If anyone had told me 15 or 20 years ago that I'd be sitting in Oregon one summer afternoon with Drew, my 30-year-old son, trimming marijuana clones with names like Obama Kush, Jilly Bean, Dr. Who and Incredible Bulk, I'd have laughed at the complete absurdity of that ever happening.
And yet that's exactly where I was last month. While my son showed me how much dirt to put in the trays for the plants, where to clip the leaves and how to stand them up uniformly, I realized that this latest business venture of his was perfect redemption after so many years of being lost in the wilderness.
Drew was able to cobble together three things he loves dearly: gardening and the great outdoors, a solitary freedom and pot. I watched him tend to the plants with care as Beethoven blared from Spotify, and understood that he'd finally found his way.
Twelve years earlier, I was jarred from sleep in the middle of the night by a phone call from a hospital chaplain. "Your son just arrived at the trauma center on a life flight helicopter," he said. "Can you get here as soon as possible?"
That Sunday pre-dawn morning became a blur. I really don't remember anything other than driving like crazy to the hospital, but I'll never forget the blue swarm of medical personnel surrounding my son when I stepped into the emergency room with the chaplain holding my arm to keep me upright.
Over the course of the next few days, Drew's internal injuries were attended to and he also became the proud recipient of a new titanium femur. The only visible remnant of his vehicle taking flight into a ravine that night was a Nike swoosh-like scar on his forehead.
But the 17-year-old I'd raised to that point—the varsity football and basketball player, the student government leader, the Mormon Eagle Scout? That boy was gone.
After 10 weeks in the hospital, slowly moving from ICU to recovery, Drew returned home physically, but the proverbial lights weren't on behind his eyes. He was angry. He was sorry. He was wild. He was a different person.
After graduating from high school, Drew moved to a small mountain town to work at a ski resort, teaching rich kids how to ski.
A few years after that, he moved to Oregon and was pretty much off the family radar. He'd surface every now and then and would just as quickly disappear.
In retrospect, the hardest hit he took the night of the accident was the ability to find his way back to living a productive life. Drew worked at different unfulfilling jobs and surely had some doors closed to him because of vehicular assault charges that stemmed from the accident (two other boys in the car were also injured). It took him more than a decade, and some people get there sooner and some get there later, but I was so happy to see that the lights had finally came back on.
So there I was sitting in my son's new secret garden, wondering whether or not I should dig in with him on this newly legal endeavor, when I noticed the Nike swoosh scar on his forehead.
Just do it, I thought, and plunged my hands into the dirt.