“No, Mom, the answer is still no,” Dylan’s jaw tightened, but he hated the troubled look in his mother’s eyes.
Allie swallowed hard, and Dylan thought she’d given up, but he was wrong.
“But, Son, you have to let it go. You’ll have no peace until you do. He says he really wants to see you.”
“It’s okay, Mom,” his voice softened. “I’m not so angry anymore. I just don’t want to talk to him.” He pushed his chair back from the long table, thinking it was time to leave.
As his mother Allie cried softly, Dylan’s mind went back. He was a child again, looking at his Dad with pleading eyes.
“Daddy, I can’t ride without the training wheels. I’m so scared.”
“Don’t be such a crybaby. Get back on and just do it.”
At five years of age, Dylan obeyed, and the sheer terror of flying down the sloped driveway, with knees already skinned and burning, was still a haunting memory. He did learn to ride, eventually, and longed for Dad’s praise, but somehow those words never came.
Later, when his father took him to T-ball, then little league baseball, something of the same fear stayed with him. He didn’t really like sports that much. He was small, and not athletic, but he could never make his Dad understand.
“This will make you tough, keep you from being a mamma’s boy. Now, straighten those shoulders and get out there.”
When Dylan was in junior high, he returned home from school one day to find his dad packing a suitcase. His mom just cried and said Dad wanted to make a new life, but tried to reassure Dylan that they both still loved him.
“Please, Dad, stay home. I need you and Mom needs you,” he begged desperately.
“You’re a big boy, Dylan, don’t cry. I’ll be seeing you every couple of weeks. It’s grown-up stuff that you don’t understand.”
Allie was forced to work long hours in the following years, and though Dylan knew she loved him a lot, he was lonely and restless. He saw very little of his dad, who was busy with a new companion and family.
Dylan’s grades at school began to slip, and he turned instead to a group of friends who seemed to understand him and care about him. Things got out of hand at times, and once, Dylan was arrested at a party with five or six other guys who were “just smoking a little weed.”
He remembered that Mom had called Dad, who came and got him, ranting and raving as he took him home.
“But Dad, I didn’t even smoke any. You heard the officer say that there was none in my system. I was just there because I was bored.”
His protests had no effect. It was like he’d never said a word.
“You’ve always been a whiner, and I can’t seem to help you. You just need to behave and grow up ”
Something inside Dylan had snapped that day, and he had given up. He dropped out of school before graduation, and against his mother’s pleas, started partying and doing drugs. Since there wasn’t much money to support his lifestyle, he got into some petty theft which eventually grew into much larger crimes.
These scenes played through his mind now like a worn-out tape. It had been a long process, but Dylan had finally begun to calm down and think straight. He was gradually getting it together, and had good hope for the future. He knew now that many of the choices had been his own, and he regretted the pain he’d caused his mom. He had returned to much of the teaching she’d given him, and that of the church where she’d taken him faithfully – until he had rebelled and refused to go. He’d had a lot of time to think it through, and was facing it all, one day at a time.
“I’m sorry, Mom, but Dad has never really “heard” me. I just have nothing left to say.”
Across the table, Allie smiled through her tears, said she understood, and she’d be back next week.
The warden motioned behind them that visiting hours were up, and Dylan rose, hugged his mother and walked slowly back down the drab cold hall to his cell.
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