Susan noticed that her grandson, Mark, escaped her house in the afternoon for several days. One day, she followed him and discovered him exchanging something at the thrift store. Why did he need money? The older woman was shocked by the answer.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Edwards. Mark has not been coming to play with us at all these days,” Timmy answered. He was one of Mark’s close friends, and Susan was worried about her grandson. He had been disappearing for several hours the past couple of days, so she decided to go to their local park where he usually played soccer with his buddies to see if he was around.
But apparently, Timmy and the rest of the gang had no idea where Mark was. What was happening? She wondered as she walked back to her house. It was going to start raining soon, and she didn’t want him out there getting sick.
Suddenly, she spotted Mark on the other side of the street and followed him. He was walking briskly and had his hoodie up as if he was hiding something.
Oh no. What if he’s hanging out with bad kids? Wait, don’t get ahead of yourself. He’s just 12. He’s a good kid, Susan thought as she followed him from a distance.
She soon saw Mark going inside a local thrift store. That was even odder than thinking he was escaping to hang out with bad company.
Mark lived with her because his parents, John and Barbara, worked in an industrial part of Michigan, about two hours away from her house. Their hours were brutal, but they made an incredible amount of money. The schools in that district were alright, but neither of them wanted Mark to be alone all the time, so they decided he would live with Susan for a while.
It had been that way for several years, and Mark didn’t seem to mind at all. John and Barbara visited every other weekend and bought tons of things for their son. That’s why it didn’t make sense for him to enter a thrift store. He had an allowance, and if he needed something, Susan could get them for him at the mall.
Just then, Mark came out and started counting some dollar bills in his hand. Dear God, why does he have so much cash? Please, don’t let it be something terrible, she prayed to the heavens. But while her eyes were closed in prayer, Mark had disappeared.
Susan had no choice but to return home and interrogate her grandson there. She paced back and forth in the living room, waiting for him to get back.
How am I going to ask him? If I’m too forceful, he’ll deny everything and won’t tell me the truth. What could be going on? If he wanted something, he could just ask me for the money. What’s going on? Please, raising John had not been this complicated.
Finally, she stopped pacing when she heard the front door open, and Mark walked inside. “Hey, Grandma. What’s for dinner?” he asked, not knowing that Susan had been stewing in anger and anxiousness.
“Where have you—” Susan stopped herself from yelling at the preteen boy and decided to take another route. “Mark, please sit down for a second. We need to talk.”
“Sure, what’s up?” he wondered, sitting down on the couch and looking at his grandma innocently. Susan frowned. Wouldn’t he feel guiltier if he was doing something wrong? She would never know if she didn’t ask directly.
“Ok, listen. I have to be honest, Mark. I followed you today,” Susan revealed and sat down on the armchair in front of the couch.
“What do you mean ‘why?’ You’ve been sneaking off the past few days, and if you’re doing something bad, kid, I’m going to tell your father. I saw you going to a thrift store and coming out with a wad of cash in your hands. What’s going on? Are you buying drugs?” Susan demanded to know, hoping Mark would be honest with her.
Mark groaned and stood up from the couch, shaking his head in the process too. “Drugs? Grandma, are you crazy? No!”
“It’s the only explanation, Mark! Otherwise, why would you lie? Your parents send you money, and we have everything you could possibly need,” Susan continued, trying to explain her suspicions.
Mark scratched his head with one hand and sighed. “Ok, fine. I’ll tell you. I wanted to buy these lockets I saw in a store. They’re antiques and way too expensive for me, so I sold my new Playstation, and the pair of sneakers Dad just sent me. But it was not enough. The owner just offered to let me sweep the store and run errands for him. By the end of the month, I’ll be able to buy them.”
“Lockets? But why?”
“I wanted to place pictures of the family inside them. There are three lockets. One for Mom, one for Dad, and one for you,” Mark answered, shrugging his shoulders. “We don’t see each other much. They can barely come to my soccer meetings, and I miss them. You miss them. I imagine they miss us too, so I thought you should all have something to keep the family close to our hearts.”
Susan’s face betrayed her emotions and her eyes watered. Her grandson was such a precious child that he wanted to buy something unique and thoughtful for the family. And here she was thinking he was out there finding trouble!
Finally, she spoke up. “I don’t want you working just yet. I want you to focus on school as long as you can, so I’ll give you the rest of the money, and we’ll give them the lockets on your birthday next month. How does that sound?” Susan offered with a huge smile to her grandchild.
“Really? Thank you, Grams!” he replied and hugged her.
When Mark went to bed, Susan called her son, John, and had a long talk with him. They all thought Mark was doing well with this arrangement, but he clearly missed his parents. He missed them so much he was willing to give up his Playstation, something he had used every day since they gave it to him at Christmas.
“I think it’s time you guys find new jobs here, or I could move there so that Mark wouldn’t be alone all the time. Honey, you’re missing out on his life, and he misses you so much,” Susan conveyed to his son. John couldn’t believe what Mark had done and promised to talk to Barbara to develop a solution.
The following day, Susan took Mark to purchase the items, and they were lovely. They also printed the pictures to place inside them and bought some gift boxes.
He gave them to John and Barbara during his birthday the following month. But they had an even better surprise for him. They both applied for better positions at another company near them and moved back to this suburban part of Michigan. They had already placed an offer on a house a few blocks away from Susan.
Mark loved his birthday present so much he cried, and they all realized once again how much this kid had missed his parents. He was such a good kid that they thought he was doing fine, but he was still a child deep down. And they couldn’t keep missing any part of his life.
What can we learn from this story?
No job is worth missing important parts of your life. While earning money is essential, experiencing life and family is even more vital.
Don’t assume that a kid is getting in trouble every time they lie. Sometimes, they don’t know how to express what they need or want it to be a surprise. They all keep secrets, and respecting their privacy is vital.