I haven’t known a great deal of contentment in the past 17 years and when I have, it hasn’t been for very long. It is sweet and sweeter still when long awaited. Some background:
(Before I come to the now, I should explain that when my oldest began high school, they had started to charge a large fee for the driven portion of driver’s education. We were on a strict budget even then. When the oldest appeared to be doing poorly we made a rule that to have us pay for the driven portion of the course, one would have to have a grade of C or higher. She got a D, we enforced the rule.)
When the twins were 12 and their older half-sister 18, I had my first break-down, hospitalization, and diagnosis of Severe Major Depression, recurrent. The oldest didn’t like the “added responsibility” of getting the younger ones off to school and being home when they got home (two hours after she got out of school, she was still a senior). She went to her (their) grandmother complaining, and her grandmother rescued her, leaving the 12-year-olds on their own. I left the hospital AMA (against medical advice) so someone would be there.
The someone was a zombie. After they left for school twice a week, a friend took me back to the hospital for ECT treatments (electro-convulsive shock therapy). Apparently not as barbaric as it once was, but it erases pieces of memory to allow the brain to catch up and heal (so I am told). My family and anyone who will listen have been told to never allow this to happen to me again. It has taken many years to get those memories back and to realize how much I lost in the months surrounding that time.
Perhaps that is why he believes it was I who deserted him, who left him to fend for himself. Who knows, I was most likely worthless during that time. He was/is an angry young man and his teens were tough. I can look at his school photos, taken each year, and I can see where his beautiful smile disappeared and it grieves me. Even I have blamed me.
His twin sister was a year ahead of him. Ah, yes, another piece of his puzzle of wall between us was that I, at the behest of the teachers, held him back between Kindergarten and First Grade in an Extended Readiness Kindergarten. I wished later I had held them both back, she could have benefited. He did. His grades in school were always better though a year behind. And, he was five minutes older, as he has always reminded.
When he reached his sophomore year and took the written portion of driver’s education, he totally dismissed the weekly “extra credit.” For those cruising the class, it was an important part. It required looking through the newspaper each week and finding three driving related articles (about cars, about car accidents, about a drunk driver, about a car court case). We took three daily papers at the time; there was a wealth of articles to choose from even if you waited until Sunday night when there were only two papers. He received the grade of “D” as well.
In the past several years, his anger has been pointed directly at me. Some of it I feel I have deserved and yet I long to know that he still loves his mother. Recently, he said that when he moves this weekend, he never cares to see me again, unless I happen to still be here (too long a story for just background) when he comes to visit his dad.
Yesterday, when he arrived home from work around 2 o’clock in the afternoon, he sat in his dad’s rocker. I love how he bumbles about before he asks something. For years, I have offered to teach him to drive. He never wanted me to. I offered to gag myself, let him gag me, hold my hands over my mouth, but he would always blame my car being too small for him to drive. He wanted his dad to teach him as he had his sister, I don’t know why he wouldn’t do it, but he took him out once (recently). But yesterday, he finally blurted out that he wanted to go to the DMV and get his license, would I take him.
I had a hard time containing my joy at the request, but did, I think. I put on my socks and shoes and we headed out. I gave him the key and we took off out the driveway. He said he wanted to drive around first. I told him to go for it. He was doing well, I didn’t see a problem. I was enjoying riding in my own car for a change. He said he liked the back roads. I said I do too. It was fun and not one angry word in that car. He really is a good driver.
We walked in the building, I took a chair with my book, and he went to the counter. Delightfully, the line was nil and they took his permit, my insurance card, did paperwork and passed him down to the testing end of the building. (I heard the clerk say something about the third time being the charm when she walked away with his paperwork.) I continued reading and didn’t realize he was out on the test until he pulled into the parking space in front of the window behind me. When he walked in the door at the far end of the building, he was his stoic self, but he had a seat. I was hoping this was the time.
As he approached me, he was grinning and holding the license, like the man on the credit card commercial use to hold it, close to his face in his hand. It was so good to see that smile. As we walked out, I just walked to the passenger seat to let him take me home. As we were headed home, he decided to go by and see if his sister (twin) was home. Her car was there so we stopped.
She must have been taking a nap before work (Tara was at school); he had to knock a few times. When she answered and stepped back to let us in, he said, “Hell has officially frozen over!” and held the license up in her face. She said, “Well, I Guess!” Shortly and he gave me his key as he wanted to walk home. I visited a little longer.
He may never realize what yesterday meant to me! Being washed in contentment isn’t something I have often. It threw me to fall asleep before the news was over last night. He woke me when he came in from work (he went back for the night delivery) at 2:00 a.m. as he was afraid my computer might fall out of my lap. I rearranged and slept on, in my clothes, without my meds. It was delightful, I say as I sit here with an icepack. It was great to sleep without the sleep meds, but I missed just a couple of others that it doesn’t behoove me to miss.
All day, I catch myself smiling. As I write, I am still smiling. Oh, and my car is just the right size after all.
Senior High School Picture 2001
January 18, 2001