I had a dream last night. I'm sure I have many dreams, but I remember few of them. Claudia has been showing the signs of a cold of some sort, so I was awakened several times during the night by her restless discomfort, and it was during one of those liminal moments that I was able to remember what I dreamed and ponder it a bit.
Claudia and I were together at a conference where we had speaking responsibilities. It was a warm location (thank God for a respite, even if dream-like, from the subzero temperatures we have been experiencing in Minnesota this month), and we were enjoying the change of scenery and the opportunity to distance ourselves from our current set of parenting realities. In the midst of our time away, our son Mike appeared out of nowhere. (He is the eighteen-year-old who will be arrested for breaking into our church last week).
We have not had contact with Mike since early December when he had to be removed from our home by law enforcement. Our final moments with him before his escorted departure included threats on his part, both verbal and facial, that we would regret what we "were doing to him." Since that time we have had to obtain a harassment order due to his obscene and threatening phone calls, so our connections with him have been tenuous and conflicted since that time. (In case you are wondering we did not completely close Mike off from communicating with us. We asked that the harassment order allow him to contact us by US mail if he so chose. He has not chosen that means of communication).
So, Claudia and I are in an idyllic setting somewhere long away from our current circumstances when Mike appears. Funny, but that's kind of how Mike has done things for years in our life, even before the most recent round of indignities. I remember little about what he had to say, but I remember with clarity what my response to him was.
After getting over the initial surprise of his presence, I am torn between dismay and concern. I am dismayed because of choices he has made, especially those that are directly impacting us. I am concerned because I see so little hope for his future. I am surprised in my dream that I am angry. There is little sense of retribution or retaliation in my subconscious thoughts. I don't desire harm to come to him, I don't want to smack him for his stupidity, I don't want his brain-challenged purposeless human personae to sit in jail or prison.
I look into his face and see vulnerability, confusion, rage, perplexity, and void.
We talk in the dream, although I do not remember the specific subject matter. I tell him that his choices continue to distance us from one another. I express my grief that his life continues to move in a negative direction with little evidence of change or hope. I hear what I assume to be his accusations, his blame placed upon us as his parents. If only we parents had done things differently it wouldn't be this way. It's our faults, he says in my dream. He never had a chance because of our bad parenting over the years. We are the ones who should regret, he chides. He is not the cause of his own problems. We are. His fragile, disjointed sense of self can accept no responsibility.
And then I realize something. Something I have known all along but have sometimes forgotten. Mike is psychologically fragmented, organically challenged, chemically dependent, narcissistically focused. These are not conditions we caused after we adopted him at the age of eight. These are challenges he brought with him, none of which he asked for. He bears the marks of early years of neglect and abuse. We did our best to offer him a different way of life, a way out, but he has not been able to see it.
Yet. Maybe never. And maybe never in a way that is directly related to us.
"But you have done all you can do, all you have needed to do," my soul tells me. "Because you are not God. You did not create him, and you cannot change him. You can only love him, even if from an ever-lengthening distance. That will be enough. Because it is one thing he can never take from you."
So I continue to love our wayward son, hoping that the life in which he finds himself will teach him in ways that I have been unable. But for now my soul is at peace. And that is enough.