MAIL ON SUN­DAY SPORTS EDITOR

The Mail on Sunday - - Femail - ALI­SON BY KERVIN

I spent most of the week be­fore he left home in tears

IT’S the me­mories that ar­rive sud­denly and squeeze at your heart that hurt the most. I was help­ing my 18-year-old son Ge­orge pack yes­ter­day morn­ing to go off to uni­ver­sity when I re­mem­bered walking him to school one cool au­tumn morn­ing, many years ago. I was hold­ing his hand, as I al­ways did, and chat­ting about im­por­tant things like what would hap­pen if a tiger fought a lion.

Then he saw a friend across the road and im­me­di­ately pulled his hand out of mine. The move­ment was so sud­den and so over­pow­er­ing that I could feel the empti­ness in my hand where his had just been. He never held my hand again while walking to school.

The mo­ment marked one of the many lit­tle steps on my son’s bit­ter­sweet jour­ney to in­de­pen­dence. Then yes­ter­day pre­sented me with the big­gest step of all.

Ge­orge and I climbed into the car, as we have so many times be­fore, and set off on a long jour­ney, but this time only I came home.

I dropped him and all his be­long­ings in Bris­tol, where he’s go­ing to uni­ver­sity, and drove home to Lon­don cry­ing wretch­edly – a com­plete dan­ger to ev­ery­one on the road – head­ing back to an empty house. I con­fess that I spent most of the week lead­ing up to our de­par­ture in tears. Ge­orge was in his room, mu­sic blar­ing out, phone go­ing con­stantly – bleep­ing and shriek­ing with good­bye mes­sages from his friends: snapchats and texts pour­ing in while I sat there, bit­ing my lip and want­ing to scream ‘STOP’ and beg him to stay.

I know it’s mad­ness. I have no right to feel this crush­ing sense of grief. I’m proud that he’s go­ing to uni­ver­sity and in awe of the lovely young man that he’s be­come, but I’m also ter­ri­fied to the core of my be­ing. Watch­ing your son go off to uni­ver­sity is the best of times and the worst of times.

I’m sure it’s harder to watch a boy go off into the world than a girl be­cause so much is ex­pected of them. Boys are in­cred­i­bly soft and vul­ner­a­ble, de­spite their gruff ex­te­ri­ors. Sure, they look big and strong, but in­side the tough ar­mour there’s a whole tan­gle of in­se­cu­ri­ties, love and con­fu­sion.

The girls his age look more frag­ile but they’re tougher. It’s as if girls toughen up from in­side out and the boys from out­side in.

In many ways I worry as much for my strap­ping 6ft 2in mus­cle­bound young man as I did for the tiny baby handed to me 18 years ago. As a mother, you al­ways worry. From the mo­ment a child is born, the whole world is a more ter­ri­fy­ing place.

The night of Ge­orge’s birth, a fire alarm went off in the hos­pi­tal. The panic that rushed through me was greater than any­thing I’d ever known... a whole new level of fear that struck right to the core. What if I don’t get my baby out of this hos­pi­tal be­fore the fire comes?

Then he grew into a lovely lit­tle boy, I re­mem­ber the way his hair would hang in gen­tle curls at the nape of his neck when it was long. The way it shined golden blond in the sun and how he looked like Lit­tle Lord Fauntleroy as light, golden freck­les gath­ered like glitter across his nose. But then the teenage years: he dyed his hair jet black (along with all the tow­els), and started play­ing sport, prompt­ing nu­mer­ous hos­pi­tal vis­its for bro­ken bones (six).

Then there was the time he shoved a piece of card­board so far into his ear that he needed a gen­eral anaes­thetic to get it out. I was on first name terms with the doc­tor at Kingston Hos­pi­tal by the time he was ten. I think I was one ac­ci­dent short of a visit from so­cial ser­vices.

But it’s the sweet­ness that stays in my mind, and haunts me as I con­tem­plate a fu­ture with­out him in it ev­ery day.

Like t he t i me, aged si x, he was asked to de­scribe a ba­nana. ‘It’s the colour of the sun and the shape of a smile,’ he said, and I thought my heart would melt. The time he rushed off the stage shout­ing, ‘I’m just giv­ing my mummy a kiss’ half way through a drama pro­duc­tion. The Moth­ers’ Day present of a daf­fodil, roots and all, and the trail of mud he left through the house that took a day to clean up.

And the time he won me the award for ‘ best un­scripted mo­ment’ when I was do­ing a tele­phone in­ter­view with a Swedish ra­dio sta­tion to pro­mote my novel( ap­pro­pri­ately called Mother& Son ). He picked up the down­stairs phone and screamed: ‘Where are my pants?’

In the Q&A af­ter­wards there were no ques­tions about my book, just a hun­dred or more Swedes ask­ing whether Ge­orge had found his pants.

I’ll miss him not just be­cause I love him but be­cause I like him a lot – I en­joy his com­pany.

I find him bright, chal­leng­ing and over­whelm­ingly in­tel­li­gent. He’s the best per­son I know.

I’m lucky and hugely blessed that he has worked hard enough to get into the uni­ver­sity of his choice to study the course he wants.

So this is good. It’s all good. Hon­estly...

BEREF: Daisy hugs her daugh­ter Ly­dia, who has now left home to start her uni­ver­sity course

SPE­CIAL BOND: Ali­son pos­ing proudly with Ge­orge be­fore he set off for his new life in Bris­tol

PROUD MO­MENT: Ali­son cra­dles Ge­orge hours af­ter his birth

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