Looking back, it’s hard to tell exactly where things started to go wrong with my son. Ryan and I were so close when he was younger. I have so many fond memories of us together. When he was a toddler, he would wake up before me and go lay on the couch to watch cartoons. I would wake up and go lay behind him for a while, with him wrapped in my arms. We would always sing in the car together. In fact, car trips were always some of my favorite times with him because we would sing or talk and our car talks were always so good. I’d take him on little day trips to the coast or to the water park or miniature golf park. I always tried to make the most of our weekends together. Even once I met my husband and his son, we all tried to do things together – camping tips and amusement parks. We were trying to create memories. I thought they were good and they meant a lot to me. So where did it all go wrong?
The one thing I knew for sure was that Ryan’s father had always talked badly about me to Ryan, at least during his younger years. Ryan had told me from a very young age all about it and that had always broken my heart, more for my son than for me. I also knew his step-mother was doing the same; she was so smooth at hiding it but it eventually came to light. I guess that made it easier for Ryan to believe my sister’s lies when they came swooping in.
I guess if I had to take a guess, it may have started when Ryan started working with me part-time at my job when he was 16 years old. I was an accountant for a trucking company and I needed some clerical help. I thought it would be a great after-school work opportunity for him. At first it was great but a couple years in, he started to notice some things. As an accountant, I often noticed when thing weren’t being done correctly, but often times the owner wouldn’t listen to me when I brought certain things to his attention. So, over time, I learned what I could discuss with him and what I couldn’t, but that left me feeling frustrated much of the time. My son saw this as a weakness on my part and I know this because he chose to tell me so. He never held back on telling me his opinion, not even if it hurt me. He felt perfectly justified in telling me my arms were flabby if he wanted to. Ryan never understood that some things shouldn’t be said. I told him, “Ryan, you can’t always voice your opinion and get your way. You don’t understand how it is in the workplace, with a boss. Sometimes you have to choose your battles.” He just shook his head in disagreement with disappointment in me written all over his face. Working with him became a chore after that. He started not wanting to listen to me and I felt him slipping away.
It wasn’t long after that that Ryan told me he was enlisting in the Navy. He had about six months left before boot camp when I started noticing other changes. Suddenly on his weekends with me, he wanted to stay over at his cousin’s house, in this case my sister Sandy’s house. Excuse me? Never in his life has he ever wanted to stay over there and now suddenly he wanted to all the time. Oh, and by the way, this was right during the middle of the blow out with my family, and right after my two sisters had magically rekindled their sisterly “love” for each other. Let the games begin! Only thing is, I wasn’t aware at the time that there even was a game.
I didn’t tell my son that he couldn’t because by that time he was 18 years old and honestly I didn’t want to push him away any further. Suddenly, Sandy had every interest in my son. This woman had never taken Ryan out to do anything in his entire life and now she wanted to be his closest friend. I ask you – why? Why then, why all of the sudden? His high school senior prom came and he stopped by Sandy’s house for pictures and not mine. Then, later, he told me that Sandy offered and gave him the money for prom portraits. What the hell was going on? Was I systematically being edged out as Ryan’s mother? And by my own sister? Who does that?
If our roles had been reversed, I would have told my sister’s son that one night at my house was ok, but that the rest he needed to be spending with his mother because it was the right thing to do and it was probably an emotional time for her with him about to go off to the armed forces. On prom night, I would have told him to make sure he stops by his mother’s house too and that there would have been no reason she wouldn’t give him money for prom portraits. I would never come between a mother and child. What my sister did was not just abnormal; it was cruel. These are the things I knew about – my imagination has gone wild with what else happened that I don’t know about.
The Mother’s Day just a couple days before Ryan’s scheduled leave date for boot camp, my husband told our two boys that they were taking me out to lunch for Mother’s Day. We picked up Ryan from his father’s place and I was hurt when I realized that my own son didn’t get me a gift or even a card. What I got instead was a request for $25 so Ryan could mail his clothes back when he gets to boot camp. Why his father couldn’t do it, I will never know. I spent Mother’s Day that year fighting back tears. It was clear Ryan didn’t want to be with us during lunch and he kept making sarcastic remarks. I kept wondering what I had done that was so wrong to deserve such a fate and I had nothing left in me to fight it. I didn’t want our last times together to be negative, even though it was clearly what he wanted.
The day my son left for the Navy was one of the saddest of my life. He didn’t tell me when he was leaving until the last moment, almost as if he hoped I wouldn’t make it to his send off. I left work in a panic and rushed down to the recruiter’s office. It’s so odd – the sky had opened up and it was raining so hard, almost like a torrential downpour and that’s how I felt inside. In the time it took me to get out of the car and under the overhang outside the building, I was soaked from head to toe. Ryan and his dad were standing there. I walked up to Ryan and gave him a big hug and he told me the details of his departure. We snapped a couple photos and them my son turned to me and said, “Okay Mom, you can go now,” as he motioned his hands towards my car.
There are no words to describe the emptiness that filled my entire being in that moment. If you could have looked in my eyes, you would have seen a sadness so severe that even the angels in heaven wept. Only a mother in my shoes on that day could have felt such pain. There were no words, only instant tears hidden by pouring rain as I ran to my car. I don’t remember driving home; I only remember sobbing uncontrollably and choking on tears as I looked through flopping windshield wipers at an endless mix of red and green lights. My biggest fear had come true – my son grew up and turned me away. And what’s worse is my sisters knew my fear and used it against me and my son fell for it. I didn’t know it then, but that would be the last time I saw or spoke to my son for 5 years.