People who equate truth with fact are missing the point.

To the Moon

I love Jacob. In my toenails, I love him. In my liver and capillaries and plasma, I love him.

In the late-1980s, when my whole family was caught up in the self-help movement, it was easy to stand arm’s-distance away from my parents and acknowledge all that they had done wrong, the sins committed, the hurts inflicted. On the day Jacob was born, his dad, Robert, held him and asked me, “Do you think our parents felt this way about us?”

They did. Of course they did; they were enchanted, just like we were. They were smitten, resolved to do everything right. To love them and hold them close and protect them from the sharp edges in the world. Just like us.

They way I love Jacob, I could cut that love with a knife and fork and eat it. It’s as real to me as my body, as large as a planet. When I divorced his dad, I swallowed my ego, let all the old arguments float away because they didn’t matter anymore. I thought they didn’t matter anymore.

For a long time, they didn’t matter.

Something changed. All those resentments were uneasy in the closets and drawers and old boxes to which we’d banished them. I dealt with mine the best way I could; talked through them, healed them. I thought I healed them.

For almost two years, I was hurt and angry. Less and less as time went by, thankfully.

Then, suddenly, I recalled the day we brought Jacob home from the hospital, how Robert stood over the bassinet and said, “I’m so proud! I can’t stand it; I’m so proud!”

I smiled at that happy memory, and that smile told me that I had turned a corner, had become more healed than broken.

For the better part of a decade, we sat together at the basketball games and band concerts; talked about homework and negotiated weekend schedules. I went to his wedding reception; he brought a gift when Carter was born. We were careful, always so careful; we talked about the kids and little else. We were friendly, but never friends.

Then, the catalyst, Carter’s illness, split us wide open. Split me wide open, and brought our fragile truce to an end.

It brought everything about us that was fragile to an end. Some crises are so big, so greedy, they sweep everything into themselves.

And now, Jacob is a teenager, doing teenager things. He needs to assert himself; to be himself in the world. This process isn’t easy for most families.

Add this: a monstrous resentment at me because I abandoned him in favor of his little brother. (This is only untrue in the minds of adults, adept at justification and familiar with the vagaries of life, not across days or weeks but across years and decades and entire lifetimes.)

Add this: two parents, not just divorced but with nothing at all in common; who married far, far too young and who, in spite of some efforts at communication, are now strangers to each other.

Add this: my history of depression is significant and severe and I had a major relapse about 6 years ago, after many years of relative stability.

Add this: the responsibility borne by Robert, which is not mine to expose but which is nevertheless real.

Add this: the responsibility borne by my extended family, which is not mine to expose but which is nevertheless real.

Add this: Brian and I had no idea how to blend two families and we botched the job.

Add this: more, and more, and more.

I understand how the political climate in our nation has become so completely polarized; that is our nature. We want to choose: this one is right, completely, and that one is wrong, entirely.

IĀ vacillate; sometimes, I blame everyone for Jacob’s absence, for the distance between us. I am caught in a web of blind red rage at the people who stole my son – my heart and soul – from me.

Sometimes, I hate myself so much for all that I have done wrong, all my failings and weaknesses, all the ways that I am selfish and incapable, that I can barely move. I can’t breathe under the weight of the guilt and shame.

When I was a little girl and I was angry at my parents, I screamed, “It’s not fair!”

My dad answered, “Good. It’s part of my job to make sure you know that life isn’t fair.”

No, it’s not. Life is not fair. My brain whirs with the scenarios…if we had never had Carter; if Brian and I had met sooner, before we had children with other people; if Carter was our only child; if we’d found good help sooner; if we’d never moved; if Brian and I had learned to work together – to be partners the way children with disabilities need their parents to be partners – sooner; if I’d chosen college, career, and a series of poetically doomed affairs instead of trying, always, to build family; if if if…

Start putting wishes in one hand and shit in the other. Which one fills up faster?

Jacob called me last night because he wanted me to do something for him. I did it, but not in the way or at the time he would have liked. He let me know this afternoon that he was not pleased.

Such a normal teenager complaint. Such an ordinary mom frustration.

For him? More evidence that I don’t care, that I can’t be bothered. Again, I have proved my vast inadequacies as a parent and a human being.

For me? Something new to tie to my whip, the tool of my self-flagellation. A shard of glass, perhaps, or a rusty nail. Again, I have proved my vast inadequacies as a parent and a human being.

He is still, for me, what he always was: enchanting, fascinating, magical. He made me a mother. His first night home from the hospital, when he grunted and snurfled because he wanted to nurse, I looked into the bassinet and was surprised. “Oh!” I thought, “you’re still here! You’re real!”

When he holds his first child in his arms, he will probably wonder, “Did my mom feel this way about me?”

I did, Jacob. And I do. I always, always will.

To the moon flew a Tooter Fish.

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40 comments to To the Moon

  • whoa. so weird. my 8yo is Jakob. Will have to come back and read the rest after homework.

  • Adrienne,
    Our kids know we love them. Your son despite being away from you, loves you. Therefore he cares. But he remains a teenager… and he will continue to hurt your feelings because that’s how they know we care, too.

    Time will ease the discomfort and the inadequacies. You have to believe that.

    Many hugs, take care of yourself. You are a wonderful mother.

  • And also? The past is already done. Look forward, and don’t beat yourself up on things that already happened many years ago. Enough time ‘lost’. Future is awaiting. Remember what I said the other day? Loads of crap for a lifetime! The rest of your life, it’d better be filled with glitter, sunshine and snuggles.

  • You know… he sounds a lot like the way my brother behaved, after my parents got divorced (he was 14 at the time and also lived with his dad). Only the past year or so have things gotten better (he’s just turned 26). I don’t know if that’s a comfort or that it makes you feel worse. But to me, it was obvious from the beginning that all that was needed was the passage of time (him growing up, them un-entangling themselves, etc.) and patience on my mum’s side of things. You will get there… you both will. but right now, I know you need comfort. So I’m afraid all I can offer is an IntErWebZ HuGzZZ ((())))

  • He loves you.
    Whether he lived with you or not, whether you had made mistakes or not, he is a teenager and it is his job to find fault in you as he struggles to define himself.

    Be there. Listen. But, under no circumstances, be his doormat.
    Neither of you would respect that.

    One day, he’ll come to see that there are so very many shades of gray.
    Much love to you.

  • I ditto what Nichole says.

    Complaining about a particular difficulty my husband was having with parenting (he is NOT a kid person), a wise friend of mine once reminded me that (if we are lucky and things go somewhat according to plan) we spend many more years having an adult relationship with our grown children than we do parenting them as kids. And that it can be an awesomely fun and rewarding thing.

    I am sure he will come around, as I am equally sure this is incredibly painful for you right now. I wish I could wave my magic wand and make it all better (damn thing is on the fritz, guess I shouldn’t have stirred the martinis with it.)

    Waiting around for time to do its fabled wound healing thing? Sucks!

    • Damn magic wands! Mine is in the shop, too. Grrr!

      Bottom line, for all the words I wrap around it and all the various feelings, the biggest is this: I miss him. Plain and simple.

      And the waiting? Yeah, that part sucks.

      Thank you!

  • In the time that I had to move away from my mom (metaphorically, I was already geographically hours away) because her addicition and abuse finally became too much…I still loved her. So so much.

    And as an adult I can forgive the tragedy that is addiction. It is still painful sometimes, there are scars, and in dark moments I am still angry…but the disaster that caused the pain, I have much forgiveness about that.

    And I think, someday, that Jacob will finally understand that letting him go was the only way you could give him a life that was in any way “normal,” when your whole life had no potential to be.

    I know it can happen, so I will hope it for you.

    • In my darkest, most resentful moments, I wish a seriously ill child on everyone who has judged me and found me lacking. I want them to see, know, and understand. I want my kids to say, “Wow, Mom, I had no idea. I’m so sorry; please help me!”

      And you know that I don’t really wish that; would never truly want that, but there is that dark side, that ugly, childish underbelly.

      So I hope adulthood will make a little bit of that happen. Even a tiny bit would help.

      In the meantime, the waiting totally blows, but I do have hope.

      Thank you.

  • Shawna

    I pray the same as you, that the Universe, in all it’s wisdom, will let my husband back into his kid’s lives when they are adult enough to understand.
    Understand that parents are human, they make mistakes.
    Understand that children should never be, but sometimes are, used as weapons when divorce happens.
    Even though the law says they are (almost) adult, in their late teens they still see only that he left. We can tell them about all the tears, the pain the years of holding it all in, but they have to learn it for themselves.
    Let’s both hold fast to Varda’s words, there are many more years ahead than behind.
    Love and Martinis for all. We can hold each others hands while we wait for them to come back to us, even though we never really left them.

    • Sigh.

      I hope that for you and your husband, too. So much.

      So painful. Gut-wrenchingly painful, when children are separated from parents who love them, for whatever reason.

      I wouldn’t choose for my kids to come back and live here; life is quieter where they are now. Their brother’s illness makes life in this house very difficult. I would change the rejection and the resentment if I could, though.

      Yes, love and martinis all around! A toast to kids whose returns we are praying for.

  • it is always hard for me to read these hard momma/son things. but I am confident that as long as you love through the hard, you will both be there in the end. I cannot believe that having as much love in you that you could burst would ever prove to fail someone. Not ever never.

    • Hear this: I will understand and accept if you can’t read these. Really and truly. If Jacob was Eddie’s age, I’m not sure I could bear it.

      But I love you for coming around and sharing your hope with me. So much.

  • Ouch. This just ripped my heart out with a fork. šŸ™ I know that love of which you speak. I also know that understanding and forgiveness takes time. He is 14 and short-sighted. Teenagers don’t realize the depths of things. God, I wish I could say something to make it easier/better. I really do feel for you.

    • Thank you. It’s hard to maintain my perspective (one of the reasons this blog is SO helpful for me – you all come and adjust it for me!) and remember that teenagers are fundamentally unreasonable people. We have so much other crap going on besides the teenager-ness that I lose track of that part.

      Thank you, always.

  • Laura

    Hugs. This world needs you and your writing. Thank you.

  • When I had my own children, I was better able to move towards forgiving my parents for things intentional and unintentional.
    I hope that your Jacob will be granted that gift sooner, rather than later.
    I worry about the things my children will be able to hold against me.

    • Yes, all that black/white, good/bad thinking just doesn’t hold up in the real world, does it? Sort of the “I was a much better mother before I had children” line of thinking.

      Thank you.

  • I was horrible to my mom when I was a teenager. And now I have my own daughter and my mom and I have never been closer.

    It passes and gets better, I promise.

    Until then, you are tucked in my heart and I’m sending you joy and strength.


  • Midnight

    How sad.
    Feeling wrong is something atrocious.
    Realizing that nobody really loves you, and that people whom you love want you to be another person (or maybe they don’t want you at all), is an unbearable weight.
    Slowly, a mixture of rage and sadness grows within yourself, ruining life day after day.
    Never let Carter read this blog.
    God bless you.

    P.S: I’m sorry for english, I came across this blog by accident, while searching for “The pain runs through my veins”.
    Oh and I’m sorry if I “didn’t play nice”, but that’s what I felt to say, what I feel inside.

    • Oh, but won’t someone think of the children?

      Now, get your muddy shoes off of my couch and next time you come over here? Read more than one page before you dive in with the criticisms.

      I assure you that I love Carter with every bit as much force and fervor as I love his brother and sister, but I do appreciate you making my point for me: black/white, good/bad; those distinctions are easy. Ambivalence is challenging. Scary. This is me, grappling with mine. I hope you find a place to wrestle with yours.

  • I have three daughters, all now adults. As teens, they absolutely hated me even though I loved them with every fiber of my being. They hated me because I wasn’t the cool mom, I wasn’t the sweet mom. I was just a screwed-up mom doing my best to do the right thing and often failing miserably. They NOW see that. They NOW apologize for all the crap they gave me, all the times they wished for a different mom. They NOW love me and tell me every single day. I’m sure your son will do the same. The teen years suck. But they do end … and you’ll all come out stronger because of it. He loves you, he knows you love him. This, too, truly shall pass.

  • Sigh.

    I read this.

    And again?

    Too big.

  • He’s a teenager. A total copout excuse, but it’s true. Anything and everything you do right now will be wrong. That’s the reality of teen angst.

    I’m sure you are wonderful. You’ve worked with the hand you’re dealt. And you rock on. You ARE rocking on.

  • Such an exposing post.

    It make me want to find you and hug you.


    It makes me wish I could write like you.

  • So, I wonder … can we turn something on its head here, for a sec?

    If this massive gulf between you and Jacob existed exclusively because of the long list of painful fallout from your divorce and your ill son, then by the same logic, I should never have had a harsh word with *my* mother, since I came from what I describe — and always did, teenage years included — from an “idyllic” background; because my parents are still in love after thirty-five years and adore children, to boot; because my brothers and I grew up close, and fun-loving, and most of all, *well*. Right?

    Except that didn’t happen. I had, and have, amazing parents. By any standard at all. And we’re very close, these days. But we barely spoke an honest word to each other for most of a decade, and no matter how sincerely we tried to show each other we loved each other, clumsy feelings kept getting in the way. So we mostly didn’t.

    I don’t mean in *any* way to say that what you’re family’s gone through in the span of Jacob’s existence hasn’t been more than the average bear is required to carry, or that it wasn’t damaging in deep ways. Of course it all was … for everybody. For him, *and* for you.

    But like everyone else said already … he’s also a teenager. And while I don’t think they’re fundamentally unreasonable people, exactly, I do think they just haven’t lived through enough sunrises yet to understand that jagged unresolved complicated feelings won’t kill them. It’s all still really huge, when you’re sixteen. You haven’t kept walking long enough to be able to turn around and get a little perspective on the falling-down places — get a little distance. See their outline against the trees. Realize that from out here they look a little like temples.

  • Meh. “Your family’s gone,” of course, not “you’re family’s gone.” I HATE typos!

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