There is a boy I love. I dreamed of him and what he would be before I ever met him, blonde and blue-eyed, smart and funny, an old soul with the kindest heart I would ever know. Born long before ultra-sounds were common practice or gender reveals became a celebrated event, my boy came into the world exactly as I had dreamed him, perfect. Good natured and healthy, he rarely cried or fussed; I imagined a happy childhood, a bright future, a happy life.
Barely eighteen with a boy so sweet, I wished I could be a mom, and nothing else, for the rest of my life. But my parents had their dreams and I am not really sure I knew I could have my own. It’s hard to remember now. But I do remember giving that baby boy a bath, every night, washing his hair and combing through his wet curls while he smiled and chewed on bath toys. Wrapping him in a hooded towel, I buried my nose in the creases of his chubby neck as I dried him, taking in his sweet baby smell. I remember the little green rocker in the corner of his room, bought second hand, a chip on the arm revealing two or three coats of paint, yellow and white I think. I remember the peace I felt rocking him to sleep while I sang and hummed songs my mom taught me, and I remember the weight of his tiny body as he relaxed and fell asleep on my chest, my hand gently patting his back. Happiness seemed so easy then.
While I rarely see my boy these days, a man now well into his thirties, he occupies my mind and heart every day, throughout the day. I know little of his life and nothing of his pain. Random texts requesting a shower or cash suggest the possibility of rock bottom. Other clues come by way of mail or phone calls indicating that he is knee deep in his addiction with nowhere to go.
Our relationship has suffered over the years, each of us contributing to its demise. My tough love approach was a disaster. I helped in all the wrong ways, either slamming the door and locking it, or leaving it wide open begging for disappointment. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for him to ask me for any kind of help. I wish he knew how difficult it is for me to set boundaries, say no, and watch him suffer. The boundaries keep me sane, but the heartache can be overwhelming at times. Alone in my car or my home, I think of him, and cry out loud. Sometimes I’m so pissed, I feel cheated by an addiction that is not my own, mad tears flow. Other times I sob from sadness, I want my boy to find peace. I wish we could start again . . . the two of us.
Knowing I must accept what is, I have learned to find an inner peace, to look for opportunities for gratitude, and expressions of love in my daily life. Still, it doesn’t prevent me from waking up in the middle of the night wondering if he is safe and warm, or alive. In the darkness, I beg the Universe to help my boy. I ask God, the angels, my mom and dad, anyone who will listen, please, please help him find his way, please help him find peace. I want the boy I remember, the boy who loved Legos, making art, Heaven and Black Holes.
Until just a couple weeks ago, it was difficult to imagine the boy I once knew. Then going through boxes of old photographs, I found him. I wasn’t looking for him, but there he was, petting kittens, smiling, wearing knitted hats, he has always loved hats, laughing with his cousins, celebrating his First Communion, loving his family, chasing goats on his grandma’s farm in Oregon, fishing with his dad, and kissing his grandfather who meant so much to him. I stared at the pictures and remembered his happiness, our happiness. I struggled to reconcile the past with the present. How did we grow so far apart? When and how did addiction sneak into our lives? How, as his mother and protector, did I let this terrible thing pass by me? How did I let it take my boy?
In my heart I know I did the best I could, but there have been many who have judged me. I’ve been accused of turning my back on him, ignoring his cries for help, and being unsupportive. Their disapproval, their judgement, only added to the pain and guilt I had already inflicted upon myself. I needed someone on my side, someone who had been in my shoes. Sadly, those are secrets parents keep, too embarrassed to share.
Eventually, I found my way to those folks who would support me, those who understand that no matter how happy a life can be it’s hard for a mom to be happy when her children are suffering. At least it is hard for me.
I am grateful to have stumbled across the photographs, a chance to visit the happiness of the past. I want to believe my son’s beautiful spirit lies intact beneath his pain. I want to believe there is still hope for my boy, hope for a good and honest life.
I am afraid there have been times I have shown more empathy toward strangers than I have for my very own son, a painful realization. I used anger and resentment to protect my heart. We have so much healing to do together and separately.
I love you my boy, no matter what. I always have and I always will.