He’s Not Heavy. He’s My Son.

So, my son has been living with me for about a year and half (or if you ask him, it’s been forever) in order to save up money and invest it in the equipment needed for his professional photography business.  Now that he’s on track, he’s going to be moving out this week for his own place, and I’m feeling such mixed emotions about it.

O was always my little buddy and we did so much together when he was a kid.  I had summers off, and we always swam, fished, rode bikes, played basketball, and went to the library, children’s museum, and zoo.

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O always had his buddy Barney with him.

During the school year, I was always room mom, and since I taught at the college level and could pretty much make my own schedule, I always was able to get him off to school in the morning and be there when he got home.  It was a perfect set-up.  As room mom, I was known far and wide (in a small school) as the “Goodie Bag Queen”, a title that had no sash, but a lot of respect to those under 4 foot tall.

When O was in Kindergarten, I subbed one day and O couldn’t contain his enthusiasm.  While the other kids were calling me “Mrs. Palmer”, O would say “MOM” very LOUDLY just so everyone would know he was the teacher’s pet!  Years later, when I volunteered as ‘lunch lady’, the most God awful job one can have for the Jr. High crowd, I came in the first day and my precious son said this:  “Look everyone…it’s the friendly neighborhood volun-turd.”  So, I responded:  “Look everyone…it’s the kid that won’t get any Christmas presents this year.”  ‘Nuff said.

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O in Kindergarten…My little Harry Potter!

During the summer when O was going to be a 5th grader, he had worked his way up by having short sleepovers at a local Christian camp, and was ready to spend 5 days there…overnight!  I was a nervous wreck, but his dad most lovingly said, “Get over it.  We’ve paid the fee.”  Quite comforting.  Anyhoot, we arrived, got him settled in,  and after a sobbing goodbye (on my part), drove away.

The next morning, as I was in the process of painting his room to surprise him when he got home in 5 days, the phone rang and it was O, telling me he threw up and needed to come home.  I threw down the paintbrushes, grabbed a bucket, and was on my way…speeding the entire 20 miles along country roads.  He was quite subdued when I picked him up and held the bucket, but didn’t make a peep.  We got home and I plopped him in my bed since his room was torn up.  About an hour later, he came plodding out and said, “Mom?  I LIED TO YOU!”  I asked him what he lied about, and he said, “I wasn’t sick and didn’t throw up…I just wanted to be home with you!”  I told him I was glad he lied in this case, because that was all I wanted too.

Fast forward to when he turned 18.  (Actually, most of his adolescence is a blur…a defense mechanism that serves me well).  One morning before I left for classes, he told me a buddy of his had an apartment and needed a roommate.  I told him I would think about it and we’d have a nice long chat that evening.  When I got home at 1:00 (a mere 4 hours later), he was packed up, guys were carrying boxes out of my house, and O said he took the offer.  Great chat.

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O in High School before a Prom.

After a variety of jobs, O started working for Verizon and when he was 21, told me he had taken a transfer position in Fort Worth…about 780 miles from home.  I was gobsmacked.  How could I be that far away from him?  What if he got sick?  Hurt?  In an accident?  (I’m a very optimistic person).  But, we got him moved down there and I stayed with him for a couple of weeks to help get his apartment fixed up.  When it was time for me to fly home, O drove me to the airport, but dropped me off at the QUICK drop off where they rush you while yelling the entire time.  He hugged me and said he would call me that night, and I trudged into the airport.  I was at the TSA desk where you show your ID and boarding pass and this adorable Texan gal said, in the greatest southern drawl ever:  “Did y’all have a good time in Texas??”  I started bawling.  Wailing might actually be a better word.  She said, “OH MY!” and proceeded to help me through the line as if I was an invalid on my last leg.

And then he was back 3 years later.

Believe me, it has not been all sunshine and rainbows living in the same house together.  It was hard on him to have to move back to a place where he felt like a kid again, and not the independent self he was used to being, and it was hard on me not to turn him back into my ‘kid’.  Plus, he’s messy…I’m tidy.  He’s quiet…I’m loud.  He’s calm…I’m emotional.  He’s a procrastinator…I’m a doer.  We’ve had a couple of arguments, but really, this time has gone quite well, despite the fact that the one trait we do have in common is stubbornness.

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O and I in Texas…I’m getting ready to leave him for the first time there…hence, my VERY forced smile.

I’m excited for him to be on his own again because I know that’s what he wants.  I’m also  so proud of him for building a business in a couple of years that’s already sustaining itself.  His work is amazing.  Plus, he’s only going to be 2 miles away, and I run by his apartment complex almost daily.  He’s still going to be around a lot since my garage is storing his vintage car and Harley, plus, his darkroom will probably stay in my basement.  He knows this is always going to be his home and he’ll never be without a key.

But, I’m going to miss him.  In so many ways, he’s my crutch.  The person I can talk to about everyday things.  The noise in the house.  The shoes on the floor.  He’s the one that can see my moods and ask me how I’m doing.  He’s the one I get a hug from  The one who made me not wake up alone on Christmas.  The one who’d watch a movie with me when his girlfriend worked late.  The one who made me amazing dinners and ‘plated’ them so beautifully.  The one who made me laugh again after J left me.  The one that understood how broken my heart was and encouraged me to do things.

I’m not afraid to be alone in the sense of not being able to take of myself.  Nope.  I’ve been working non-stop since I was 16 and everything I have, I bought myself.  I’ve always done everything around the house anyway, and have lots of interests to keep me ‘busy’.  But I think that’s what bothers me the most…the word busy.  It’s like kids’ worksheets in elementary school.  When I was teaching 5th grade, I once had a parent tell me I should give homework.  When I asked her why, she said, “Because that’s just what teachers do.”  I told her I didn’t believe in busy work for the sake of busy work.  After all, once you learn 2 + 2 = 4, you really don’t need to write it out another 100 times (plus, if you forget, for fuck sakes use your fingers). But, if the student actually needed more help on something with additional work, then that was another thing.  She looked at me like I was nuts.  (Hmmm…)

I don’t want the rest of my life to be ‘busy work’.  I don’t want to just fill up my days so I can go to bed and have another day to face again.  I don’t want to look out my window in the afternoon and say ‘What now?’  Instead, I want someone to go down this new path with me.  To be my confidant.  My partner.  My sounding board.  My comfort.  And I want to do the same for them.  I’m one of these people who need to be needed…if that makes any sense.

Maybe I’m just feeling sorry for myself…but hey, I’m a sensitive, feeling bipolar (had to throw that in there, in case you forgot or something) so what do you expect?  I know I’ll be fine.  I know Eddie and Dottie and I will have good days and not so good days.  I know I’ll continue loving my teaching, spending time with O, ma, and sis, doing my art, reading my books, working in my yard, running and all, but I guess I just want to add someone to the mix to enjoy it all with me.

Kristi xoxo

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“Great Gobs of Goose Shit” (Clay – City Slickers)

So, I love to go back and watch older movies and one of my favorites is “City Slickers.”  If you’re not familiar with it (because of being much younger than me…sigh…) it’s about 3 guys who take a trip to a ranch where they learn to round and drive cattle while working through the various issues in their lives.

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City Slickers – 1991

Anyhoot, in one scene (my fave), the men share what their all time worse day was and all time best day was.  It’s always made me think about what I would have chosen, and I finally have an answer…at least up to this point in my life.  After all, our best and worst days can change, can’t they?

Of course my all time best day was the day my son was born…that’s a given.  My all time worse day was when my nephew died on the USS McCain.  Both of those are above and beyond anything else, so I’m going to talk about 2 other times in my life.

Let’s start with worse day(s)…so we can finish on the positive (that’ll be a switch…huh?).  When my son was a sophomore in high school, he started having stomach problems.  His dad has always had them, and O was tested for IBS, Crohns disease, food allergies, etc.  Those tests all came up negative, and then we started thinking that maybe it was psychosomatic.  The divorce from his dad was still pretty fresh and because O is very much the type of guy to push feelings down, this seemed to be a possibility.  That was pretty much ruled out too.  Finally, the specialist told his dad and I that he needed to biopsy lymph nodes in his abdominal area (they seemed to be swollen) because there was a possibility that O could have Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia.

The minute I heard those words, my world completely shifted.  It’s hard to explain, but before even knowing whether he had it or not, all of a sudden I realized that something horrible could befall my son without me being able to just fix it with a smooch or band-aid.

O was admitted to the hospital and had his biopsy, then spent the night for observation.  After the biopsy was done, I asked the doctor this:  “Would you be worried if this was your son?”  He said:  “Yes.”  OOOKKKAAAYYY…thanks for the reassurance, doc.  O told me and his dad that he would be fine spending the night alone…he was 15 after all!  I went home, which is just a couple tenths of a mile from the hospital…I can see it from my back windows, but couldn’t sleep.  I went back to his room and slept in a chair just so I could be with him.  The next day, we got him showered and he came home.  Then, the waiting game started.  His doc said it would be about 72 hours before we knew anything conclusively.

I gotta tell you, this started the longest 72 hours of my life.  My ma and I weren’t talking:  I couldn’t take her husband anymore and she wouldn’t be around me without him because she knew what the consequence of leaving him out would be.  So, it was pretty much just me, my hubby, and his dad.  Even though hubby tried to comfort us, he still wasn’t as invested as O’s dad, and so he and I talked a lot during this time.  It was our son, and we were the only ones who could really relate.

Obviously, O was aware of what was happening and tried to be brave, until that first night at home when he called me into his room and asked me to read some of his old books to him like I used to when he was a little guy.  I got a few of his faves out, and in a choked voice started reading.  It was so hard to do, but I wanted to reign in anything I was feeling and do what he needed me to do.  We trudged through every day, trying not to think the worse, and even though hubby kept telling me to be positive, your mind can’t help seeing the darkness.

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My awesome son!

Finally, we got the call that O was OK.  He didn’t have leukemia.  He was battling some kind of bacterial infection in his stomach that made his lymph nodes swell.  I can’t even begin to express the relief I felt.  I truly couldn’t see myself living in a world without him, and to think of such a talented, sensitive, genuine boy to not have his whole life ahead of him was too much to bear.  Going through something like this with your kid makes you realize the gift they are.  How they are so much a part of you that you can’t really see them any other way but connected to you.  How they are so inextricably tied to your heart that they have become the biggest piece of it.  No matter how much I knew I was blessed with O before this, I’ve never forgotten how incredibly lucky I am to have O in my life.  Truly.

Now, my best day?  Easy.  Y’all know I had a breakdown around 2 and a half years ago, and I hit rock bottom.  We don’t need to yack about all that contributed to this, but it was a combination of so many things that I simply couldn’t handle my life anymore.  I have to admit something horrible though:  prior to this, I really didn’t think ‘nervous breakdowns’ happened.  I thought that was a histrionic term for “I can’t handle things anymore so I’m labeling it as such.” What a stupid asshole I was.

The break was a few weeks coming as situations kept piling up.  And then POW;  I found myself broken with absolutely no ability to care for myself.  I would cry for hours at a stretch and was incapable of eating, showering, dressing, or doing anything in terms of self-care.  Just getting out of bed was a major feat, and the cry of my dogs needing to pee is the only reason why I had too.  I couldn’t think straight at all…it’s like my mind got so jumbled up nothing made sense.  I’d hear my doctor, my counselor and my mom talking, but I was in a dark tunnel where their ‘words’ registered, but not their ‘meaning.’  I was living alone and getting through an hour by myself was hell.  This is when I started cutting, badly, and also when I attempted suicide.  I truly didn’t want to live (which is so hard to recall now) and I kept sobbing to my mom that all I wanted was to be with Grandma and Grandpa in heaven.  And I meant it.  It wasn’t a metaphor, it was a truth.

The tunnel I found myself in was dark as hell, and I was petrified to even try to crawl out because that meant facing some of the demons that were challenging me.  But I had too.  It was slow going…two steps forward…one step back.  It took weeks, but I managed, with the help of those around me, to do it.  Like the breakdown, it was a process.  But light started shining again.

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I have this on my bedroom mirror to remind myself every morning that there’s always reason for me to smile.

This pic of me and Edward is so important for a couple of reasons.  First, my son was visiting me from Texas where he was living at the time, and took this pic.  He knew what was going on with me to a degree, but until he was here, he didn’t realize how bad I was.  This particular afternoon, since I was getting better, he talked me into taking Ed to the dog park.  He snapped this pic of me smiling.  The first smile I had smiled in a couple of months.  Having my son with me gave me so much more motivation to keep pulling myself out, because I could see the pain I was causing him.  I realized I couldn’t hurt myself…couldn’t kill myself…because it would kill him.  He made me remember that I was needed.  Wanted.  Loved.  And that day in the park was my best day:  I smiled.  I knew I was going to be OK.  I knew I was going to fight this.  I knew I had people here on earth I needed to be with.  I knew there was an end to this pain.

Isn’t it something how our own worst times can lead to our best days?  And how the worst times in our kids/loved ones lives can give us the understanding just how precious life is?  Just how much we need to enjoy each and every day we’re given?

In the movie, as 2 of the men are talking about their worst days and their best days, they use the same day for both.  I guess I could too.  Both of these times for me were horrific.  O’s the worse…my son is everything to me.  But I guess in retrospect, they were my best times too.  Each made me realize how blessed I am.  How lucky I am.

It’s easy to forget that, isn’t it?  I hope I never do.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

 

Living with Me.

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So, my son lives with now.  He’s 26 years old and is a professional photographer (who, by the way, is freaking amazing!) and needs to put his money into his equipment which means living on his own isn’t possible right now.  Previously, he lived in Texas for 3 years, and even though I went down to see him a few times a year, it wasn’t the same as having him close by.  Having him here right now is special to me…it’s like we’re catching up on lost time.

But.  And there’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there?  We are 2 adults, with very different personalities, who are sharing a house, kitchen, shower, food, etc. and there’s bound to be difficulties.

I know I’m not easy to live with.  Sometimes I hate living with myself!  Having bipolar means I’m very unpredictable.  I don’t care how ‘stable’ one is with this illness, there is still ups and downs, and I’m sure it’s very hard for my son to know what ‘ma’ he’s dealing with day to day.  There are days I’m laughing.  There are days I’m crying.  There are days when I’m so tired or crazed or impulsive that figuring me out is probably next to impossible.  I get that.  I really do.  And I admire him for being able to adapt to what woman I happen to be that day.

Yet sometimes my son isn’t easy to live with either.  He’s a 26 year old young man, who has lived on his own since he was 18.  He’s used to his independence and being able to have his home his particular way.  He’s also starting a business that requires so much marketing, web site work, along with mastering the use lighting, film development, and editing.  In addition to all of this, he’s scared.  Scared of taking this chance and making this work.  So much is riding on making this business a success.

I’m so proud of him for doing this though!  Taking this risk and putting everything he has in it – money, time, energy – is stressful, and I tend to forget that.  I forget that this stress affects him, which can make his mood unpredictable as well.  Like me, he has great days when things seem to be in place, and hard days when he questions his work and wonders if he’s made the right decision.

Together, we can be awesome!  There’s no one I’d rather spend time with and his sense of humor, his ideas, the way we can joke about things is so fun!  On the flip side though, we can also be volatile!  Two different adults, with different ways of communicating, different ways of dealing with conflict, different ways of seeing the world.  When this happens, there are hurtful words exchanged with feelings damaged and tears flowing.

But you know.  That’s OK.  We can’t grow as adults without resolving these issues.  Without using conflict as a way to move forward in our relationship as grown ups.  With our contrasting personalities, and my mental illness, conflict is inevitable.  But it doesn’t have to pull us apart.  Conflict can aid in more understanding of one another, more compassion towards one another’s needs, more depth in our connection.  Something I think we both want.  And need.

All I know is this:  my son is my heart.  Truly.  Having this time with him, watching him build something that’s uniquely his using a talent I could see in him when he was only a few years old, and experiencing his growth as a man is worth any arguments we might encounter along the way.

Kristi xoxo