On a whim, I went to see Jack this week. I don’t know what I was expecting.
I won’t lie. It kind of sucked.
The little boys whined on the long drive there. They were bored. It was too far away, et cetera.
When we arrived, Jack ran out to the car and hopped in. I told the assistant house manager we were going to get fries. We got fries. Jack was calm. He looked older, taller, and skinnier to me.
We stopped at the park near his house where he ate his food while the little boys wandered around. It was hot.
I looked at Jack sitting in the shade on the grass eating his fries and I felt a dual wave of love and sadness rise within me. He’s my son, but he’s not mine anymore. I don’t take care of him on a daily basis. He’s changing and I’m not there to see the subtle shifts—only the jarring ones after periods of time between visits.
What did I expect? Jack didn’t run to embrace me. He didn’t take selfies with me. He didn’t tell me stories about his new life.
He can’t do those things.
He is my same Jack, the one who is nonverbal, who doesn’t behave typically, who is disabled enough to warrant living somewhere else with full time caregivers.
When we returned to his home, he opened the sensory presents we brought. We wandered outside and sat on the porch with him. But after a few minutes he was agitated. He didn’t know what to do with us. I tried doing bubbles and play doh with him. I offered him a ring pop. He didn’t want to be touched.
When he did tongue face and banged his head against his elbow, I saw that we were disturbing his routine. We were a wrench in his afternoon and it was stressing him out.
I spoke with the director and the assistant house manager about Jack’s care. I gave him a hug. As we walked out the door, he looked over his shoulder at me from the couch. I blew him a kiss and told him I love him. He blew me a kiss. Charlie said “I love you, Jacky.”
We got in the car and Jack watched from the window as we drove away.
Leaving a second time didn’t feel any better than the first time. It was a bitter draught, a gut punch. It hurt.
The landscape between Jack’s town and ours is beautiful. I hadn’t really noticed it coming home the first time five weeks ago because I was at that time emotionally gasping for air. I was still emotional this time, but I felt the scenery helped salve my raw soul.
“Life is so painful,” I thought.
I held onto this thought: the only thing that’s getting me through this endless cluster cuss of sadness is the fact that Jesus made sure that Jack has a full, complete, whole life ahead after this mortal hardship. He will get to live a life that isn’t suppressed or limited. All the unfairness will be gone.
Anticipating that day is hopeful. It brought me peace when I felt wrung out by the pain of Jack’s current existence.
At the halfway mark on the drive home, I got the distinct impression that all the crappy things about Jack’s life are a deliberate part of his mortal journey. They are earning him his reward.
God knew I felt awful about all of it. He shined the saturated light of a summer afternoon on the canyon walls around me, lifting my spirit and reminding me that Jack’s potential goes way beyond the limits of today.
He showed me it will be okay.