Several years ago Connor and Mark both received ionic necklaces for Christmas. The necklaces are titanium-infused and supposedly have healing and performance properties.
Back then, Connor wanted to be just like his Dad. You know, before middle school came along and it became uncool to admit that his Dad was awesome. Both Mark and Connor clicked the necklaces around their necks on Christmas morning and for some strange reason Connor decided to see how long he could wear it without removing it.
He didn’t really mention that this was his goal right away but over time I noticed that he never removed it to swim or shower and no matter how faded and ratty it became he would not take it off. After commenting about it several times he told me about his personal challenge.
Years went by and shockingly the clasp remained strong and the necklace never left his neck. It became stiff and inflexible, poking out of the top of his shirt like a hoola-hoop instead of a necklace, yet he would not consider removing it.
Two Christmases ago Mark and I bought him a new one. We chose blue and red because man…we were just tired of looking at the faded orange, plus they didn’t carry the orange and black any longer anyway. He opened it on Christmas morning and set it aside without comment. As the holiday drifted into memory, and I was trying to find spots for all of the new Christmas gear, I put his new necklace on his bedside table and there it sat for months and months.
He obviously was not ready to give up his personal goal of wearing it until the day that he died.
It shouldn’t surprise me. His Daddy has had strange personal challenges before. When I first started dating Mark I noticed that there was a certain stoplight that he would never stop for. Now he didn’t run the red light or any such thing but he would not totally brake and stop the car…he would gently pump the brake and allow the car to very very slowly creep until the light changed and then he would accelerate without comment.
After watching him play this game(??) for many months I finally asked him about it. He told me that one day he just decided that he was never going to fully stop at that light and wanted to see if he could do it forever. I thought that he was weird but he was also completely awesome so I just shrugged and let it go.
Over the years it kind of started to annoy me. Often he would start to slow down way before the light if there were other cars already stopped and no matter how close we inched towards the read bumper of the car in front of us he would not stop but he knew the timing of the light perfectly and the game continued.
I do not know if it is a guy thing or a Mooney thing or what but I have always just chalked up Connor’s necklace challenge as something harmless and no big deal. Whatever makes him happy, you know. Just another instance of how much Connor is like his Dad (whether he likes it or not! lol )
Then one day, not long ago, Corrigan crawled up behind Connor and yanked on the back of his necklace and the clasp let go. The drama that followed seemed more worthy of Corrigan breaking his brand new xbox 360 (which has happened, you know) rather than unhooking a ratty old necklace but it meant something to Connor and I chose not to give him grief about it. Plus, he decided that it didn’t count as being “off” because he felt the clasp unhook and he reached up and grabbed it before it fell from his neck. Technically, it never actually left his neck, he said. Whew! Crisis averted.
In the 7th grade Connor began playing soccer. He loved it and he was really really good at it. Three games into his first soccer season he was playing skillfully when the referee blew his whistle and took Connor out of the game. From our seats, far across the field, we didn’t actually know what was going on. I could see that he was upset and he was pulling on his shirt and pacing. I thought that he was stung by a bee or something the way that he was acting. I squelched the desire to run over and see if he were okay and he stayed out until the game ended.
After the game, we learned that the ref had spotted Connor’s necklace on and it was apparently against JCP league rules to wear any jewelry while playing. The ref gave him the opportunity to take the necklace off and continue play but Connor was conflicted and chose to stay out. Of course, when we learned about what had transpired we were very upset and chided him for his silly “challenge” and looking back, we probably made him feel stupid and silly.
We were not sure how it would go at the next game but when he was putting on his uniform in his room I went in and noticed that he had a strange lump under his soccer socks. Turns out that he gave his challenge just a little wiggle room and decided that as long as it was on his body it was okay. He had wrapped it around his ankle twice and pulled his sock up over it. The refs never noticed and he has played that way ever since.
That new necklace that we bought a few Christmases ago? It is still in its box, lost somewhere in his room, unloved and ignored.
And you know what? I am okay with it because not long ago Mark and I were in the car and we approached the stoplight that was Mark’s “challenge” for over 18 years and I felt the car stop.
I had stopped even consciously thinking about how we drifted to an almost-stop for all of those years and in fact, I bet that Mark didn’t even think about it after all of that time either. NOT stopping was as natural as tying his shoes until the day that we stopped and I jerked my head to the left and worried that maybe he had just had a stroke. I placed my hand on his arm and simply said, “You stopped” and he said, “Yeah.” That was it.
I think that it is because we both feel defeated by our circumstances. We both often remark that this new path that Corrigan’s disorder has brought to our life has brought both enormous joy and tremendous sadness and we are exhausted. It suddenly just felt unimportant to play silly traffic light games when we were dealing with all of the other things in our lives but the moment that I realized that Mark was stopped at the light almost made me cry. Citrullinemia really had changed everything.
So when I see Connor wearing that faded old necklace, or notice it wrapped around his ankle for soccer I secretly wish that if the day ever comes that he chooses to stop his challenge it is because he wants to stop…not because something in his life takes the joy out of the challenge for him.
And knowing Connor, I fully expect that he will be wearing that necklace in his senior portraits and I really hope that his future bride is okay with him wearing it on his wedding day with his tux. If not, I have no doubt it will be wrapped around his ankle and that makes me smile.