The Backwoods

Where we teeter between our love of modern convenience and the yearning for something long past; a world where neighbors knew your name and a “Friend Request” was eye contact and a smile.

All He Needs To Know

Posted · 13 Comments

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My boy, Billy, turned eighteen in November and a month later his brain fell out of his head and rolled into a deep ditch somewhere.  I imagine his brain has company in that dark place and other parents know the pain of watching that fall.

That transition into adulthood is a twisted path for many, two steps forward, one step back.  And for a kid with Billy’s background, it’s a dangerous edge to walk.  Solidity to one side, a bottomless crevasse to the other, and broken tools with which to cling.

Honestly, when he came to us, we didn’t think he’d make it to eighteen without some kind of incarceration. There were times, I admit, we thought of giving up.

‘Mommy’, he often called me in those months approaching his birthday, this man-child who’d come to us nine years before.  Half of his life he’d been ours; the time before that, mostly blocked out.  “Why would we want to remember?” his sister, Robin, says.  Indeed, why would they.

And so the power struggle began, as newly adult Billy yearned for release from my grasp and the frightened boy he’d once been wondered if I’d drift away, just as all who’d loved him before.  “I don’t want to leave home,” he said one night, on the verge of tears.  And so we canceled his trip to vocational school in the states. He wasn’t ready, we reasoned. And then a month later he was gone.  Maybe it was easier to be the one to leave for once.  Easier to leave angry, than to be that child once again left behind.

I won’t describe the plunge to the bottom. It serves no purpose but to say, “Hey, folks…you’re not alone.” But I will say, there is a gnawing in your stomach at two a.m. when you don’t know where your child is. When you know he is cold.  That he is hungry.  That he brought it on himself and that there is nothing you can do.

And there is a dark place inside the soul where hope goes to die.

Then one day he came home.  He ate for three hours, then slept for three days. And we began to slowly, inch by inch, climb from that dark place. He adjusted, he grew, he began to be Billy again…most days.

Billy doesn’t live at home right now and that’s okay. He’s all grown up now. But he plans to return this summer to his cabin in the woods. To work his land and spend time with the other kids. The backwoods boy I raised lives on in this unsteady child before me and I glimpse the man he’ll someday be.  Two steps forward, one step back.

“I know I can come home any time,” said the boy today on the phone.  “I will always know that.”

And that’s all he needs to know.

*** (To read more about his early years >>> The Lost Boy )

13 Responses to "All He Needs To Know"
  1. ReaderV says:

    If I listed all the physical battles my sons went though, I would have to count my gray hairs.

  2. Keri, this touched my heart. I have one who is 21 and so fearfully lost right now. Sadly, he has fathered two children (who I adore and have a good relationship with) but he takes them on this tangled road of instability with him. His chosen partner is no better. Both are not working, one is facing jail time and their relationship is a train wreck. I, for the sake of being able to see and check on my grandkids, can really do very little at all. So far, no abuse or neglect has been done to them, but I dread the moment that I, as a mandated report (I work in social services) will have to report. I just keep telling myself that God has a plan and that the person I am today is so far removed from who I was at his age. I just … sometimes i wish I had a magic wand. Bless you for all you’ve done for Billy and the others. It matters, it does.

  3. Susan in Alabama says:

    Thanks to you, at least when he is in that dark hole he knows there is a light to show him the way out of that hole if he choses. Had he stayed where he was, if he had survived to 18, he probably would have fallen in that dark hole long ago and would not be able to see anything but darkness. I hope and pray that you know that you have done a great job and that Billy will see his way completely out of his dark place and back into the light that you and God planned for him.

  4. Sarah Joslyn says:

    Wow, Keri. This must be so hard right now. But there’s so much hope in him knowing he can always come home. Phew.

  5. Lynn Falconer says:

    Growing up is a real mission for everyone involved. One day we will look back and be relieved that we got there. Then we start worrying about Grandchildren!!!!

  6. loisgroat says:

    I wish you had not had to write all that. But thank you for writing it. It helps to know that I am not a mom alone. I hate it when he is cold and hungry and unshowered and I have to let him be that way. Because he is an adult. And adults are allowed to make their own choices. Even when those choices make their Mommys sad. But mine knows I love him, too. And he knows he can always come back home. And I believe in him. I do. I know that he can find his way. He has it in him. I know he does. Just like Billy.

  7. Gayle says:

    Billy and my Elijah could be the same child except that I’ve had my son since birth. Even without a dark background there are struggles and life is fragile.

  8. Kim B. says:

    He will only learn from his own mistakes as evidenced by my own children’s attempts at adulthood. Those mistakes will teach him who he wants to be. Unfortunately, it’s painful to sit by and watch. I think it’s so beyond awesome that he knows he can come home anytime. You have done a great job!!!

  9. Nancy says:

    Wow. But for him to know that the door is opened for him, that alone. will give him HOPE…I’m sure the kids miss him…

  10. Pam says:

    I continue to have to step back and be humbled by your raw honesty and integrity, your strength (which comes in your vulnerability), your sense of humor, the glimpses of your despair, the trust and the love.

  11. Kristy K. James says:

    It is so hard to see our kids grow up and make choices that we know are the wrong ones. But I’ve yet to meet one who can learn from an adult’s mistakes. I couldn’t learn from my parent’s, and my kids won’t learn from mine. I wonder why that is…

    I love that he knows he can always come home…and that you’ve given him one to come home to. Good job, ‘Mom.’ 🙂

  12. sandie says:

    Oh. Oh. I admire your strength. And your capacity for love. Xxx

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