“Blessed is the one whom God corrects so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.”
~ Job 5:17-18
It was a hot day in June when I took my son on our usual walk down the riverbank. It was always quiet so it was the perfect place to talk to my son about the consequences of the decisions we make. I knew he may be too young to comprehend everything I would say but one day, maybe one day he may understand the complexity of adulthood and the sacrifices we have to make.
Today, I decided to talk to Jay about his father. Every time I thought of the man, my blood turned cold and my throat closed up. Still, I could no longer keep Jay in the dark. He must know.
Swallowing hard, my voice cracked as I said, “Remember what I told you about your father?”
“Of course, mama,” he answered innocently while licking his ice cream cone clean of melting drips. “He was the best soccer player on his high school team and was on all his teachers’ good side. He was the principal’s best student.”
“That is all very true,” and it was, “but there is something else that I need to tell you, that I haven’t told you. I think you are old enough to hear it now.” He looked at me with an intensity in his eyes I’ve never seen before, eyes so similar to mine and so… understanding and mature. He ran to the trashcan in front of us, tossed his ice cream, and then walked back with such purpose. He took my hand in his and guided me to the bench a few paces off the dirt path. We sat down and he patted my hand, comforting me. I looked at his tiny hand on top of mine and saw he was steading my trembling ones.
He stroked my hand as he stared at the homeless man feeding birds a few feet away. I tried to breathe evenly and blinked away flashes of gray images of agony. The silent cries for mercy rang in my ears, so close but so far. Control. I needed to control myself. I started to count backwards from twenty, each digit rebalanced and refocused my reality. On twenty I was in my present. I squeezed his hand, drawing his attention away from the homeless man back to me.
“Remember our conversation yesterday about taking responsibility for the choices you made?” He nodded. “Well, Jay, there are some choices someone else makes that will affect you, sometimes directly. It is how you choose to handle it.” I paused and searched his face to see if he understood what I said. He didn’t blink or consider what I said, but nodded his understanding right away. That was great because I couldn’t quite grasped what I said to him. I licked my dry lips and swallowed to moisten my quenched throat. “I need you to know that you are my son and whatever happened in my past does not make what I feel for you any less than what it is.”
“I know, mama.”
I swallowed again. “Your father was the best student at our high school, the most popular kid in town. Everyone knew him and his family. He was smart and handsome and so very kind. And he was my best friend. That was all he was to me and nothing more.” I watched him closely to see if he understood what that meant. His brows knitted together as he struggled to piece together what I told him. “He was just a friend, but he wanted to be more and uh, one night, while we were out with some friends at the lake, he got drunk… he… he did something to me that he had no right to do…” I squeezed Jay’s hand, trying not to cry, trying not to relive the moment, the betrayal of friendship, the pain coursing through my body as I laid on the dewy grass going numb, staring at the starry sky that offered no solace.
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