He was drifting away from us, or perhaps he was pulling away. I could feel the distance widening between us and it unnerved me.
When he was home I would engage my 14 year old son in conversation by asking him simple questions. “How was your day?” “Who did you hang out with at school today?” “How did you do on your test?”
After two or three questions, his anger would flare and the accusations would begin. “You always want to know everything! What is it with you?” “I’m not in the mood to talk right now.”
From me and from him.
I could sense the gulf had expanded between us…again.
I hated it. I found myself wondering how I could possibly reach him. How could I touch his heart in a way that would mean something to him? How could I reach beyond the chasm existing between us?
As I pondered this, I grabbed an unused notebook and began to write a poem. I wrote about how special he was to me. How hard we had fought for him when he was born ten weeks early and had almost slipped away from us. I wrote emphatically, how the fight for him then meant I would fight for him now. How we hadn’t lost him then and we weren’t going to lose him now.
At the end of my poem, I asked him what he thought of what I’d written and how my words made him feel. I asked him to please write back and answer the questions and to return the notebook to me when he had written in it.
I laid the open notebook on his bed, leaving my poem easy to see. I walked out of his room and waited.
For an entire year.
Then one day I walked into my bedroom and saw the notebook on my bed. I feared he had returned it with nothing written inside, but much to my surprise, he had written me back.
Tears blurred the words, as I realized writing a simple poem had started to bridge the gap this year had produced.
I hugged the notebook to my chest and wept at the opportunity writing was bringing to our relationship.
Reading the notebook, I found the meaningful treasure of his writing. He wrote his feelings about the poem, and stated how it had deeply touched him. He answered all my questions and in turn wrote me probing questions. I knew I would need to write my answers with honesty and vulnerability.
And then, at the end of his first venture into writing, in his scratchy handwriting, he asked me to forgive him for his anger and to forgive the many difficulties we had faced throughout this hard season of his life.
He articulately wrote what he could not say face-to-face. The forgiveness he longed for, but had been unable to ask flowed out in written words of true repentance. The reasons behind the anger, the hurts of friends and family. All of it poured onto the paper bringing understanding and healing into my heart.
Writing had cracked open the door of his heart to me, and I sensed it could be the key to keeping it open.
And so we began to pass the notebook back and forth between us. This continued for a very long season of our lives. We wrote our thoughts, our silly jokes, and our honest fears. Each exchange of words caused us to know each other beyond what any spoken conversation had ever accomplished.
We each waited and watched for the notebook to show up on our beds. He teased and hounded me if I failed to write quickly and return it to him. Neither of us could wait to read what the other had written. Our hearts warmed to each other, and we wrote more openly and freely.
As the pages filled we found ourselves holding each other in high esteem. Our written words brought honor and respect towards one another. Hugs began to take place as our writing overcame the foreboding walls we had previously experienced. Finally we could empathize with each other rather than antagonize. Understanding replaced misunderstanding, and love flowed through our written dialogue.
Today I look back with great thankfulness for the difficulty we faced during those tumultuous years. Had we not struggled in our verbal dialogue, we would not have found the courage to write our emotions freely. Through our experience, we discovered writing created a bridge we chose to walk over.
Our honest words became the strong, secure bridge that drew us closer when the storms of life were trying to drive us apart.
My son and I are truly grateful for our journey into writing. We know writing was a gift given to us to help heal our relationship, and we continue to this day to write words of affirmation and love to one another.
Our old black notebook serves as a reminder of the power and healing that comes through honest and raw writing. For within the pages of our notebook are the bravely written words that brought understanding and helped us find our way back into each other’s heart.
Image © Eléonore H - Fotolia.com