Firstborn son goes from prodigal to laudable


You guys.

You prayed, didn’t you?

You sent vibes, wished upon stars, jumped over sidewalk cracks, blew dandelion puffs into the wind.

Because something happened.

Last year, almost exactly 12 months ago, I laid a burden at your feet. You didn’t ask for it, but I could no longer lift the weight of my son’s absence alone. I told you about this first child of mine, his struggle with self-isolation, the way he stayed apart from us as an adult, the agony of not understanding any of it.

“Every effort to find out what he is thinking or why this happened is met with a shrug or silence,” I wrote.

I had lost hope anything could change, that my sunny little boy would ever be glimpsed again.

Readers called, weeping, with their own stories. You sent the kindest of notes — it turned out I was far from alone in the universe of lonely parents confused at life’s turn of events.

Then something amazing happened.

It didn’t look like that, at first, when my boy called in April. Living on the East Coast had run its course after more than a dozen years. He knew he needed to address issues, he said. He needed family to help him restart life, he said. “I do better when I’m around you guys.”

Don’t judge me, but I said “no.” Not that I could identify it then, but I realize now all my walls were up against more heartbreak. Better to dream of reunification than to watch it shatter again.

“No,” I told my son. “I just can’t.”

But Camo Man ... his heart is a little softer than mine. My problems are new to him, just begging to be fixed. Besides, he whispered across my stiff neck while holding my stubborn self in a firm hug, “if anything happened, you’d never forgive yourself.”

Thus my first child landed in Walla Walla in June, agreed to my conditions, unpacked and got a job. Just about that fast.

And the “amazing” started quickly showing up. My two youngest daughters had missed out on most of what having a big brother means, what with the age gap and the length of a nation between them and theirs. Now there was a tall guy at the breakfast table, eating cereal and asking what their day looked like.

The same person was whisking the girls off to the movies their very old parents had no interest in watching. The brother was there to run people to appointments, help with homework, introduce new reading genres and cook tasty meals.

My firstborn played chore cop. He threw laundry in, vacuumed without being asked. He got medical care and joined a gym. Then, to add a note of surreal, the boy interacts with everyone. He laughs, he jokes. Comes to the dinner table, attends neighborhood events, visits with guests. Talks and talks and talks, for a quiet kind of man.

It’s taken time for me to relax. I was waiting, I now know, for something to blow. For a reason for failure. For this new planting to wither under too much fertilizer.

But now we’re moving into a place of ease. We’ve survived a few differences of opinion, ironed out some contract details, exchanged a few heated words. Surprisingly few, though, and I’m not that easy to live with. I have high expectations, anyone here can tell you that. Indeed, I’ve heard the brother tell the sisters — “Mom’s house, Mom’s rules, Mom’s right. I suggest you listen.” And they do, even through the glares and frowns.

Camo Man and I originally asked my son to relaunch himself in the fall. Now I’ve asked him to stay longer, however. I’d be crazy not to — suddenly we have a built-in teen jailer, a house sitter, a willing shopper and chef.

I mean, he’s old enough to send out for wine. That right there...

You know I mean so much more. You understand I’m saying how good it is to be reunited with the heart that began beating inside me more than 36 years ago.

You get that it’s amazing to get another chance to know this child of mine.

That’s right. Amazing. Like it’s Christmas.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at 509-526-8322 or


tumbleweed99324 1 year, 9 months ago

Sheila, this brought me to tears. Thank you for sharing -- it's truly the most wonderful Christmas gift you will receive. Merry Christmas to you and your family!


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