Neither Adam nor I felt too hot last night. I sat there on the chair, he was sprawled on the couch. I turned to him and said, "Would you mind helping me get dinner ready? I'm just feeling lousy." He groaned, but I could tell he would help me out.
So, I got the rice cooking on the stove top; rubbed the fish with herbs; drizzled them with butter, and popped them in the oven; then stuck the spinach in the microwave. When everything was just about done, Adam hauled himself off the couch and went into the kitchen to rig up a double boiler and make the hollandaise sauce. It was the crowning touch of the meal; what took us from a savory fish dinner to scrumptious and WOW.
And, that's Adam in a nutshell. His distinctive touch in every situation elevates us from just the norm to something special.
It's in the way he digs in with his younger brother and sisters and makes them laugh as they're doing chores, while he laughs right along with them. The way he introduces them to what's cool right now - the music, the entertainer, the book, the song, and demands that they get right on board. And you can see them puff up a little because he's treating them as if they're on his level. He doesn't just entertain them, he engages them. He's 18; they're 9, 11 and 12. They probably have no idea what an unusually great big brother he is, because it's all they've ever known. They don't know what it's like to have the disinterested, aloof older brother who's outgrown them. No, Adam's the guy that dances like a freak in the kitchen when they're doing dishes; nothing aloof or sneeringly above it all about that.
There are the tender moments, too: when I've looked down the pew at church and seen Tanner, weak and pale, with bruised little eyes, leaning his head on Adam's shoulder during the sacrament service. The time when two different women sought me out separately to tell me they'd been driving down the road together and were moved when they saw Adam and Macy, walking down the road, holding hands and talking as they went along. "He seems like such a tender brother and a confident kid," one of them told me. He is.
This kid keeps me in my place - and the place he thinks I should be in is fun. I may think I'm just picking the little toads up from school, but find out that really the plan is to have a raucous jam fest in the car. He'll crank the radio and holler, "Come on, Mama, you gotta dance!" Next thing I know we're all shaking the car with our wild gyrations, bellowing the lyrics at the top of our lungs, with lots of extra "woop woops" and Prince shrieks thrown in at inappropriate places. When Mike's working nights and the little ones are in bed, it's Adam who says, "Ok, Mama, it is time to par-tay!" and throws in the Pink DVD or some goofy movie that he's currently obsessed with. (Oh, the obsessions wear on you, I can't lie. I was about to beat Julia Child with her own rubber chicken during the "Julie/Julia" phase, and don't get me started on "Baby Mama" - it's fine the first 3 times, but after that, when the kid's quoting it as we go along, I'm ready to throw the "Baby" out with the bathwater! A rift in our relationship that may never heal, I fear, was the moment he learned I tossed our 10-volume set of Friends because. much as I loved that silly show, it just wasn't appropriate for the little ones. That revelation dimmed the evening festivities for awhile, I'll tell you.)
Adam is content to hang out with us a lot. He has great friends who he spends time with here and there, but he likes us (and his Aunt Lynda, his Grandma & Grandpa Fraley and his Aunt Carol) and logs most of his time among us. Mike and I sometimes push him to go with friends more, but he assures us he's not worried. When he wants to hang with them, he does; when he wants to be with family, he is. He's not holed up in his room, walled off with a computer or PDA all the time. He mingles. He simply likes us and chooses to be around. We like him too.
Adam tries to teach me the current lingo and has no problem with reminding me just how old and white I am, when I butcher some current phrase that apparently is supposed to be spoken with an ethnic twist. He manages to put just the right spin on it; I falter. Terribly. He shakes his head and shushes me in public, with wild eyes beseeching me not to embarrass him, whenever I unwittingly misspeak a phrase that apparently a mother of 4 has no business uttering. If I never again see that kid shaking his head, chuckling, and saying, "You crazy kracker" in the same way I might gushingly say, "You cutie patootie" to a toddler, it won't be too soon.
Since he was little, Adam has adored and been adored by his Grandma & Grandpa Fraley. As the only grandchild for 6 years, he had lots of Vegas trips (during the family-friendly campaign), San Diego adventures, weeks at the grandparents' house while I was off on forest fires, bazillions of quarters for the arcades, and numberless bunches of carrots for the donkeys in Oatman. His Aunt Lynda took him off on adventures: sometimes, he had to follow clues or figure out riddles to learn what the adventures would be. (The relations understand it's all about the presentation. Grand adventures are usually announced through crafty clues wrapped in special packages.) His bond with these 3 folks gave him an underpining of strength and security that I think could be a universal example of why kids should be surrounded by multi-generations of family members.
Adam still loves the chance to grab one-on-one time with his grandparents when he can, especially since the advent of 3 siblings born within 3 years of each other blew his serene start in life right out of the water. Yet, there's not an ounce of resentment towards these interlopers. In fact, he breaks my heart with the level of concern and sometimes fear I see flashing in his eyes when Tanner shows signs of the illness plaguing his kidneys. He fervently urges ER visits and questions decisions to wait-and-watch when it's apparent Tan's having a rough time. He carries worry in his heart and it breaks mine, because I don't like to see him burdened by such intense care at such a young age. I have always prayed my children would develop compassion, believing that characteristic above all will keep them centered throughout their lives. I don't want his compassion to become a weight. But he loves his little brother and he can't fix him, so he's just watchful. Imagine what I felt when I learned that on an evening Mike and I had to rush Tanner out for medical care, Adam gathered the girls and knelt for a family prayer before a family member showed up to take them somewhere for the night. I know it's happened more than once. How about that kid.
It's hard to believe the wispy-haired little boy I brought home from the hospital when he was less than a day old is this 6-foot-2-inch galoot who will be graduating high school in 6 weeks. How is the shy kid that I had to pull out from under counters and podiums because he couldn't stand anyone to look at him the same guy who addresses audiences without fear, acts like a goof in broad daylight and strikes ridiculous poses in thoroughly public places? You just never know how they're going to turn out, I guess.
I'm excited for the adventures and experiences I know are awaiting him, but I have to tell you, I'm going to miss having him around. He brightens my life; he makes me laugh; he drives us crazy with his whatever-the-male-equivalent-of Ethel-Merman-singing-is. He loves us. And we love him.
I can't wait to see what comes next for Adam when he ventures off the farm. I'm going to miss that hollandaise sauce, though.
Love from the farm,