I am looking through old photos of you—having a water fight with your auntie in grandma’s backyard, at the lake, at your Montessori preschool, you and your little friends in that subsidized housing project we living in that had a million kids your age, me spinning you on one of those twirling rides at a playground, birthday parties with my terrible lumpy cakes (but I did try!), a seder at the Levine’s, religious school (and you are smiling!), camping, birthday pinatas, your Big Brother, weddings, playing in the snow, doing your homework, you doing your volunteer dog walking at the humane society, at Paul Bunyan Land feeding a tame deer, another birthday cake decorated like a baseball (by me, the least sporty person I know!), Halloween costumes, you feeding your new cousin a bottle, our trips to Chicago and New York and Seattle, pet cats, Disney World, posing with your uncle for Boy Scouts, your aunt dressed in a gorilla suit for your 15th birthday surprise party.
And then the photos stop, until you came back from Hazelden and Florida when you were … 21?
You would think I would just stop caring by now, or as grandma says, “Just don’t think about it.” She’s always said that, about anything unpleasant, not necessarily about you. I wish I could.
I think I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t ask myself, “What was I missing in all those photos?” He looks healthy. He’s smiling in a lot of them. Should I have seen some signs—gotten him to a shrink? Should I have been more strict? Less strict? Was it because we were broke for so long and lived on ramen and went to foodshelves? Was it because I was depressed for so many years—would a child take that as neglect and think it was is fault? Was it the whole awful chapter with [abusive alcoholic but filthy rich ex boyfriend I’ll call Kermit]? I take complete responsibility, being desperate to get married and have more kids, at the expense of exposing you to domestic abuse and all sorts of inappropriate shit? Was it how I stupidly told you about the brother you didn’t know you had, thinking it would cheer you up, which backfired? God, what an idiot I was!
Maybe I should have never told you how I smoked pot and drank in high school, trying to warn you against them. Again, my parenting backfired, when later you told me you took that as a sign that you could drink and smoke, since I had turned out ok. (Ha!)
I know you’ve said you were “over” not having a father but maybe you really aren’t? I think you tell me what you think I want to hear.
Or is your addiction mostly genetics? Me passing down my alcoholic/addict father’s genes to you, loaded with your father’s alcoholic/addict genes?
Do you really have Bipolar Disorder, as Hazelden diagnosed you? Are the drugs and booze medication?
I can hear you saying, “Oh, mom.” You’ve rarely talked to me about any of this, so I don’t know if you’ve ever given it a thought or if you even think you have a problem.
I hope it is not too awful there. I hope you’ll take advantage of whatever resources they offer. I hope you know that I love you, no matter what—always will, always have. You have dug your way out of some very deep pits and you’ll do it again. You probably don’t feel young anymore but from my perspective you are so you’ve got time to rebuild.
I Love you,