Thursday, September 5, 2013

For Whom The Bell Tolls (09/05/13)

The elevator bell rang many times in that hour: but I knew when it was them. I knew. All the air went out of the room and a terrible heaviness worked its way down from my stiff frozen face to my tightly contracted stomach. I had no fear. My eyes were dry as old bone. I had no room for anything but the incredible weight of what was coming. It was time to sign the papers that would terminate my natural rights as a mother. I was 17. I was alone. Every cell in my body was screaming, where's the baby? My breasts leaked milk for him. I had not been allowed to touch him him since the moment he was born. And now it was time to do what I had waited these 9 long months for. It was time to do right by my boy.

I knew I would have to wait until 24 hours after his birth, so that I could not later claim that I had been influenced by medications and cause any upheaval in my son's new life. My son's new life: I had given him life by birth, but now it was time for me to really give him life. My parents had offered to help me raise him, but frankly I would have sold my ass on every street corner in hell rather than let them get near my child. They were NOT going to have a chance to hurt him in any of the ways that they had hurt me. I knew I could do better for him than that.

I had watched the clock, and I called the nuns when it had been exactly 23 hours since his birth. I asked them to bring the papers. I added one request: please, hurry.

Sister Janice came promptly, in her habit and her sensible shoes. For the first time since I had met her, she did not make any of her trademark bad jokes. She gently asked me if I wanted to talk, and laid her hand on mine: I said no, please, let's just get this over with, and moved my hand. I could not bear to be comforted. She had to read page after page of legal documents to me, and I tried not to listen but I heard every word. They needed to make sure that I understood exactly what I was giving up. And in spite of the legalese, the words hammered home over and over again what signing these papers would mean. Everything I was giving up. Everything I would never have. Everything. I did not cry. I did not fidget. I nodded when required. I could barely breathe. I listened for almost an hour, and then finally, it was done. I had listened to all the words and signed all the things. I had given my son up for all time.

She asked me if I wanted her to stay, and I said no, I need to be alone for now. She hugged me briefly and she walked away. I heard the elevator bell again, and I knew that she was gone. So I got up and went to the nursery. And there he was, the one with no name on his tag. I had always thought of him as Ian Andrew, but his parents would be the ones to name him. Not me. I watched at the nursery window, and he started crying. The nurses were busy tending to other babies, so I tapped on the glass to get their attention because my baby was crying and I could not touch him. They didn't hear me. I started knocking on the glass and they still couldn't hear me. I started banging on the glass. MY BABY WAS CRYING AND I COULD NOT TOUCH HIM.

They still couldn't hear me.

Finally, I stopped.

I walked back to my room somehow. I could not cry. I could barely breathe. And the true weight of what I had done began to dawn on me, in waves of pain too great to allow for tears. I sat on the bed and just kept breathing. There was no escape, there was no relief. All I had was the knowledge that I had done my best for him. It was small comfort at that moment. I don't know how long I sat there, hours maybe, until they brought me more drugs and I slept. I did not feel 17 anymore. I never felt 17 again.

The pain and the loss were with me every waking minute for so, so long: but as in all things, even pain changes with time, gets made smoother as does any rock tumbling through the turbulent waters of life. 32 years later, there is no pain left, but there will always be something missing, an empty space deep in me that calls quietly for him. Maybe I will meet him one day. The odds are frankly against it, but I choose to believe that I will see him one day, that I will hold him close in a bone-crushing hug and smell his skin and have a chance to tell him how very much I loved him. I have never regretted my decision, but until I can touch him again, I will never be complete. And so I hope. Fuck the odds. I will hope.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I Am The Warrior

I want to talk about pain in a way that I rarely do. No one wants to be perceived as a whiner, and if I talked about it as much as I think about it, I'm pretty sure no one would want to listen to me anymore. But the truth is that pain is one of the most dominant forces in my life. As in the zen way of all things, it has taught me much, and it has cost me much, too.

It happens sometimes, just seeing someone walking down the street in front of my house. I think, she is not counting every step she takes. She doesn't feel like she's walking on broken glass. And I am suddenly sick with envy. I was a strong girl. Still am actually: but I was so fucking CAPABLE. For years now it has been a daily struggle to even get clean. IT HURTS WHEN I MOVE, EVERY FUCKING THING I DO, AND IT HURTS PRETTY FUCKING BAD. That is my truth. I want to cry just writing this. I'm not gonna catalog the variety and intensity of the various things that are wrong with me, but they all pretty much suck. I do what I can about it, I exercise when I can, I see doctors and eat well and meditate and listen to music and give back to life every chance I get and other shit, but it is a fucking STRUGGLE and it is brutal at times. I try not to whine, but I certainly do bitch to a few select people. Because if you do it too much you get judged.

I bathe and do my hair every day. I wear red lipstick too, damn it. My pride drives me forward, to work what magic I can, to inspire myself in every small way that I can. I don't wear pj's or yoga pants all day even if I don't leave the house, and most days I don't. I don't have a car. My disability has taught me to be my own best friend. I have to forgive myself for the things that I cannot do. When it comes to my son, and not being able to go for a walk with him, or being too fucking sick to honor plans we have made, well, you can imagine the guilt. He always says, no, Mom, just take care of yourself: that kid, man. That kid. I love that kid. And I have learned to forgive myself even for letting him down, aided by his grace. That is hard beyond any words I have. Have I mentioned today how awesome my son is?

I have lost friendships. I try not to make firm plans with too many people. Going to the grocery store is a huge chore, thank God I have someone to do it for me. I keep my house clean and care for my cats and look for ways to do good and to give back to life. I have come from so many kinds of hell, to be delivered to a relatively good place in life: I feel that when it comes to life, I OWE. So I try to give back. It's what I CAN do.

I don't know why I'm writing this. I know I'm not alone, but I feel like I am screaming into the dark. I just want to say all this for the record. Just this once, I want you to know what it's really like. Because the battlefield is never in my body, it's in my mind, in how I choose to look at things. That has been the hardest part of this journey. And you know what? I do it with a fair amount of grace myself. When a woman I barely know accused me of being full of shit regarding a specific affect of my disability, I ended the conversation pleasantly, immediately, and firmly. And I wanted to hurt her in the worst fucking way for days. This bitch has no fucking idea what I have come from, the abuse, the horror of my childhood, a Styron novel scratched out in the dust of a double-wide...and then my years of wandering in the land of drug addiction, finally finding my way to recovery and then throwing it all away again to suck a crack pipe and discover that there is really no end to how low your soul can go...there are no words. So my life today is actually pretty fucking sweet in comparison to that. Frankly, my perspective does make it easier to accept what I have to deal with now.

But there are days where the pain crushes my soul. Needles me with doubt. Sows the whispering seeds of suicidal despair. I hear them. Anyone with chronic pain, physical or other, hears those whispers. As a recovering addict, my chemical choices are pretty limited. I cannot safely use narcotics to maintain a saner level of pain. There are days I drug myself with TV. With video games. With fantasies, I have an amazingly vivid imagination. Those are the days that all I do is try to escape as best I can. I hide from you. I cocoon myself, and wait for better days. And there are days that I fight. With my hard dark humor, with my silliness, with my love for the world and my red lipstick, I fight. I am a fucking warrior. And even at my lowest, I believe that I will find my way back, because that is just who I am.

Every person who makes me laugh, it is like a prayer to me. Every person who I love, you make my world a bigger place. And for the many amazing and wondrous people who give me so much love, you humble me. Because in the end, it is the love that matters after all.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Tomorrow, He Goes

Tomorrow, my son leaves to go to college in the big city. He wrote a song over a year ago and said that all he could see was the vision of what was to come, the lights of the city that would change him and bring him to his destiny. This child of mine has a sureness in him, a balance: he knows what matters to him and I have always trusted him to find his path. It is just something in him. Did I teach him to believe in his dreams? Yes, but his dreams and his drive are his own.

But that is not the story I want to tell. As he flies away from me into a rising sun, I want to share with you the beautiful soul that is my son.

This night occurred maybe a year into my crack addiction, about 7 years ago. I was still living with my son then, still married to his father: Dan was sleeping in another room by then, and asked me to leave soon after. I do not blame him. I stayed out for another year, and put the pipe down for good.

I had left the prior evening to go to an AA meeting. That's what I said, anyway. I rolled back in around 5:30AM, blind high, shaky, coming down hard. My son was asleep in my bed. I tried to be quiet, but he woke up. He came over and embraced me, and said, I'm so glad you're safe. I stank with the drug and the filth of it: crack is a dirty habit in so many ways. But he hugged me close.

I sat him down next to me on the bed and said, look, honey, I know that you must get really angry sometimes, and really scared. You don't have to be so perfect for me. You can tell me about it. You can get mad. And he said, no, Mom, YOU don't understand. You have a disease, and there's a 99.9% chance that it will kill you: but maybe you just need somebody to believe in you.

Maybe you just need somebody to believe in you.

He was 11. Ladies and gentlemen, my son.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Death of My Father

(This is being offered as a piece of fiction. Although nothing could be proven this 10 years later, I would not publicly admit to the type of felonious conduct that has no statute of limitations. Let this be what I wished I had done, then, if I had possessed enough courage and enough love. And if you know me at all, well, then you know. )

He looked so small then, laying broken on that hospice bed. He weighed well under 100 pounds, and I could tell which lung had collapsed just by looking. The last time he had moved was 2 weeks ago, when I first stepped into his room fresh off the plane: he sat up and hugged me, and laid back down. That was it. The oxygen mask was laid against the hole in his throat: the Dilaudid pump had been turned up until he stopped frowning.

He hadn't frowned for days.

I took the night shift that night. My chest felt so heavy: my heart felt thick and swollen: and I knew. I remembered all the times over the years he had said, if I ever get like that, please just shoot me. Just shoot me.

I looked down at this man who had beaten and tortured me throughout my youth, this man I had plotted to kill so that he couldn't hurt my brother anymore: this man who was dying slowly and hideously, of cancer. His wife had died 3 months ago, and it broke him. He loved her. He died not knowing how little she loved him, and I will always be grateful for that. I loved him. He was my father.

I kissed his forehead, and turned down the oxygen: not off, I couldn't stand the thought that he might struggle. But down, way way down. And I sat next to him and read a book. I refused to watch. If he had moved, I don't know if I could have done it: but he let go easy. I looked up an hour later, turned the oxygen back up, and called a nurse. He was dead.

I knew it was what he wanted: I knew he was never going to get better, and that he was in pain, terrible pain: still, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

I loved him so much. He was my father.