Tomorrow was Thanksgiving, but I sure didn’t feel grateful. Dragging myself around the kitchen, I pulled my chocolate-swirled cheesecake out of the oven and set it on the counter to cool.
Not even its sweet aroma could get me in the holiday mood. It just made me think of my teenage son, Patrick, and how much he used to love digging into a thick slice. But he wouldn’t be at the table at my parents’ house. He didn’t want to have anything to do with me.
He had been giving me the silent treatment for nearly two and a half years. He was 15 when his father and I divorced, and he blamed me for it. The day I moved out, my daughter, Lindsey, came with me. Patrick didn’t. He didn’t even say goodbye. Whenever I called, he barely spoke.
He blocked my e-mails. I invited him over for his favorite, sloppy joes–he ignored me. The only time I saw him was when I caught a glimpse of him driving his pickup truck around town, or when I dropped by the feed store where he worked.
I’d hoped that he could put aside his anger for Thanksgiving–didn’t he want to tease his little sister and fill up on turkey with cornbread dressing? But instead he volunteered to work at the store for his boss.
Patrick and I used to do everything together. I hadn’t gone back to work after he was born. I’d strap him in a pouch on my back when I took long hikes in the woods. I pulled him around in a little red wagon until we wore out the rubber wheels.
I baked for his holiday parties at school, read aloud to his class and chaperoned their field trips. After all those years of being such a big part of my son’s life, how was I supposed to be satisfied with getting tidbits about him from his sister?
Lord, I miss Patrick so much, I prayed. Can’t you help me be his mom again? Friends suggested buying him little gifts, or offering to take him out to dinner. I tried everything. But each attempt seemed to push him further away. Like the last time I’d seen him, a few weeks back…
That afternoon, fed up with all the ignored calls and e-mails, I’d driven to the feed store and found his pickup truck unlocked. I climbed in and waited for him to get off work. He can’t ignore me here. Maybe we can finally talk, I thought.
But when Patrick came out and saw me in the front seat, his expression turned stony.
He slid behind the wheel. “Can you get out, please?” he said. It was more a statement than a question.
“Can we talk, Patrick?” I pleaded.
“I’m going to say it once more–please get out, Mother.” I shook my head. “Then do me a favor and lock both doors before you leave,” he snapped, sliding back out, slamming the door behind him. He climbed into a friend’s car and they sped away.
I sat there for a moment, shaking. Then I got out, pressed the lock button and slowly shut the door. Why did it feel like I was closing the door on a lot more than his truck?
No wonder I don’t feel thankful, I thought now, washing the cake batter from my bowls. What was it that my pastor had said last Sunday? He’d started out quoting I Thessalonians, “In everything give thanks.” Everything?
“Instead of asking God for things you want, try thanking him for what he’s given you,” he’d suggested. Okay, I thought, as I put the dishes in the rack to dry, what blessings had I overlooked in my desperation to reconnect with my son?
I could be thankful for all the time I’d spent with Patrick as he was growing up. I could be thankful that he was a good kid, that he was working hard in school, that he had some close friends.
I could be thankful for Lindsey and how supportive she’d been, and for the strong relationship she had with Patrick. I could be thankful that we were all healthy. There was a lot to remember. I decided to add thankfulness to my prayers.
Thanksgiving morning, before I even got out of bed, I said a prayer of gratitude. Thank you, Lord, for another day, I began. Thank you for this home. Thank you for my parents. Thank you for my daughter. And thank you…thank you for my son.
An idea nudged me. Reach out to Patrick. But what if he pushed me away again? Reach out. I sorted through a stack of greeting cards and found a blank one. “I love you more than you can ever imagine. Always,”
I wrote. “Happy Thanksgiving.” Then Lindsey and I got ready, packed up the cheesecake and got into the car. “I just need to make one stop,” I told her.
I pulled up to the feed store and went in. There was Patrick, stacking some feed bags. He looked stressed, tired. All I wanted to do was sweep him into my arms. But I kept it low-key. “Here,” I said, handing him the card. “Happy Thanksgiving!”
He opened it up and read it. Was that a little smile on his face? “Tell Grandma and Grandpa hello for me,” he said. I nodded and waved as I climbed back in the car. Did he just open up a little? I caught myself. Don’t get your hopes up.
I stuck with my morning prayers of gratitude, and even thanked God for little things throughout the day.
I opened up a new e-mail account and wrote Patrick chatty notes–light stuff, about Lindsey’s unsociable hamster, who always hid in his cage. Or my attempt to replace the bulb in my porch light–only to discover a long rat snake coiled on top of it.
I ended each with, “I love you, Mom.” Was he reading them? I had no clue. But at least he wasn’t blocking them.
A couple of weeks after Thanksgiving, the doorbell rang. It was Patrick. He gave me an awkward smile. “Can I come in?” he asked.
I asked about school. “Goin’ good,” he replied. How was his girlfriend? “She’s good too,” Patrick said. Not much, but it was a start.
“How about coming over for some sloppy joes later this week?” I asked hesitantly.
“Can I bring a friend?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said.
The dinner went pretty well. It still felt odd between us, like two people who recognized each other but didn’t know from where. Then, Christmas Eve, I got the best gift ever: Patrick joined Lindsey and me at my parents’ house!
Patrick started coming over for dinner every week. On his 18th birthday, I invited him to bring his friends too. I made sloppy joes, of course.
The kids sat in the backyard around my outdoor fireplace, eating, talking and laughing. The kind of scene I never imagined could be possible that Thanksgiving Day five months earlier.
Patrick looked over and leaned toward me. “Thank you, Mom,” he said quietly. My heart soared.
Right then and there I said a silent thank-you to God. For giving me a son, and for giving me a chance to be his mother again.
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