I was engaged in lively conversation with several of my cousins. Suddenly my mouth fell open as I glanced across the roomful of mourners. There stood my thirty-five year old son who I had not seen since the year he was nineteen. (I am not counting the hospital visit after my accident, because I have no memory of it.) My shock was overwhelming, even though I had been informed that he might be there.
As I watched, he surreptitiously glanced at me several times, though continually ignoring the fact that we saw each other and making it obvious he intended no move to connect whatsoever. The surprise and the pain that followed assaulted my emotions. Trying desperately to hide the tears running down my face and the sobs that escaped my mouth, I fled to a nearby hallway where I slumped onto a small sofa. Comfort came from an unexpected source.
My niece’s husband spotted me crying and came to sit beside me. His gentle manner, intelligent words and genuine caring lent me some measure of solace despite my inconsolable grief. Eventually he suggested I go say hello, thank my son and his dad for coming and inquire about his dad’s family. Then, if they refused to engage, walk away. His advice provided me with the courage to try. I so wanted a chance to rekindle a relationship with my son.
The time it had taken to quell my fear and despair must have been long. My sister appeared to remind me that family members had been asking for me. Bob and Andrew had left. They returned the following day for the funeral.
During the service, Andrew and I again exchanged glances. Each time our eyes met, he quickly turned away, pretending that he hadn’t seen me. Grief washed over me; for the brother-in-law I had lost to surgical complications; for the son I had somehow also lost.
Following the service, friends and family milled about the huge lobby and my son and I continued the look/don’t look game for a bit. His persistence in looking regenerated some hope in me for reconciliation. I viewed this as an opportunity which I did not want to miss. In as much physical pain as emotional, I gathered my resolve and hobbled in his direction.
For a fraction of a second, the world, and my heart, stopped, as Andrew and his dad saw me, then turned to flee down a side hallway and disappear through a secondary door.
Though the hurt ran deep, later that evening, while processing the day with my sister, I managed to return to default mode. That meant accepting what is, and treating adversity with humor. “I have just one thing to say,” I pronounced. “They couldn’t have fled any faster if their asses were on fire.”