Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Grace Refined

Continued  from TheReturn of the Prodigal

Just like that, on October 19, 2015, Roma moved home. And in typical Roma fashion, he was ready to put another challenging episode of life behind all of us, never to speak of it again. Now I wish I had asked more questions. I wish I knew more of the details of his six months away. I thought there would be more time for him to eventually tell his secrets, as he usually did.

His first morning home, I had to drive him to meet his boss at a convenience store about a half hour from home. Even as I type this, I can almost hear Roma correcting me with , "twenty-five minutes." Whatever. It is so like Roma to want to argue about even a small issue. It seemed like a long drive for me, there and back home, twice a day for a total of almost two hours.

In July, before an August return to Maryland was yet on Roma's radar, we sold the car we allowed him to use since getting his license when he was eighteen and three quarters.  It had been sitting in our driveway, with matching dented front fenders, courtesy of Roma and ice (so I was told) since he left in April.  I didn't want to continue to insure the 2000 Chevy Impala. The car ran, and had low mileage, as Bruce's mother was the original owner, but it would require more to repair it than it was worth.

While Bruce and I debated the wisdom of saving it for Roma's eventual use, a man rang my doorbell one afternoon and said he was just driving in our small-town neighborhood, and noticed that the car parked in our driveway needed body repair, and he just happened to be a auto body repairman. I confessed that we were on the verge of donating the vehicle. Even if Roma returned home, he would not be able to afford to insure it on a separate policy, which we would require, to protect us. At twenty-one, his insurance would be high, even though, surprisingly, Roma had no moving violations. He was pulled over once, for speeding. He smiled through his tears, and candidly shared with the officer about a painful break up with his girlfriend earlier in the evening (true story), so he got a warning from the compassionate cop. Of course he would. Roma's counselor once told me he had an amazing ability to turn a negative into a positive.  

Anyway . . . The repairman returned to my door a couple of days later and offered me $350 for the wrecked car, $100 more than the junk yard would offer me. The gentle man, missing some front teeth, looked as if he could benefit from a bargain on a car he could easily repair, so I shook his hand and it was a deal.

(Sorry for the rabbit trail. But as I remember and type this, I suddenly think the stranger buying our car is a part of the story.)

So the consequence of this deal was that I had to drive Roma to meet his boss at a convenience store twenty-five minutes away. Sometimes Bruce would pick him up in the evening, but it was out of the way from anywhere we usually traveled.  Roma hadn't had the job long, and general handyman work, cleaning gutters, trimming bushes, etc. didn't seem to adequately use his people skills. Roma wasn't a handy man. I suggested, now that he was home, he look for something closer to home.

He agreed he would look.  He had interviews on rainy days, when they had to postpone outdoor work for the day.  Nothing seemed to suit him. That first week, I thought it was a temporary that I would be driving him. But the days grew into weeks. And there were other destinations to drive him to on some days.


Sometimes  my older son, Taylor,  would drive him, if he had to work at a similar time. But the bulk of the driving fell on me. And I was not happy about it. I was still subbing at the high school some. But I couldn't accept jobs on days he had no other transportation, unless I wanted to drop him off two and a half hours early.

Roma's transition to home wasn't easy from the start, on top of my annoyance of driving him was his eagerness to be the boss. But he tried to honor his 11:30 curfew. Later that first week home he was with a trusted neighbor watching a football game, just down the street. He asked if he could stay until the end of the game. We said yes. He came in at midnight. But then, according to Roma, his curfew was now midnight, because we had allowed it before. Roma's reasoning techniques and arguing skills were well honed. I once thought he would grow up to be a lawyer.

One of the first mornings when we started our drive to meet his boss, he was reminiscing about his old car, sad not to have the freedom of his own wheels anymore. He said the mother of his most recent roommate before he moved home had criticized us as parents for not helping him out. He said, "And I told her she didn't know what I put you through, and how much money you already spent on me."

I wanted to swerve to the right onto the shoulder and slam on brakes to see who was sitting beside me in the car. But I calmly asked, "Roma, did you really say that?"

"Sure, I told her you always had my back." I was stunned. Roma "got it"! On the planet Roma inhabited, the light bulb was coming on! Roma's dark journey had a Light at the end of the tunnel. His brain's frontal cortex was finally fusing. I was hopeful that this was an irreversible step toward the Promised Land.

But then we would have our little misunderstandings. And I was getting impatient that he wasn't getting another job closer to home. As soon as we would get home in the evening, he would head out, down the street to see friends, or a friend would pick him up. We wouldn't see him again until curfew and bedtime.

One morning, maybe the end of week two, when we got in the car, instead of listening to his excuses about some new misunderstanding, I turned up my Christian radio station and we had to listen to it way too loud. By the time we were close to our destination, I had cooled down. I couldn't stay mad at Roma long. I had been totally distracted by my anger, I didn't even listen to the teachings on the radio.  

The next morning, we got in the car, and he quickly turned the radio, claiming his station for this trip. But then he leaned in and turned the volume down very low.

I suddenly had that heightened awareness of God at this odd action. I thought, Roma either wants to talk or to listen. I waited, and he eventually began. "Mom," he started slowly and thoughtfully, "I know what you were talking about yesterday." 

My mind reeled back to yesterday, trying to remember a nugget of wisdom I had delivered, but all I could remember was the blaring radio. I waited for more clues.

 He continued, "Mom, God loves the Jews. He isn't going to let anything happen to them."

I was trying to absorb what he was saying, as I was overcome with a feeling that our time in the car together was precious. It was Sacred. It was the only time we had together.  The only thing he did at home was sleep.

When I recovered a bit, I told Roma about God convicting me that our driving time was precious, and he agreed, saying, "See Mom!" like it had been his idea. (Roma claimed all good ideas as his own!) 

Now, months after the fact, I can't help remembering the man who showed up at my door to buy a wrecked but running car so I had to drive Roma to work. The Grace I recognize now humbles me to tears. Yes, the time in the car together was sacred

When we arrived at the convenience store, he usually just got out and waited for his ride, and I headed home. Starting that day and every other day after, we waited for his boss to arrive together in the car, talking away about important matters, about God and faith. He had his ticket to go to Passion 2016 in two and a half months in Atlanta over New Years, a gift from Nancy from Georgia. He was excited to repeat his last years experience at Passion 2015. My prayers were for the coming conference to be even more enlightening and convicting for his faith. He was truly starting to flourish in that, and so many other areas.

I was happy for Bruce, when he got the sacred time in the car with Roma. They usually talked sports, but that was fine. And even Taylor had time in the car with Roma. They usually listened to music, and that was fine too. 

Sacred moments don't fit in a certain size box. I was just thankful to recognize the gift. 

Continue with Catching up.

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