There were a number of highlights during my recent trip to Penang to see my mum. One was the opportunity to celebrate mum’s 93rd birthday. Another was an early birthday celebration for son Andrew. We went to a French restaurant in Bishop Street. The food was good, there was much laughter and good conversations. Andrew remarked that we shared many strengths and weaknesses and asked me how I had worked on my weaknesses. It was a lovely evening. I couldn’t imagine us sharing such a pleasant evening, say, two years ago.
Our relationship has been difficult for a long time. Andrew entered a world in crisis. Not long after he was born we discovered that his mum had cancer. That crisis was the backdrop to his early days in life. His mum would pass away. Research shows that losing a birth mother early in life is a major loss. I remarried but that marriage broke down and the two boys, Stephen and Andrew, were scarred from that breakdown.
For some time I was a single parent. I looked to rebuild my self-image through my work. I did not give the guys the attention they needed and deserved. I also had a sojourn through clinical depression that included unhealthy anger. I was oblivious to the toll all this was taking on the boys and especially on Andrew.
Andrew managed to get a scholarship to a college in Canada and Bernice and I accompanied him there. One of the saddest moments of my life was leaving him at the door of Trent University. As he entered the school building, I had a deep sense of loss. By then our relationship had become very difficult and now we were going to be far apart geographically as well as relationally.
Indeed the years that followed were very hard on our relationship. I found our conversations difficult and I rarely connected. The big redemptive reality at that time, and now, was the presence of Bernice in our lives. She reached out in tough love to me and to Andrew.
Things started to turn around in 2018. I had to be in Canada for work and Andrew and I spent some time together. There were many difficult conversations but I began to better understand the reasons behind Andrew’s anger, especially his anger with me. I thanked God for progress made though this took a lot out of me and I am sure it took a lot out of him too.
Fast forward to our recent dinner in Penang. I enjoyed the evening tremendously. I think he did too. The significance of that evening continues to grow on me. We live in a broken world where relationships break down for all sorts of reasons. But if we commit ourselves to work at them, to take responsibility, to forgive, and to pray, with a whole lot of divine grace thrown in, relationships can get mended or at least embark on a journey of mending.