He’s the one who keeps to himself, my boy, Jake. He’s gone more than he’s around, working long hours, or hanging with his friends when he’s not working. They go paintballing, swimming at Bobby’s pool, to the races, or to see Alex’s dad’s band play. I see him for little snippets of time in the morning just after he wakes up and before he heads off to work twenty minutes later. Or maybe when he’s done at work for the day, I’ll catch him just after he showers and just before he disappears again to do whatever 23 year-old guys do for fun.
He was home tonight and just lounging around. My mom had called on me to do some grocery shopping for her. I don’t like to do my own grocery shopping, much less make a second trip in the same week for someone else. I needed support. And there was Jake, just playing Call of Duty in his room with the door open. I poked my head in.
“Hey, come grocery shopping with me,” I suggested.
“Nanna needs me to do her shopping. Come help me so I can get it done quick and get back home. Will ya?”
“I have plans,” he said in a tone that hoped I’d let him off the hook.
“What plans? When?” I asked.
“With Bobby. Whenever he texts me.”
“Then let’s go now. We’ll get done quick and you can go.”
“Okay,” he agreed.
He followed me down the hallway and to the foyer.
Kacey had just returned home from work and was getting ready to go to dinner with friends. “You’re going with mom to the grocery store?” she asked Jake, incredulous.
“Yeah,” he said.
“You’re a good person,” she told him. I knew she was impressed that he’d agreed. I was impressed that he’d agreed. I mean, he should help out with some of the family stuff. And I know I could have just demanded that he come with me. But I didn’t want him to go just because I was forcing him. I was glad he’d agreed without too much resistance.
It’s rare that I get one on one time with Jake when we can have an actual conversation. We talked as we drove to the store, about my new car, about his new truck, about his job. In the store, he was playful and goofy, stepping one foot up on the cart and pushing off with the other, riding down the uncrowded, weekday store aisles. It’s not uncommon to see kids riding shopping carts through the grocery store. They’re usually not over six feet tall.
It’s so rare that Jake participates in anything domestic. It’s his age. What guy his age wants to hang around his parents and younger sister and do unfun chores? I’ll tell ya. None.
I was enjoying this time with him, getting a glimpse of the old Jake I knew so well when he was younger and less free to roam, less able to come and go as he pleased, and required to interact with me more often, simply because he was young and I was the mom. We passed through a section of back-to-school supplies. There were some items clearly targeted to the preschool crowd.
“Jake, I’ll buy you this pink fuzzy bunny backpack,” I offered, running my hand over its white belly as we passed by the display.
“No, I definitely want the yellow duck,” he said without missing a beat and no hint of a smile whatsoever.
That kid! I knew that deep down inside he appreciates my sense of humor, even if his typical response is a roll of the eyes and a faint smirk. And I didn’t know he had it in him! He came right back at me with the perfect response! He didn’t know it, but that was the highlight of my day.
Of course, he took off to hang with his pals just as soon as humanly possible after we’d dropped off the groceries at my parents’ house. I’m sure he didn’t give the shopping trip a second thought. As for me? I’ll be smiling about it for the rest of the evening.