Tony with his parents Anthony and Luz after a successful 1st Family Dialogue.

Tony with his parents Anthony and Luz after a successful 1st Family Dialogue.

AFTER our son’s entry into the SELF program in October 2009, we have met with him twice. The first was for a Family Encounter on May 17, and the second for our 1st Family Dialogue on June 23.

When Tony walked into the room for our Family Encounter, I was surprised and pleased. He had a self-confidence and poise that I had never seen before. As he talked with us, he did not have the twitchiness and the ers and ahs that we were accustomed to.He began by speaking about his feelings and what he had expected in a family, and went on to admit that we had not met many of his expectations. My wife Luz spoke about the family atmosphere that, ironically, she felt she was proud to have established. I began by saying to Tony that we seemed to have three different sets of expectations of what a family would be like: mine, his, and his mother’s.
I admitted that there had been times when I was not as present to him and Luz as he would have wanted. I had many demands upon my time and energy because of my work at St. Louis University. Looking back, I wondered whether Tony would have turned out better with a different set of parents.
I was a missionary in Jamaica for 11 years. Luz was a religious missionary for eight years. Being missionaries, our commitment to the underprivileged has been very much part of our married life. Perhaps in our attempt to inculcate the values of a simple life style, Tony felt deprived of the extras that his peers enjoyed.
But I believe that God’s grace has been operative from the very beginning. And while we had parted ways with religious life, we continued to believe that life is a sacred journey and that there are signs along the way for us to discern as best we can. Tony was one beautiful sign.
The decision to adopt him was two years in the making. To start with, I wanted a Filipino child and our decision to adopt a boy was influenced by a sad event. Luz’s Dad was dying of cancer and we wanted to honor him by giving Tony the middle name Enrique as a tribute to this great man.
We were very lucky because it took only one year to process the adoption papers and Luz was able to pick him up from the orphanage around Christmas time. Little Tony was to ask later: Was I in a box?
By then we were older. I was 49 years old and Luz was 42 — a little too old for the physical challenge of parenting a very lovable and very active growing boy. Tony had two speeds: Stop and Goooo!
At the Family Intervention, I felt that Tony’s memory of how the three of us had related with each other was somewhat lacking, but I chose not to verbalize that. Upon the advice of Tony’s counselor, we had brought several photo albums containing pictures of his childhood and years in school.
I felt that it was preferable to accept Tony’s feelings for now and let the albums correct his memory. In his letter to us at the end of May, he said that he took out two pictures that had really struck him. He also said that he told his counselor that he wanted to have that Happy Family again, and not the Stress Family.
At our Family Dialogue, Tony told us about a behavior he discovered that led to his demotion. He had covered over the messy part of his foot-locker with two layers of neatness, rather than making it all neat! I did not think of it then, but this is another manifestation of a basic fault he had — lying. This is non-verbal lying! He told us that it was good that it had happened now so that he could improve. I was again impressed by the new Tony, now a man, not a boy.
We discussed with him some events of the past, the good times, and the very recent poor behavior. Luz and I both said that we were sorry that he had covered over the mess, and yet happy that it had happened now. Thus, he was well aware that he needed to focus on this behavior pattern, and learn how to live with it, creatively and positively.
Towards the end of our discussion, Luz asked him if he wanted to come home with us now. After a little reflection, he said, No, I’m not ready yet. If I went home now, I would be throwing away all that I have achieved over the last several months. I need time to learn how to live with myself. That response made me very happy!

 

By Anthony Hecker
FAM MEMBER