Promises, promises. Is that the same as commitment? If so, this is a word that instills terror. It’s a word that hangs over one like Damocles Blade. This is because, hell, they are so hard to keep. I’m not talking about the little ones, like promising to join my neighbor for tonight’s jazz show. Nah, that’s not a promise. That’s just an assent. A promise is something big, weighty, important. It has power, it has heft, it can move and change situations and people.
What are the promises I have made? Promises made and broken? Broken by me, or by life, it’s not important. Promising to save my mother — a promise I was certain I could keep — was broken, not by me, but by her. Promises like these are a two-way street. You can’t save those that don’t want to be saved.
The promise I made to my first-born child, however, as I knelt in wonder and awe beside him, is one I kept. It was the oddest thing, that wave that overtook me, that terrible wave of terror and grief as it dawned on me my life would never be the same. I would never again have the liberty of worrying only about myself. From that moment on, for the rest of my days, I realized with shock and horror, I would worry about this creature.
It was a weighty responsibility. I was responsible for keeping this infant safe and providing to him the tools he would need to remain safe long after I had gone. Therefore, I cried. I cried, and I knelt over him, this tiny bundle of warmth, and I said, over and over and over, “I will always love you, I will never leave you, I will protect you, no one will hurt you.”
It was an incantation, a spell, and I needed it as much as this babe did.