What are you hanging on to…
Me… I am hanging on to a little 2 piece, matching shorts and tank top camouflage out fit worn by my son Timmy when he was 3. When I put him in that outfit that morning I didn’t realize the irony of putting him in something that was used to be hidden.
It was a sunny day in June. The kids were out of school and we needed groceries. I remember preparing my kids for this trip. My fourth baby was just 2 months old. I wanted to be able shop successfully on my own. My mom had been watching them for previous trips, but I was ready to take on the job myself.
So I gave each kid a task. My oldest read the list and the other 2 put the items in the cart. I explained to them how we needed to work as a team, and they said they were ready!
They did awesome. They all did their jobs and helped me tremendously and we were able to finish the whole list. I gave a sigh of relief and felt such power from our accomplishment as we checked out. While the kids were waiting for the groceries to be bagged and put in the cart they stepped across the isle to play with the buttons on a vending machine. My 3 year old was hanging with his brother(7) and sister(6) pushing buttons. They were a few yards away but I kept watching them while loading to be sure they were all there. Finally I paid the cashier and was ready to go. Josh and Kate came to the sides of the cart and I said, “Where is Timmy?” They both looked around. I began scanning a bigger area wondering if he had wondered to another check out lane, but no Timmy. At this point I was a little nervous but not panicking. I thought in reality he was probably right there somewhere. But time kept ticking and soon I realized he was not right there.
Finally panic was setting in. I remember telling the workers that I was beginning to panic and I needed to find my son before I started to lose it.
“I need to find my son, please, shut your doors I need to find my son.” I kept saying
“Ok ma'am. What is he wearing,” a worker responded
“Umm I don’t know,” I stammered, “Oh dang it, I don’t remem…Wait he is wearing camouflage. I need to find him please, please shut your doors. I need my son,” I said pleadingly. I remember pleading with God, “please God, please bring him to me. This is one of those things I CAN’T handle. Please, don’t let this happen.”
“Ok ma’am. How old is he?” the worker asked
As I said the words out loud it only made me even more aware of how fragile he was.
“He is 3 I said.” And then I screamed ... “He is only 3. I need to find my son. Please, shut your doors. Lock your damn doors. As time kept passing I began to feel like one of those people in the movies. People’s voices around me sounded like far off echoes. I remember hearing the words “We have a code…” but didn’t hear what kind of code it was. I just remember thinking, oh God we have a code. This is really happening it is not a dream and we have a code. I could see people staring at me but I didn’t care. I could see my other two kids standing by the cart staring. I remember thinking of the trauma I must be causing them but couldn’t stop. I had no ability to be calm. I just knew I wouldn’t leave them standing there alone. I just kept yelling for the workers of Meier’s to “ Shut the damn doors” I kept screaming, begging and pleading with tears pouring down my face, “Please, I need my son, please shut your doors.”
“Ma’am, we are doing everything we can”, the lady told me.
I said, “ no your not, you could lock your doors so someone can’t take him out.
Then there was a point in my mind that I tried reconcile that he was gone. I wondered how I would survive this torture of wondering where he was and what he was going through. And as my mind started to fade to a very dark quiet place of hopelessness, off in the distance I heard them say we found him. Here he is. He is right here. My knees buckled and I hit the floor. They walked him up to me and I just looked into his sweet eyes as he looked at me with a questioning yet concerned look. He was quiet. He could sense the seriousness of the situation, but was confused about my state of mind. He was unaware of the danger he could have been in. He walked up to me and put his arms around my neck and hugged me. I can still feel his little arms around my neck. I can feel his hair on my cheek. I just cried for a moment with him in my arms. And my other to kids joined our embrace.
We made our way to the parking lot. I climbed in my van and sobbed.
That night when I tucked him in I kissed his cheek thanking God that I could.
I never put him in that outfit again. In fact he received a pair of camouflage shorts as a gift and it took me till the end of the summer to let him wear them. I think he only wore them once before it was to cold to wear shorts anymore. I shared with Dean that I still had the outfit, which I hadn’t told anyone. He said to me “ You know that won’t keep it from ever happening” I know it sound silly to think, but there is a part of me that feels like hanging on to those clothes is going to keep me in control. Somehow keep me from making a mistake and losing him. Like hanging on to my biggest fear and biggest mistake will keep it from happening again. When he said that I could feel the fake sense of control slip through my fingertips. The wave of fear, sadness and pain flooded over me. I could see the truth to his statement. No, it won’t, but to be honest I am not ready to let it go. I told Dean I wasn’t sure if or when I would throw them out. He said, “you will when you are ready” And for now I just have to leave it at that.
So what are you hanging on to? Is it a pair of clothes, a book, a letter, or some sort of trinket that reminds you of a dark time in your life that you feel guilty about or afraid of? Something you hang on to remind yourself to NEVER let it happen again. Something you hang on to symbolizing a divorce you are not willing to let go.
Sometimes it is great to hang on to things to remember. The question is are you hanging on in Love or Fear.
To this day I have to make a conscious choice to put my kids in the hands of my maker. It is only my faith that keeps the panic from running my life. I tell ya, this parenthood stuff is the most amazing, rewarding job, but it is also the hardest job I will ever have.