I arose this morning early. Spent last night up in Oaksdale with Greg and the horses. Though I do this occasionally, he drives down from work most nights. Last Spring in an attempt to reduce his driving fatigue somewhat, I tried to get up there a few nights a week. I would get up early, grab a cup of coffee, drive, and still make it back in time for an early am swim or run. All in trying to stay true to the things that keep me sane. Got out of the habit this summer. Slept in. Went for a run on the mountain by myself or swam at noon. Now, I am back to the school year schedule. If I don’t get the exercise in early, it doesn’t happen. What greeted me this morning as I walked out to my car was a full frontal view of Orion in all of his splendor. Nothing says Fall/Winter like Orion.
When Jasper was in utero, Jim and I went through a bunch of possible names. Jim being a school teacher, it was tough to find a name that didn’t conjure up a student. Good or bad, we wanted our son to have his own identity. Not knowing if I was carrying a girl or a boy, I wanted a life science name. After suggestions such as “St John’s Wart-Warty for short” and “Fleabane”, I gave up. I really liked the name Orion. Jim vetoed on the principle that he would constantly be mislabeled as a Ryan. We finally settled on Jasper if a boy, Iris if a girl. Walking to the hospital while in labor, with the front yard iris in bloom, I was pretty sure I was going to have a girl. A few minutes after his head popped out, I was proven wrong. No regrets, but still every time I see Orion in the sky, it makes me think of my boy child. This morning was no different.
Jasper was a quirky little boy. He would argue, proudly, that he still is. Happy to play by himself, loyal to a fault to his few friends, and a very black and white approach to what was right and what was wrong. He excelled in Math, and struggled with vocabulary. “How can that word mean 2 different things?” Now he is studying computer science or engineering and thinks one liner puns are the highest form of humor. Starting with the skill of walking, Jasper was always hesitant to try something new until he felt that he could excel at it. Gymnastics taught him that sometimes it takes a very long time and a lot of building blocks before he could become proficient at a skill, but even that was approached systematically and with full attention to his coach. Jasper was such a perfectionist that at times, I worried. In grade school, I asked for advice from one of his teachers. She looked at me with a cocked eyebrow and said, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. He may not appear to be paying attention to you, but he needs to see you fail. He needs to see your mistakes, and how you fix them or accept them if you can’t.” Best advice I was ever given. He saw me accidentally put vanilla in the fried rice instead of soy sauce and change the menu to scrambled eggs. I talked about my mess ups and frustrations at work. I said, “I don’t know, go look it up or ask a teacher who knows” when hit with one of his never ending questions. Jasper’s anxiety decreased, but his quirky approach to life continued until he became the young man he is today.
About 6 weeks ago, Jasper announced to me that he wanted to take 2 weeks off of work between his summer job and the quarter starting again at OSU at the end of September. He stated that he wanted to go on a road trip throughout the state of ID, to visit friends he had made during his Hugh O’Brien Youth leadership sessions over the last 3 years. A minor problem with his plan was that he did not have a driver’s license, and I can’t take 2 weeks off to play chauffeur at the beginning of the school year.
Jasper was in drivers ed when Jim was diagnosed with brain cancer. Though it meant being at school at 7 am for 2 months, he stuck it out and completed all of his practice drives. He obtained his learners permit, and then we all dropped the ball when it came to getting 50 hours of experience prior to taking his actual test. I did not have the energy or time to invent drives just so he could practice and he showed little interest. He finally argued successfully with me. “Mom, there isn’t anywhere I need to go that I cannot access on a bike or by walking. I will ask friends for rides to events out of town, and pitch in for gas. Teenage boys are expensive to insure, why would you want me to get my license?” Like many other things in life at that point, I just pushed the thought aside. I also knew that when Jasper saw a reason to drive, he would make short work of getting there, and he would be good at it once he wanted to.
So, knowing my son pretty well, we approached his dilemma systematically. His obligations were to: 1) Get experience with family or friends 2) Obtain an Oregon drivers license as that is where he lives 3) Pass the mommy test by driving from Corvallis to Moscow with intelligent breaks for fatigue 4) Figure out a ride back to Corvallis prior to school starting so that I did not have to make that trip twice in 2 weeks. My end of the bargain: 1) Add Jasper to my insurance 2) Come and get him at the start of his vacation 3) Allow him to drive from Corvallis to Moscow 4) Loan him my car for his road trip. I wasn’t sure if he would actually follow through. After 3 years, I was getting pretty used to the idea that he might never choose to drive. Today he took his drivers test. There is now another LaFortune that holds a drivers license. He will be insured as of today. I will go get him soon, and he will drive back. He already has a return ride lined up. I think his aunt in OR and my friends from Corvallis are still speaking to him. I will drive the red truck for a couple of weeks as my blue car will be journeying around Idaho.
As I stared at Orion this morning, I thought of my son. I knew he was taking his test today, and I knew the effort he had put in to get there. Like losing his first baby tooth, a drivers license is a rite of passage. My quirky, loving, systematic, perfectionist boy. I love him more than ALL of the stars in the night sky. My heart overflows.