“Wait!” Travis looked at Dad, then turned his head toward Dereck again. “If you walk up to him like that, you’ll scare the wits out of him. We have to have a plan.”
“Well then what’s your plan?” Dad kept his eyes on Dereck, who was helping a customer load her groceries.
“We act like we’re casually bumping into him, chat with him for a while; then we ask if he wants to join us for lunch.”
Dad turned his attention toward Travis and asked, “And that doesn’t sound just a bit strange to you?”
“And walking up to him and telling him that you’re his father and I’m his brother and that we’re here to take him home doesn’t sound strange to you?”
“Good point.” Dad sat aside his sunflower seeds and opened the driver’s side door.
Once they were both out of the rental car Travis looked at Dad and asked, “Are you ready?”
Dad turned his head toward Travis and nodded. “Yeah.”
They followed Dereck into the store, then turned away from him, pretending to scan the aisles. Three minutes later Dereck started stalking canned goods in the next aisle.
“Here’s your chance. Ask him where the soda is,” Dad whispered to Travis.
Travis nodded then made is way around the aisle. Once he was near Dereck he said, “Sir, can you tell me where the soda is?”
Dereck turned his head toward Travis and said, “Yes it’s on the 9th aisle on the right side.”
Travis examined Dereck. Except for his face structure everything about him had changed. He was no longer the skinny boy who had followed him around everywhere—he was a man. A man who didn’t know Travis was any one else than a costumer asking for soda. Travis opened his mouth, but not a word came out.
Dereck walked away, leaving Travis in the middle of the aisle. Travis heard Dad’s voice speaking behind him, but Travis stayed in his position. “Sorry Dad. I couldn’t do it.” Travis turned around and walked past Dad, out the store and climbed into the car.
Travis sat in the car, and stared out the window. He heard Dad climb in and listened as he started the engine. “He’s a different person. He has a life here Dad.” This time Travis looked at Dad, but Dad stared out the windshield and didn’t say a word. Instead he put the car in reverse and backed out of the parking lot.
Travis sat in bed with his Bible in his hands. He could hear Dad snoring in the bed next to his; unable to concentrate, Travis sat the Bible on the nightstand and walked to the window. At twelve a.m. the streets were still covered with vehicles: how could Dereck like it here? Travis sighed, then walked to his bed. He sat down, his feet still touching the floor. He put his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. Then he lifted his head and folded his hands, “Lord, do I let him be or do I bring him home?”
Travis stared at the sealing as if any minute Jesus’ face would appear and he’d have his answer. But when no sound or movement was made, Travis lowered his head and let a tear fall down his face.
“Can’t sleep son?” Travis lifted his head and saw Dad sitting up in his bed. “What’s troubling you?”
“Dereck.” For a minute no one spoke, then Travis continued, “If he remembers us, he’ll start remembering everything that happened to him.”
Dad gazed at his hands on his lap and Travis thought he might have fallen asleep again, but then he shifted his hands and said, “What are you saying? We should leave him here?”
Travis stood up and walked to the window.
“You’re the one who was determined to find your brother.”
“Well we found him.”
“Now you want to live like this never happened? Now you’re the crazy one son!” Dad slammed his fist on the nightstand and Travis knew he was finished speaking.
The next morning Travis sat in bed putting his shoes on for the day, when Dad handed him an open Bible. “There. Read that.” Dad pointed his finger at 1 Peter 5:10.
Travis took the Bible, looked at Dad and read the verse: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
Travis closed the Bible and laid it on the bed as his lips formed into a smile that slowly turned into a chuckle.
“God will help him get over his pass.” Dad stood in front of Travis, his face serious and his voice firm.
“I never thought I’d hear you say that.” Travis fallowed Dad through the door and out of the hotel. “This time you’re doing the talking.”
Two hours later they sat in front of a convenient store munching on sunflower seeds, when Dereck walked out of the convenient store.
“Dereck!” Dad stood up and started walking toward his son.
“How do you know my name?” Dereck, well over six feet, stood facing Dad.
Dad stared at Dereck, eyes wide and hands shaking. Finally, he opened his mouth and said, “I’m your father.”
Dereck’s face turned pale. He stepped back two feet, turned, and started to walk away, but when Dad called his name again, Dereck stopped and stood still.
“Turn around,” Dad commanded.
Instead Dereck stood still, his back turned to Dad, and said, “You’re not my father. I don’t know you—you’re crazy.”
“Then who is your father?” Dad asked.
Dereck remained in his position.
“You don’t know do you? Who’s your mom? Do you have siblings?” Dad took one step closer to Dereck.
“Dad, I don’t—”
“Quiet Travis! Dereck, do you know who your family is?”
Travis looked around as people started to stare.
“No,” Dereck yelled. “But how do I know you’re not lying?”
Dad never took his eyes off Dereck. “Travis, show him his birth record.” Travis handed the copy to Dad, who handed it to Dereck.
Still Dereck stood with his back turned toward Dad as he scanned over the document.
“How do I know this isn’t fake?”
“Travis show him the family pictures.” This time Travis walked around Dad and brought the pictures to Dereck.
They waited while Dereck examined the pictures.
“Would you like a DNA test?” Travis looked at his brother and saw his own reflection. This was his brother. Dereck might not believe it, but he knew it.
Dad looked at Travis, then took another step toward Dereck. “Son.” Dad placed his hand on Dereck’s shoulder.
Dereck turned around and faced Dad, then glanced at Travis. “Both of you look like me.”
“You mean you look like us—you’re the youngest,” Travis teased.
Dereck looked at both of them again and said, “I don’t think a test will be necessary.”
Travis and Dad stood in the front yard as Dereck examined their parent’s house. “Home.” Travis and Dad glanced at each other. “The stream.” Again, they glanced at each other. How does Dereck know there’s a stream behind the house? Dereck started walking toward the house, but paused when he saw Travis’s and his handprints on the sidewalk.
Mom stood underneath the doorway, holding the screen door open as she stared at Dereck. Dereck stood in front of the porch, staring at Mom. Tears began to fall down Mom’s face as she mumbled, “My son. Dereck, my son.” Dereck walked up the porch steps, mumbling, “Mom” until it turned into a load yell: “Mom!” Dereck took two big steps toward Mom and took her into his arms.
Travis and Dad watched the two adults weep as they held each other. A joyful noise that would always be remembered as God’s reward for thirteen years of hopes and prayers.