Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Ballad of the Harp Weaver

You can choose your friends but you can't choose your family.
The phrase "blood is thicker than water" was invented by undeserving relatives.

Those words were ringing in my skull this last week.  My son, who hasn't spoken to me in eight years, came into town last Thursday for a job interview in Manhattan.  The only member of my family he's in any sort of contact with is my mother, who's in a nursing home now.  He called her specifically to tell her about the interview and that he would be moving to New York very soon.  The thing that got me riled up, other than the fact that my beloved but rather sadistic son will be nearby for the first time in almost a decade, is the fact that he asked Mom which restaurant I worked at and what town I was living in now.  So all week, I sweat bullets as I went to and from work, constantly wondering if he was going to just walk up and sit in my station, what he looked like now, would I even recognize him.  I put a notice on the staff bulletin board about it, and all week my dear friends and co-workers were coming up to me with well wishes and congratulations.  I had to explain to them that he hadn't contacted me and there was a very good chance that he wouldn't.  The reason I put the notice up was on the off chance that if he did come in and I wasn't there, to notify me immediately.  So I dreamed and imagined and tried to unstuff my head from thoughts of Leland.  Didn't work.

Thursday came and passed.  I gave up my shift because I was just a weenie; I knew by this time that it was highly unlikely that he'd come in and didn't want to embarrass myself and break down in front of everybody.  I'd already done that last Mother's Day, when a beautiful blonde little boy smiled at me at the restaurant and I fainted dead away.  This after falling on the walk to work and tearing my pant leg wide open.  I stapled the cloth together and used a Sharpie marker on my very white leg so my fish white skin wouldn't show through the tear.  I'd been crying so hard I hadn't seen the crack in the sidewalk.  Very, very embarrassing.  I have come to terms with all the other holidays: Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Leland's birthday, but Mother's Day is still horrific, especially in a restaurant, where I see hundreds of people who love their mom enough to buy her dinner.  I felt like Edna Saint Vincent Milay at that moment, freezing to death for love of my kid.

That's the problem with loving someone who hates you.  Since he's still so very young, and the rehab counselors warned me it would take a long time, I still have hope that he'll regain his humanity.  I want him to be a good man, not just rich, like the good little kid he once was, and perhaps someday he'll do that.  He just has to work through all this mess in his head and heart.  My cousin warned me, "He's his dad's kid, you know.  He might never be a decent person."  There's that possibility. But this isn't like loving an abusive husband or incestuous, fist-wielding dad.  When it's your kid, it's a whole new ballgame. 

I was a hard ass mother of an addict.  I stood fast and held my ground and Leland's alive today partly because of that.  He also tried so hard and has succeeded in staying clean all this time.  I applaud and admire him for that.  He has a great job and will no doubt be wealthy before he's thirty.  But I worry for him.  I don't want him to become an Ebenezer Scrooge, gathering coins and nothing else about him as he slowly starves for warmth and love.  I want him to be happy and fulfilled.  I want him to do good for humanity.  I want him to be a great philanthropist.  But in the end, we're all only responsible for our own souls.  You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.  So I'll swallow this newest heartache, let the bruises heal, and keep going forward with my own future, all the while wishing the best for his. Anybody out there who's the parent of an addict, hold on, hold fast, and endure.  Like The Ballad of the Harp Weaver, we're weaving the clothes of a king's son out of thin air.  It's a tough and bloody job but don't falter and don't give up, no matter what.

Love, R   

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