“Mom says you’re a little shaken about my quitting my job and moving elsewhere.”
“Mph,” he said.
“If you tell me what you were thinking perhaps I could help you feel better.”
Oy…. The boy makes straight As and took Accelerated English and this is what I get.
“You know wherever I go you can stay with me if you need to.”
“NO, I don’t know that! You don’t have another job. You may not even have a place to live.”
I prod a little more. What is he scared of, I wonder.
“It’s like I’m losing my safety net!” he said.
Ah. Away from home. In college. Facing career decisions. Mom and Dad were his security. If he failed he could always come back home. Only he is afraid there will be no home to come back to now.
A little more talk. “Let’s take some time to think about this,” I said. And we rode together in the car silently.
He doesn’t know, like I do, that he is going to be successful. He’s taller, smarter, handsomer, and stronger than I ever was. He’s going to make his way in the world just fine. He is just hoping his dad will be there for him in case he fails.
For the hundredth time I think maybe I should swallow hard and endure the job for a while longer so everyone will be secure. And then for the hundredth time, the despair hits me and I think, I just can’t stay or I’m going to die, which I’m willing to do, but the boy needs me to stay alive.
I grip the steering wheel a little harder as I guide us down the road, staying alert for the next turn, and I brush away the tears that refuse to stay put. He hasn’t seen me cry much over the years, and I didn’t want him to see how close I was to breaking into sobs, but he saw anyway and it made him feel awful.
I pulled it together.
“Son, your safety net is not where I work or where I live. It’s me. I'm your safety net.
I let it sink in and then I told him things he’d not known.
“Shortly after you were born, I was without a job, so I went out and got one that allowed me to pay for groceries and rent.”
Then I told him of the ups and downs of my work while he was growing up—how sometimes I made less money than others. Some times were easy, others were hard, and I spent a lot of nights worrying about the next move I would make. Life was often quite uncertain. This is every grownup’s story, of course.
“You weren’t aware of the struggles because you were a kid,” I say, “But whether we had a little or a lot, you had enough to eat and a place to sleep.” He hates it when I get too obvious so I let him connect the dots to the conclusion that I would make out somehow and always have a place for him to stay if he needed it.
My own father calls later that night to ask how I am. I don't really want to, but I go ahead and tell him how bad I feel. He doesn't know I've lost my faith but he knows I need to get out of church work and he offered me some money to help. And then of all things he said, "You know, if you need to, you can all come stay with us...