One of my rituals at home is to make sure the front window shades are where they need to be. Raising them is the first thing I do when I come downstairs and I religiously put them down the right time of night. Well, last night when I pulled them down, one of them broke like snapped elastic and this morning it looks like this:
These windows are the ones I look at the most. Like hours/day. In fact, they’re the only ones that face the front yard.
I had to tell myself to not crawl out of my skin.
Little things like this matter to me. For so many reasons. A broken window shade translates into: “Now we won’t have privacy tonight and my husband will be able to live without this WAY longer than me and I already have so many things in my life that feel broken and these are opposite my writing chair and Fuck.”
So before 7am this morning I had to try and breathe deep and let go.
Well, it’s a theme. A big theme. Actually, I think I need to start with just a list:
I’m letting go of the store. That story’s coming.
I’m letting go of my current version of online presence. Again.
I wept in my therapist’s office yesterday about the new level I have to let go of my…how do I write this…my daughter. My daughter and the dream of my daughter.
ALL the value systems of others are screaming at me right now as I write this. But here’s the thing. Grief is meant to be witnessed. And offline, there hasn’t been a lot of witness. Where is the support group for parents of chronic runaways, forged emancipations, and traumatic empty nests? If there is, let me know. I haven’t found it yet.
And still, there is SO MUCH I haven’t written out loud.
Our family has had the side of our home blown off and all I feel all we’ve been able to do so far is tack up some plastic. It’s been over three years since it all began and I still feel terribly exposed to the elements. But all I’ve really been able to do so far…well, that’s not true…I’ve been working incredibly hard on the inside of myself…is stare at the plastic and ask, “Now what? This is bigger than I can fix alone and I genuinely have no idea what to do.”
The men in our family are more than ready for me to move on. But they haven’t carried a mother’s dream and work for us in their day in and day out heart for decades. Like the broken window shade, I think they can live with only thrown up plastic much, much longer than me.
I don’t blame them. Well, that’s not true. I have. But slowly…SLOWLY…I am starting to get it.
In good therapy, you usually start talking about one thing and find out you’re really talking about something else entirely. That happened yesterday.
Yes, it’s only August. But year after year, I start getting anxious about the holidays around this time.
And this year will be, most likely, the fourth year without her.
Ok, time for a check in. I have to write about this, yes, “publicly” despite the fear of my touching that part of my sons….who almost certainly don’t read this…who can feel hurt and angry that I can’t get over what’s happened.
I need to write this despite the potential judgment of good Christian families who think it went so much better for them and how could this happen to me and it must be Jenny’s fault.
I write this despite my…I have to say it…very private and introverted mother who just cannot understand why I write anything personal about our family online.
And I write this even if she…my daughter…might find out.
One time I stood at the threshold of her apartment when she still lived in town. In the 18 months or so she lived there, I went there three times, only once inside.
I banged on the door and insisted to the man she was living with that I see her. Her brother was worried about her and he wasn’t in town, so I went.
She was angry, of course. I can’t remember her specific threat, but I do remember what I said.
“I’ve alREADY lost you!” In other words, in showing up to make sure she was safe, I had “nothing” to lose.
When she was 15, “everyone” told me it was the hardest age with girls and she’d come around. But I knew in my mother’s heart, this was not a temper tantrum.
Instead it’s been three years of not touching her. Of very, very, very few kind words. It’s been three years of meeting with the DA, having CPS show up, and scanning the emancipation documents I hunted down at the courthouse completely baffled that the county commissioners signature was on there, but mine was not.
And still, it’s only been a matter of a few months that I thought, “If we move, maybe she’ll come home because we need a fresh start and she won’t ever come home to this house. Maybe we can find one with a separate entrance and she can rent it for very little and have a new start and maybe go to college and live in a new city and I will give her all the space she needs and maybe we can heal.”
How does a mother ever give up? How does a mother like me ever give up?
And the voice chastises me. I hear my mother’s voice about hers and my relationship and the utter pain I’ve caused her. But I always, always, always, came back home. Longed to be in relationship with her. But, in our generational line, all three of us had to severely separate ourselves from our mothers at different points. I guess this is no different. But it is completely different because it has happened to me and I tried to stop it since N was born and I couldn’t.
Will my daughter understand when she has a child? Will I be able to even know her child? Will she let me see my grandchild?
HOW does a mother let go of hope? And how does a mother live with hope that year after year has no fulfillment? How does a mother NOT live with hope?
I don’t know.
Yesterday I admitted to my therapist that I haven’t cleaned out N’s bathroom cupboard completely because I don’t know what to put in there instead. Guess what my therapist said to me?
“If you clean out the cupboard that is Natalie inside of you, what will you fill that with?” What could I do but put my head in my hands and sob.
There is no answer for that. There is no answer for a parent that has lost a child.
“But she’s not dead!” you cry. To that I say, “Yes, she is. I haven’t known her for many, many years. The dream is dead. The imagined future is dead. The side of our family home has been blown off and there is only plastic and I can’t imagine how it will ever be rebuilt.”
Way more days, WAY more days in the last three years I’ve said to myself, “I will never let go.” Oh, believe me. I have had to let go with my actions more ways than I have ever, ever, ever believed any sane parent ever would. And actually, in a culture of helicopter parenting with parents so committed to being in their children’s business to make up for what we felt was neglect I have been SO ANGRY, so hurt and angry, that I haven’t been allowed. My truth is that in my last interaction with my daughter, I was told, I am NO longer her emergency contact. It was one of my last threads to her. To not have lost my shit at her workplace should give me what she wants as Mother of the Year.
The more I write this morning, the more I am aware how much you don’t know. How much I’ve carried by myself. There’s still a huge, huge part of this I will never write publicly, unless it’s a memoir when I’m 80. But the bottom line this morning is this:
How does a mother get beat up for three years and still try to show up for whatever scraps thrown her way? Everything in me is capable of it, but the reality is, I have a bathroom cupboard inside of me only full of her childhood nail polish and early adolescent beauty products. What is the answer? There isn’t one. There will never be one. I need to somehow, someway, empty the cupboard and let go and accept this is my story. It still feels impossible.
But last Christmas I was able to not hang up the stocking. Maybe this Christmas…well, maybe there will be some kind of vision. I’ll keep you posted.