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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Born on the Fourth of July

“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.


Susan said...

Ohhhhhh, Doris. That was a beautiful, heartfelt post. Loved it. Thanks so much for Following me at Writing Straight from the Heart. Please come to visit often. Sincerely, Susan

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Doris,

Well, that is quite plate full of emotional things I read this week... The passing of your Mom and now I learn about the early loss of your husband, Ernie's Dad. That must have been heartbreaking when he left the nest; he had no inkling what that meant to a mother's heart who'd lost already his Dad. Good for him that he found you back as you are one of the most compassionate, caring and loving persons in the world! So hug him tight; don't choke him though!
Hopefully he realizes what kind of a Mom he's got there... he's one lucky son!

Lots of love from Georgia to Ohio, oh I worked in your state too... we drove there from Pennsylvania where we've lived for half a year!


Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

And to Ernie, a well meant happy belated Birthday! Hope the meaning of Independence is very special to you... and will always be.

Love from Georgia,


Diane said...

Great story and Happy Birthday Ernie! Hugs :O)

Alice in Wonderland said...

That was a very moving post and it shows the ups and downs of growing up, and all the changes and events in a young persons life. I hope everything is now well and he had a great Birthday.
I'm a 4th of July baby myself, and I had a great time!
Big hugs!

Ann said...

I know this story. I have been through it with all four of my children. I remember crying myself to sleep each night when my first born brushed my love aside. It broke my heart. But it prepared me for the three that followed. And yes like Ernie, they have all returned. Adults now, having tested their wings and walking their own path, but now they enjoy it when I walk along with them. No more tears.

Terri Tiffany said...

I'm a little late but wish him a happy birthday for me! He is so blessed to have you as his mother--someone who stood by him and opened your arms wide waiting:)

Heaven said...

Wow, I seriously needed to read this post:) Thank you Ernie for letting your mom share about you and happy Birthday to you:) My son is 14, and oh, the many struggles we have come to embrace and learn from. Thank you!

Mary L. Briggs said...

What a beautiful post about your son, Doris! I can tell how much you love your family. I've loved visiting your blog and reading your posts. Thank you so much for 'introducing' yourself to my blog! I'm so glad you liked the story in the magazine!

DUTA said...

Happy belated Birthday to Ernie!
What a wonderful story! and so well written!
I'm glad of the happy ending - his return home to his loving mother and family and his change into a positive, loving son.

Bica said...

I have never read your blog before, but noticed it when commenting on DUTA's post. I was drawn to it, as I see that you are a social worker. My younger daughter has been a social worker for about ten years now, hence my interest. I've read over some of your posts, and they're so well written and intuitive. I think that most social workers (in general) come from the same place (within), and seem to share a common perspective. I think social work as a career can be so rewarding, but also so overwhelming. You have my respect.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. happy belated birthday to Eric. I was so happy to read that your relationship is now so positive and that he is doing well. The teen and early adult years can be such a trial,

Mary Aalgaard said...

I LOVED reading this post. I have a 16-year-old and I really grieved his growing up. He started to push away from me and I didn't like it. I told myself it was a natural part of growing up, but I still didn't like it. I see and hear him coming back to me at times. He'll talk to me now, but not like he used to. It's a stage, I suppose. Who knows what my boys will be like as adults. What they'll want to know about me, or how they want to form a relationship with me. All I can do today, is say I love you, try to grab a hug, and let them learn who they are.

Amy Sullivan said...

Love Ann Lamott. Sweet post.

Julie Musil said...

What a special post. It sounds like your son is a wonderful young man. We all have kinks to work out along the way, and it's nice to know there is a supportive family in the wings.

A Plain Observer said...

Teen years are difficult to all,not just as parents. A child will always return to a loving parent.