FEBRUARY 6, 2019
Yesterday morning, the boy, who had gone away for more than a week, returned. He looked rough, and was crying. I employed my usual coping mechanism. I shut down, failed to acknowledge him, and left for work. I was about a block away when I began thinking about how to avoid coming home, and hoping he would leave again. I’m not proud to share these thoughts. It’s been damn hard. I’m in a constant state of fear when he’s around, and the past five years have conditioned me this way.
Today, I’d been at work, for about an hour, when the flood of messages began. I wish I could tell you those messages were easy to read. They were not. It’s incredibly painful being this boy’s mom — for so many reasons.
This afternoon, I dug deep inside myself. I stuffed the bitter, angry mama who’s been grieving the loss of the son, she once knew, way too long. No matter how awful things have been, or how hard they may get in the future, this child is still my child. This evening, I persuaded him to get in the car with me. My heart told me to drive east. He kept asking, “Where are you going?” I didn’t know and he began to panic. The uncertainty was too much for him.
I turned left, and an impromptu shopping trip at a low-populated, outdoor shopping mall began. My son was surprised. I was too. It wasn’t planned. (It’s been more than a year since I’ve bought anything for him.) As we entered the Polo Ralph Lauren store, my son made a beeline to a clerk. They shook hands, and I realized he was a neighbor kid. There was another person there, too. A man. He began talking to my son like he knew him. I watched as they had a conversation. Soon, we had a bag with six polo shirts, four t-shirts, and a jacket. The man helped my son find all the best deals, and told me how to get an additional twenty-percent off.
At the register, the man told a story about giving a coat to someone at his church — a coat like the one my son was getting — and he began talking about C’s upcoming birthday. I had no idea who this man was, but it was clear he knew my son. My heart swelled. Turns out, my boy had been in the store several times looking at clothes, and talking about getting a job there. The man knew a side of my son that was full of light. After the clothing store, we headed to the Nike store to buy shoes. I only planned on buying one pair. We left with two. As we drove away from the mall, I told my son, “I love you, and I hope you’ll take good care of your new things.”
That shopping trip was worth every penny. I really needed to see my son from a different perspective. Oh, how I hope and pray, someday, more people will see him as having a golden light — the golden light the man, in the Polo store, saw in my boy.
POSTSCRIPT: As of today, RNP’s son has a new title — Retail Associate, Ralph Lauren.