The best Christmas gift ever!
A few weeks ago, I heard my 19-year-old son's voice after 14 devastating months of estrangement. This is a follow up of my last essay.
Six months ago, we found my wayward son by hiring a Private Investigator. He was only 20 miles away. The P.I. suggested we write a short letter that he would deliver. My son was very angry by this man’s appearance. The P.I. told our son that we loved him and cared about him and we just wanted to know he was safe. The P.I. also took a photo of our son as proof. He looked the same. My son told the P.I. we were stalking him. Stalking? We had been blocked since the day he left. We had only sent occasional emails that went unanswered.
We sat perplexed with the information for a while. I decided I would not contact him again because he was still so angry with us. Angry because I said no to hormones, and that he could not live at home and do hormones just as I would not allow him to do other harmful drugs like heroine. My husband, a month later, took my son's best friend’s dad with him to see if he could talk to our son. I was worried this would make things worse and he’d get a restraining order against us. When they got there, my son would not come out. My husband met the landlord though and they exchanged information. She was on her way to church, which seemed positive. I had worried our son was living with a bunch of nefarious characters. My son was just renting a room in her house. My husband gave the landlord one of my son’s favorite desserts I had made for him. Later the landlord texted my husband to say that our son got the dish. I had hoped his stomach would miss me.
A month later my husband wrote the landlord to please let us know if something happens to our son or he moves out. She happily agreed. She ended the text with prayers and patience. We learned the landlord has many grown children so maybe she knows a little about teenage rebellion and understood parental love. She did use our son’s “female” name and she/her pronouns, but we were happy to know he was in a safe place.
I wrote another letter. I decided to write the letter I wish my mom would have written me when I left home for college. We had a strained relationship, and when I left, I did not care if I ever saw her again. She had pushed her new religious views on me. I realized I had pushed my non-medicalizing trans views on my son. He believed in it, and even though I didn’t, I could see the similarities. My mom never apologized to me because she thought she was saving me, just as I thought I was saving my son. It may have driven my son away, just as my mom drove me away. I wrote the letter with that perspective and assured my son that I love him no matter what and I’ll be here when he’s ready. A few weeks later I sent him his favorite cookies. I had always wished my mom had sent me care packages just like all my college friends had received.
My husband’s instincts were to send postcards, just as he had done his whole life to his mother till she passed. He started sending them regularly.
At that same time my son had reached out to his aunt wondering if he could live with them in another state. They told him they were happy to get him settled. I felt like it was a good sign he was reaching out to family. I had a little hope.
Later my husband sent my son a postcard informing him that his dad was ill. My son texted his grandfather telling him he hoped he was ok. This was after a year and a half of no contact. My son told him he was on a journey and trying to figure out who he was, like the prodigal son. He included a photo of him with a boy's haircut. His hair had been down his back. I had more hope.
A few weeks ago, the landlord contacted my husband to let us know that our son had given notice. My husband decided he needed to try to visit him before he was lost again. He coordinated with the landlord when my son would be home. He arrived and talked to the landlord. At first, my son would not come out. Then he emerged and they talked for an hour. Then my husband and son went in my husband’s car and together they called me. Hearing my son’s voice felt like no time had passed. He just sounded older. The first thing he told me was he had not transitioned and had no desire to. This was music to my ears but I played it calmly. He told me how he had grown up and was no longer angry. He said he had wanted to reach out for a long time but he didn’t know how to go forward. He worried we would be angry with him. He told us he was sorry the way he left, and he loved us, but he wanted to take the re-emerging in our lives slowly. We did not make another plan. Despite this wonderful news, I was in shock and afraid to feel happiness after years of uncertainty.
Three days later my son texted us and asked if he could move home. We immediately agreed. It all happened so fast. We talked to him on the phone for two hours the next night. He brought up the gender subject again. He wanted me to know that he is over being trans. He said he could always hear my voice telling him of the dangers of hormones. He heard me and it stopped him. He realized he was just being rebellious. He said he has gone back to his birth name, and he really likes that name. He looked it up and realized what it meant and how special that name was for me. He apologized for changing his name and is sorry for how much that hurt me. He said I’m a boy and I’m he/him.
I dreamed of this day, and I should be overjoyed, but I am a bit numb. He put us through so much, and it will take time to trust him again. Gender came to our house overnight and it seems it is gone overnight too.
A few days later we had dinner with my son. He looks good. As I sat across from him in a restaurant booth, I realized how traumatized I was. I was still policing my language around him. I hesitated to use his birth name and “he” pronouns within ear shot, even though he reinforced to us that he is done with trans. He said everything I wanted to hear. He gave us an apology I never thought we would get. He asked for a second chance and to let him prove himself to us. It also feels like a movie. It feels unreal.
And now I am sitting and reflecting on my life. Less than a week ago I was teary wondering if I’d ever see him again. After four years of pouring all my energy into trying to save my son, it is over. It has defined my existence, and now I don’t know who I am. Who was I before this happened? My life is changed forever and now I have to pick up the pieces just as my son will have to do.
Without my husband’s instincts our reunion would never have happened. I would have waited for my son to contact me. I had spent the last year beating myself up wishing I had done things differently so my son would not have estranged himself from us. Now I realize it was what he needed to do to get back from the other side.
My instincts were never to affirm. My husband was not sure that was the right approach, but he listened to me. Without our instincts together, my son may have been harmed or lost. Our gut feelings helped my prodigal son come home.