Once again, she answered after the first few rings. She apologized for the lost connection and we continued to visit.
“I wanted to be the first to tell you,” she said. “I just didn’t want you to hear this from someone else.”
Suddenly my mind was working. What could it be that she wanted to tell me? Had something happened to mom or dad? That didn’t seem plausible because I don’t think she could hide the pain of that in her voice. Maybe she had met someone. I feel my heart constrict at just the thought of that. Were the kids ok? Finally, as calmly as I could, I asked her what the news was.
“Conrad is getting married,” she said. “I wanted to be the one that told you. I haven’t even told Tina because I just didn’t want it to slip in conversation.”
As I held the phone to my ear, I was filled with a variety of emotions. Conrad is our youngest son (actually my stepson, but I claim him as my own as I do all the kids). When we first got married, he was the only one of the kids who lived with us and was the one that I spent the most time with. While I deeply love each of our kids, my love and relationship with Conrad was a little different because he had lived with us.
“I’m so happy for them,” I replied. “Have the set a date yet?”
A date! Why would I even ask the question? I knew that this was a wedding that I wouldn’t attend. And just the realization of that was heartbreaking. I had been at the marriage of both of our older children…had even worn a tuxedo as a representation of my position as their dad (even as their biological dad did as well). I had been in the hospital for the birth of all four of our grandchildren, sharing in the joy of creation and birth.
But that was all in the past, and choices that I had made changed the future. I hadn’t talked to Conrad, or seen him, since shortly after my arrest. And though I know he loves me, the pain that I caused has left our relationship in limbo. My last image of him was with tears streaming down both of our faces as he hugged me and told me that he loved me. Paula keeps me up-to-date on his life but I’m no longer a part of it.
It’s not that an invitation to the wedding is out of the question. They may invite me. But attending isn’t an option for me. That day is for Conrad and his bride-to-be. My attendance would only take the focus off of them as many of his friends and family would question why I was there. I could never do that.
I’ve discovered that the consequences of my choices and my crime will never be fully paid. I’ve spent my time in prison and “paid my debt to society”. I’ve lost my career and my family. I no longer have the financial resources and wealth that I had once begun to accumulate. But I am changed. My relationship with God is stronger than ever and I’m not the man I once was. My sibling bonds have been restored and I see grace clearly each and every day in my life. But still…there are days when the reminder of my loss is more painful than others. And the realization that sometimes “good news” is “painful news.”