|The sky lost its sunny smile and took on the cold hard scowl of winter. I watched the clouds, dark and low, threatening to roll toward us.
Until now the day had been bright and mild. The roadsides and lawns stubbornly clung to their summer garb and scoffed at the menacing weather. Leafless trees stood stark and defiant against an icy blue sky.
I sighed, lamenting the passing of fall. Constant busyness kept me inside and I hadn’t so much as scuffed through the leaves. Their bright brassy voices had shouted at me to come out and play, but I could barely spare them an admiring glance. Even their deaths went unnoticed until I heard the grumbling north wind dispose of their drab remains.
It was already the end of November, and I wanted life to slow down. It seemed to be in some sort of hurry and I felt caught up in a race against my will.
Our family was driving to the airport to see my son, Lance, catch his flight back to the Navy Base in North Carolina. His last day of the Thanksgiving Holiday with us found me scurrying to do a million and one things. I thought about the autumn leaves; once again life made unfair demands on my time, and robbed me of a relaxed visit with my son.
“It wasn’t always like this, was it?” I leaned my head against the passenger seat, trying to remember. Lance sat in the back with his brothers and sisters, their voices soft and fading, while sleep claimed a small portion of my precious time.
Several minutes later I jerked awake. Snowflakes fell in slow motion from a now darkened sky, like aimless drifters unsure of their destination. Then I watched the wind chasten them, and they hurled themselves against the windshield in a frenzy. It was as if Old Man Winter appeared on the scene and decided to take charge. With a sudden icy blast of his breath, he banished the last remnants of fall from his sight before he drove the dark clouds eastward.
Something familiar about the entire scene before me tugged at the pit of my stomach. I watched headlights passing by on the left side, and the road hurrying away on my right. Without warning, time dislodged a small chunk of memory, dropping it into my lap, leaving a gaping hole in the wall I had erected to seal off the past.
Just as sudden, thirty years spilled out of the breach and carried me away like a flash flood. It was another wintry day and I was on the road staring at the same scenery, and driving in the same weather conditions, pregnant with the same son I was soon to watch fly away.
Thirty years earlier, moving from Rhode Island to Washington State in the dead of winter, and due to have a baby in four months, I harbored anger and resentment toward his father. And although I kept my feelings about his continuous infidelity concealed, my frustration surfaced in the worst way, for I became abusive to our daughter, Erin, and less than a model mother to our oldest son, Eric.
Bitterness consumed me. I ended up with an acute case of toxemia by the time Lance was full term. Social Services became involved, and put Erin in the hospital for tests, as she was terribly undernourished. While we were there, I went into labor.
The added complications of Lance’s transverse position brought us both dangerously close to not making it through his delivery. When I came to, I was hooked up to IVs and a catheter. I was too groggy to hold my baby, but deemed cognizant enough to be told Erin had been removed from our home.
Unable to move, and nearly out of my mind with pain, I had no control over my life or what was happening to my children. A week on morphine for the excruciating pain left me in a worsened condition, and from there my life spiraled into a state of despair.
Due to the traumatic birth and the effects of the highly addictive drug, I was unable to nurse my little boy, and for nearly a week I saw him only at arm’s length as I floated in and out of a dream-like stupor. The natural, normal bonding of mother and son never took place. My breasts, swollen with an ample supply of useless milk, made it painful to try and hold him; instead, Lance took his bottle propped up with a blanket on the couch or in his bassinet.
I spent the next month dealing with the unbearable symptoms of withdrawal. Migraines and depression made it impossible to handle even the simple chores, and the cruel reality of life left me without hope.
A little over a year later Erin was permanently taken away, and living in denial about myself and my marriage, I became pregnant with our second daughter, Jeni. Within a month after her birth, my children and I were abandoned and left to subsist on welfare. Social Services stepped in once again.
At age twenty-four, I’d had four children in five years and suffered through a horrible marriage. At age twenty-five I had nothing; my children were all in adopted homes and I was on my own.
I tried pushing away from the memories but the overwhelming feeling of dèjà vu grabbed me and threw me back into the choking debris of the past. I had changed, but nothing could take away the pain of those memories. My heart cried out for help, but instead of throwing me a lifeline, the Lord made me look at the disgusting flotsam. At first I didn’t understand, but when I stopped swimming against the current trying to drag me down, I watched the past float away.
“That’s not a part of your life anymore,” His still small voice reminded me.
My legs relaxed and my feet touched bottom. I stood up. The Truth and God’s forgiveness were beneath me all that time, solid as a rock. I shook free from the memories. I had a new life now, along with a wonderful husband and seven beautiful children. And through a miraculous turn of events, I found Eric and Lance, both of whom assured me they harbored no ill feelings for anything that had happened in the past.
I blinked my way back to the present and stared at the immediate transformation of the landscape. The trees, bare to the bones but a few minutes ago, stopped shivering and hugged their fluffy winter coats. The green grass surrendered its smugness, and then disappeared altogether under a clean blanket of white.
Surrounded by the beauty of the newly fallen snow, my mind cleared as we walked toward the airport. Once inside I stayed close to my son, feeling like the wintry world outside. We stood around saying our good-byes. I was last. Held in a warm embrace, I heard the whispered words, “Thank you, Mom.” The gaping hole of the past closed, repaired by his unconditional, forgiving love.
As I watched the plane bear Lance away, I was left with the assurance that the bond between mother and son had wrapped its arms around us, and finally would have a chance to take hold. “Now,” I thought, “if I could just get time to slow down a bit…”