(Photo Credit: Melanie Jimenez, Lincoln City, OR)
Our family just got back from a much needed vacation at the ocean. We went to Lincoln City, Oregon and stayed in a beautiful waterfront condo. Every night we saw something like what is pictured above. There wasn't a bad night for enjoying the majesty of the sunset and we were even treated to a "moonset" after the Super Moon and eclipse. Dan and I stood outside on the deck every night, except for one, to see the sunset.
In stark contrast to mine and Dan's nights on the deck was the night we left to go play at the casino and saw, as we drove, that the sunset that night was going to be spectacular. I really wanted Thomas to go out and watch it and I texted him right away and told him to go outside and watch it, be mindful the entire time, and soak in it's beauty and majesty. He responded that he would.
That happened towards the end of the trip and I did it for a reason (or really for multiple reasons). For our entire vacation, Thomas was planted at the end of the couch, headphones on, glued to his computer. He perused Facebook, watched YouTube videos and missed just about everything that's great about being on vacation. Yes, he is young, and yes, "this is what kids do these days", but I couldn't help but feel sadness for him and all that he was missing.
Usually when we go to the beach he can be found, at least once, down on the beach tossing popcorn into the wind for the seagulls in flight or I can get him down to the beach for a walk.
That never happened.
When I could get him to engage in family life, he was....
searching for words to complete a conversation.
One night I took him with me to the store because he wanted to buy a notebook and mechanical pencil so that he could write a story. He had spent the better part of the day prior to that with his brown furrowed and looking stressed out and when I finally discovered what was wrong, he said he was feeling stressed because he wanted to write a story but he didn't know what to write about. On our drive, though, it became evident to me how much of my boy I had lost in the last few years. He was happy to be in the car, just him and I, and that fact made me happy, but as we drove along, he talked a little here and there, his voice faltering, his vocabulary stunted, and his sentences incomplete. I rode beside him silently listening and I felt a certain kind of sadness wash over me. What had happened to my once vibrant young man? When was it that he had lost his ability to carry on an extended, relatively coherent, conversation?
I rode back to the condo with him with a heavy heart and I felt a deep love and an even deeper sadness for my lost boy.
Later on, my mom pulled me aside, in tears, and told me how sad she was about Thomas. She had seen all of the changes I had and after spending a few days with him on the trip she realized how far into himself he had disappeared. She pulled me aside into her bedroom, in tears, and she said,
"I can hardly stand to be around him. I think to myself that I am only around him every now and then but you have to see him all the time. I don't know how you do it. I don't know how you handle the grief about what has been lost."
The truth was, I haven't spent that much time around him lately. Just like my mom, I was surprised by the losses. I realized that while he and I live in the same house, I never actually see him that much. He is always on his computer tucked away in his room and joins the family for meals but we eat in front of the TV so no real conversations take place. I realized that it was during this vacation that I had actually spent a great deal of time with Thomas and it was during this vacation that I realized how far from me he had disappeared. I had managed over the last few months--or maybe years--that I had numbed the pain of the truth of who Thomas had become by avoiding him, getting lost in my own endeavors, and avoiding any emotion I felt that was negative where he was concerned. I had hidden myself from him, tucked myself and my emotions about him somewhere deep in the back of my mind, and I had gone on with my life.
So, I texted him from the car on the way to the casino that night on the trip and I asked him to go watch the sunset because I wanted him to connect with God's creation. He isn't religious, not even a little bit, and I didn't mention God to him in connection with the sunset, but I did ask him to appreciate what he was seeing as the sun sunk into the ocean.
When I came home from the casino I was excited to ask him about watching the sunset.
Had he been mindful?
Had he appreciated it's beauty?
Had he felt the power of the universe and all of its amazing machinations?
When asked about it he paused....
"Did you enjoy it?" I asked.
"It was okay," he said.
"Were you mindful while you watched it?"
"Well, no, but I tried."
I realized then that he had missed the whole point. As the sun had disappeared, in all its glory, my lost boy was unmoved and had returned to his virtual world on his computer.
This vacation was nice. I stood on the deck with Dan and watched sunsets. I stood on the deck at 3 a.m., alone, and looked at the stars and listened to the waves crashing against the shore. I had a nice time with my mom laughing as we played virtual slot machines on our tablets and I relished every step in the sand that I took when I walked on the beach.
Somehow, though, what I noticed most, what I missed the most, was my boy. My young man, who turns 21 in less than a month, is lost somewhere inside.
The grief has overwhelmed me once again. What I had cleverly hidden in the furthest regions of my mind and heart became wounds reopened as I spent time with my boy and realized who he has become.
I wish more than anything that he had seen that sunset.
Really seen it.
Instead, though, the sun had disappeared that evening and during this vacation to paradise, I realized how much of my boy I have lost.