We waited over 10 years for Ron to come home the first time.
It seemed like a lifetime since he had lived in the same house with us. Our sons had grown from toddlers to teens. Our lives had changed so much in that decade. But we were filled with excitement when the judge granted our motion “For Justice and Mercy.” Ron was coming home—and not in weeks or even days. He was coming home in minutes!
The boys and I picked Ron up from the county jail while we were still in a state of blissful shock. The moment we had talked so much about, worked so hard to see, and waited so long to come to pass had finally arrived! Dad was coming home. Wow. It was so surreal. We barely had time to process the information before they had processed the paperwork and he was walking out the gates. I could not have been happier, nor could I have been more naïve.
I just assumed that everything would be wonderful when Ron got home.
We had prayed and hoped for this moment together as a family for so many years. How could it be anything other than wonderful to live together? It never entered my mind that my sons would have a huge adjustment to make as their father became a part of their everyday lives. And it was a roller-coaster of an adjustment! (read more about this season on our lives)
The boys were ecstatic that their dad was finally home. My oldest son, Blake, was obviously much more cautious than his younger brother, but I could see that he was also happy to have his family intact again. I remember watching him watch his dad with such intense concentration the first night he was home. I was not sure what it was that he was looking for so closely, or what he was thinking about at that time. It did not take me long to find out.
"Blake refused to move, reminding Ron that this had been HIS seat for the past 10 years."
A couple of days after Ron came home, we were about to have our first meal together with just our family. I was thrilled. I was cooking our first family meal and called for everyone to come sit at the table in the dining room since I was about to move the food from the stove to the table. Blake ran to the table and sat down in the chair he had been sitting in for years – at the head of the table.
My youngest son and Ron walked in moments behind him. Ron asked Blake to move to a side seat and allow him to sit there. Blake refused. Ron then informed Blake that he was sitting in the Ron’s seat and that Blake would have to move. Blake again refused, reminding Ron that this had been HIS seat for the past 10 years. I could see that they were both intent on stubbornly holding their ground and not going to move. I gave Blake the “mom look” and told him to move.
He silently pushed out his chair and moved to the other seat.
As we ate together, Ron talked about the things he would do after dinner—take the trash out, sweep off the porch, etc. As soon as Blake was finished eating, he asked to be excused. He then immediately went and took care of all the chores Ron had talked about doing. He had them all done before Ron had even finished eating. I was surprised! If only it had been that easy to get him to do chores all the time, I would have talked about it at dinner every night! But Blake was sending a message to Ron that he didn’t need him.
The next night, Blake sat in the same chair at the head of the table.
I saw the disappointment and frustration in Ron’s eyes. That evening, I decided I did not want to play referee between them, so I went back into the kitchen and let them work it out. I watched silently while they had almost the same conversation as the night before. This time, I was afraid it would come to blows. I could see Blake’s hand clenched in a fist, and I knew he was determined to defend his place. When Ron put his hand on Blake’s shoulder, I saw Blake flinch.
But Ron’s next words came as a total surprise. “Blake, I know you have had to carry a really heavy load for a long time. You have been very responsible and have looked out for your little brother and your mother for a decade. It wasn’t fair to you. I know it wasn’t your load to carry. It was mine. I am home now. You get to just be the son. You don’t have to carry that load anymore.” Blake sat there silent for another 10 seconds before he got up and moved to a chair along the side. He had tears in his eyes, but he didn’t say a word. Blake never sat in that seat again. He wanted to, needed to, know he was protected and cared for even though he was now 15 years old.
That was the first time Blake butted heads with Ron, but it certainly was not the last.
My sons had carried so much pain and disappointed for so many years. It was not realistic for me to think that just having Ron home would erase all that they had been through. We all had to learn how to interact with each other—when to move closer and when to give the other some space. In the coming months, Blake yelled at Ron, tried to tackle him, told him he would NEVER LET HIM BACK IN HIS LIFE. And then, Blake sobbed into his father’s shoulder as he released the pain of losing his father to prison for a decade. Healing began!
Prison carries a high cost—not just for the person who is in prison, but for us, their families who are left behind to pick up the pieces. You will never be a perfect family. There is no such thing. What you are fighting for is to be a permanent and healthy family. Building healthy relationships is a lot of work, but they are worth every ounce of effort it takes to rebuild them after prison. Don’t give up. It really does get better, and better, and better. Your investment will produce a legacy worth leaving to your family for generations to come.
I am rooting for you!