My mother used to say that a bend in the road isn’t the end of the journey… unless you fail to make the turn. And she’s a pretty smart woman. In fact, she’s the reason I began to write again. During and after my divorce, it’s safe to say that I fell apart. And according to my mom, that’s only a bad thing if you don’t do anything with it. In her eyes, falling apart gives you the opportunity to take a look at the parts of you that should be kept and the parts of you that should not, and to start making some hard choices. It is an inventory of your soul. Nothing more. Nothing less.
And during and after my divorce, almost every night that I did not have my son, I called my mother sobbing. You see, I wanted a hundred children, but I was only given one, and that’s OK. He’s enough. He is the love of my life and he is the purpose of my existence, and I had no idea how to live as a part-time parent. I missed him, and my mother bore the brunt of it. Every tear, every rage, every worry, every hurt, every memory – good, bad, and ugly, she listened to, soothed, and advised. Until finally, she said, “ENOUGH!”
It wasn't the first time we'd been through this.
You see, when I was ten, I was being made fun of by a group of girls at school who called me ugly, short, and stupid. So I went home that afternoon, locked myself in the bathroom and wept. Later that evening, my mother came upstairs to get me for dinner, found me there crying uncontrollably, and demanded to know what happened. So I told her. To this day, I remember what she said, “Stand up and look in the mirror. Those eyes that are too big are mine. Those freckles you hate so much are my mothers, and those ears that don’t always work, well… those are your fathers. Yes, you’re short, but so was Napoleon, and don’t ever forget that Einstein was called stupid by people far more important than the girls at your school. Besides that, you sure as hell picked a funny time for those ears to start working, and you can hear those girls, but you don’t have to listen to them. The voice in your head can be louder than all of theirs put together, and that’s the voice you need to feed. Starve the other ones.” Then she made me go downstairs and eat.
The next day, she gave me a journal. In the dedication, she wrote, “For the voices in your head.” And we left it at that. And I did, I wrote. I wrote through grade school, highschool, and college. Then… I stopped. Life got busy... and the voices around me said it was a waste of time. And I listened. The voice that mattered, the one in my head, lost to the irrelevant ones who were just... louder. So I wrote the occassional story for my son, and I left it at that.
Then, after my divorce, near my son’s birthday, I called my mother, and that’s when she let me have it. She had heard one too many tears. She had healed one too many scars, and she had seen me lick one too many wounds. And she said, “STOP CRYING AND START WRITING! Be funny. Be rude. Be loud... Be anonymous.” And I laughed… but I also listened. I started smss, and it has been more therapeutic than my doctor, my best friend, and Ben & Jerry’s combined. But today I learned that my son has read it, and that I hurt him. The people that he loves, his father, his father’s partner, and his grandmother are important to him, and as he sat there, sobbing, telling me how hurt he was, I finally knew how my mother felt all those nights that I cried to her… helpless.
Then I heard another voice in my head... hers, “Helplessness is not a luxury that mothers get. Fix it. Fix it this time and don't let the bend in the road be the end of the journey. Parenting is a marathon not a sprint.” And when my son told me what I could do to make it better for him, I not only listened, I jumped at the opportunity to make it right. He has asked me to apologize… today... to his dad, his future step-mom, and his grandmother. He has also asked me to stop writing about them, PERIOD. So I am. I will never see my son cry like that again. And if I do, it will never be for something I did. Never again will I be anything but part of the solution.
So for my child and to the people he loves, I AM sorry.
And while I would love to say something more eloquent, something that he could pass along to my grandchildren when he becomes a parent and sees them sobbing, the only thing that comes to mind is Groucho Marx, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” So I'll leave it at that.
Talk to you next week.