The Bridge

“There’s a lot of water under the bridge,” she said to me.

“As long as there is still a bridge, I’m happy.”

“The bridge is still there, believe me,” was the reassuring reply.

It triggered a swell of emotion

Hope and fear, swimming in the ocean

of tears filling my eye.

————————————————————————————

I spent a little bit of time this afternoon with my son and his new fiancee.  She and I have known each other and talked at different times in the past, but have had very little interaction overall and almost none in the past ten years.  They officially started dating a few weeks ago and my son informed me last week that it isn’t a casual, fill in the time relationship, it’s the real deal and they are working toward a future together.

My relationship with him is very strained and difficult, for a lot of reasons on both our parts.  As a matter of fact, he recently referred to me in on a social networking site as his incubator and another woman as his mother.  He removed that statement from public view within a very short period after a conversation with a mutual friend/acquaintance, and I’ve chosen to not confront him on that issue, since I understand where he’s at, what he’s going through, and the history that was behind that statement.  Regardless, it really hurt me to know that he genuinely feels that way about me, at least some of the time.  That feeling gets compounded whenever I check his profile page and see those who are listed as his family members and see my name among the general list of friends.  I try not to torture myself by doing that very often.

I think back to when I was his age and trying to heal, grow, and change from the messed up character I was into the person I longed to be.  There was a lot of shame and blame, fault and victim thinking that went on.  I was intelligent and able to very rationally connect the dots on what people should and shouldn’t do and how those responsible for my care and nurture should have done this or that different.  I had a lot of contempt and near-hatred for them and how their choices and faults had affected me.  There was a deep and abiding lack of respect for them and I thought I knew better than they what needed to be done in order to fix their lives, but they were just too this, that or the other thing and I just needed to write them off.  That is the exact same kind of thinking and mentality I see in him and his attitudes toward me.

What I know is that over time I have grown from contempt into compassion.  I have come to understand and accept more about myself and my past, which has allowed me to look at those people with new understanding, new eyes, and a new heart.  I believe that can happen and will happen with him as well.  It’s a long road to travel from 25 to 42, and I want to make sure I’m there on it with him and available to him as he travels it.  So, I work to be careful in how I respond to the things he says and the way he says them.  I work to make sure he sees I have a new way of coping with things that is saner and more constructive than what he grew up with.  I work to accept that his ability to receive, accept, and respond to my efforts is out of my control and trust the journey we are both on.

In the meantime, despite my best intentions, not so deep inside I tend to harbor the harpy of disillusionment and despair.  She will screech that the people in his life who know of me or knew me briefly back in the day, surely have a poor opinion of me.  Which is part of the reason why I didn’t friend request my future daughter in law at the time my son informed me of the status change in their relationship.

Today they came to pick up the littlest sister, who has been cooped up with me for over a week because she’s been sick with the kiddy flu.  They showed up early because I had let him know I needed to talk to him about something important.  I am in a position where he will have to be a character reference for me in a matter regarding the children of other family members, because he is my adult child.  I have very little confidence in what his recommendation will be, but, that is out of my control.  I just didn’t want him to be blindsided if he was contacted and I wanted to be clear with him that I did not expect him to say anything that wasn’t true according to his experience.  That was a fairly stiff and stilted conversation.  Thankfully, it was only about 30% of the total conversation we had.

There were some light-hearted topics, including some reminiscing of times past.  There was also a brief mention of the elephant in the room – my status/role as his mom – when they told me they are looking to get married sometime in January.  I thanked them for sharing their plans with me considering my out of the fold position.   Admissions and reassurances were alluded to, but we didn’t go very deep into the topic at all.  During part of this conversation, there were a couple of potentially snarky remarks from him toward me, but I didn’t even pay them any attention.  She, however, did and the brief exchanges were illuminating.  Basically, she subtly but unmistakably chastised him for being disrespectful toward me.  It kind of shocked me that a) she would come to my defense and b) that he would respond favorably.  Not sure I agree with how it happened, but it’s their relationship to figure out, not mine to judge.

As they were preparing to go and my son followed his sister into her room to get ready to depart, I said something about going ahead and friend requesting my DIL to be.  She responded with a smile and very graciously stated that I could have done that weeks ago.  I just said it was fine, that I have been trying to give him the space he needs.  The outcome of this conversation is what shut the harpy up and inspired the opening lines of this post.

We live in the city of bridges.  All three of us are believers in and followers of Jesus – who is the bridge between God, us, and each other.  Now it seems, she, my future daughter in law, is willing to work to shore up the bridge between me and my son.  I am grateful.

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11 comments

  1. Talk about an action-packed telenovella! I empathize with your feelings – for your son, DIL and the choices he’s making. My own son was shredded for working on having a relationship with me and vice versa. Being forced to choose (at all) really messed him up. And my ex? The louder they professed their christianity, the less ‘walk’ I saw – not what the Cosmos wants. Which brings me to my point.
    Bridges are good. Keeping the doors open? Critical. But bridges, by definition, have two sides – both being essential. One end is his life and he’ll come to understand that bridges require maintenance…they need attention to remain safe and strong. The other end? You – demonstrating new methods for processing you – in front of him. He knows your end is open to him should he so choose to travel across. Most excellent.
    As for Jesus? He could have zapped up a bridge the day of the storm. Instead He chose to treat the raging water like a sidewalk, making His way out to the fishing boat in order to calm Peter and the guys. I encourage you to not be hostage to the seductive idea that both ends of the bridge are up to you. Remain hopeful — remain approachable — miracles do happen.
    There may not be any water underneath us, but it still feels good when we get to walk together for awhile. Thanks. Dan

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    1. Thank you for your insight. I appreciate you sharing it and the confirmation/reminder that bridges require maintenance from both sides. I have faith that it will come and right now I just need to stay focused on what I need to do for myself in my growth and progress.

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  2. One of the hardest things we can do is step back and give them room, and react with a compassionate heart no matter how hurtful the things are that are being said. It is so hopeful to hear that this exchange left room for forward motion, and that it helped build bridges. Thank you for sharing this … it had me comparing my own journey with my son and DIL, and there are some similarities, although in my case, there is more distance, and less bridge building. But the door isn’t quite slammed all the way shut. Quite. Again, thanks for sharing this one. All we can do is whatever our best is on that day, and it sounds like you exceeded your own expectations. Well done.

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    1. It really is a difficult thing to do. There’s this approval seeking part of me that wants him to hurry up and see and accept the changes that I’ve made and am making, so that we can skip over this complicated, messy, and painful stage that we’re in. I just want him to LIKE me and hopefully show the love that I believe is still there. Of course, I know that isn’t realistic or fair to him, but that’s where I’m at inside of myself. Thankfully, I’ve grown up enough to realize it and am growing in self-control so that when that approval seeking, desperately defensive voice pops up and wants to be heard, I can shush her and put her in her place. It doesn’t make it hurt any less when he says and does certain things, but it gives me something to acknowledge and approve of myself. Being able to write about it here and get positive and constructive feedback helps too. Thank you for your encouragement and support.

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  3. When we recognize and accept our failings as being human,m growth and healing can occur..
    I have had to rebuild myself from a pile of ash and I refuse to look over there any more. Remember, your past need not dictate your future and it does NOT define you..
    Mind if I tag along for your journey?
    Lynne

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  4. This is such an insightful post. I work to show my kids that I am trying to have healthier reactions to things too; to try and set an example of healthy decision making. That is all we can really do and I actually think that is ALOT. Growth is painful but a deepening relationship with God makes it a bit easier. Thank you, Joanne

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    1. Thank you as well. I think one of the reasons I wrote this so soon after they left is because I need to remember this moment. Since I tend to forget the details of things almost as soon as they happen, including the emotions. This seemed like a significant and pivotal moment, I didn’t want to let this one disappear into the fog.

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