The day started with a trip to Newton to pick up a friend of a friend’s dog to watch over while a friend of a friend went on vacation. The interaction involved a large kitchen mitt, prayer, and the dumb bravery that comes when I don’t have time for coffee.

Dog and I made it home, and I went to work. Spent the day talking to prospective nursing students, 18-year-olds about the FAFSA, eating the best lunch ever with the amazing Alison, making calls, taking calls, and sending texts to everyone at home about the dog.

Home meant another blowout knockdown brawl with Colin. Followed by shoulder shaking sobs when I found his old soccer uniform in the hall closet. Colin held me while I cried and told me everything was going to be ok. I did not believe him but I went to Zumba anyway.

I danced for an hour, oh my god, I love that class, with my friend. She’s been going thru a bad break up for like four months, so some of the love songs made her cry. She went to the bathroom before I could hold her and tell her it was going to be ok. I don’t think she would have believed me either.

Sweaty clothes, and seats at Novara on the deck. Summer breeze and chicken wings and tuna tartare and ice-cold seven dollars a glass white Chardonnay.

Home. Made salmon with a ginger maple siracha glaze, roasted broccoli. Walked the dogs. Except for the new dog. He did eat peanut butter from my finger, so there’s that.

Now, this. Writing it down.

There are pockets of grief and bliss from loving my son. There is drama and the relief when the drama leaves for an evening to go somewhere else.

But it is not everything like it used to be..He is not the center of my world. Just one of the worst, and the very best parts.

And now, it is time to lure the dog out from under the table. It is time to box up the fish and the vegetables for lunch, find my shoes, fold the clothes.

It is time for bed. It is time to say goodnight to Colin, and goodnight to you, and pray that tomorrow the world makes a little more sense.

Letter to my boy

August 6, 2019

Don’t forget about the dog poop-

(I warned you 
If things got bad
And they got bad
There would be repercussions.)

Scoop it, bag it,
Drop it into the
Starbucks dumpster.

And the dog,
Walk the dog-
not around the block-
The pavement burns her paws,
Take her to the park.
It’s not soccer season yet,
Bring a bag
Use it
Even if no one’s watching.

Check the website for your summer work,
Do it.

Email your coach,
Tell him what he wants to hear
and do that too.

Brush your teeth,
Floss,
Don’t only eat food flavored
Buffalo
Or from a bag
Or glowing orange.

Respond to all the girls that sent you Snapchats.

Be kind to everyone that asks to
Follow you.
(I haven’t asked but I know
Better.)

I remind you
to empty dishes,
walk the dog,
sweep a floor.

I don’t ask you
To follow or accept or friend me.

I keep our conversations about
The dishes in the sink.

I update you
About what
The world expects.

I text instead of call.

You talk to friends on FaceTime.
You laugh,
And swear, and listen.

I read books,
Ask for prayers from strangers,
And send you bullet points
so what I need from you
Is clear
And listed by
By priority.

-Call me.
-Do your homework.
-Clean the yard.

I check my phone
For your response
All night.

Tonight, I packed my eighteen year old son’s stuff in two trash bags and a shopping bag and left them all in by a dumpster. I walked away and didn’t look back until just before I got in. He was standing in the middle of the driveway, looking around for the bags as if they weren’t right next to him. It was ten degrees, he was wearing a tee shirt, and somebody else’s sneakers. I don’t think he believed I’d actually drop off his clothes and leave. He looked up at me, and I don’t know what his face said. Fuck you, maybe. Why? Did you remember my toothbrush? What is going to happen to me now?

My son’s smile is warmer than the sun after winter. He is funny, and he can dance. He used to play basketball for hours, and if he wasn’t on the court, he always wanted to be connected to some kind of ball. If we went for a walk on the beach, we had to throw a football. If we took the dogs for a walk, he was in charge of the tennis ball. He’d dribble in his room. He’d play basketball in the driveway and eat dinner in between shots. My son stopped smiling about two years ago.

He still lived with me until today. In sophomore year of high school, sports and school were just hobbies. Drugs took over. Doing drugs. Posting pictures of doing drugs, or lip syncing to songs about drugs. Going to the woods, to the quarries, to whoever’s house was unoccupied by parents or belonged to parents that had their own stash and shared.

I’m not going to tell the tale of then to now. I don’t know how we got from early morning cereal before the game, to begging him to wake up to go to class at a community college because a judge made it a condition of his release.

I just know my son is not here tonight because I told him not to be. He is staying at a house with a dumpster in the driveway, that reeks like weed from ten feet away. He is staying there because last night on the phone he refused to come home. His words were slurred, and sloppy, his voice didn’t belong to him. And he’s been doing drugs for a while, so there’s something new on the menu.

He promised last night he’d wake up in the morning, and go to school. I was supposed to pick him up on my way to drop his little sister off at school.  “Mom, I’ll be ready.” He’d straightened up a bit by the time our last conversation.

I woke up early, packed his toothbrush, and a change o Read the rest of this entry »

The smack of a basketball against the driveway just before dinner
The back door snapping shut as my son runs inside for a plate of spaghetti,
The sun falling down,
the smell of a dark, wet, sky,
Dishes, cat food, liquid detergent,
The sound of leaving, and staying,
The smack of the basketball just after dinner-
I lean on the sink, close my eyes.

 

All that has happened
Has not.
It is just before spring.
He is my boy.
I am the mother of two,
With lunches to pack,
Who needs to make plans for camp.
The basketball smacks against
the driveway, against his hand.

 

There is no noise
When he makes a basket.
Never was.

 

I don’t know what I’m waiting for,
So I turn the radio up,
While I wash the pot, wipe the plates.
He stays outside.

As long as the music plays,
He’s making
One basket

After another.

 

At the end of the day, after so many days, it is my job to let them go, and wait for them to fly on their own.
Whether they smash spectacularly into tree, soar into the sun, or crash into the waves of the coldest of oceans on the coldest day of the year, my job is done.
I am the audience. The one who still needs thoughts and prayers, because both of mine are still here. Soaring, crashing, and trying to find their way, even when they have no idea where it is they want to be. Or maybe they do know, but keep smashing into walls because they’re too busy staring at some stranger’s Finsta account.
Be kind. Be loving. Watch out for low flying wires, people that tell you something is too good to be true, and dark alleys that reek of, you know what they reek of.
Try to remember a little bit of what I told you. If you forget every damn thing, know that I’m a phone call or a heart breath away, waiting to hear your voice, asking to hear the sound of mine.

Humbled

November 13, 2017

I can tell the temperature,
within a degree or two,
first thing, every morning,

when I open the door
to let the cat in.

When I hear my best friend’s voice
over the phone,
all she has to say is hello,
and I know if it’s time to reach for my car keys,
make some soup,
or find a spot to listen.

I read body language,
talk to dogs,
and understand why
the three year old boy next door
finds poop endlessly amusing.

But I don’t know what’s going on with my 17 year old son.

I know where he is-

a flight of muddy stairs
a damp towel outside
a closed door.

I eavesdrop on his conversations,
Not to hear the words,
But to try to recognize his voice.
It hasn’t worked.

He is steps and oceans away.

I am here,
with clean laundry.

There were rides in the Cadillac, top down
Beatles loud on the radio.
After intense arguments
With my brother over
Who got to sit behind
Our father.

There were meandering walks on tree lined streets at the age of 15,
Giddy, stupid, and hungry
For bagels or cookies
but afraid
To go home.

I should have been home.
I should have worn shoes.
I should have followed everyone
else to college.

There was saying goodbye to my dad
For ten years.
There was speaking to my dad In the dark,
ten years after he died.

There were parties, so many parties.
There was takeout for dinner
On nights we weren’t picking at meals in restaurants
With cloth napkins served by waiters
We’d see later on
at the club.

I didn’t make choices,

I was along for the ride. In                                                                                                               between,
I slept like the dead in a
Bedroom cloaked by
Tightly closed, thick velvet
Curtains.

Then, came my son.
I didn’t choose him
any more
Than I chose anything else
In those days.

It took time
For me to make the transition.

For a long time, I was a daughter
Who mourned and drank
And wished she’d said goodbye
And I love you
While my father still knew who I was.

It took too long for me to
Step. The. Fuck. Up.

My dad has been gone
Forever.

I’m losing my son.

It seems like it was five minutes ago
I recognized I was his mother.

He’s known all along and
While he was waiting
For me,
he grew tired
And found
Ways to pass the time
On his way to becoming
A man.

I’m here now.

His shoes are in the hall.

His world is private,
On instagram
Riding shotgun or crouched in the backseat of an uber,
Or inside his dreams.

When I wake him up,
He always sounds surprised by my voice.

He used to cry
As easily
As some boys
Laughed at spongebob squarepants.
He doesn’t cry anymore.

I hear pop songs
About love
And I think of my son.

I want to tell him
Everything
But he’s
Already gone.

I wasted a long time
Waiting for a dead man
To speak.

The rest of my life
Belongs to the living.

When he comes home
I stay as close as I can,
Noting his tone,
Holding my cheek for a kiss,
Watching him as he moves
thru the kitchen and
Smears peanut butter on
bread.

Sometimes,
I don’t know him at all-
His voice belongs to a stranger.
When did he decide
he liked Pad Thai?
Extra spice, light on shrimp.

Once in a while, I see the smile or the way he holds his fork,
And I know to bring him milk
Or suggest he get some sleep.

It was easier,
In the days of
Gimlets versus Cosmos,
South End versus Brookline,
Backgammon or silly conversation.

But upstairs, right above my head,
There is a boy.
He is angry, sweet, and funny.

He calls me mom
even though
He believes with all his heart
I am an idiot
Who doesn’t understand a thing,
And tortures him by insisting
He put away his clothes.
He puts away his clothes.

I hope I am here
To witness
The best of him-
Which is going to be amazing.

My son, by age sixteen,
Has taught me more
Than everything I knew
Before him.

Parenthood 2016

May 29, 2016

Dear Teenagers,

I’ve heard from a couple of parents that they are having similar struggles with their kids based on some stuff that I’ve written on Facebook and WordPress.

So I thought I’d fill you in on our perspective, or at least our perspective from my point of view. I’m going to tell you some things you might not know.

You probably won’t read this. You’re on snapchat, instagram, and a whole of lot other places I can’t even remember.
(I know some of you are on Facebook, but you probably signed up when you were 12 and probably aren’t reading this.)

Nevertheless, here goes-

You know how we’re always coming at you with an angry look on our faces, launching into long speeches about laundry, social responsibility and the importance of schoolwork? While we sit on the end of your bed and peer around your room with an undisguised look of irritation on our faces?

Yes, we are pissed. At least I am. But I’m about 5% mad, 75% petrified, and 20% totally without clue.

I know that all the experts say I’m supposed to be a parent and not a friend. They say it’s important to set boundaries, maintain expectations, hold kids responsible. In other words, be a parent.

I don’t know how to be a parent to a teenager. We want to hug you, you look at us like you want to spit. Or run out the door. Or slam the door so hard it breaks into a thousand pieces, but you won’t do that because then you wouldn’t have a door to slam any more and you really, really like slamming doors.

Many of us did the same stupid things you are doing now as teenagers. Not all us, and not all of you, are experimenting with drugs and alcohol. But a lot us did. And then, as we got older, we were either front and center watching someone we love struggle because of drugs and alcohol. Or die. Or dealing with addiction battles on our own.

How are we supposed to sit by and watch you the same things we did, or watched so many of our generation do? When I see a teenager stumble out of the woods and stagger across the street bare feet, even though 30 years ago I was staggering out of the bathroom, I can’t sit by and say that’s okay. I’ve been to the meetings, picked people off the sidewalk, said prayers at funerals.

What are we supposed to do about all the pictures you post? The bare asses, the clouds of smoke, the n word this and the ho that?

I know not all of you drink or do drugs. I know not all of you post crazy stuff. I know a lot of you talk to your parents, do community service, excel in school, and are amazing people.

I’m also aware thatt there are many of you that drink, do drugs, snapchat pictures that would make a blind person cringe and are failing school will go on to do amazing things. You might even be doing amazing things at the same time you’re getting naked on your finsta and stuck in summer school.

I’m just saying- a lot of the grownups in your life are totally without a clue. We walk around dazed. We have whispered conversations at work, (far away from the childless or the blessed, still dealing with bedtime drama and indelible ink on the walls,) where we compare notes. We try to figure out if we should take away your phones, call in a therapist, or just let you be.

You might be saying- let us be.

Personally, I’d love to. I’d love to step away from my kids, stop nagging, worrying, tracking, and even talking about them.

But what if I did that and something bad happened? Because I stopped paying attention?

So I’m scared. We are scared. And pissed. And hopelessly confused.

Cut us some slack. Put away the laundry.

If you are going to be foolish and silly, enjoy the moment. Laugh with your friends. You don’t need to document every single stupid, funny thing you do.

Alcohol isn’t going anywhere. It looks like pot is going to be legal any minute. Can you just wait a little while? There will be time for grown up mistakes, and you’re going to make lots of grown up mistakes.

You’ve got time. Lots of time.

So if you could give us a few minutes once a while, that would be nice. A smile would be awesome.

I think I can speak for most parents, We’d be thrilled if you could just maybe listen to what we say, some of the time.

I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask.

Love and faith,

Mom

This is the last time, for a little while anyway, that I’m going to write about the struggles I’m having with my teenaged son. We are facing some serious times, and they’ve been weighing me down, a thousand pounds of grief and fear and misery.

Ever since you started the transition from boy to young man, I’ve been a little sad. I’ve been mourning the child that wanted me to throw a football  when we walked on the beach, and wishing I’d thrown the damned football. I remember staying up late, watching movies, road trips and radio wars. You and your sister must have played a thousand games of tag your it, racing around the first floor of our house, while I screamed at you to stop. The louder I yelled, the faster you ran, until we all ended up laughing, someone stubbed a toe,  got tired, or realized there was ice cream in the fridge.

While you’ve been making the awkward transition from boy to young man, I’m sure you’ve caught me looking at you like I wasn’t quite sure who you are. You’ve sensed that I’m not always that thrilled to see you, standing over me, talking to me in a voice that still seems a little unfamiliar. Have you seen me pick up the picture of you in your karate suit all three feet high, with the huge fake sword in your hand and the big toothy grin? Or noticed that your bath toys are still under the sink? For god’s sake, you’re fifteen. I have to let go of the damn rubber duck.

Now you’re facing real trouble. I’m not going to go into details here, they don’t really matter. Suffice it to say, the police were involved, you’ve been suspended from school for a week, and I don’t know where this is going to end up. You seem to know you need to make a change, or maybe you’ve resolved you need to get better at not getting caught. We’re still talking, but we don’t say much, really. You smile at me, or fold the laundry, or do some of your schoolwork and I fold like a schoolgirl. I can’t keep you home; it’s spring time. You’re home all day. But between five and nine, most nights, I don’t know where you are. The police have your phone. You check in, but half the time I think you are telling me what I want to hear.

This is what I want to say to you- I’m sorry that I’ve wasted so much time missing the boy you were and haven’t really gotten to know the person you are. Though I think you’d agree, it’s probably going to be a  few years before we really like each other again.

But that’s what I want. I want to have a chance to get to know the man you will become.

I know you will be funny, you make me laugh even when you’ve just made me so mad I want to spit and scream and use all that horrible language you throw around like candy on Halloween.

You’ll be kind. When I came home from another bad day at work, you told me to quit, that my employers weren’t appreciating me as much as I deserved. You volunteered to start packing your lunch. You are not a fan of bag lunches.

You will be a great cook. Your waffles are legendary. I hope you learn how to make something other than waffles, because you are not a fan of bag lunches and it’s going to be a while before you can afford to eat out every night.

You will be loyal and charming, empathetic and intelligent. Knowing you will make getting older not so bad. Knowing you will be one of the great joys of my life. It already is.

Even in these troubled times, you are the person that can lift me up quicker than anyone, except maybe Sophie. She’s a dog. She has the advantage of a tail.

So, if you noticed that maybe at times I was a little reluctant to appreciate who you are now, and a little nostalgic for days of sand buckets and sun block, I’m done with that.

I want you around for a long, long, long time. Be safe, even if you think you are going to live forever, be safe for me.

I really, really, like waffles.

 

Aftermath

April 2, 2016

Before I go to bed, I have to water the plants, put out kibble for the cats. I lay out my clothes, check stockings for tears, the blouse and the sweater for coffee stains.
I lock the doors, close down the computer, set the timer on the coffee and the phone.
Then, I take a moment, or i am caught inside the thought- what will happen to us tomorrow?
My family is not having an easy time.
How hard will it be?
Will things get better?
Are things worse than I know?
I know the serenity prayer, I say the words.
I lean into peace, sometimes find myself sliding towards terror-
I’m not a fan.
There are too many damn things I can not change for the people I love best, and I need to make things better.
I can’t.
So I say it again.
Then I bribe Sophie the sweet with a biscuit to join me for a half an hour of tv.
March 2016