I am in hibernation and have spent the last few days wrapped up in a blanket in front of the fireplace. As the snowstorm rages outside I immersed myself in my history by reading my journals. I am surprised as I find memories that were long buried. And I brace myself for the memories I know I will encounter on my timeline. A ghost lurks in my journals and I found him half way through the journal marked 1989.
I read about the day the baby boy was born and the difficulty I had in believing that I was his mother. I relived introducing him to his little sister when he was two. I laughed at his antics during his preschool years. I am reminded what a difficult child he was. How he hated new things or differing from his routine. How terrified he was about going to school. How devastated he was when I divorced his daddy.
He hated me, but still I pushed him. I pushed him to do home work, to practice piano, to eat right, to go to sleep at a decent hour and to brush his teeth. Everything with him was a battle. A war between doing what I knew he needed and what he wanted. In my eyes what he wanted was unacceptable. He wanted to hide away, to recluse to a safe place where everything was within his control. But I knew it was a prison and did everything in my power to keep him actively engaged in the outside world.
Then we moved to another state in the middle of his freshman year of high school. A cease-fire was called on a count of my overwhelming sense of guilt. The relocation had a huge impact on him. I was occupied as I tried to navigate my way around a strange place and he withdrew into a world of video games. It was a lonely year for both of us. As I became involved in my three younger children’s lives of school and church, my determination came back to get him motivated again. The war was back on. We argued daily and fought constantly until the day he graduated.
We all came together and gathered around him to celebrate graduation, including his dad. Early the next morning after the celebration, I was awoken by noise downstairs. I went to investigate and found my son with his bags packed by the front door. I glanced out the window to see his dad’s car in the driveway. He was going to leave without saying goodbye. I stood in front of the door and forbade him to leave, as if I had any power to make him stay. He said nothing with his head bowed as he waited for me to move. A silent war raged for what seemed like eternity but was only a few minutes. Everything in me knew that this was a horrible mistake. Powerless, I moved away from the door and he left without saying a word.
I did not see or hear from him again until six months later when he came home briefly for Christmas. In honor of the holidays, we were civil and spoke of only trivial issues, like weather or music. He left to go back to his dad’s and I went back to worrying. He called once in awhile to let me know he was okay and that he was working and saving his money for a vehicle. As soon as he bought his truck, he asked to come home.
He drove the five hundred miles that separated us, arriving home at 2 am. I answered the door to a shadowy figure. His hood was up over his head and I could not see his face in the porch light. I was startled at how stooped he was, he looked defeated as if he failed an important test. I pulled him into my arms and whispered, “Welcome home”. I could feel him relax in my embrace. After a moment I moved aside and told him “it’s late, go to bed”. He carried his burden up the stairs and went to his bedroom and he slept for three days.
The war started up again after a few months. I spent the next year pushing him out of the house. I pushed him to find a job. I pushed him to find friends and I pushed him to be respectful to us. Slowly he began to get into a rhythm of work, friends, video games, and chores. I yelled less and he rebelled less. We learned how to communicate to each other over brutal games of scrabble. I learned to trust him and worried less about his choices. He kept me informed of his schedule and texted me during the day just to say hello. An alliance was formed and the war ended.
The entry of my journal on the night he died was about him sending me a text message to let me know that he would be out late and would be staying with his friend so he would not disturb us. I wrote in my journal about how far we had come and how relieved I was that a connection was finally made. We were communicating instead of fighting. I went to bed and slept peacefully.
After his death, my first question was “Did he know how much I loved him?” I spent his lifetime fighting with him and pushing him to do more. And immediately my second question was, “Did I cause his death?” Because I pushed him, forced him out into the world and into danger.
These questions still haunt me. I desperately wish I could rewrite the story found in my journals. In it, I find myself the villain. If only I could correct all the mistakes I made. I wish I could change the story to reflect me being the perfect mother and he being the perfect son.
As I reflect on this history, I force myself to change my perspective and think about it being his story and not mine. He needed me to push him to the next level. I believe this is the reason he came home. The more I pushed the more he did, the more he did the happier he became. The happier he was the more open he was to a relationship with those around him, his siblings, his friends and me, his mother.
I share this story with his younger brothers, now teenagers. They can relate with his fear and the risk that comes with living. They can relate with their mother and why I push them to do more. They ask questions and I admit I do not have the answers, but together we will learn lessons from his story. This is how his story lives on.
My story is found in writing his story. His story had such a huge impact on my life and it is the connection between the woman I was in the story and the woman I am today and the woman I have yet to become.
Our stories knit together a beautiful tapestry and each individual thread weaves meaning that only can be understood if we stand back and reflect upon the whole picture.