My oldest child turned 25 yesterday. Incredible. Every anniversary is an opportunity to look back over all that has been survived and accomplished, and to look forward with hope and optimism to what lies ahead. I am especially grateful to be here in this place - sharing the day with my 25 year-old son. Five years ago I wasn't so sure Dallas would live to see his quarter century birthday.
2004 was a particularly awful year for our family. Our 16 year-old daughter had been lost to us - stolen by a wicked addiction to methamphetamine. A miracle led me to find her living among the homeless 200 miles from home, and in October of that year we sent her to a rehabilitation program in Utah. Dallas was also battling a meth addiction and he too had been living on the streets. Since he was over 18, there was little I could do to save his life and my heart was crazy heavy. On December 9, 2004, the day after Dallas's 20th birthday, several family members had gathered at my home to celebrate the milestone, and to welcome the prodigal child home. Just as we were about to eat, there was a knock at the door. The plain-clothes officer asked for my son, and within seconds he was sitting - handcuffed - in the back of the police cruiser. I'll never forget the agony of that moment. After the car pulled away, I walked back into the house where sadness and silence filled the room like a mudslide. It was terrible. 24 hours later I was sitting in a cold reception room at the Fresno County Jail, talking with my son on the other side of the acrylic window through a dirty phone handset.
Today we celebrate not a destination, but a journey. The road so far has at times been bumpy and scary, but we are on the road together. Exactly two months from today - on February 9, 2010, Dallas will be off parole. It will be the end of one chapter, and the beginning a bright future. Today I celebrate my child. Happy birthday Dallas! I love you.