“Yes, I’ll accept the charges,” Karl said warily. He motioned to Ginny to pick up the kitchen extension.
“Dad? It’s me, Derek . . . I mean Darrin.”
“Hello, son.” Karl paused awkwardly. “How are you?”
“I’m okay, Dad.” He hesitated, then continued.
“I just want you and Mom to know how sorry I am for all of the trouble I caused you. I have been such a jerk . . .
“I am really sorry for all of the problems I’ve caused you. I’m hoping that you and mom can forgive me.”
Karl let the silence hang in the air. He didn’t know what to say. Were they ready to forgive his son for all of the heartache he had caused them over the years? Were they willing to simply forget about the thousands of dollars they had lost from their retirement fund trying to get him rehabilitated, and then searching for him when he ran away? Were they willing to forget the nights they had lain awake wondering where he was or if he was even alive?
Finally, he said, “Darrin, your mother and I were greatly relieved to hear that you are alive and healthy . . . it was very hard on us not knowing what had happened to you.” Karl paused.
“Have you gotten off of drugs?”
“Yeah. It’s been really hard. But I am through the worst part, by the grace of God.”
Had his son just said “By the grace of God?” Karl hardly heard anything after that. There was a lump in is throat. He couldn’t speak.
“There’s a guy from Prison Fellowship Ministries, Steve, who has been mentoring me. He’s an ex con himself. He has really helped me resist the prison culture.” Darrin’s voice faltered.
“I’m trying, Dad. . . I’m really trying. I want to be a better person. I’ve been going to Sunday services.”
Darrin stopped, not knowing what to say. “Steve says that with their help, I will be able to get a job when I get out. I got my G.E.D. here with Steve’s help. Maybe I can finish college.”
So, he wants money, thought Karl.
He replied curtly, “Your college fund, and much of our retirement account, for that matter, was spent trying to get you rehabilitated years ago, and then trying to locate you. I don’t know where you’re going to get the money to go to college at your age and with a criminal record.”
“I’ve been taking remote learning classes from a local junior college, and I should be finished with my AA degree by the time I get out. Steve says that I can transfer to a state college or university.”
“I hope that works out for you,” Karl replied, doubtfully.
“Dad, I wanted to talk to you because I hadn’t heard back from you about if you’ll come to visit me. I would like to see you.”
“Let me get back to you on that, Darrin.” Karl still wasn’t ready to make a commitment.
After an uncomfortable silence, Karl brought the conversation to an end. “Listen, thanks for the call. We’re glad to hear you are healthy and are recovering and trying to better yourself.”
“Okay, Dad,” Darrin said, his voice heavy with disappointment. “I knew this would be hard. But I would like to see you and Mom.”
“Bye, Dad. I love you and Mom.”
The tightness in Karl’s throat was still there when he returned the receiver to the phone base. Ginny came in from the kitchen and he took her in his arms. They just held onto each other wordlessly. What was there to say? Their son was alive, but he was in prison on a felony drug charge. Would he always hurt them as much as he had in the past? Should they let him back into their lives?
“Do I really have to give up school for Lent?” Kevin said, plaintively. They were sitting at the kitchen table after school.
His pleading eyes and the tone of his voice broke Liz’s heart. She had come from a meeting with the Principal, Sr. Kathleen, before picking the boys up after school.
Kevin had missed too many days of school due to his recent hospitalization and illness, she said, and just couldn’t keep up. It wasn’t fair to him to force him to come to school when he wasn’t feeling well. She told Liz that Kevin should be homeschooled for a couple months—maybe until the end of the school year.
Liz had offered Kevin a gluten free chocolate chip cookie with his milk. He hadn’t touched either.
“Sweetie, you aren’t giving up school for Lent or for anything. You aren’t giving up school, period. You’re just going to do school a different way for a while. Your teachers will email us your weekly assignments, and Mr. Morris, the teacher from LA Unified, will start on Monday when Marta to teach you. You will have a private tutor!”
Liz saw the skepticism on Kevin’s face.
“It will be easier for you to do your assignments at home. And you can email your teachers with questions. And, of course, we will help you at home as well.
“It will be fine. You’ll see.” She offered an encouraging smile.
“Right,” replied Kevin, unconvinced.
“Where is God when you need him anyway?” Kevin blurted out. “What good is a God who doesn’t answer my prayers?”
“Honey, God is with you, but he’s not a cosmic butler to be summoned to do your bidding!
“He is helping you cope with your illness. We are on a good path now. God has been with us all during this difficult time. He guided us to a doctor who finally diagnosed your illness and put you on the right medication. You are on the road to recovery.
Many people have done very well living with Addison’s.” She left off “disease.” “Addison’s disease” sounded too dire. Better to leave it at Addison’s, she thought.
“President Kennedy had it and led a very active life.
“God was with us in guiding us to the LA Unified School District homeschooling program for sick kids so that we can get you caught up in school.
“And God led us to the perfect companion for you—Keller! Keller has not only been a blessing to you, but he has made all of us laugh with his antics.
“You’ll have more time with Keller, now.” she added. “You can take him out for a walk once or twice a day, and that will get you out in the fresh air too. Keller is definitely one of the silver linings in this.
“Of course, you will still see your friends from school, church, and scouts. You can have them over to the house, and I’m sure you will receive invitations from them too.
“You will be working with your teacher, Mr. Morris, at the table in the music room, where there is plenty of light. Mr. Morris will be here for about three hours in the morning while Marta is here on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
“And,” she added, “I have extra vacation time so that I can leave the office early on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the first week, and I plan to work from home several hours a day on those two days after that. I’ve already cleared it with my boss. Pastor Bernie has offered to come and stay with you if I have to go to court on a Tuesday or Thursday.
She hugged him and held him tight, saying “So, God has blessed us in many ways these past few weeks. And before you know it, you’ll be back in school, and feeling better than ever.”