Friday, March 25, 2016

Return of the Prodigal

continued from Roamin' Roma

Roma settled back in Maryland in mid August to live only thirty to forty minutes from home. "Putting himself out there" meant Roma was bold enough to ask for favors. From friends or complete strangers, and anyone in between. I could imagine Roma asking everyone he had ever know, even in the remotest sense, if he could come live with them until he could find a job and help with rent.

No, Roma wasn't shy about asking. And he wasn't easily offended or discouraged if they said no. His list of possible helpers was endless. Who knows how far he had gone down his check list before getting a nibble from the winner of the opportunity to be Roma's roommate. And he was sincere about his offers of one day being a contributing member of a household.

He did not want to live with his dad and me. He was 21 and , in his never humble opinion, he was an adult. We had rules, even for adult children living at home.  And our not-so-distant memory of Roma residing with us had been a strain. Most of his friends were away at college, and living independently from their parents, as far as Roma could tell.

I was surprised to learn that Roma's new roommate was living with his mother. I was comforted to learn this little detail. If Roma didn't think he needed his own mother, perhaps he would continue to get a bit of mothering elsewhere.  It has always been evident that Roma could never have too many mothers.

Roma reached out to us often while living away, yet so close. I would get a surprising text saying, "Mom, look at the sunset this evening, it's beautiful." I thought this odd and amusing because I was always saying that to him, often dragging him from the TV to come out on the deck to see God's artistry. Or when we were driving home, over the last hill, the landscape would open up and was mostly painted sky.  Sometimes I would stop the car at the top of that hill so we could marvel at the beauty.

"Maaahm," he would scold me in his boredom, "It's just a sunset, oh my gosh, they happen every night."

I wondered if Roma's new recognition of the familiar splendor of the sunset made him a little nostalgic, tugging his heart toward home.   Once there was a serious car accident a quarter mile from our house, and Roma, after hearing of it, called to make sure we were all safe and not involved. He did love us. No one ever said that Roma didn't have a huge, sweet heart.

He asked if he could go with us to our lake house in neighboring West Virginia the next time we went. We agreed, cautiously optimistic, and agreed on Labor Day weekend.  

Once at the lake, our extreme extrovert wanted to go to the lodge earlier than we could, to see what was happening. He rode a bike the mile and a half to the lodge to start gathering friends for the evening. When we arrived, Roma came over to introduce himself to our friends, always the gentleman. By 11 pm, we were heading home, telling him to head on his bike soon. I texted him and he texted  back, "I'm just hanging home."

I read it as "I'm just heading home," an auto-correct issue, I assumed. I texted him at midnight, asking if he was okay, since we hadn't heard from him, and he was riding a bicycle without street lights.

His last text before his phone battery died read, "I'm fine." When he finally came home, an hour later, he defended himself by telling me he had told me that he was just "hanging here" for a while, since his new friends were still available. Roma didn't want to miss anything. It was a golfing weekend, and he met some people who were staying in the motel. Roma, never one to miss any activity, assumed we knew he was okay, because he had told us. And he had grown unaccustomed to checking in with us. 

Those kind of misunderstandings were common with our communications with Roma. He couldn't understand why we would worry. He had told us the truth.  And he was 21, he often reminded me. After our weekend together, the first in four months, we dropped him off near his new home at a convenience store. He said we couldn't drive beyond a gate. I suspect he didn't want us to know exactly where he was living. I was determined to allow him this freedom.

Later in the week, via a Faceboook group from our lake house, I learned that Roma had made some nice friends at the lodge that night. He had left a favorable impression on adults in our lake community who he had talked to at length that night. That shouldn't have surprised me, but it did please me. I had worried he was up to irresponsible behavior. Silly me! 

By mid October he was talking about coming home. I was reluctant to have him come home because it had been difficult to share a home with Roma in the recent past. Although he had always been easy to love, it was not easy to raise a boy who wanted his freedom more than a family.

Two weeks later, Roma began talking like a homesick boy. I was not eager to start the cycle again. Hadn't God nudged me to withdraw the safety net? Was it time to run and eagerly greet the prodigal son? I'm not sure I was ready. 

In mid October, Roma hinted that he wanted to come home. A sense of dread struck me, as  my memory was still fresh from when he was home four months earlier,  and of every episode of his home stays before that. Had he worn out his welcome with his present family?

Still, something made us know that if Roma was going to try to live at home again, we had to let him, while maintaining our high expectations of his improved behavior. He told me that he needed his family.  We knew what Roma needed most, after God, was his family, but it had to be Roma's idea. It always had to be Roma's idea.

So on Monday, October 19, Roma decided it would be a good idea to come home. He also decided that he would follow the house rules. He reminded me it was his idea, and I didn't have to remind him.

He met Bruce at the church gym for Monday night volleyball, and brought him home afterwards, with his pitiful little bag of possessions. The prodigal son had returned. He was almost contrite. And almost contrite for Roma was a shocking and welcome condition. He set down with us and reinforced to us that he needed his family. He wanted his family. He wanted us to go on a family vacation, like we used to do, before we bought the lake house. Like a little boy, he told us he wanted to rent a big house at Holden Beach in North Carolina, like before, and the whole family go. Maybe he could invite a friend. He had it figured out this time. And it was going to work this time. I told him we would start making plans for the summer of 2016. 

The prodigal son was home. Again. I was trying to be eager to 
be optimistic this time. 

Continue with A Grace Refined

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