And are captive to my children's happiness.
For thirty-six hours it was bliss. I was euphoric. It was a pain in the ass and it caused arguments between my husband and me. Bargaining. Subtle "streamlining of the truth" as my daughter would say. But it was for the boy. For him. I was worried--afraid--for him and, for the sake of his well-being, I was willing to humble myself.
And the tingly warm best part of the thirty-six hours was that this time he had asked for my help. Usually I don't wait to be asked. Usually I see his trouble and immediately begin to strategize the aid campaign. But this time he asked. He knew the toll it was taking, but he wanted my help and he asked. I wore his need for me like a favorite sweatshirt.
But now he's become distracted. Someone new is in a closer orbit. He's a little bit ADD that way. He's a lot ADD that way. And I no longer exist.
Thirty-six hours of phone calls, e-mails, research, calling in favors, putting my neck on the line with my husband, putting the boy's needs above everyone else's, willingness to change my very home for him, and now there's a new distraction and none of it matters. And I don't exist. Again.
Usually this is the point when I start making my internal excuses. I have to because it does no good to tell him how used and discarded I feel. And how inexcusably self-centered he is. He doesn't like to hear it and punishes me with unbearably long stretches of silence.
Instead, like mothers do, I make my excuses. I twist and torture my perception until I'm convinced that I brought it on myself. Mea culpa.
"He didn't ask for my help," I usually console myself. But this time he did ask and I can't use that threadbare justification. "He's never asked me to be this devoted to him." That's my substitute excuse. Even I don't believe this pitiful masquerade of reasoning. But having told this lie to myself, the stabbing pain in my stomach begins to dissipate. A little.
The admonishing voice is in my head again. The practical voice. CPA's voice. "He's not your son," the voice reprimands. "F*&% you, CPA. I know he isn't my son, but . . . " The sentence goes unfinished.
*****I lie awake at night haunted by the specter of not knowing. If something bad happened to him--if he died in a car accident tomorrow--I might never know. I am not his family. His next of kin doesn't know me. A few of his closest friends may have heard my name, but nothing more. Nobody would know to call me. The fear that one day he could just evaporate eats away at me. I pull the blankets over my head.
Morning lets itself, uninvited, in through the window. The cloud of sadness creeps over my dawning consciousness.
Let it go. It will work itself out.
I explain away my closed off mood. It's a day of laundry and bills and tending to my children. My real children.
In the middle of something mundane, I am unexpectedly hijacked by the memory of that last moment with him. He hugged me tight, like he meant it. I hugged him back. And I did mean it. That sweet smile and his almost shy wave as I drove away . . .
A disobedient tear sneaks its way onto my cheek. I wipe it away quickly before it can be seen. When asked why my eyes look a little red and watery, it's an easy thing to casually mention my ever-plaguing allergies.
But my husband is no fool. He knows. "You're too good to him. He doesn't appreciate you."
"It's not his fault . . . " I begin. But this sentence too will go unfinished.
I have mourned being abruptly abandoned by my non-son countless times.
But this time the hurt is different than before.