On the evening of Monday, January 9, I made a note on the next day’s to-do list: find a therapist so you can stop crying yourself to sleep every damn night. A few days later, I sat in front of my new therapist, J., for the first time, and told her that the task at hand was a simple one: I had to learn to live without my two eldest kids. They were lost to me, I said. I will never give up, but the chance of rebuilding a meaningful relationship with either one of them is slim to none, I told her. I am drowning in my grief, I cried.
On Thursday, February 16, I wrote another (there have been so many) post about how much I missed my kids; about how their absence felt like being suffocated in the folds of a wet carpet. I wrote about how hard I am on myself, because I couldn’t pull myself up by my bootstraps and move on, or at least pretend to move on.
In every quiet moment, I flogged myself relentlessly for my mistakes and missteps. I should have fought harder in the beginning. Maybe they’re right and I’m a terrible person. No decent mother would ever… Only a terrible mother would… How could I have let this happen? I should not have had children. They hate me they hate me they hate me.
I began each day filled with grim determination to follow J.’s instructions, to parent well, to live my life, to move out from under this weight.
It was even less fun than it sounds, but a few times, I found myself actually in my life, living a few moments in a fully present way. I turned my face toward the sun and breathed deep. I will survive this pain, I told myself. I can live with this hole in the center of my life, in the center of myself, I thought. Eventually, I will put it aside so that it does not dominate my attention.
And then, on Monday, February 27, my daughter moved home.
My daughter moved home.
Whatever happens in the future, in the weeks since she came home, I have become her mom again.
On January 2, Jacob called me, upset and feeling hopeless about his future. “I hate school. I suck at everything. I’ll probably end up working in fast food for the rest of my life,” he said, and I drew the card I’d been holding in my sleeve for months, waiting for just the right moment.
“Have you heard of Job Corps, Jacob? It’s for people your age. You’ll get a diploma and job training and it’s free. The students live in dorms, so you can get out on your own without having to really be on your own yet.”
And he reached out and took hold of the branch and we went to Job Corps—first for information, then for a tour, then for an official interview then three more times for I don’t even know what, and every time he asked me to drive down there with him.
Thanks, Mom. That was cool of you to drive me.
Thanks for the ride, Mom. We have pretty awesome conversations in the car.
I’m glad you took me, Mom. You’re pretty funny.
I’m happy I’m going but I’ll really miss you, Mom.
On Sunday, April 1, I took Jacob to buy all the last minute things he needed—a towel, flip flops, laundry detergent, socks—and the next morning, I drove him to Job Corps to stay. In the parking lot, I hugged him and spoke the words in his ear that I never thought I would have the opportunity to speak to him.
He hugged me back.
I love you, Mom.
On Sunday, March 25, my whole family gathered at my parents’ house to celebrate my 41st birthday. We did what my family always does—we ate a meal and told stories, except we tell stories as if it’s a competitive sport. I got gifts, most notably new eyebrows, to be installed later this week.
And all day, I was there. Fully, completely present in that house, with those people. My 41st birthday was the best birthday of my life.
I was happy.
I am happy.