79: Still Sheldon

79: Still Sheldon

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

Still Sheldon

You don’t have to suffer to be a poet. Adolescence is enough suffering for anyone.

~John Ciardi

“Oh no, God. This is a big mistake, isn’t it?” I prayed silently while waiting for our teenage son to take his turn. We were going around the dinner table on Christmas Eve, telling our family members what we admired most about them or thanking them for something. It was our family tradition. Now we all sat waiting for sixteen-year-old Sheldon and it looked as though he was not going to participate.

When had our relationship become so strained? We were so close when he was younger. Where had my fun-loving, chattering little fellow gone?

This year the silence had descended upon us like a wet blanket. Sheldon became quiet and withdrawn. I often wondered what was going on behind those big blue eyes. His sixteenth birthday came and went and he refused to acknowledge it. He didn’t care to get his driver’s license either. I couldn’t believe it.

“Lord, what is going on in his head? Please help me to understand,” had become my constant prayer.

I began to dread Christmas with this heaviness hanging over our home. I was sure this sullen teenager would choose not to participate in our family Christmas traditions. I could just picture him staying in his room and shutting us out as he played his CDs or strummed his guitar for hours behind a closed door. What could I do to reach him?

How could I break through to him? What was he thinking?

I went through the usual motions of getting ready for Christmas, but my heart was heavy whenever I thought of how much things had changed over the past year. Would we be able to have our special time of sharing around the table, as we always had?

Now we were gathered around the table on Christmas Eve. The candlelight reflected on each face as we ate our traditional French onion soup and bread. It was a tradition we had started at the request of the children when they were small. They wanted to eat something different — not a big meal where I had to spend all day in the kitchen. They wanted time to read stories and play games together.

Tonight, when it came time to share, we had purposely started with my husband who was sitting on Sheldon’s left. That way Sheldon would be last, so even if he chose not to participate it wouldn’t spoil the atmosphere for all of us. We had each taken our turn, telling each member of the family what they meant to us. Now it was Sheldon’s turn. I silently prayed for strength to respond in a positive way, no matter what he said.

He cleared his throat and just sat there. I found myself nervously picking at the tablecloth and trying not to make eye contact with the others.

The he began.

“Dad, I love how you skate with me and play hockey... you are fun to have for a father...” He continued, but I was lost in thought.

Had I totally misunderstood Sheldon?

Just then I heard “Mom...” As I looked up I saw Sheldon was now looking directly at me. He paused again and appeared to be unsure what to say. With our relationship feeling so rocky, I was afraid of what he might say. Then I heard him speak.

“I love you Mom, I always have.”

I was shocked and elated. He hesitated again, and I looked up to meet his eyes, hoping to give him the confidence to continue. Unbelievably, in the soft candlelight, I saw tears glistening in his eyes.

“Thank you for being so supportive of me and whatever nutty thing I have decided to do” — by this time the tears were rolling unheeded down his face — “...and at my games, I can count on you to be there in the stands. I feel your love and encouragement and you support me, whatever I do. Thank you...” He choked, unable to go on.

Oh Lord, forgive me — I was so wrong! With tears streaming down my own cheeks, I got up to hug him, and found myself in a group hug. What a beautiful answer to my desperate pleas — and just in time for Christmas.

~Annie Riess

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