Welcoming Brian: An opportunity for friendship

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Apr 14, 2017

In a sense, I met him before I met him. Before I met Maureen in person, we exchanged email and talked on the phone. And she talked a lot about her son, Brian, then 8 years old. He was the light of her life.

We still joke about my having suggested, before I had met her energetic son, that we could go folk-dancing together sometime after she had spent the day with him. Once I knew him, I realized the absurdity of thinking anyone would have the energy for folk-dancing after spending the day with Brian.

Because she and Brian's birth mother were no longer together (they had decided together to become parents and her ex was the one to carry the child), Maureen mostly got to see him on weekends. A year or so after the split, there had started to be bad blood between them, and now the visitation was fraught with the conflict between the parents, and their son acted out that tension. But Maureen's love for Brian was devoted, saturated with her longing for a larger role in his life, her desire to do more and be more for him.

Then I stepped into her life – and into Brian's as well. I remember meeting him for the first time, this somewhat small, dark-haired, talkative kid with an active imagination and lots of questions. Maureen reported to me her conversation with him after that first meeting. She said something like, “So, what do you think of Sarah?” He thought about it a few moments and cut to the chase, “Do you love her?” “Yes,” she replied. “Does she love you?” “Yes, she does.” “OK,” he said, and that was it.

Over the years, Brian visited us many weekends, even after we moved to Maine from Massachusetts, and spent a few vacations with us, too. He and I never had more than a superficial relationship because it was Maureen who picked him up in Rhode Island at the beginning of the weekend and drove him home on Sunday, and I spent hardly any time with him without her. I was more of an extra in the cast of his life's drama than even a supporting character. Maureen's need to spend time with him didn't allow for Brian and me to have a relationship apart from her.

He continued to visit right through his teens and even after he graduated from high school, and stayed in touch with Maureen by phone between visits. I have always been glad that he chose to remain a part of Maureen's life and continued to seek her out to talk about what was going on with him. Needless to say, it has meant a lot to her.

Fast-forward to 2017, and Brian, now 25, is an RN. He is moving to Maine, something he has wanted to do for a long time, and has landed a hospice nursing job in Augusta. I am glad for Maureen, not only because she always enjoys having her son around, but especially because with the recent passing of her beloved dog Nicky, she needs major cheering up.

But our domestic routine is sure to be at least somewhat altered by this change, so I do have some mixed feelings about it.

I'm sure it's better to view this change as an opportunity than as anything else; and I'm sure it's best to take it, as much as possible, one day at a time, without too many expectations or assumptions. I'm reminded of something I learned not too long ago in dealing with someone else about whom I had mixed feelings: the more I tried to make her feel welcome, the more I liked her. That may be about the most powerful case for kindness I know: It breeds compassion.

It's too late to be a stepmother, and Brian doesn't seem to feel the need for a mentor.

I'd like us to become friends.

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