I don’t talk much about my 15-year-old, D. Most of his story is his to tell. Yet, out of all the miracles that God has performed in my life, he’s one of the biggest.
When he was five, D went to spend the weekend with his dad and didn’t come back home. To make a very long story short, I didn’t see him again for 9 years. I worried about him – not knowing how he was doing, not knowing what he was going through, hoping that everything was all right and that he was living a good life.
Nine years later, I received a phone call from my mother-in-law. Another long story short… my son needed me, and he needed me now. I got off the phone that night and prayed as I have never prayed before. My son was coming home and I was terrified.
I called the number my mother-in-law gave me and the state worker on the other end of the line said I had 24 hours to get him on a plane. He didn’t want to see me, she said, but he didn’t have a choice. He’d told her he knew I didn’t want him.
My son, whom I had terribly missed for 9 years, thought I didn’t want him. He thought I’d willingly given him up. That tore at my heart and brought one, terrifying question to my mind. How do I heal the hurt between us?
We were so nervous, waiting at the airport for his plane to arrive. I took C with me, in the hopes that a familiar face would put D to ease (all four of my boys look just like their dad). Neither of us knew what to expect.
He was 14 and most, if not all, that he’d been told about me wasn’t good. I just knew that I’d have an angry, petulant teenager on my hands. I knew I’d have to restrain myself from giving him a hug. I can’t describe how much my heart hurt.
The plane landed and the passengers got off. I watched eagerly for a glimpse of my son, afraid that I wouldn’t recognize him. Then this kid, arms full of bags and a ball cap hiding his face, stepped out. He stood there for a second, staring at me and C.
I couldn’t even talk. I’m not sure that I even moved. I’m not sure what he saw, but whatever it was, D nodded slowly and squared his shoulders. We walked slowly toward each other, like wary fighters – both tense, both ready to run, I think. –And then that boy did something I never expected. He looked at me, eyes hooded and troubled, and said, “Hi, mom.”
I grabbed him and pulled him into my arms, hugging him as hard as I could. C wrapped his arms around both of us. Wonder of wonders, D hugged us back just as hard. I was holding my son for the first time in nine years; I didn’t want to let go. I was afraid to let go. If it was a dream, I didn’t want to wake up.
My Son the Giant
Sometimes I can’t do anything but shake my head in wonder. D’s life hasn’t been easy. His memories of before he left are vague. “I remember you being taller,” he said.
I laughed. “To a five year old, I’m huge.”
To be honest, though, my son is the giant. We sat and talked far into the night when he came home. I answered every question he threw at me. Some were surprising. Some weren’t. At one point, he cocked his head to the side and said, “You’re not at all like I thought you’d be.”
All I could do was nod. He had a horrible picture in his head of the kind of person I am. Some of it had been true, once; most of it didn’t even come close. I knew we had a lot of things to work out.
What continually blows my mind is the magnitude of what my son did. There was a stopover on the flight. He could have gotten off the plane and disappeared. Instead, he called me to let me know he was at the stopover, was okay, and was grabbing something to eat.
He was so wary when he got off the plane. I could see he was scared. I know I was. Yet, he didn’t react in any way that I had expected. He’s told me since then that he’d waited all his life to be able to call me mom. Before he went to bed that night, he told me he loved me.
You know what? I want to be like my son when I grow up. He has such a big heart. He’s been through so much; if he’d been the angry teenager I expected, I would have understood and loved him just the same. Yet, somehow, he’s come out the other side with very definite ideas of the type of person he wants to be. Through his life, he’s separated actions into two categories: how I want to be and how not to be.
We have a lot of problems to work through. We have a long way to go. But my son – that almost man – has given (and continues to give) more love, more forgiveness and more caring than I’ve ever been able to give. He’s one of my lifelong heroes.
And the little child shall lead them…