I am trying to decide if this July week was better than the same one this time last year. That is most likely not what you would think a mother grieving her son would write. I am a bit confused myself, to be honest. It is a confusing concept to find a bit of relief in my week when most would think I am hiding under my covers and crying myself to sleep each night.
Let me explain that a bit, by sharing last July at this time.
Last July this week was an up and down battle, an anxiety attack for any mother and father. A blended family nightmare. It started with a phone call. The father of my children gave me a late night call. “Your boy is in trouble he said.” “What”? I am confused. He was to go home and spend time with his girlfriend and work the next day.
A simple plan and a chance for independence.
My Mr. and I along with our blended family of ten had spent the week at my sisters on the other side of the state. All should go well with my far away family in town. That is what you would think; it is all I had hoped in my naive parent heart. That all of my teenage kids and two that scream not just there at under twelve would be one big happy family celebrating the stars and stripes with Grandpa and Grandpa and Aunts and uncles. The hot, warm sun and lazy river we floated down would be enough for our kids.
The poolside laughter and potluck dinners the very icing on the cake to have them see the good life they live each day.
That same week on the other side of the state even brought the first visit to the school my blond haired boy of seventeen would ultimately choose for his college education. The dreams I had for him that day. As we toured with the other families. Looking at the dorm, we would sign him up for, thinking of the business man he would one day be. Thoughts they drift for a mom like me. I often dream of life for my babies, even now that they are teens.
My dreams all made up in my mama’s head differed from my teenage child that week. Our oldest boy at seventeen and a half had other plans. With his Dad on the east of the state and close to home we agreed to let our oldest boy drive the ninety minutes in his car and head home to his dad’s house for the night. His dad would not be home, near but not in the house. Our boy would stay alone that night.
He left our family celebration, and with a kiss and hug and assurance, he would behave. I watched him drive away.
Why I let him go, I do not know. I think because I had learned that a few of my friends had successfully left their teens on their own. Also, I think because I remember the days of seventeen when I wanted to be free pretending independence was complete. Maybe too, the fact that he was soon to be eighteen. One more school year and he would be off to college and dorm life. The time now to start to grow up and prove some independence.
He had been doing great, working hard and no issues of late.
Moms know that sinking feeling in the pit of your heart that says something is not right. When the phone rang, it was not a shock. My boy’s dad said our boy had been caught with friends that differed from the original plan we were told. The other boy had snuck away; his parents came across the lies that were all behind our back. Worst yet was the light. The light from the parked car they found our kids in as they drove by. That light was the scent of sorrow. The drug that some think should be legal. I think not.
Our boy, who had been given a chance at freedom was caught in a lie, where and who he had been with and the reason why.
Some will say big deal; my kid too has done these things. Others will question, why I let him leave a family gathering. What kind of parent chooses to let their child go? The sides will be torn and it does not matter what is said in the end my child is not here this Fourth of July Weekend.
Last July was the start of our decline.
It was embarrassing at the time. The choices my boy made. I was humbled by the mistake I had made as well. Letting him go that hot July day.
My family knew of my boy’s antics as they overheard the late night call. My husband who still has children young enough to not deal with teenage things just yet, listened quietly as I had hashed things out and came up with a plan with the man I was married before. The patience of a saint my Mr. of now, as he listened often to the husband of before and I figure out our first born. We did not raise our boy to lie and hide. Why would he do this? I wanted to trust him.
Now he turns our week of family time into turmoil and deceit.
The next week was our annual Up North Family camping trip. We were all together. No tricks to separate. That week was hard. I am writing this post in the very same campground just one year, and one week ago my party of ten camped …our blended family vacation.
My oldest boys’ demons set in.
There is no space or time for him to be alone when your home for a week is a pop-up camper. He would ask to run to the store; he would take long walks to get away. I get that, the need for solitary space. To think, to read, to write to just be. That part of my boy is just like me. His dad too always needed that place of escape. So when my boy of almost eighteen leaves for a walk after a rough past week I let him go. I keep a close watch, but I try and let him heal his demons with space.
I made a poor choice my heart pain reminds me. Letting him be.
He hated this vacation one year ago. I know he tried to make the best of it, but it was there, the dislike of our company. His mood was down I could see. His girlfriend had just broken off their new found relationship. It came to an end much faster than he had hoped. He was hurting. I could see. How do you know as a mother where to step in? He has to learn real life somehow someway.
Today, my heart wants to cut off the world and protect him once again.
I hated the hurt he felt. It was a pain that in most kids at this age would give him experience and then would go on to other things. Not this boy. He thought hard and deep and was critical of himself and others that were not like him.
His sulky ways and overwhelmed head made it difficult for him to enjoy anything we did that week. This boy of mine, deeper than most. His head works like a faucet with a constant drip of remembering; he cannot shut things out. He cannot turn the faucet off.
Normal teen experiences were a trigger to something darker we can now see.
It was hard to even like him those days if you want to know. He was short with me, soon came the walking on eggshells to keep things smooth. There are ten of us after all. Seven more kids who want to have fun. Three of them my step kids, whom we have limited time, only summers and holidays to enjoy. I went back to some old habits to keep things even. Letting him get his way with his mood to keep things cool. He was sometimes mean to his brothers, Moody, up and down, high and low. It was a rollercoaster that changed all of our moods. It was tiring for us all. If you have a child with anxiety and depression than you know the crumbly road of crunchy shells I walked those days just being a mom.
In that moment, I still was not sure if this was normal teenage behavior or something more.
When the rain came in droves, we packed our family camp trip up and shipped him on the road home. I was so thankful that day, to pack up our kids and get off the eggshell road of camping with my son. I felt a freedom and some rest on the drive back. He in the other car and us in the van of peace.
The regrets are there. Today, sitting in the same space as a year ago.
I wish it back again. I’d take the eggshell road and stomp my way through that mess to love on my boy just for a moment again.
I would sit in the rain as ten, huddled in one pop up camper playing cards and listening to bickering kids just to touch my first born boy’s shoulder again, to simply remind him he was loved.
I would give anything to teach him hope.
This year, this week of celebrating time, my other four…oh so hard to say, when it should be five. They are with their dad this year. I am glad. A new place to visit to keep things different. Time with family and not a reminder of here. A reminder of the sand and water play, a reminder of dinners on summer nights around a campfire. Change in space to escape the horror of our boy’s death. I am glad my four are with their dad, sunning themselves and boating on the big Great Lake.
I am filled with gratitude that this week there is no Parade of eggshells on the street for my far north three. Eggshells are no walk for the other kids.
So little time I get to be stepmom in their day. Only the summer and vacations from school. Never enough to be complete. So this week, the eggshells are swept away. We ride our bikes to this summer town for fun. We paddle boats in the Hidden Lake. Pancakes and bacon outside with the birds chirping above. Sandy beaches and Mackinaw Fudge. New memories to make.
Regrets, yes. Looking back is hard when you start to see the beginning of the end. The tears still come. Almost every day at some point. Most often when I am alone or late at night. Daytime brings our new normal. My oldest boy is not the only one. There are seven more to love each day and our adopted adult that lives in her own home with the support of staff. That does not take it away, the sorrow we hold. It makes it impossible to not go on. Seven more kids, three this week in a place that once held so much distress, it is more predictable than last July. We work towards each new step. Looking forward to the hope God brings. Praying our boy has found freedom from all of his pain.
We picture our angel walking the path of light with Christ not the eggshell road of depression and anxiety.
The smell of bacon and coffee run through my quiet site sneaking over from the tents to our right. I take in the sounds of this place. The quiet chatter of people waking. The nature sounds of outside that make me think of Heaven. The rest are still asleep. I pray often that God hears my cry to help us heal from this pain. The heart hurt that is a constant beat. The last months my mama bear fight to not curl up in my den all day and sleep if I could not save my first born bear than maybe this is not the job for me, I wonder late at night when no one sees my tears and my internal head heart fight.
A little blond girl walks out the camper door. She needs step mama closeness this morning. The chill and dampness are still in the air. She looks up with freckles I did not create and her far away north mama’s face.
I am overcome with hope for all we already have. Once again I am reminded I am gifted a chance to raise up children even if for a short time. That my day is a choice, how I choose to live it will serve or take. Although, I never imagined stepmom as my name. Never dreamed my other four on a separate vacation. Wishing more than anything I could change our reservations in life back to a party of ten, not the five we are now today. I am warmed in my heart to the very core by God’s grace when my stepdaughter sits close and needs me just a bit. Enough to remind me to get out of my mama bear cave and do the job God created for me.
No, this July is no better than the years before. It is different. I know more. Hurting deeper. Now, seeing things with a slow awakening of purpose. This July makes me want Freedom. Freedom for the kids like my son, the ones fighting the hopeless war. The ones that battle depression and mental illness. This year the fireworks shine a light on our boy’s absence, a brilliant glare and searing bang that make me realize we do not have our son but we have his story.
We are walking the slow going Freedom road this July.
I cannot see it all just yet. The good that will come of our hurt. The purpose that will come from the pain that plagued my son. My hope is there. My faith in one who created all. A love so great.
For in this hope we were saved. Now Hope that is seen is not hope. For Who Hopes for what he sees? However, if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.