A man returns to his hometown after 15 years to see his mother and finds her house in ruins and no one knows if she’s even alive.
Jason Warner was determined to be a successful man, a rich man, but there was no way that was going to happen in Oberlin Ohio, population 4000. So as soon as he graduated high school, Jason packed his bags and left.
His father had died when Jason was small and he’d been raised by his mother, Rose. Jason had no siblings to leave behind, and he was sure that Rose would be just fine. Besides, he had his life to live.
Things worked out pretty much as Jason had planned them. He graduated top of his class in law school and was offered a position in a prestigious firm. During his first week on the job, he met the boss’s daughter and his future was guaranteed.
Mary Beth Harrow fell in love with the young lawyer, and what Mary Beth wanted Mary Beth got. Jason was delighted. Mary Beth was pretty enough, she was rich, and her father promoted his career.
It was all perfect and it only got better when Jason and Mary Beth got married and welcomed twins — a boy and a girl. Jason had never thought of himself as a fatherly type but he fell in love with his children.
He just couldn’t imagine life without Rita and Roy. Every moment he could spare from work he spent with his family. But while Roy and Rita were delighted to have their dad around the house all the time, Mary Beth wasn’t.
She discovered that the new fatherly Jason bored her, and she soon filed for divorce and custody of the children. Jason was devastated. He fought for his children tooth and nail, but his father-in-law was a powerful man, and he lost.
Jason lay on his bed in his hotel room feeling devastated, empty. Then he thought: “Is this how my mother felt when I left? Is this what I did to her?” He realized that it had been fifteen years since he’d left, and he hadn’t contacted his mother even once.
Early the next morning, Jason was on a plane to Cleveland, then he rented a car and drove to Oberlin. He was excited as he started driving down those familiar streets. He couldn’t wait to see Rose and to tell her about her grandchildren.
But when he stopped in front of his childhood home, he was in for a horrific shock. Where the pretty house had once stood was just ruins. The roof was gone, torn off, and the contents of the rooms spilled out.
Jason ran to the house next door and rang the doorbell. “Please,” he gasped. “Rose Warner, where is she?”
“Rose?” asked the man. “Rose’s house blew away in the tornado two years ago…I don’t know what happened to her.”
Jason knocked on the doors of all the houses in the neighborhood but no one knew what had become of Rose. Desperate, he headed for the police station and asked to speak to the sheriff.
Family is what we have when everything else is gone.
To his surprise, he recognized Harry Tarbell, an old school friend. “Harry!” Jason cried. “I hope you can help me, I’m desperate! I went to my mother’s house and it’s completely destroyed. No one seems to know if she’s even alive!”
“Hey Jason,” Harry shook his hand. “How long has it been? Fifteen years?”
“Yes, thereabouts…” Jason was impatient. “About my mom…”
“Let me see…” Harry sat down at a computer and consulted lists of names. “Well, she’s not in town. Some of the people who lost their homes were relocated to Pennsylvania, maybe your mother was one of them.”
Jason felt new hope fill his heart. “Thanks, Harry,” he cried. That afternoon, Jason was in touch with the foundation that had helped vulnerable people relocate.
Even though they didn’t have Rose’s name on their list, the foundation advised Jason to contact three assisted living facilities that had taken in refugees from Ohio. Over the next week, Jason hunted down every possible clue, but Rose was nowhere to be found.
But Jason wasn’t ready to give up. He decided to go back to the beginning and see if he could find a fresh clue to his mother’s whereabouts. His first stop was the sheriff’s office, but Harry wasn’t in.
The dispatch officer told Jason that Harry was at home. Jason remembered where Harry used to live, so he headed for the old home. He parked his car in front of the house and was about to knock when he heard a voice he’d recognize anywhere: It was Rose!
Jason hammered on the door. “Open up,” he screamed. “You lied to me, you have my mother!”
Harry opened the door, and behind him Jason saw his mom, looking so much older and frailer than he remembered. “Mom!” he shouted and pushed Harry aside.
Jason hugged his mother, and she was crying and whispering his name, then he turned to Harry. “You lied to me!” he said angrily. “You sent me on a wild goose chase and you had my mother right here!”
Harry lowered his head. “I didn’t think you’d go looking much further. For 15 years you didn’t bother about her…”
“I made a mistake, Harry,” Jason admitted.
“You know, Jason,” Harry said bitterly, “I lost my mother when I was a boy, but you threw yours away because you didn’t know what a treasure family is.”
“I know that now, Harry. I promise you, I’ve learned my lesson,” Jason said.
“Jason,” Rose said gently. “For the last 15 years Harry has been kind and loving like a son, then two years ago he took me in. He’s as much my son as you are, and I won’t leave him.”
Jason was crying. “Oh mom, I’m so sorry it took losing my children to understand what I’d done! I need a family mom, I need you!”
Harry stepped forward and placed a gentle hand on Jason’s shoulder. “You have a family. You have your mother, and if you’ll let me, I can be your brother as well as your friend.”
Jason went back to Boston to be close to his children, but every month he visited his family in Ohio — his mother and his brother.
What can we learn from this story?
Family is what we have when everything else is gone. Jason discovered the value of family when he lost everything he’d worked so hard for.
What makes a family are love and kindness. Rose was abandoned by her son, but Harry loved and cherished her like the mother he’d lost.
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