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    « 12 current cravings | Main | Photo replay: My baby »

    Time is on our side


    Nearly 20 years ago, I tried to steal my sister's son. Well, steal isn't quite the word. More accurately, I tried to save my sister's son, my nephew.

    Nearly 20 years ago, my youngest sister was young, divorced, and had two sons—the youngest lived with her; the oldest, with his dad in the Pacific Northwest. Her life was, to put it mildly, a mess. She was in a drug-fueled relationship with an abusive maniac who thought nothing of beating the hell out of her, of shooting a gun right next to her head as he held her against a wall and threatened to kill her if she considered leaving him.

    Which she didn't consider because, as such stories go, she loved him.

    She loved her son, too, though, and knew the situation was a dangerous one for the little boy to be in, to witness. So she often asked me to babysit him. Which I did. Often. Little J stayed many a night at my house, ate many a meal with my family, was a welcome part of my family.

    One particularly bad time, my sister asked me to have J stay at my house for the night, as Wacko Boyfriend was wackier than ever. She also asked that if she didn't call me at regular intervals through the night, that I come check on her. She wouldn't not go home for fear her boyfriend would come after her, so I had no choice but to agree.

    My sister called once, then twice, as she was supposed to. Then no more calls. As my fear and panic became unbearable, I asked Jim to stay with the kids while I went to see if my sister was still alive.

    When I arrived, the door of her apartment was slightly ajar. I knocked, I called out, I begged for my sister to answer. Which she didn't. I was scared to go inside, just in case her boyfriend was there with a gun to her head. I was scared to not go inside, just in case her boyfriend was there with a gun to her head. Or worse.

    I couldn't bring myself to go in alone, though. So I knocked on the door of a neighboring apartment. An enormous black man who looked much like the linebackers I'd seen on TV answered. Inside were a few of his friends, also similarly large and scary-looking to this silly white girl begging for help in rescuing her sister. After a few fearful glances at one another, the big burly guys agreed to accompany me to my sister's apartment.

    It was the scariest experience of my life. I was scared for my sister. Scared of the strangers I asked for help. Scared we'd all be ambushed by a freaking maniac if we went into the apartment.

    We knocked. We slowly entered. We tentatively searched the apartment. We found no one.

    Then, out the patio door, I saw my sister take off running and jump into a car with her boyfriend. I quickly thanked the linebackers, raced to my car, and took chase after my sister, believing she was being taken against her will.

    When I finally caught up with them, my drugged-up sister pointed at me through the window and laughed as the car sped away. The joke was on me. A horrible, heartbreaking horror of a joke.

    I returned home devastated, worried about what was happening to my sister. Most of all I was worried about what might eventually happen to my nephew. So when my sister called the next day, acting as if nothing had happened, as if she could just drop by and pick up her son, I told her I wasn't letting him go with her, that I was keeping him until she straightened her life out.

    Surprisingly, there was no resistance from her.

    Then, as Jim, my daughters, and I—along with my nephew—got ready for church, my sister pulled up in front of my house. With a cop. A cop who told me I had to give J to his mother. My sister wouldn't look at me, just stood by her car. The cop told me he understood how insane this was, but that legally I had to hand over my nephew. That his mother, as crazy as her situation—as she—apparently was, the boy was hers and I had no right to keep him. He knew it was wrong, the cop said, but it was the law.

    I surrendered J to his mother. To my sister. Who had seemingly lost her mind.

    Not long after that heartbreaking weekend, J's dad came to town to take custody of J. I honestly don't recall exactly how it all transpired, who had contacted him—such holes in my memory being the reason I could never write a memoir—but he came to save his son. Something I couldn't do. He had J's brother with him, kindly brought both boys to our house to tell us goodbye. Then he took them away.

    We never saw either of the boys again.

    Until yesterday.

    My sister had thankfully pulled her life together several years after losing her boys. She got rid of the maniac boyfriend—after having three children with him. Three incredible children, all pretty much adults now, who are better off because their mom ran and hid and healed. Better off because, harsh as this sounds, their father died in a car accident before they knew the horrors of him.

    My sister's contact with her two boys in the Pacific Northwest was sporadic and strained over the years, the pain and lies and misunderstandings too hard to overcome. Not long ago, though, they did overcome them. My sister finally visited, hugged, talked earnestly and honestly, offered apologies and explanations.

    That was this past spring. This past weekend, the two boys came to visit their mom and half siblings. A party was held yesterday so as much extended family as could make it would also reconnect with the two boys. Two boys we hadn't seen in nearly twenty years. Two boys who had grown into bright, delightful, funny, interesting, and admirable young men.

    I've not yet found the words to describe it. I won't even try.

    I will, though, give thanks. Because although time—regardless of what anyone says—does not heal all wounds, it does lead to some level of forgiveness, some degree of grace, some appreciation for the time that is left.

    I give thanks that forgiveness was offered. I give thanks for such grace. And, especially, I give thanks for the time that is left.

    Today's question:

    Who would you like to reconnect with in your extended (or immediate, even) family?

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    Reader Comments (15)

    Bless their father for saving these young men, bless their mother for getting help with her addictions, turning her life around and giving the gift of reconciliation to her sons. And bless you for trying to save your nephews back then and for welcoming them back into your family now. It's a great gift to them. Grace abounds.

    August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGrandmother

    How uplifting to begin the week reading about a heartbreaking situation... turned into a miracle!

    Thankfully, I'm still connected to both family and friends. I've been very fortunate thus far.

    August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNonnie Kelly

    it is good to hear that such a bleak beginning can be overcome with the right support. Good on you for trying to help. God bless the father of those two young men.

    August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterOlga

    I don't even know what to say but that I'm so happy this story had a happy ending.

    I have a sister-in-law with 2 young daughters who suffers from addiction problems. We've had custody of them twice over the years. The last time they were returned to her, I told her face-to-face that if I ever found out she was using around them again, I would take any steps necessary to take them away from her forever. Time will tell.

    By the way, those are some seriously gorgeous young men.

    August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGrams

    Wow, Lisa, I remember those days and they were very hard. I'm so glad you all were able to reconnect with the boys. They are gorgeoous! If I could reconnect with extended family, I would like it to be yours. We may not be blood, but we certainly have been through enough together to seem like family.
    Big Hugs!

    August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTerri

    What a story and what a wonderful reunion for your family! I have just reconnected with my two brothers, although we had just drifted apart due to annoyances and laziness, not tragedy, but still we had let our relationship go like it was nothing. Unfortunately, it was my mother's passing that brought us back together, but at least we did find comfort in each other's company and in each other's families.

    The world has to be a better place when people reconnect, adding their happiness energy to the mix and deleting the bad feelings that once existed. I am happy for your family

    August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMimi

    Thank you for sharing that very powerful story. Those are two very good looking boys who have a very brave aunt.

    I would like to reconnect with my cousins in Hawaii. I haven't seen them in almost 25 years.

    August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie E.

    The reconnection of which Lisa speaks came just three days after my 70th birthday and was ample reason for living so long; and celebrating being with two beautiful little boys---and so many other family members---who have grown into bright, smiling, handsome young men. The hugs from them filled the aching hole that has been in my heart for such a long time. And, now, my youngest of seven children can be whole herself. Thank God for the ability He has given us humans to survive years of hardship and come out on top; it's a good place to be.

    August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

    Wow, that is some story!!! I was nervous while reading. I wasn't sure I wanted to know what would happen. Then I was angry. I was angry that she thought it was funny to play such a terrible trick on you. You are an amazing sister. I am happy to hear that there is a happy ending for you and everyone involved. I hope J continues to do well.

    August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteph

    Lisa thank you for sharing your story, I know how hard it is sometimes to open up and bare our souls. As I read it tears rolled down my checks as I know exactly what you went through & may still be trying to deal with even years later.

    If I could reunite with my daughter Francine that would be the most wonderful thing in the world. Unfortunately in my heart of hearts I realise that will never happen as she blames me for stealing her youngest daughter, which is certainly not the case. If she had got the help that she needed all the times that it was offered to her then our life would be different and that of her eight beautiful children. I miss Francine every day and the pain of losing her never goes away.

    August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSally Kabak

    Thanks for sharing a story that will give many hope--gave me, much needed, hope!!!

    August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSuzie

    What an amzaing story, Lisa, and what a wonderful reunion for your family. It shows that there is always hope and that love can overcome the worst of situations.

    August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJeanie

    This was a hair raising story, Lisa! I am so glad your sister got the help she needed and that she i s now reunited with her two older boys! Your Mom's comment was glad for her!

    I miss my dad very much --he's been deceased 38 years and I still miss him every day..I look forward to be reunited with him in heaven some day!

    Ditto to what "Grandmother" said.

    I know your nephew remembers and cherishes your efforts to keep him safe. You were the one consistent person and example he had. I know it was a wonderful gift that your nephews visited.

    Some children, (now grown,) I would like to reconnect with spent many weekends at our home when they were young. You have inspired me to invite them over.



    August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMer

    EVERYONE: Thank you so much for the kind, understanding words! I appreciate it and wish the best for awesome reconnections in your lives!

    August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
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