June 11, 2010
One year ago today my mom passed away. I remember my husband tying my son’s tie before the funeral and thinking, maybe this will help him realize he needs to get his act together. He had just been released a week before we put her into hospice care so he was able to visit her, although she was not conscious. My son and my mom were so close; he was the first grandchild and she adored him. As he grew older and began to misbehave, mom would get mad at him and beg him to stop. She didn’t understand bipolar and it was hard for her to imagine her grandchild having a mental illness. As her illness progressed and she lost her ability to speak and comprehend, so did my son’s illness. She wasn’t really aware the last year when he committed his last felonies and I know that was for the best.
So now instead of graduating, my son is awaiting trial. I find that walking my dog through our neighborhood allows me to witness these milestones – passing my friend’s daughter as they take prom pictures, walking through the line of cars indicating a graduation party. I know every kid in my neighborhood who is graduating this year. My son played with them. So I walk my dog and mourn the loss of life and loss of youth, two things my mom and my son cannot get back. When I enter my home and greet my daughters I am reminded of second chances.
April 20, 2010
I haven’t heard from my son in over a month. When we went camping over Easter I looked at my husband and said, “You know what’s weird? I don’t miss him.” He responded in kind, and we both commented on how strange it felt to say that. In the weeks following the camping trip I contacted my son’s probation officer here in Montgomery County to see if the situation had changed. It hadn’t. I called the Lubbock County Jail to make sure they knew my son does in fact have a family and we could be contacted if there was an emergency. They assured me they knew. I went online and found his information on the active jail roster and read that his visiting hours are thirty minutes on Wednesday and thirty minutes on Saturday. That’s a little difficult considering Lubbock is a nine and a half hour drive from our house. So, I don’t miss him, I can’t contact him, and I won’t visit him. That’s a startling set of circumstances for a mom to face.
Of course I need to clarify the ‘don’t miss him’ part. As I pass our bookshelf and see the books he used to sit on my lap and read, I miss him. As I pass the photos in the hallway and see him posing with his hockey stick or his baseball glove, I miss him. When my seven year old comes home with a drawing of the family and bubba is missing, I miss him. What I don’t miss is the chaos, the anguish, the not-knowing, and the fear. It’s a guilty pleasure, I guess, to spend a weekend watching my kids play, chatting with a friend about nothing, and getting backpacks ready for Monday morning. Normal is amazing. And sometimes I hate it that I love it.
I have a letter prepared asking my son if he wants to contact us, and if he needs any money. I will enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope. I’ve never tossed a message in a bottle into the ocean before, but I imagine this is how it feels.
March 24, 2010
I’ve been debating about how to write this for several weeks. For me, it is a question of how sad do I want to sound? Lucky for me when I have a bad day, there is usually a Cornerstone meeting coming up or a loved one to lean on. So I’ve decided to blog today not because I’m feeling strong or convicted, I am writing because it helps me. I’m not sure how or why it helps, but it does.
My son ran away from the Lubbock residential dual diagnosis treatment center last week. But let me start from the beginning (of this particular tale anyway). My son arrived at the treatment center about six weeks ago. Within a week he was already having difficulty with other kids and not taking his meds regularly. I tried to remedy the medication situation, but he had not signed a release that would allow the staff to talk with me, so I had to rely on his probation officer here in Montgomery County. Because he was not behaving, he was mandated to the Lubbock county jail for two weeks for ‘jail therapy.’ In the meantime, the probation officer, the director of the treatment center, and I all worked together and got his medication corrected. He and I spoke several times, almost daily, while he was in jail and when he learned he would be going back to the treatment center he was very happy and excited. When he called to say he was back in treatment, I thought all was well.
You know, there are no good phone calls at 2:00AM. When I heard the phone ring my heart froze and I waited because I knew my husband would pick it up. When he came back to bed he said our son had jumped the fence and ran away supposedly headed for Florida. From Lubbock. With no money. In his prison garb. I lay there for a couple of hours, then I must have fallen asleep because the next phone call at 5:00AM woke me up. He was in custody.
My husband spoke to the director the next day and she stated they would not take him back into treatment and he would be going back to Montgomery County after he faced charges for absconding. That was two weeks ago and he is still in the Lubbock County Jail. Different day, same story: as long as my son refuses to believe he is bipolar and must take medicine EVERY day, running away will be his treatment of choice.
February 23, 2010
Last week my husband took me out for Valentine’s day. When we were seated, I looked across the room and saw our friend’s son who looked about seventeen years old. My husband reminded me that our son had attended birthday parties with this young man when they were both about seven. I lasted another twenty minutes before I had to go home.
This has been happening a lot in the past few months. I see a young boy or a teenage boy and I fall to pieces. God forbid I see one of my son’s peers, especially the ones who are sober, still in school, or free. It’s as if the world keeps turning, young men keep growing up, parents keep parenting, and I am out of the loop. With one sweep of the state’s pen, my son is an adult and I am out of a job.
The day my son grew up was a good day. The county had finally decided to adjudicate my son and send him to the treatment center in Lubbock. All of us, my sister-in-law, the judge, prosecutor, and my son’s lawyer, were on the same page so things went quickly. In the end, my son pleaded guilty and was sentenced to the Lubbock County Residential Treatment Center, dual diagnosis unit. He will have six months to two years to successfully complete the program, finish his education, and learn a trade. When he is finished he will have the opportunity to seal his juvenile record. This is a very good thing. In fact, it is the best opportunity my son has ever received. I explained to him that I was no longer in the loop and that he must ask for help if he needed it. Then I wished him good luck and told him I knew he could do it.
From his letters it appears life in Lubbock is pretty good. I had to go to Google just to find out when residents are typically allowed to make their first phone call, but that’s okay. I don’t mind letting him take control of his recovery; in fact, this is what I’ve been practicing the last two years. His former juvenile probation officer’s boss called yesterday to ask how I was doing and both of us commented on how strange it was that the ‘cord was cut’ so suddenly. I guess I didn’t realize the real truth in that expression. I didn’t get to talk to my son about growing up, learning life skills, or how much I would miss him. In an instant, after one bad decision on top of many, it was done. He left the court room through one door to face his future and I left through another to face life without him. I know we’ll both be okay.
January 30, 2010
My son has not stopped his shenanigans in detention. The good news is he is taking his meds, the bad news is he is thinking that the adult jail across the parking lot is really the place he should be. As a seventeen year old in juvenile detention awaiting pending adult felony charges this is a real possibility and he knows it. The juvenile detention guards growing more irritated with his behavior every day know it too.
Here’s the situation (sounds like the beginning of a 1980s Will Smith song). My son committed a felony when he stole his aunt’s car in August and drove to California and back. He also broke his probation. The judge in his assigned court allowed him to be placed in boot camp but we were aware that he would be returned to Montgomery County and face those felony charges whenever the DA was prepared to file them. When my son returned last month due to the medical issues, he was kept here in detention because the charges were being filed. The judge, my son’s lawyer, even his aunt were working together to get my son a good deal with the DA so he could be sent to a placement in Lubbock that would help him get his GED and learn a trade. The problem? The wheels of justice turn slowly.
Too slowly for my son anyway. In an earlier blog I mentioned that my son is impatient and he doesn’t trust anyone to tell him the best way to do something. He feels he must learn it on his own. Since this new placement has not come to pass yet, he is taking matters into his own hands. He has decided the grass is greener in Big Boy jail and he wants to go there. He has decided the grown ups are not helping and he wants to plead guilty and do his time. In court on Wednesday I listened as the judge described what happens to big boys when they meet big men in jail. I could feel my face getting hot and I wondered if I would throw up, but my son did not seem fazed. He wants what he wants and he wants it now.
In court judge played a video of the Rolling Stones singing You Can’t Always Get What You Want. It was very apropos – we’ve been singing this to our kids since they were little. I hope my son remembers.
January 20, 2010
I had high hopes that my son finally had the meds he needed, that he understood things move slowly in the legal system, and that even when people weren’t doing things the way he wanted they were still working hard for him. Okay, maybe I just thought I had high hopes. I guess what I really knew deep down was that he wouldn’t handle living in limbo. I guess I even knew that if the waiting time got too long he would eventually sabotage his own progress.
The Monday after we visited my son on Saturday he set the sprinklers off in his cell and then ‘jokingly’ said he was trying to hang himself. Needless to say my son did not get his phone call that day. I spoke with his probation officer yesterday and he said my son was refusing his meds. His guess (and mine) was that my son was trying to get a ticket to the local mental hospital. I guess he wanted a change of scenery. I’m tired of guessing.
My thoughts about this? Powerless. Powerless. Powerless.
January 16, 2010
The time between my blogs is getting longer and longer because right now my son is in limbo. He is still in the Montgomery County Juvenile Detention Center while he waits for his adult felony charges to be processed by the District Attorney. There are some good things in the works – the judge told him there is another placement on the horizon and if the stars are right and the planets align there is a possibility he could come home for a daytime furlough. But right now he must wait.
My son has never been a patient child. When he was five he wanted to be twelve, when he was twelve he wanted to be twenty-one. I often called him my ‘experience’ kid because he was not patient or trusting enough to learn by vicarious means; he insisted on an actual experiment. What might happen if you light a pinata in your bedroom? Light rocket engines in the cul de sac? Throw MRE ignition pouches into the pond? Or one of my favorites, eat an ornamental pepper just because the big kids dared you to (there was not enough milk in my house to cool him off). The amazing thing is, he did learn. He rarely did the same stunt twice. If anything, he formed lasting relationships with teachers, vice-principals, principals, and judges (he still doesn’t like the police). He discovered detention was just a room; alternative school had a system that could be mastered; the school rent-a-cop could write tickets but the judge would just give you community service that you could work off in a weekend; and the most beautiful thing of all, after two weeks locked up in juvenile detention they have to send you home. Unlike most kids I know, my son experienced the entire circle from school referral to lock down and learned it wasn’t so bad.
The experience he is having now, the waiting and wondering what will happen, is not lost on my son. I can see his face when we are in our bi-monthly court sessions and I know he is getting discouraged. My guess is he is learning this particular circle does not necessarily lead to a clean slate back home. This is new ground for him and I am sad watching from the sidelines; but there is nothing else I can teach him.
December 24, 2009
First things first, my son is seizure free, out of the hospital, his test results came back normal, and he got back to Montgomery County detention sometime late last night. I will be able to visit him in detention this Saturday. This is very good news! Might seem like strange good news to anyone who will get to spend Christmas with their child in the same room with them, but to me it is very good news.
Christmas continues to run hot and cold for me. I am enjoying the time with my girls, going to movies with them, watching them interact with their friends at Christmas parties; but then I will see some crazy hallmark commercial or a commercial for crescent rolls and I get sad again. There is the happy family nestled around a dinner table and the relative from far away gets a whiff of the freaking crescent rolls and ‘poof’ the family is together! Bah humbug!
My cure for my occasional bouts of scrooge-itis has been to focus on the girls, get out of the house, or bake something. My family knows baking is a once a year thing for me so it’s a pretty big deal to have the smell of baking cookies in my kitchen. Of course my cookies don’t make family members magically appear, but they’re pretty darn good cookies.
Today is Christmas eve and my plan is to get out of the house and go to my mom’s grave, cook some enchiladas with my husband (new family tradition this year), then the family will go to a children’s church service. Tomorrow is my birthday and I am baking myself the most amazing chocolate cake. And this isn’t one of those box cakes – this is an honest-to-goodness great grandmother recipe-get out the double boiler (whatever that is) chocolate cake. So the Christmas coping-skills trifecta will be in full swing. I can already feel the magic!
December 22, 2009
This is a short blog. Last week my son changed his medication. Saturday morning he had a seizure. He was transported to the hospital and released with orders to change the medication back to the way it was. The next day, he had another seizure. He was transported again and released after blood work and a CAT scan showed everything to be normal. Monday morning he had another seizure and he was hospitalized again. This time they kept him over night. Which brings us to today. He is scheduled to have an EEG in a bit and as soon as the hospital gives the OK he will be transported back to lockup in Montgomery County. The good news – I have gotten to speak with him and he sounds good, he assures me he does not want me to come, and so far the test results look good. The bad news? Well let’s just stick with the good news for now.
December 12, 2009
My son has been very good about writing letters. My first impulse this morning was to copy one and post it. I changed my mind because I thought, how would I like someone publishing my work without my knowledge? So I’ll wait until I have his permission. I am proud of him though. He is finally off of step 1 in his 12 step program, he is thinking about college instead of the military, he’s taking his meds diligently, and he has written an apology letter to his aunt. I don’t know if he could have taken these steps if he had not been locked up.
Even with his progress I am finding this to be a tough time of year for me. It never has been in the past; it has always been busy, joyous, and full of family. Last week I was in a really blue place and I couldn’t pinpoint the cause. My husband was home from a trip, my daughters were healthy and enjoying life, my work was going well; there was no reason I could see for me to be unhappy. At the very least I expected to know the ins and outs of coping with stuff and pull myself up by my bootstraps. When this effort failed miserably my husband reminded me I’ve never had to spend Christmas without my mom. And I’ve never had to spend it without my son.
Death and jail feel similar sometimes. The difference is I don’t get letters from my mom. I can’t see her through glass on visiting day. Sometimes I think my mind gets confused by my mom’s and my son’s absence and I grieve them both like they have died. My faith says my mom is healed and happy and she is not able to communicate that to me. My mailbox says my son is healing and happy and he is more than willing to share that with me. In the time between letters, visits, and phone calls I have to rely on faith. Faith that he is living. His words help shore up that faith and honestly, I don’t think it would matter what kind of emotional ‘place’ he is in. I just need to see and hear his words and know that he’s still here.