The Prodigal has been out of our home for about eighteen months now. And it’s finally getting easier. I think about him every day, but the grief and guilt and gut-wrenching have eased considerably. We have a mostly friendly relationship with him, primarily because we only talk to him once a week and we keep our conversations very superficial. Besides paying his phone bill every month (so that we can “make” him call us once a week), our financial obligations to him are over.
Do we like the choices he’s making? Um, no. He has been unemployed for a long stretch again, with very little motivation to get another job (although he did start a trial run at a new place this past week, so we’ll see). There’s always a lot of drama in his life, and he seems to be an object of constant curiosity with the local police force, which definitely makes us wonder. Recently evicted from the home where he was free-loading, he and his girlfriend are trying to find an apartment. He is very critical of everyone and is convinced that the world is out to get him. Any desire to have a relationship with God is thwarted by his complete lack of remorse about anything. I keep our phone conversations short, to stop his constant efforts to manipulate us… sometimes with tears and sadness and an unspoken request for money, sometimes with anger and defiance and a desire to draw us into an argument, sometimes with lies and half-truths and an effort to get us to take “his side” in the latest drama in his soap opera life.
But we’re past it. We don’t bite. He’s been gone long enough that, while we’re not wild about what he’s doing, we feel pretty comfortable with the idea that it’s not our responsibility. We comfort ourselves with the thought that, while he was a child, we kept him and the world safe from his stupidity; what he does now is on his own head.
Until Haley texted me earlier this week, “Mom, did Zach call you yesterday?” Um, no. So I called her to ask what was up. And the Prodigal had used one of his methods to get information to us… he had told his sister, knowing that she would fill us in. The latest story is that some kids we know were spreading rumors about him at their high school. Now, this didn’t alarm me, since Zach is always worried about people talking about him, although he insists on behaving in ways that make people want to talk about him. What made my heart stop were the allegations: supposedly these girls were telling people that my son had touched them inappropriately several years ago.
Ugh. The horrible thing was that I believed it from the very beginning. There are certain things that I have felt in my gut were “off” about Zach for years, but I could never confirm. His fascination with younger girls was one of those things. For years, we had battled him and chased him around to make sure he was never alone with a younger girl… not because we had seen anything… just because of a gut feeling and some incidents that didn’t seem quite right.
So. I got to call two women… friends of mine… mothers of beautiful daughters. And I got to ask them what my son had done to their girls… and if there was anything we could do… and to express our eternal sorrow . So. much. fun.
And, as the details came out, it wasn’t as bad as we had originally thought… thank God. Certainly nothing criminal… even “not a big deal” by today’s standards… but certainly a big deal by our standards. The story came out now, because it was part of a discussion with a friend who had had way worse things happen to her at the hands of a delinquent boy. The girls are OK, and eager to be out of the limelight. The mothers don’t seem to be letting their anger with the boy spill over onto us.
And the Prodigal has called me three days in a row. At first, he was belligerent and daring me to argue with him, daring me to say that I believe these two girls hands-down over my own son. I refused to argue, so now he’s been calling to tell me how great his life is going (a new trial run at a job, a new lead on an apartment, a tax refund), to take my eyes off the issue at hand.
However, although I haven’t spoken of it much with him, my eyes have been completely on the issue at hand. I have cried more Prodigal-based-tears this week than I have for months, have seen these girls’ faces in my minds constantly, have dreaded seeing their families face-to-face, have imagined what else might have happened, and have tortured myself with pointless questions about what we could have done differently.
Ugh. And at the end of the day, we pray for the boy, like we do and have done every night since he was six years old. We place him back in the Father’s hands, knowing that only a mighty God (Whom we’re privileged to know) can work redemption and restoration in this child’s heart.