Baby’s got blue eyes,
Like a deep blue sea,
On a blue blue day” – so goes the beautiful song by Elton John that always makes me think of my elder son.
My own Blue Eyes was a much desired, much longed for baby. On the very happy day that he was born I looked at him and told everyone “this baby will have blue eyes” – everyone said no, it’s just the “milk” (supposedly all newborn babies have bluish eyes), but of course they were wrong and I was right, after all I was his mother and I just knew.
Blue Eyes was a happy, chubby, lively baby. He made us all very happy and people passed us on the street and commented on his large, expressive eyes, that were a violet blue at first and then became as blue as the sky on a sunny day.
He stayed at home until he was three, with a lady who is an angel that we have in our lives and has helped us raise him and his brother, our second beautiful golden haired baby who was born to us some 4 years later. He welcomed his brother and never showed any jealousy, on the contrary, he was always very much the elder brother and a very protective one.
At school he soon had a small group of good friends and even some “girlfriends”. We wanted him do to do sports and heard that rugby was a great sport – both physically but also for the team spirit it embodies – so at 7 he started training rugby. At first he resisted a bit, but soon he was enjoying it very much. We went to see his first match and had a fright as he suffered a blow on his nose and started bleeding profusely. An ambulance was called and we took him to hospital but fortunately it was nothing serious. He was very stoic during the whole process and it didn’t affect his enthusiasm in the least.
At school he was a good student and soon had a small group of “best” friends – they did everything together and played with each other on weekends. We met their parents and sometimes we all got together for a “families” program.
When he was ten there were major changes in his life: we moved to a new apartment and he finished primary school. He was somewhat anxious when he went to a whole new school but soon he was adapted and had a new group of friends that remains to this day.
Then one day as we were watching him play a rugby match he fell and we saw something serious had happened – he was grabbing his left knee in pain and as he got up he could not use that leg. The rugby club doctor who was watching the match immediately assisted him and said this looked like a serious knee injury. As we took our son to his practice on the following Monday he bluntly told us – and our son – that he had a torn knee ligament, a very rare injury in such a young child and that he would never play rugby again.
Even if our son had been reluctant at first he had by now become passionate about rugby! We could not accept this as a final verdict, and nor would he, young as he was. Finally we found a second doctor, who told us he would recover and so he started the painful and hard recovery through physiotherapy: everyday he went to the rugby club therapist (another angel in his life and now a dear friend) and together they worked hard at putting his knee back into shape. For some time he had to wear crutches and it was not easy at school, with so many stairs and his having to go from one pavilion to the other. But he faced it all with incredible courage and strength, with a single purpose: to go back to playing rugby. And he did. After 5 months he was back to the field. We were there, happy, fearful, grateful, and immensely proud of his spirit. And the doctor who had told him he would never play again – he was also there, by chance.
A year later we, his parents, separated. It was much civilised, we kept joint custody of our boys and continued to raise them together, something that was made possible by the cordial relationship we managed to keep. We broke the news to them very gently, and both boys reacted fairly well. Blue Eyes only said in a very mature way “Mom, how could you and Dad live together – you are so different” – but he must have suffered, even he kept it to himself.
Then came the hard teenage years – from a good student to an average one and to the year when he failed. He had wanted to go to a state school but his father and I strongly opposed it – and we were wrong, it was a tough year for him and he was in pain. At the end of that year he did change schools, to a state one as he wished.
Those years were not easy, either for him or for us, his parents. Particularly for me, as we clashed a lot. We came to a point where we were always shouting at each other. Particularly when he was 15 and 16 – from discovering he was smoking to having to go and get him at the police station because he had been caught driving his best friend’s motorcycle without having a driving license – many things happened and we could see that his eyes were sad, dull – he was trying to find his way but he felt somewhat lost.
“Blue eyes holding back the tears, holding back the pain…” – we could feel he was not happy, but he was never one to talk about his feelings, so we just made him feel we were there for him, oscillating between an attitude of understanding and one of exigency, as he had to realize that succeeding in his studies was essential.
Then he was in love with a beautiful girl, tall and slim, with dark blonde hair and green eyes, and this steady relationship was very good for him. They get along well and have been together for three years now. She is attentive and warm and we can feel they are happy together. They even study together!
Through the years Blue Eyes again had to suffer some minor injuries in his “delicate” knee. He once told me that he knew this problem was stopping him from playing more seriously and being called for the national team. This of course meant that his dream of becoming a professional player became more and more distant. But he accepted this – as long as he could play, rugby being more and more his passion, his “escape”. Then at 17 he again had a serious injury in the very same knee, and we expected this time he would have to be operated. But again he recovered, although we all had the notion that it was just a question of time. The knee was like a “Damocles sword” always over his head. Until at 19 he had another injury and he said he wanted to end this suffering – he had decided he was going to have an operation without delay.
At 19 he had a tough year. He was doing the last year of high school and had good results that would allow him to enter the university he wanted to go to. He passed one of the exams without difficulty and he faced the last one (Maths) very confidently. But apparently the Maths exam was extraordinarily difficult that year and the result was terrible. He was shattered as he understood that he would not be able to enter university that year and that he would have to stay behind and do Maths all over again. Moreover, all his friends were already at university, and he felt very bad.
This time we all closed ranks around him. He was in need of support. We knew he had a tough year ahead – repeating Maths and with the knee operation. And of course he knew that as well. I remember telling him “I know this won’t make you feel better now that you see it all ahead of you, but everything passes in life and in a year you’ll have vanquished it all”.
And so he was operated on, and on the very next day as the doctor wanted him to start lifting his leg I could see him doing it, his face distorted with pain, but strong in his resolve, never wavering for one second in his determination to recover and to go back to the rugby field again. Because he went through all that just to continue playing rugby – as for his everyday life he would not need to undergo the operation.
As much he was determined to recover physically he was also strong in his purpose to enter university that year, so he studied hard. He really committed himself – perhaps for the very first time. It was a year of hard work – both on his knee and in Maths. At the same time he enrolled in the university he wanted to go to as an external student and managed to pass a few subjects, that would be credited to him should he enter it the following year.
We saw him change; grow from a boy into a man. Suffering is hard, but it makes you strong, more resilient, and that’s what happened to him. His blue eyes were strong, determined, focused. No longer the sad, unhappy, defeated look, but the look of one who is in battle determined to win, in all fronts.
Slowly, through the months his knee progressed and in spring he was back to the rugby field, first with his therapist (and great friend, always there for him), running and doing minor exercises, and then, finally, training with his team, who received him with joy. At the same time he was studying hard, going to his lessons and getting up early and going to bed late, doing tons of Maths exercises, looking at all the possible options…and reducing the possibilities of failure, because this time it just could not be.
On the day of the exam his stress levels were high, but then so was his confidence. I had told him many times to believe in himself. And he did. I was anxiously waiting for his call and as soon as I heard his voice I understood this battle had been finally won. It had gone very well and in fact he had a brilliant result, a 17,5 out of 20!
From that day on he was a new man. The final challenge still remained, to enter the course he wanted in the university he wanted, but the odds were very good now. And, as he waited, he went on to enjoy his much deserved holidays and his summer, doing the “inter-rail” with two of his best friends and then enjoying the beach where we have our holiday home.
And then finally, one evening, as universities published the results of applications, his blue eyes again shone, first with expectation, then with the sense of victory, when he saw he had achieved his purpose and would be going to his chosen course and university!
Months have gone by. He started training very hard in September and on the first match I watched he made me so proud – he played so well that, as he was substituted only a few minutes before the match was over, he was strongly applauded by everybody at the club and then considered “the best man in the field”. Meanwhile, the first semester at university went very well. And we could see him grow in confidence and happy, contented with his life. And his eyes, more and more (as the song goes) “…like a clear blue sky”.
Blue Eyes has now turned 21. Incredible how time flies. Have I known him only for 21 years? Sometimes, when I look at his beautiful, enigmatic, deep blue eyes I wonder if I have known them forever, if I have crossed many lives with them – they look so familiar to me. From his early days I have always felt we have a bond so strong that goes beyond the boundaries of time – who knows?
He has come through difficult trials, moments of pain and even despair. But he has vanquished them all, he is immensely strong, a good fighter and a resilient soul. He has not wavered in his purpose. It has not been a bed of roses, but he has persisted and reached his goals. I am immensely proud of the man he is, the man he has become. He’s very handsome in his appearance but so much more inside. He has strong values and principles and lives by them. No matter what cost. I trust him and believe in him as he is probably the most truthful person I know. And this beautiful human being is my son, that tiny baby that one day came to fill my life with joy and illuminate it with his big, bright, incredibly meaningful blue eyes.
Yes… as I finish writing I listen to the last words of the song:
“Baby’s got blue eyes
And I am home (and I am home) again”.