I’ve been estranged from my 24 year old son since he was 18. I saw him briefly a couple of times in those years but we had no real conversation, and the reaction I received let me know it wasn’t time for him to talk yet.
So I’ve waited. It’s been tough. It’s like having a headache or a fever, not a severe one, but one that’s distracting and prevents you from fully experiencing whatever it is you’re doing.
I’ve had this 6 year low-grade fever. We’ve gone about our lives, working and playing, traveling and enjoying family visits, taking classes and going to museums, theaters and the movies. All with that fever that could be triggered to cause more pain depending on the discussion, movie or song.
I’ve reached out over this time in occasional emails asking if he is open to seeing me. One time I had my hopes up. He told my former husband he was ready to see me and responded to my email. I excitedly checked my email and the spam folder and there was nothing from my son. I wrote and asked for another note and he did not respond.
Not frequently, but maybe ever 6 months or so in the last couple of years I have reached out via email. It’s not in my nature to give up and I’ve had hope without a timeframe.
Recently, I wrote and asked if he was ready to see me yet. The answer was yes! We set up a time and place.
I was so excited, happy, scared, anxious, angry about lost time, and had a dozen other emotions swirling around.
The day before, he wrote that he had not made adequate plans to get there and dinner was cancelled.
This happened right before our vacation and business trip, and I was on edge. Was he backing out or was it an honest mistake?
When I returned, I asked about meeting in his town on a Saturday, and he said yes.
On Saturday, I had an early errand on the way and wound up outside the restaurant for 2 hours. I brought things to read and tried to concentrate on them. Played some music.
I went inside and waited. Then he came in, I was still sitting as I wasn’t sure if I had the strength in my legs to get up – I was so nervous. I stood and he reached out, willing to hug me. I hugged him with all of my love.
I thanked him for coming, for being brave to see me, that I was happy to see him.
We had some chitchat about what we were doing and then we got into more about what was really happening in his life, how that affected us. He confessed to some things he had done and he apologized. I apologized for not knowing what to do to make things change for him.
We talked for about an hour and a half. I have a lot more questions, more to learn, more to share, but I didn’t want to overwhelm him and was very emotional about everything.
He isn’t the boy I saw at 18. He’s a man. He looks a little different. His thought process is much clearer and it’s exciting to get a little insight into who he is now. He doesn't need me every day and it could be that I won't see him for months.
It’s a start. It’s like going up a 10 story building using the stairs and carrying a backpack of rocks as you go. With each step, you take a rock out of the bag and your climb is still challenging but easier as you go.
This is huge and really a lot to take in. I may write, I may not, but know that there are possibilities in life, that you can go through things that are difficult and come through the other side.
Marcia Stein, PHR is the author of Strained Relations: