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Never Give Your Child Five Names

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Never Give Your Child Five Names

We thought it would take only a couple weeks. It took three months.

Every time a piece of mail came for him, I got my hopes up, but it was never the letter he needed. One official letter came addressed to “Kenneth Sean,” and Robby despaired. He had been through so many disappointments that he didn’t trust he would ever be free to live his life again.

The next day, I texted him as usual to say I was getting ready for our morning walk, but there was no reply. Sleeping late, I thought. An hour later, I texted again. Still nothing. My imagination started to wonder if something was wrong.

“Are you OK?” I texted. No reply.

I couldn’t help letting my thoughts spiral. Just over a year earlier, I had watched Robby’s older half brother, Chris, suffer an agonizing, cirrhosis death after a lifelong addiction to alcohol. In my grief, I blamed myself for my failures as a mother, first denying, then bargaining. My head swirled with “if onlys” and “what ifs,” but there is no rewind button on life. I could only try to do better with the son I had.

I waited for a response from Robby, but there was none. His depression worried me. He had told me once that he’d never had a suicidal thought, but could that have changed? I called. Finally, after a long, heart-pounding wait, he answered.

“Slept late,” he said, sounding groggy. “I’ll get ready.”

My relief was so great that after we hung up, I broke down in big, gulping sobs, splashing my face with cold water to remove the red blotches so he wouldn’t know.

“Just saw your texts,” he responded then. “I’m sorry.”

So he knew how worried I was.

Robby’s depression was the background tone of his time with me after that. As we waited for the mail every day, winter drained warmth and color from the forest. It was too cold to enjoy our previous long hikes, and we hurried back to my little home as soon as the dogs had done their business.

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