“Happy birthday, Ernie!” we cheerfully exclaimed. My husband, stepson and I had taken Ernie out to dinner for his birthday.
Fourth of July.
A double celebration: our glorious Independence Day in the United States of America. And my son’s birthday. Ernie was celebrating his 21st birthday.
His own independence, I mused.
I love my son with all my heart. I have been thinking about Ernie’s life lately. I thought back to before his birth and reflected forward through his life to this date, where he now sat before me as a 21 year old.
Ernie was a wanted child. Bringing him into this world was well thought out. Upon his arrival, he immediately brought happiness to me and his father, and to the rest of the family. He was always loved by everyone around him. He was a cute, charming, and smart child.
While Ernie traveled his path of growing up, I’ve been with him during his “green pastures” and “still waters” but I have also been with him as he walked through “the valley of shadows.”
I could dedicate a complete blog to our memoir. Ernie might want to do it some day. Not me. At least not at this time.
One of the saddest events in Ernie’s life was the passing of his father when Ernie was just 12. And the most critical time I recall was when Ernie was 16. At this age he became quite rebellious, angry, and hateful.
“Give me a hug,” I asked once, as hugging was a normal event between us, at least it used to be. “Nah,” he replied.
“But why, Ernie?” I was in shock.
“I am not a huggy person,” he said, thoughtlessly, walking away, like a bird trying to fly out of the nest.
What happened to my Ernie? I pondered, with tears in my eyes. I had no answer. I found no explanation. Perhaps I didn’t want an explanation.
Anne Lamott, one of my favorite writers, published in 2006 “My son, the Stranger” an interesting magazine article about a similar experience she went through with her son. That’s how I looked at Ernie, a stranger.
Ernie moved out at age 17. The bird had fled the nest, leaving my broken heart in the roost, alone. I didn’t anticipate the anguish I initially experienced when he left. What a loneliness I felt when I looked into his empty room. A feeling of desolation enveloped our home. Devastating quietness. I felt as if I were drowning.
I don’t know how he felt, but we both survived.
A few years later, Ernie returned home. We were happily reunited, but faced the tensions of readjusting to living with one another under one roof again, full time. Ernie struggled for freedom he had while living on his own, while I tried to enforce family rules. Plus a new challenge awaited us both: a blended family, as I had recently remarried.
“One day at a time” is what I always tell my nursing home residents when they lament their losses. That’s what I often remind myself during difficult times.
In the meantime, I showed Ernie support and unconditional love. And most importantly, I lifted my prayers to our Lord every single day, asking for guidance and protection for Ernie.
And God answered my prayers.
In the last year, Ernie has remarkably changed. Positive changes. His heart has turned back to me as his mother, and as his friend. We have shared tears and secrets. He enjoys our conversations. I love listening to his tales, his aspirations, about his college journey, and work challenges. I enjoy learning about his fights against his evils, and how he has overcome the battles. His inner battles.
Ernie knows how precious he is to me. He is no longer reluctant at expressing compliments, or at telling me he loves me. He listens to my stories about work. He enjoys reading my blog, and counting my followers. And he hugs me every day.
Ernie is huggy after all, I muse, with a smile on my face.
Just as the Parable of the Prodigal Son, I celebrate my Ernie’s return: “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
P.S. Happy birthday, Ernie. I hope you like reading this post. I love you, dear son.