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A column

by William Cleary

My son that was lost is found. Luke 15:24

That afternoon I lost it with my 24 year old son: college drop-out, rock and roll musician of a sort, prize winning poet become slacker. I couldn't hold back one last piece of unsought advice: "Is it time to get a life, Andrew?" I opined.

He angrily ridiculed me. I exploded.

I was shouting into his face across the table: "You have to get serious! You're not better than everybody else! Your mind is shut down! You're full of yourself like the people you most despise!"

My handsome, beloved son rose, stung with deep pain, turned and walked wordlessly out the door and across the lawn toward downtown.

I sat motionless for awhile, blaming myself. I knew from counseling that I could sometimes be too hard on my kids -- especially this one -- since I was often too negative about myself as well and he takes after me. I felt awful.

When my sensible wife Dierdre came home, I confessed what had happened, and she said Andrew would get over it.

She and I had a pretty silent dinner and I drove her to church for a meeting. Then instead of heading home, I headed downtown. It was crazy. I'd never find him in all those streets, but the car almost drove itself.

Suddenly there he was! He stood in the shadows talking to three other guys, looking so beautiful, so serious.

I double parked like a policeman making an arrest, and he saw me but looked away. I got out and came up to him: "Could I have one minute?" I said, and walked back and leaned against the car. He came over. "That wasn't myself this afternoon," I blurted out looking down. "It was my worst self hating my own worst self."

"Naw," he said, "There was more truth in your anger than the baloney you usually give me." But he didn't say baloney. Then he gave me a quick hug and turned back to his friends.

Needless to say, it was hard to see my way driving home.

And I thought: my own young self was a terrible fool. Was it luck, was it grace, what was it that guided me to where I am? My mother's prayers like Monica's for Augustine? My mother took little time to give me advice, but only God knows how often I was in her heart. A pain to her I surely was for much longer than the childbirth drama she might have expected. Now maybe it's just my turn to feel the pains of my son's childbirth. I am mothering a wildly gifted boy and I shouldn't be surprised that takes some doing. Any mother could help me understand that, I guess.

Let Us Pray: Holy Forgiving Sweet Mystery, our God and Mothering Spirit, I thank you for all my own pain -- when it makes it possible to give life, or to heal, even a little, the pain of my son.



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