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A Lone Watermelon Reminded Her to Let Go and Let God

After attending Al-Anon meetings, she learned that she had to put her son’s future in His hands.

An illustration of an angel hovering over a watermelon; Illustration by Sarah Wilkins

I was beyond frustrated one day last summer when I walked out to the patch of fertile land that had once given us a bumper crop of watermelons and I found it barren. Not a shoot to be seen after all the work I’d put in. I was doing everything I could to repeat the success we’d had, and it just wasn’t enough. Still I kept at it, determined to make the patch grow again.

My husband, John, and I had inherited our property two years earlier. We rented out most of it for wheat fields, keeping enough land near the house for the cattle we raised. They loved the watermelon rinds we tossed over the fence into their pasture. And in summers past we’d had no shortage. I’d picked the perfect spot for our homegrown patch, where God would provide lots of sunlight while I worked in plenty of compost and watered regularly. I gave that garden my all. What more could I do to make it grow this summer?

I went inside to tell John the garden remained an utter failure and went off to the supermarket in a funk. I rolled up and down the aisles and tossed a box of detergent into my cart to drop off at my son’s apartment. It wasn’t just the melons that had me feeling helpless. My 29-year-old son had struggled with a narcotic addiction since he was a teenager. At each of the rehab facilities he entered, I prayed that we’d find an answer. When he moved from his latest rehab into sober living, I dropped in with groceries, took him out to lunch. I’d convinced myself I’d solved the problem, only to find out I hadn’t. He’d left the sober living house and was now renting an apartment I’d agreed to pay for—even though I was sure he was still using drugs. Sometimes it seemed as if the only time I wasn’t worrying about my son was when I was worrying about those watermelons. I was just trading one failure for another.

I turned my cart into the fruit aisle, where rows of bright green watermelons were waiting. I surrender, I thought, loading a big one into my cart. I vowed to stop tending the unyielding soil. That would give me more time to concentrate on finding a solution for my son’s problems.

“It’s not fresh from the garden, but…” I said to John when I cut into the watermelon that evening.

“I don’t mind,” John said, crunching into a slice. “I’m sure the cattle won’t either.”

“Maybe we’ll never know what went wrong this summer,” I said.

“Remember that first year?” We’d harvested enough watermelons to feed the whole county. John laughed, always happy to hear me talk about something other than his stepson, no matter how much he loved him. My other two children felt the same. They didn’t let their brother’s choices consume them. But how could a mother do that?

After dinner, I went out and tossed the watermelon rinds over the fence. They landed a few feet from the cattle guard that ran along the ground to keep the herd from wandering out of the pasture. The animals would find the rinds easily. “Bon appétit,” I called.

I picked up another watermelon from the supermarket later that week. It felt a little freeing, so I went for a facial to take in a measure of peace. It was short-lived. “I know I shouldn’t be giving him any money,” I found myself sighing to the aesthetician. “But part of me still sees him as a little boy whose heart is hurting. He needs…”

“Lady,” she said, “what you need to do is stop focusing on your son.”

“What?” I said.

“It’s not good for him or you,” she said, not unkindly. “A good friend of mine is a therapist who specializes in your situation. I’m going to give you her number.”

I was pretty stunned by her bluntness, but her words rang true. I called the therapist as soon as I left the salon. I was a little nervous when I arrived at my first appointment, but soon I looked forward to our regular summer sessions. My therapist introduced me to Al-Anon, where I met other people who had addicts in their lives. I learned that by financially and emotionally enabling my son to continue in his lifestyle, I might have been keeping him locked in his struggles. Al-Anon encouraged me to admit that while I was powerless to change my son, God wasn’t. I had to put my son’s future in his hands.

The advice made sense. That didn’t mean I could do it. “Surrendering a watermelon patch is much easier than surrendering a child,” I told John over yet another lunchtime conversation I’d monopolized. John got up to check on the herd. Maybe I just can’t let go, I thought as I cleared the table.

Before I was done, John called me outside. “You won’t believe what I found,” he said, leading me toward the fence where we tossed our rinds. “Look.” He pointed to a thick green vine snaking through the overgrown grass. “I followed it and…” The vines led under the cattle guard. Wedged underneath was an enormous watermelon. “A seed must have fallen from the rinds,” John said.

And just sprouted out here all on its own. The ground in this area wasn’t prepared for growth. Not like the patch I’d worked so hard all year in my attempt to will my watermelons into existence. Gazing at the unlikely miracle in the tangled grass, I considered my own journey. I’d done everything humanly possible to help my son. Except release him. Only God could make good things grow when all seemed hopeless.

John unloosed the watermelon from the cattle guard, and I carried the melon inside. God, I am powerless over my son’s future. I wholly entrust his care to you. I would not get in the way of the miracles he had in store. A weight lifted from my shoulders as I set the melon on the table. I was finally ready to have a hard and honest talk with my son.

On days I still found myself wanting to backslide, I had the support I needed and the faith to stand firm. My son knew I was here for him when he was ready to get sober. I had prepared the ground and scattered plenty of seeds, and now I would let go and let God relieve my son’s heartache—and mine.

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