy who just helped himself to your body. The adulthood where bits are sticking out and curving in and your face is exploding. That adulthood.
The adulthood when you’re sick and away from home for the first time. And your eyebrows hurt. And you have to walk to the chemist’s to pick up a prescription . . . that you had to call in yourself. And there’s no couch made up like a bed, no chicken soup, not even a can. That adulthood.
The adulthood when you have to decide, do I take his name or keep mine. Will I live. Will I breathe. Will I make it to the finish line. And you break out in hives the night before. Because you don’t know. You can’t know. But you suit-up anyway. That adulthood.
Then there’s the real adulthood. The one that takes your breath away. The one that scares you so shitless you wanna go, “No, no, I take it back. I change my mind. I’m not ready.” I will never be ready. Parenthood. You, yes YOU, must now be completely responsible for the well-being, the very existence of another human. That adulthood.
And then you make it through the night and the visits to the emergency room. You make it through soccer and recitals and boyfriends. You make it through college apps (only just) and college tuition (not even hardly). And you come out the other end. And you think, “I got this.” And you do.
And along the way, you’ve adulted your way through many heartbreaks–the loss of a job, the betrayal, the illness, the inevitable waltz with age, the disappointments, the books unwritten, the rivers never run.
But nothing can quite prepare you for the final adulthood. The one that orphans you. That one takes you by surprise. Because you never expect it to be so hard.
One minute, you’re somebody’s child; the next, you’re not.