Chapter 2 of the Return of the Prodigal Foster Son
11 days and counting since reconnecting with my foster son who walked out into a fallen world 20 years ago when he was 21 years old. Not many people who loved on my foster son 25 years ago are even living today. My dad, grandparents, aunt and uncle gave love and influence to this troubled young man so many years ago. My sister and I reminisced over photos of five years of Christmases when we welcomed him into our family.
20 Formative Years
How do you catch up on 20 of the most formative years. He has been on his own from age 21 to 41. I have been on my own from age 39 to 59. The single most important event in my life is the day I trusted Jesus Christ for my future. We used to think Robert was the slow learner, but it took me to age 50 to learn the importance of letting God rule the universe and to take over running my life.
And in my first conversation with Robert after 20 years, that maternal instinct of a lioness came over me once again to love and protect this special cub. Twenty years ago, I thought I ruled the universe and that if I tried hard enough I could make anything happen. Today I realize I am helpless to effect any change, but I am led by the power of the living God who can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.
Robert and I talked on a Thursday evening. He had just made a cross country run from Seattle to New York. He was to deliver his load the next day and start what he called a 34 hour restart. “Mom, It is a time you have to stop your truck and not move it for 34 hours. This happens every 70 hours of drive time when you are a commercial trucker.” His next load was to be dropped in Michigan and he was going to stop in Indianapolis so we could see each other face-to-face. He was due in Sunday afternoon.
Somewhere in Pennsylvania, he blew an axle seal and had to stop for hours of down time and repair. Road conditions and time constraints dictated he take an alternative route to Michigan and he could not make it to Indianapolis. He requested a load and schedule to put him in Indianapolis Friday afternoon to spend the weekend with me. The Prodigal Son was on his way home.
The Perfect Country Western Song
He wanted to go to the Lone Star Steakhouse. Twenty years ago it was his favorite place. We put on our cowboy hats, snake skin boots and fur coats, put the horns on the Cadillac making quite the entrance. At our table we cracked peanuts and he sang some country songs as we waited for our meal. This is where I was reluctantly forced to listen to country music. I learned the perfect country and western song had to be about mama, trains, trucks, getting drunk and prison.
I can picture that kid sitting across the table from me grinning ear to ear singing “and I will hang around as long as you will let me and I never minded standing in the rain, but you don’t have to call me darlin’…darlin’. You never even called me by my name.”
The Prodigal Country Western Son On His Way Home
Times had changed. Lone Star was out of business. The horns and the Cadillac were gone. My cowboy boot collection had grown and I now knew the words to every country western song. I was excited for him to arrive on this particular weekend. I was going to take him to Zydeco’s for Cajun food and to hear my favorite singer song writers serenade me over dinner. Then we were going to the 8 Seconds Saloon to watch the debut of my fiddle playing friend as her new group played even more country western songs. It was a great weekend for the Prodigal Country Son to return home.
On Monday Robert got a load to San Antonio. One way that run is 1459 miles and in a car it would take 22 hours. It would take a miracle and perfect driving and loading conditions for him to return to Indianapolis by Friday. And so the adventure began. There was a 5 hour delay somewhere along Interstate 40. There was snow and icy roads as well. He made it to San Antonio and was quickly unloaded Thursday night. Robert’s company gave him another load in San Antonio so he would not be dead heading home. Instead of finding him a load bound for Indianapolis, they gave him a load to Michigan with a delivery date of Monday. He pondered the turn of events while his 53 foot trailer was being loaded with pickles for the ride back.
The Test of Patience and Endurance
The great blizzard of 2016 was forecasted. I knew the storm originated around Arkansas and this was on his route home. I hoped he would be north of the line of the storm. At work on Friday I called one of my vendors in Little Rock to learn they had 7 inches of snow on top of an inch of ice. Things were not looking good to see Robert any time soon. By Friday afternoon Robert had made his way from Waco TX to Little Rock AR where he was forced to shut down due to the terrible conditions.
“Robert, aren’t you getting close to your 70 hour point where you have to shut down for 34 hours.”
“Yeah, mom I think I am. I will figure it up and get back to you.”
We both carried on about the skill of the dispatchers from his company and wondered how they thought this trip would have ever gotten him home by Friday afternoon. Then he calls and is fuming “Well, we have bigger problems than my log book. My company failed to deposit my pay today and they won’t take my calls. I had a huge check coming from last week’s drive cross country.”
“Robert, do you have some reserve cash in your account?”
“Well I did until I paid my child support. That took all I had left. My phone is going to get shut off if I don’t get that bill paid. I have some beef jerky in the truck and that is it.”
So here is my kid, (who is a grown man) sitting in a truck stop in Little Rock. No money, possibly no phone contact if his phone gets shut off but he does have a semi truck load of pickles. Another idea for a working title to this blog is on my mind!
We figure out his log book and he had 7 hours left of drive time before he had to shut down for 34. He was allowed to start driving after 2am. His plan was to leave at 4 am and get into Indianapolis just in time for dinner and our evening of country music fun. At best it is a 9 hour trip and he has 7 hours of drive time left. I tell him I will come pick him up from where ever he has to stop.
Something Strange is Going On
I awaken at 4 am and I pray asking for his safety above all else. I fall back to sleep. At 9 am I have not heard from him. When I call, I can tell from the sound of his voice he is still asleep. He says he will hit the road. I call him two hours later and he has not yet set out. Something is at work, I am not certain what this is. He finally gets on the road only to venture to the next exit and realize the roads are still impassable. Back to the truck stop. We decide he started his 34 hours of restart time as of 4 pm on Friday. That means he can be on the road by 2 am Sunday morning. In the meantime he texts his notice of resignation to the company. Interestingly a few hundred dollars gets deposited to his bank. They are talking to him again begging him to get the load delivered and they promise to make it up to him.
On my way home from the 8 Seconds Saloon, I call him. He is moving. His GPS is squawking and so is mine. I am trying to find my way home and he is trying to find his way to the next stop. Seems that someone drove in to the truck stop in Little Rock and took out a gas pump and hit another car. There was a mandatory evacuation of the truck stop as a result and no matter if you were on a 34 hour restart or not, you had to move. He was going to park until his restart was over and would head to Indy in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Impossible Under Every Circumstance
On my way to church I called him. In the middle of the night, his dispatcher called him. He filled them in on the mandatory evacuation. And even though he had been shut down since 4 pm on Friday, they told him he could not leave and his 34 hour restarted started over again as of 10 pm Saturday night. This means he could not move until Monday morning at 8 am. He is still in Arkansas and in the same breath they tell him he needs to have the load delivered to Michigan the same day. This is impossible under every circumstance.
A Threat to the Enemy
In church, Pastor Tony asks us to reflect on where we have seen the mighty power of God at work in our lives. Easy answer for me. While I see God’s power at work every single day, my answer is what I have seen happen in Robert’s life could only be from God. And then it hit me. The Enemy did not want Robert to come home. He did not want Robert to connect with a woman who now left everything in the hands of God. The Enemy did not want Robert to be influenced by a woman whose faith sustained her through every adversity. The Enemy did not want Robert to experience the Joy of experiencing the transformation Jesus can deliver.
The last time I saw Robert, he was a terrible driver. He wrecked his two trucks plus my car. He had no judgement and reaction time when behind the wheel. He had no ability to choose right from wrong. He could not do basic math and he could barely read. I have suffered for the last 20 years with the knowledge I helped put him on the road endangering others because I thought I was invincible and I believed Robert just needed someone who believed in him to make his dreams come true. What was I thinking?
God Worked a Miracle in Robert
Robert walked away at age 21 instead of choosing the life I offered him. He had to walk because I took his vehicle away. As I look back today, I grieve the fact that no one was praying for Robert, not even me. He returned to the family that started his demise when he was a small child. He had no one. Yet, it was clear to me God worked a miracle in Robert.
After church, I knew I had to share the gospel with Robert. It could not wait until I saw him in person. At this point, I did not think I would ever actually see him face-to-face. So I told him about Adam and Eve. “Robert you know these are the first people God created. They had it all as God gave them paradise in the Garden of Eden. God gave them only one rule, they were not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The Enemy was disguised as a serpent and he made Eve doubt God. Then Eve convinced Adam that it was ok to disobey God. And this is what is called the fall of man. That is why the world today is full of evil. That is why our sinful nature prevails. We have no hope except through Christ.”
I went on to explain about God sending his son Jesus and how Jesus died for our sins. The only hope of bridging the consequences of Adam and Eve disobeying God was for Jesus to pay the penalty. His death and resurrection did this. I then explained how a person asks Jesus into their heart, to take over running their lives, to lead them to a life God wants for them. I explained how God forgives our sins. I was breathless when I stopped and I said “See Robert, Satan does not want you to reconnect with me because I will teach you the ways of Jesus.”
Mom, I Am Way Ahead of You
And Robert says “mom, I am way ahead of you. I was hanging around a bunch of Christians a few years back. I know what you are saying is completely true. I believe in God.”
And then it hit me, I now fully understood why Robert was looked after when no one was there for him. Someone introduced him Jesus and Jesus restored Robert. He was getting Robert ready to come home.
I told him that even if he or I died before we actually got to see each other again, we would have the promise of a reunion in heaven. I wonder if they have country music in heaven.
Polly Riddell writing as G. Polly Jordan is a storyteller connecting people and the stories they tell.
Twenty years before this series was written I took Robert in and taught him to drive and made all his dreams come true. He is the cause of my gray hair and he also was on the scene throughout both of my divorces, hmm.
He resurfaced twenty years later to give me a glimpse of the impact we had. It was a lot of impact.