I drive down the street where he’s been staying since Saturday. The duplex is small, practically the size of his bedroom and bathroom at home. My car moves slowly, I search the windows looking for shadows. I see none. He’s supposed to be at school, but I don’t know if he is.
The landscape of my life looks surreal, something out of the Dr Phil show. Not the life I imagined, or the life we have worked so hard for. This is the life for someone who didn’t care, someone who didn’t try, someone who didn’t give their kids everything they needed.
My secret is out. For two years we’ve been fighting depression, anxiety, ADHD, substance abuse with this kid. For two years we have fought and begged and pleaded for a change in behavior. Some days it worked, never for long. I have lived day to day, hour to hour, moment to moment, text to text. Waiting, always waiting, for the other shoe to drop, for it to turn around, for it to fall apart. Never knowing what was around the corner.
Last weekend my world crashed and my son is somewhere in the bottom of the rubble. No longer living in my home. No longer under my wing. No longer where I can see or touch him. No longer where I feel he’s safe or I can manage his problems.
I feel jealous, envious, of parents pouring over college applications, sending their son’s off to college. I ache for the sadness I felt when Coop was having the time of his life his senior year. Ache for the sadness at the ending of a good run. Ache for the wish that he was looking into a future he believed in and wanted. How I wish I could trade the reality that is mine for the reality that should be.
Instead I am scouring the Internet for answers that are not there, not even sure I believe for myself that I have come to this. I talk myself out of the truth 1,000 times a day. We can’t be here. This can’t be happening. I long for sleep so I can lay down the yolk of this sadness for just a few minutes. But even in my dreams he comes to me. The ghost of my vibrant, brilliant, amazing son.
I search old pictures. I try and find clues in his bright blue eyes. When did I lose him? When did this happen? Where was I? What was I doing? What was happening at the exact moment he crossed the line to this place? Why didn’t I, his momma, stop this from coming? Why did I not see this becoming his reality?
I hear my phone ring, it’s been ringing all day. People meaning well. People who took their kids to school this morning. People who took their kid’s senior pictures this weekend. People who are trying to help, who love me, love him, love us. Their words echo: make sure you eat, make sure you take care of you, try and read a book for an hour get your mind off of it, it’s not your fault, there’s nothing you did wrong, let us know if you need anything, you need to talk to someone, you need to … you need to … you need too. It’s all I can do to respond. I don’t answer phone calls, I simply can’t talk. Every word sent was met with good intentions. Every word was meant to soothe and calm me. None work. Nothing works.
I want to scream. Fuck you! Stop telling me to eat. Stop telling me to read a God damn book. Stop telling me that it’s not my fault. I am his mother. His momma. I am who brought him into this world. I am who loved and cared and nurtured and made decisions that affected his life. How is this NOT my fault? How am I exactly supposed to read a book for an hour when quite literally I can not think past what’s in front of me. Every thought returns in a continuous broken loop to my boy. Everyone knows what I should do, what they would do, but no one is here, in my skin in our nightmare.
I have no idea how to tell someone what I need. I have no idea how to ask for help. Every minute is a cliff I am hanging off of. Every moment a potential land mine. Every phone call a lead to disaster. Every text a potential for the second shoe to drop, for me to learn something I don’t want to know. “Don’t ask someone whose drowning if they need a life preserver. Throw them one.” A friend who has gone through a similar situation texted me that yesterday. It’s the only thing that has made sense in months.
I hold myself together long enough to be with As, he’s hurting, too. When I asked him how I could help him he simply said, “Spend time with me where we aren’t all sad.” So that is what I do, I pick him up from football, I make his dinner and we do his homework. I smile and laugh with him and sometimes we talk about whats happening, sometimes we don’t. I try not to give him advice, I just listen and love him. We watch football and lay together, we snuggle with our puppy. Last night he laid on the floor by my bed and slept till morning.
I watched the sun rise Sunday morning. It was beautiful, bright and full of hope and promise for a new day. As the colors spread across the sky I made a list of what I know, and it wasn’t long. I know my son is in trouble. I know I love him with all my heart. I know I will never, ever give up. I know loving him and never giving up mean something entirely different than they did a year ago. The next time you see me, or send me a text, just be with me. Don’t offer me a solution or advice. You don’t know. You just don’t.