It’s that time of year

Yes, it’s the Christmas season, but in my little world it is also the season I celebrate the birth of my daughter, my oldest child.  I was overjoyed to be pregnant with her.  I think I started showing the day after I found out I was pregnant.  I craved Sweet Tarts and cucumber slices in vinegar.  I have had two easy pregnancies.  I was lucky in that I had no morning sickness and really felt pretty good up until the end.  The day before my daughter was born my father and I embarked on our yearly tradition of Christmas shopping for my mom.  The memories of shopping with him every year are some that I will always treasure.  He pretended he hated to shop but he knew exactly what he wanted to get and didn’t spare the cost.   It was always entertaining to watch him describe mom’s body size to narrow down what size she might wear.  Mercy.  Those poor salesladies.

But I digress.  So dad and I went shopping and we walked all day.  I was exhausted – I had no ankles – and I was 5 days past my due date.  The next morning I awoke with my back hurting and knew today was the day.  I remember everything about that day as if it was yesterday.  I remember the looks on each of my parent’s faces as  they pretended to be brave and come back to see me while I was laboring.  Uh, they weren’t so brave.  The doctor finally told me that a C-section was necessary.  After being in labor all day, I was good with anything.  I stayed awake throughout the procedure and watched through the reflection of the overhead light the whole thing.  When he pulled that big ‘ole healthy baby girl out and she was handed to me, I was a goner.  28 years ago … in about 3 hours … she entered this world.

Birthdays have always made me rather reflective and introspective, especially as it relates to my kids.  Each year I try hard to breathe, to be happy she is alive, to have some type of relationship with her, to know God has plans for her and to hold on to that anchor of hope.  I miss her.  Parents of individuals who are drug addicts or are incarcerated know that pain of having someone who you love so deeply still on this Earth, maybe even close enough to touch, but there are obstacles preventing you from touching them.  From holding them tightly and just inhaling their very essence.  The memories I carry of rocking my infant daughter and of watching her grow fill me with such sweet thoughts, yet at the same time I feel my anxiety increase and my insides stifle a scream.  On days such as today I can’t allow Satan to ruin the cherished memories I have.  I have to remind myself that there is always hope for her future.  We parents grieve for the lives our loved ones have missed out on, and sometimes  fight anger because of the choices our loved ones have made.

My job today is to celebrate her when she calls.  Allow the children to celebrate her birthday, but tentatively … this is a hard  season for them.  Remember God has a plan for her life.  Remember she will always be my sweetest girl and the one who made me a mom.  All of our years have not been tough, but too many have.  I pray for my child.  I pray she seeks God as her refuge, her shield, and her strength.  I pray my heart, although it continues to gap at the still raw wounds sometimes, will heal a little bit more today, because I know we still have her.  In some fashion.  But I do miss her laughter and her sweet smile.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  Psalm 147:3

Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.  Psalm 27:14

My daughter has brought me many days of joy.  I anticipate that God has in store for us many more days of joy to share.  Happy Birthday Luce… I love you.  Always have.  Always will.

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Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!  Hands-down this is my favorite holiday.  Growing up we spent every Thanksgiving with my maternal grandparent’s.  There are five siblings in my mom’s family which resulted in lots of kids and lots of noise!  Thankfully our grandparents lived on a farm and we had acres upon acres to play on and explore.  Sometimes I wish for that experience for our grands … what I wouldn’t give to see  them roaming those fields and hills and even what may be left of the old cemetery … but time passes and I know their memories of exploration will be on our small few acres.  That thought does bring a smile to my face and heart though because this small corner of land that God allowed us to have is where my paternal grandparents lived and as a child, we explored what they would allow … and ate so many apples each year out of their orchard that we were sick.  Or at least I was.  But dang they were good.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for those childhood memories and it causes me to cherish each holiday celebration that we get to share with these grands, as well as our loud, crazy, extended family.

But holidays are tough.  Especially for those who have loved ones that are not able to sit around the table with them.  For families with incarcerated loved ones it can be extremely difficult.  You vacillate between wondering what they are eating, are they feeling alone, should I be happy and laugh when they are incarcerated?  How do I eat a Thanksgiving bounty knowing my children (or other loved one) does not have the ability to enjoy as much as you can.  A person I love with my whole heart asked how I survived the first holidays without my children.  Honestly, I don’t remember exact details of that first holiday.  Sadly, I do not remember the last holiday or birthday I spent with either of my children, but I choose not to dwell on that.  I told this person that I was thankful my children were alive and I knew where  they were.  I said that I thanked God for allowing them to continue to have life, for that means there is hope.  I said that I prayed a zillion times, God I can’t handle this, please help me or take it.  Now not having my children around me at holidays or special occasions is the norm for me.  Some would find that devastating.  I have chosen to not allow it to be devastating.

I have chosen to find joy – seek laughter – relish the craziness of our family when we are gathered together.  I will choose to break bread with the people I love the most, eat too much of said “bread”, and give thanks for all of the blessings I have in my life.  I will do so WITHOUT guilt.  That does not mean I won’t miss the faces of two of the people who dwell on this earth that I love more than life itself.  My heart always carries them heavily.  But I know I didn’t cause their decisions, I didn’t make their decisions, I can’t take their place in paying the consequences for their decisions.  Therefore, I cannot allow any of that to cause me to not absorb every special occasion that presents itself in my life.

So today – and everyday – I am thankful for:  God’s grace, love and mercy; Joseph; all of our children and grandchildren; our families; our  home; and, maybe especially that God says hope never fails.  I am thankful I can still hope that prayers will be answered.  Hearts will be changed.  Relationships will be restored.  Old wounds will be made whole.  Bodies will heal.  God will always be the Author and Perfecter of our stories, He is the Great Physician, He can restore all that is broken.

I hope everyone has a blessed Thanksgiving.  I pray Thanksgiving, true Thanksgiving, overrides everything else in our lives on the other 364 days of the year as well.

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Neglect = You Don’t Exist

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Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

I have two younger sisters.  As the oldest of the girls in our family, it has oftentimes been difficult for me to view my two sisters as grown women who may actually have some wisdom to impart.  Over the past several years, God has definitely been orchestrating changes in our relationships.  I now find myself seeking their advice when it comes to raising our grands.  Each of my sisters have biological children as well as children that were adopted.  Each of my sisters has walked the road of parenting children from “hard places” for much longer than I have.  We don’t often get together, as one sister lives six hours away now, and although my other sister lives only 30 minutes away, living a busy, no-holds barred kinda life with these little ones makes it seem like the distance is much greater sometimes, and I wrestle with guilt over that, for she has adopted my middle grandson.

Our middle sister has been certified to train others in TBRI (Trauma-Based Relational Intervention) which was developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross through Texas Christian University.  She had told me about the book The Connected Child a few years ago and I purchased that book and have read it twice.  Now, however, we are beginning lessons based on the curriculum Dr. Purvis and her team created that helps caregivers learn not only the basics of brain development, but the effects of neglect, abuse, and trauma that so many children have suffered and ways to mitigate those effects and actually change the way their brains work.  It has been informative, eye-opening and heartbreaking to work through all of the information.

My sister left with me videos to view featuring Dr. Purvis, as well as others, that goes in-depth about the issues of brain development, as well as ways in which to connect with these children from hard places in order to help them change the way their brain processes everyday life.  I will be honest and say that thus far I have only completed the first two videos.  The information can be overwhelming.

One statement that Dr. Purvis said resonated with me, however.  Her statement was:  “Child abuse means I don’t like you.  Neglect means you do not exist.”  She also talked about the fact that children who suffer neglect oftentimes have more damage to their brain and their ability to process change, or challenges, or just life than children who were physically abused.  What?!  I would have never thought that until those words begin echoing in my heart … Neglect means you do not exist.

That sentence haunts me.  Honestly, it was still swirling in my head when I traveled to see my daughter at the federal prison she is currently housed in.  I could remember being confronted with the neglect our Bear suffered as an infant.  We had temporary custody of her beginning when she was about 1 1/2 years old.  She lived with us until she was 3.  At that time, my daughter was drinking heavily and the Bear’s father was … well, living his hustle.  Later, when she was 5 1/2 years old she was found to have been subjected to neglect by her parents, this time with Dozer by her side, he was 2 1/2.

Although Dozer does not always exhibit behaviors that are indicative of neglect and/or abuse at that early age, there are some signs that his brain and body remember, although his heart may not.  Does that make sense?  He’s definitely a “freeze” kind of little man.  He does not look for confrontation.  He knows how to disappear when the heat is on, or as he puts it … drama, drama.  He has little tolerance for who he refers too quietly as “the drama queen” when she’s in full  meltdown mode.  Sometimes I am afraid he will get lost in the shuffle.   Sometimes I worry that we won’t catch the signs with him or we will lose sight of his unique needs in order to help him fully recover from the neglect/abuse.

Neglect means you do not exist.  Absorb that statement.  Although drug addiction doesn’t change the love a parent has for their child, it can certainly consume them so that their eyes are only focused on the next high.  Children suffer daily because they are not in the care of an adult who can meet their physical and emotional needs, because they can only focus on the need their body has for the next high.  The opioid crisis has certainly brought drug addiction out of the shadows in a lot of ways, but one thing our society should focus on is how to heal the minds and souls and hearts of the children who are the silent sufferers.  They carry a great weight on their shoulders.  Education for caregivers for these children should be as available as NA/AA meetings.

Our Bear still struggles with not being Dozer’s parent, or caregiver.  She struggles in “letting go” so that he can do things independently (the first day of school was difficult for her).   She still lives in survival mode entirely too often in my personal opinion, but I’m learning how to walk through the process to help her brain learn new techniques and coping skills.  Dozer still won’t sleep with the light off.  It’s not easy.  It’s frustrating.  Some days maddening.  Some days I question everything.  But every day I know we are doing the right thing by her and Dozer.  Every day, even amongst some “I hate you!’s” she’s been throwing out there lately, we get to hear, “I love you”.  They are learning to trust we aren’t going anywhere and neither are they.

They still miss their mom.  As do I.  But sometimes it’s hard for me to want to foster our relationship because I can’t process the neglect these children suffered, at her hands, or lack thereof, so to speak.  I love her.  More than life.  It’s not mine to forgive, so I have to let go of it.  But sometimes I still am angry at her.  The visit we had was positive and it was a step toward healing for both of our hearts.  I loved seeing her and I chose to set aside any anger I felt but I wish I could say that it’s entirely gone.  ‘Cause it’s not.  It simmers sometimes.  Especially on hard days.

I will end by saying the last several days have not been bad days.  Yes, there have been some bumps in the road.  The first days that I was back from my trip, the Bear was livid with me but wouldn’t say it out loud (the reason why), but she certainly let me know she was angry.  But things have simmered down again.  I am learning how to take 10 or 15 minutes each day to just check-in with her.  I hope that leads us forward together, stronger.  It’s sad that I have to remind myself to do that because you assume you spend a lot of time talking with your child, or your grand, but do you?  Or is it more about the agenda of the day, homework, supper, etc.?  I have to get better at focusing when it comes to each of these grands.  I have to slow down enough to remember at the end of the day, they won’t remember if the floor was swept, the counter cleaned off, or if I typed an extra document for a few extra dollars.  What they may, instead, remember is that I took the time to stop and talk to them.

Isaiah 49:15-16: Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me. 

God not only forgives us as far as the east is from the west, but He will NEVER forget us nor not know us.  Our names are written on the  palm of his hands.  My job is to remember that I am not the judge and jury for wrongs I believe have occurred, but it’s my job to make sure not only our grands but also my kids know their names are written on the Hand of God, therefore we are NEVER neglected and non-existent.  We were purposely and wonderfully created.

 

 

I Saw Her.

I finally gathered my thoughts, packed a small bag and went on a solo journey to see my daughter.  I had not seen her in about a year, it was a visit long overdue, yet dreaded.

My journey there wasn’t an easy one.  Jokingly I have said she needs to be at a facility a bit more interstate friendly.  There were no long stretches of interstate that would allow me to travel with my cruise control on, but on this journey I was afforded the opportunity to see landscape that I’ve never seen before and small towns I never  knew existed.  I began my journey in the evening so that I would not have too much traffic to maneuver around.  I also used this journey as an opportunity to make a detour in order to see my best friend, who lives a small distance from me, and although I was headed in the correct general direction, I still went about 1 1/2 hours out of my way to see her face.  But I’m glad I did.  We talked, we laughed, she and her husband fed me, and she spent the time being my personal cheerleader.  She knows the love I have for Paige, knows how much I needed to see Paige, but also is well aware of the fact that I dreaded it in a major way.  I needed my cheerleader.

The trip down was made after dark, and in some rain.  Along the dark backroads through the rural south I couldn’t help but think about the bus trip my daughter made, shackled, on a bus, metal seats, not knowing where she was heading, scared, alone.  It made me sad.  I can remember those days last year when I knew she was on the move but had no way of knowing to where.  I could only wait for a phone call.  I spent that drive not only listening to music as loud as I wanted 🙂 but also praying that God allowed both of our hearts to be open to the other one.  When you have a child who is incarcerated and conversations are reduced to the written word or brief phone calls, it is difficult to ascertain a person’s inflection or nuances when you can not look them in the eye.  I knew this visit could go one of two ways … and I prayed for both of us that it was good.  I was nervous.  Not gonna lie.  It wasn’t the fact I was walking into a federal prison, it was the fact that when I see my child’s face, who will be looking back through her eyes?  The child who desperately needs to see her mom or the woman who thinks I am attempting to take total control.  As a mom, you take the risk, because to be able to touch her and see her face for a moment is worth any wrath or venom that may arise out of the visit.

I arrived at the prison pretty much according to my schedule.  As I made it through security, my heart began to beat a bit quicker and I could feel the anxiety kick it.  It wasn’t that I was anxious or worried, it was more that I was excited.  I was truly going to get to see her.  The room was not as big as I had pictured and the staff were all kind.  I did however have to be told that per protocol I could not sit facing the center of the room, I had to sit with my back to the exit.  Hmm, that’s not who I am.  If nothing else over the years, I’ve learned to sit where I can see the people around me.  Of course, I had to comply, but the correctional officers understood and agreed with my thought process.  Then I heard the lock click – then I looked toward the door – then I saw her smiling face!

Oh mercy, the joy that my heart felt in that very second I saw her face and noticed that not only was she smiling, but her eyes were smiling  at me!  Rolling in through the backroads, in the dark, in the rain, only a few hours prior to this reunion all washed away from my mind.  It was worth every second.  I had asked one of the correctional officers earlier if I could hug her and he said of course.  I then asked if I could rock her, and he wasn’t sure he understood my question.  I repeated it, and he laughed out loud and said he was sorry but I could not.  I tried.  But I got to touch her.  Hold her.  Kiss her face.  Look into her beautiful big brown eyes and see healthy looking back.  Granted, a reunion in the visiting room of a federal prison isn’t idyllic, but in that moment it was pretty perfect.

We talked.  A lot.  Even my mom said, “what did you talk about for that long?!”.  We talked about nothing and everything.  I wanted to know about her routine, her friends, what she does every day.  I told her about the kids, her grandparents, her cousins, her siblings, and every other thing I could think of.  It was several hours into our reunion that we talked about the pink elephant in the room.  We’ve talked about moving forward with the children, although we have permanent custody.  We want to give them, especially the Bear, more permanency and our last name.  When this was first mentioned to her it became a vile, venomous exchange.  How could it not?  This time, though, we could look at each other’s faces.  We could maybe begin to understand one another’s hearts.  She heard things that were painful.  However, she has yet to really hear it all.  As I told her, I still work to protect her and her feelings.  I have no explanation why, other than I am still her mother.  I will be until the day I die.  Although she needs to hear hard truths, it can be done in increments.  We have to learn to trust one another.  I think we can, one day, but it’s going to be a long road for us.

The time truly went quickly.  We were even able to have some pictures made and we are both excited to see them.  I got to meet one of her good friends, who took our photos, and we had a lot of laughs with her.

The trip home was long.  I purposely planned so that I would have a place to go and collect my thoughts, update loved ones, and prepare for the journey home.  I fell apart a few times on the drive back, particularly when certain songs came on.  My thoughts were consumed with memories of her as a baby, toddler, child … all through her life really, while realizing that she now sits in a prison.  It’s heartbreaking.  But I felt good about things.  I realized that God does keep us bound together.  I don’t often  know what to pray anymore and I am so thankful that my words don’t matter as much as what my soul tells God.

Because although the visit was soul healing and much needed, I know that there are many struggles ahead for us.  I will not back down on our moving forward with the children, I pray that God prepares her heart and that she allow it, and that God prepare our hearts for the bumps we will inevitably encounter on this journey.  I know we are headed where we are supposed to go.  I pray that at the end of the day, all of the fragments in our family are still glued together.

The first few days after my trip the Bear has expressed a lot of anger.  She has told me she’s mad at me because I went.  I know that she still has so much healing to do and that we must keep telling her nothing has changed, and that she is safe and will remain here with us safe.  Her healing is a process I am only beginning to comprehend.  She is one of the toughest, bravest humans I’ve ever known.  But there is a lot of work to do to help her work through what she was subjected to.  So, although my joy is tremendous for seeing my daughter, somewhere down deep, I still want to lash out for the pain that her and their father’s actions have caused.  I have to continually remind myself to simply love both our Bear and Paige.  God will work out the hearts.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4:8

 

 

 

Red was never his color …

In our local jail, as I’m sure is the case in many jails, inmates are dressed in certain colors.  For our jail, orange is the main color and red is the color one wears who can’t play by the rules behind the wall.

I decided last week to attend my son’s court session.  Not coincidentally (cause that doesn’t happen), I had not scheduled myself to type on that particular afternoon, and the court date was several days earlier than I expected.  Therefore, I knew all signs pointed for me to go, plus I wanted to hear what had actually transpired.

As I pulled up to  the courthouse I could feel my blood pressure increase and my pulse begin to be a little quicker than normal.  I purposely timed my arrival so that court would already be in session, because I did not want any opportunity to present itself whereby I would have to communicate with the victim of my son’s domestic violence outburst.  She is not stable.  As I sat in my car in the parking lot, I said a quick prayer, grabbed my phone and took a deep breath.

Here we go … stepping into that building has always been like “coming home”.  Kinda weird, I know, but I had been walking those halls (at least in the old part of the building) since  I  was 15 years old.  I worked there for 27 years, so it doesn’t cause me anxiety as I know it does some people.  I saw several people I knew and when they asked why I was there, I was honest enough to tell them.  They know me, they know the issues  my kids have had.

I walked quietly into  the courtroom and sure enough the judge was on the bench and the proceedings had begun.  I spotted the person I was attempting to avoid and purposely sat on the opposite side of the room, at the end of a row next to law enforcement officers and waited.  I then looked at the back of the heads of each male inmate lined up in the jury box and found my child and noticed he had on red.  Not a good indication.  Certainly not what I wanted to see.

I waited for my son to see me.  As I sat there, I was able to text with a dear friend of mine that was sitting in the front of the courtroom.  She had already told me that my son and his victim had been speaking prior to court beginning (which violates his bond conditions) and that he could get in trouble if it doesn’t stop.  It seemed like I sat in that room for about 30 minutes before my son realized I was there.  He happened to turn to the opposite side of where he had previously been looking and saw me.  The minute his eyes made contact with me I simply mouthed I love you.  He put his head down, shook his head no, and tears began to fall.  Of course as you can imagine, that is not what his intention  was.  You can’t do that stuff when you’re on the chain with other guys.  He looked back a few more times and I simply smiled.  My whole purpose of being there was  so that he knows he matters to me and so that I could hear what the allegations against him  were.

I will say as a mother of two adult drug addicts it is never an easy thing to hear conversations about your child from a judge, a prosecutor or a defense attorney.  To sit and listen to allegations and past criminal histories and even to have to sit and listen to people discuss your child’s mental health is disconcerting at best, and always heartbreaking and sometimes just plain old mind-numbing.  For me, I’ve learned to shut down.  Almost like I’ve learned to turn the knob to the off position until I am alone, most especially if  I am in a court of law.  I not only sat to hear the officer’s testimony of what had transpired on two separate dates, but I also then listened to his victim’s testimony.  I will say only this about her testimony – I believed most of it – she recanted everything she had previously said – I believe she is mentally unbalanced – she incriminated herself on a few charges – and she helped him get his bond significantly increased and drew the judge’s anger to boot.  So needless to say, it didn’t go well for my son.

When the hearing concluded, my son’s bond was significantly increased, a new court date was set, and then my son decided he needed to buck up a bit.  Now isn’t that something.  My husband’s statement to me was, “he had to go back hard”, which makes some kind of sense I suppose.  In all of my years in the courtroom, I’ve seen my share of people who decided to “show out” in many different ways in front of everyone.  As a mom, one who used to bring her children to the courtroom and courthouse with her to work, I was mortified, angry and saddened.  It took a few officers to place him not-so-gently into a chair that he was refusing to sit in.  At that point I chose to leave.

I think what bothered me the most was the conversation that took place outside the courtroom between myself and the two police officers who arrested him.  As I came out into the hallway, I approached them, told them my son had not been raised to live the life he had chosen, and that he needed a good old-fashioned a**-whupping (sorry) for his behavior in court, but that the victim had some issues.  Before I could finish what I was going to say, which was  to thank them for their time and apologize for him (not sure why), the young female officer squared her jaw and her shoulders and informed me that my son has plenty of issues that should be taken care of and …

Hmm … yep, I’m a momma bear sometimes even still.  That absolutely flew all over me.  At about the same time a person I’ve worked  with a very long time came up and I asked him to verify the statement I was about to give  to the officer.  I then turned to her and told her that one of the reasons my son was living in a pay-by-week motel was because I was the mom  who refused to assist him with his lifestyle or his slow suicide via drug use.  I also advised her that I was a parent who never made excuses for their children’s decisions, never bonded them out of jail, and never allowed them to bring stupid or chaos into my home.  I did also have to let her know that I had graduated from that business and there wasn’t much I hadn’t seen or heard in all of those years.  My acquaintance verified my statements and the officer went to apologize, but I didn’t need anyone too.  I was angry at that point but swallowed, told them I’d probably said too much, thanked them for their service and left the building.

I say all of that for a particular reason.  People need to not look at  the parents or loved ones of drug addicts or incarcerated  individuals and condemn us for their choices.  In the business I was in, I spent a lot of time speaking with loved ones, family members, parents, or children of the person who was incarcerated and one thing that I saw was an attitude by entirely too many people in the criminal justice system to paint the loved one with the same broad stroke they’ve painted the offender.  I worked extremely hard to show respect to an inmate’s parent, partner, child, aunt, uncle, what have you … because they were going through things as well and they should never be treated as less than me.  But for the grace of God … there go I?  Right?

I don’t know what my son has done to earn his red marks in jail right now.  I do know that my love for him has never wavered.  I have already sent him mail so he knows that he does matter.  I will not pay for his phone, I will not buy him snacks, but I will communicate with him and see his face when I can so he knows that I love him unconditionally, even if I have no respect for his decisions.  He is where he is today because of the life he chose.  Just as my daughter is where she is today because of the life she chose.  I didn’t choose that life for my children.  What parent would really?

Honestly I’m not real sure why this still bothers me.  I thought about posting something about my amazing parents and the celebration we had last night honoring their 56th wedding anniversary, but this still weighs on me.

I can only speak from the point of view of a mother who loves deeply two adults that have made horrendous life choices.  I didn’t raise them and teach them to live as they have or as they did.  I never prayed for this for them.  I do not need to be judged by someone who does not understand the journey I’ve walked for these two people and the pain and disappointments, and yes, sometimes, embarrassment I’ve felt.  They were raised to be honorable, respectful and caring.  They were loved fiercely – and still are.

And here’s the thing … God still has a plan for them.  For every single person behind a wall today, God has a specific intention.  He also has that plan for those people’s loved ones.  We suffer too.  Our lives can be upended just as dramatically as that of a person who is incarcerated.  Little people’s lives are forever  changed – so I implore anyone who reads this to remember … there is a story behind every man or woman that walks into a courtroom to stand before a judge … and oftentimes there is resilience and an unmatched strength in the loved ones lives’ who are left behind.  You see, the incarcerated individual knows where they are, knows  how their day is going to unfold, knows who to avoid and when to not make eye contact, so to speak.  Loved ones, well, we have our imaginations to run wild.  It’s not easy.

I left work many days thanking God for my life and realizing my issues weren’t too bad.  Now they seem to be much more magnified, but I still thank God every day for my life, and for my children’s lives, because He is the Author of our story, no cop, no judge, no prosecutor, no defense attorney can have the final say in our stories no matter who you are.  The Alpha and Omega – the Beginning and the End – the Author and Creator of our lives is God.  He is the final judge.

 

 

 

Hey

One word.  Hey.  From a strange number.  That was what I found on my cell phone when I got in the car after church one Sunday about a month ago.  I knew immediately who it was, but being a veteran of the criminal justice world I had to confirm.  Aaron?  Yes.  My “bouncing baby boy” who is a full grown man that doesn’t reach out to his mom very often.

That one simple word has been known to shake me.  I’ve received that text message before from my daughter after lengthy absences … Hey.  From a strange number.  But you know down in your soul who is on the other end.  At least I do, as a mom of two adults who struggle with addiction and the hustle that goes along with it.

I responded to that text on that Sunday because I was glad to hear from him.  His responses were weird (I suspect there was one he didn’t type) and noncommittal (looking for work) and heartbreaking (haven’t seen the baby – trying to get my life in order) but at least he had reached out to me.  My son had been incarcerated (again) for several months.  I wrote to him while he was in jail but I would not put money on his books because I don’t want to support him talking to everyone except me.  I normally hear from him when he is hungry, in jail or out of options.  He rarely likes anything I have to say and it’s not uncommon that he hangs up on me.

My adult children know that I don’t participate in the madness.  I didn’t buy a ticket to the chaotic circus and I don’t believe the promises any more.  It has taken me years to come to the place in my heart where I am not eaten alive by the what if’s and worse-case-scenario thoughts regarding my adult children.

I try to encourage them and always have, but I refuse to assist them in their decision to completely not function in society.  I’ve moved heaven and earth for each of those children to get them treatment and keep them alive until they became adults, knowing full well that once they turned 18 I could do nothing really.  Over the years they have taught me well in how to react to them and that is sad for all of us.  I have told my son that when he gets (and keeps) a job for a month, I will help him.  I have arranged to take him job hunting, but he turns me down.  I can’t eat a meal alone with him, because the current female in his world is jealous.  I will not give him money or buy him food, simply because he refuses to help himself.

Then I didn’t hear back from him.  Another several weeks went by and out of the blue about a week ago he called.  I had just finished working online and had about an hour before I had to pick up the grands and I answered the phone from an odd but vaguely familiar number and heard his voice.  Don’t get me wrong, I was so glad to hear his voice, but at the same time in the back of my head I’m wondering … what does he want?  What crisis has arisen today?  How much money is he going to beg for?  How much lunch meat does he need today (yes he has called and asked for lunch meat before)?  I felt my jaw click into place and my shoulders square, but all the while so thankful to hear his voice.  He was in pure desperation mode … and I responded quickly with questions:  have you been job hunting?  what have you been doing to change things?  And I realized that he was crying.  So, albeit angrily, I told him that I would come to where he was for a few minutes.  I really didn’t have time, knew I would be pushing it, but as frustrated as I was, I wanted to see his face.

Something that I wish drug addicts or alcoholics understand is … family does care.  We do love you.  We do want the best for you.  We  want you to decide to make the change.  We need to see you take the first steps toward change.  As the parent of two addicts, oftentimes I just need to see their face.  When I arrived  at his location, he climbed in my vehicle and said … hey.  Then cried.  We talked for quite some time.  He expressed his hopelessness, how miserable he is, how he can see no way out of the hole he’s dug for himself.  I tried to engage him to come up with  the first steps … and what to do.  I encouraged him and told him that his entire family is waiting for him to take the first steps, to truly be sick enough of his life that he’ll try something different.  I reminded him of an event that took place when he was about 17 years old at the group home he was staying in (you see, my son hasn’t lived with me since he was about 15 when he physically brought harm to me.  I ain’t playin’ … not with that, I didn’t with his father and I wouldn’t with him) when a parent came and spoke to the boys.  This mother had lost a son to drug addiction and I remember the counselors telling me how emotional Aaron was and he did tell me about it and how he never wants me to be that mother.  He assured me he’s not doing anything but smoking weed … hmmm … then I really looked at him.

He’s thin.  Entirely too thin.  His eyes are tired.  You see sorrow in there.  I explained to him that it’s not so much my fear  that he will overdose, but it’s my fear he will lose all hope.  Then I looked at his neck.  Then his  face.  And my heart broke.

As I was trying to challenge, yet encourage my son and just absorb him being close enough to touch, I realized that I was staring at a woman’s anatomy on the side of his neck.  I then noticed a teardrop … permanent … under his eye.  Having worked inside our local jail for 27 years I’ve seen my fair share of jail-house ink and legal ink and I understand the significance some carry.  Why?  I asked him why?  He had no reason, but apologized because he “forgot” I hadn’t seen it.  What?!  Hmm, okay, so how do you get a job and look presentable with all that business going on?  Of course we both knew the answer to that … he’s not going to look for a job.  I did suggest he go to all the tattoo parlors in town and offer to take out the garbage and clean, if  he could watch and learn.  If he enjoys doing tattoos (in jail oftentimes) and getting tattoos, he can learn the trade.

As I drove away from this young man who is so broken and so sad and in many ways so sick, the grief washed over.  Parents – you know what I am talking about.  I knew as I drove away that I for one didn’t know when I would hear from him again or see him; I knew that if history repeats itself he would be arrested in a day or two; and, I just miss him.  I miss the boy he was.  I miss those big blue eyes – that then turned green – and now the color depends on the color of shirt he has on.  I want to know  what it is to have a son in my life.  I want his niece and nephews to know him, but they cannot until he is sober and remains so.  I want his son to know his  father and I want his son to know us.  I cried the entire way to pick up the grands.  I was just overwhelmingly sad.  The visions of those two tattoos are forever etched in my mind.  That was my baby boy.  A happy baby boy.

Today I learned that he is back in jail.  He is facing two felonies, both assaults, both stemming from his relationship with a female that has as many demons as he does.  I told him I would take him to get an EPO against her when I saw him the other day … but truthfully he has been living as he has chosen and with whom he has chosen.

This I know:  I can rest easy tonight know where my “child” is.  I know that he has 3 meals.  I know he has a roof over his head.  I know that he  has been given another opportunity to sit down, fall before God and seek His will to change his life.  Because truthfully that’s the only way anyone’s life is going to change.  But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)  …. right?

silhouette of a man in window
Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

I again have a captive audience.  I will again send him mail telling him I love him, encouraging him to take advantage of a time-out, and reminding him  that he is a child of God and that God forgives as far as the east is from the west our transgressions.  I want to know my child.  I want to see him smile.  I want to see light in his eyes.  I want him to be in my life.

But right now, I’m thankful he is in jail.  Yep – I am.

 

 

She Has Her Hands

I realized a few weeks ago while sitting at the kitchen table, watching our Bear text her father –  that she has her mom’s hands.  They are shaped exactly the same.  I’m sure I have noticed it before but for some reason last night it struck me.  She also has her mom’s laugh.  One that comes from the belly, way down deep that I’ve noticed more lately as well.

Isn’t it funny how we work to assign traits to a family member?  Sometimes the resemblance, whether physical or in mannerisms, is so striking that it can stop you dead in your tracks.  At least for me it’s that way.  There are times when Dozer looks at me in a certain way and his eyes look just like my ex-husband’s and that most certainly stops me dead in my tracks.  Mercy.  It can be unsettling.

We have spent the summer, and a lot of the past year, offering different activities to the kids so that they have a positive outlet for some energy and can claim something as their own.  The Bear has done gymnastics, dance, karate, horse riding, soccer, cheerleading, and tumbling.  Because Dozer is younger, he’s been limited in his pursuits, but he has tried karate and horse riding as well.  We have explored these activities one at a time.  It is challenging enough to be raising two grands who are in elementary school, so we really have tried to limit their activities.  We honor our commitment until each term is up and then if the kids want to continue we do and if not, we move on.  Although it is good for them to be kids and have down time, I think it’s vitally important that they each are involved in at least one positive activity where they can learn team work, build self confidence and self esteem and let off a little steam and energy in the process.

The one activity each has stayed with is their horse riding.  They attend a therapeutic horse riding academy and it is a true God-send.  The kids are not only learning how to care for and manage horses, they are learning what hard work is and having fun while building their self-confidence and self-esteem.

Lately, however, the Bear has fallen in love with cheerleading.  Her mom was also a cheerleader for a few years.  Paige knew she’d look cute in the cheerleading uniform but had no idea how physically demanding it could be LOL.  Our Bear has taken to it with a passion only those  who truly know and love her can understand.  When she came out of her bedroom in her full cheerleading outfit, with her hair up, it took my breath away.  She looked just like her mom.  Memories came flooding back.  Those were good years.  I told the Bear that she looked 10 years old!  She smiled, sighed and said, “I know.  I always wanted to be 10”.  When we got to the high school football field and she took the field with her squad and did her performance, she could not contain the joy on her face!  As tiny as she is she got to be a flyer and she owned it.  It was one of those bittersweet moments for me as a mom and a grandmother.  I was witnessing this child discover her love for something, while remembering her mom’s love for the same sport, and yet realizing that her mom will never get to experience these moments.

I had the same thought a week or so ago.  I had printed several photos – cheerleading, first day of school, tooth pulled to send to my daughter.  As I was looking through them I realized again that all of the  milestones her children will experience up until their teen years, she will only witness through photographs and the occasional video visit.  That saddens me beyond words.  Sometimes the grief that I feel for the loss that all have suffered and continue to suffer because of drug addictions washes over me and honestly, some days it’s difficult to process and remember to breathe.

Make no mistake, I know that my daughter is paying the penalty for the choices she made.  I know all three of her children have paid a price for those decisions.  I know all three of her children, however, are learning to live happily and thrive in homes that weren’t originally created to be theirs, but by the grace of God are theirs.  After the grief washes through me, at times, I can feel the anger simmering.  I still have moments when I want to rage from the rooftops at the wrong-doers and ask them WHY?!!!  But that won’t help at all.  No one has answers for drug addiction or evil … as to why they engage in those to begin with.  No one says that they want to be a drug addict when they grow up.  Evil … well, that’s a different blog post entirely but I am completely aware that evil exists in this world, for there is often no other explanation for some horrors that occur.

Yet, as the parent of this troubled grown young woman, I never ever want to bring her harm.  I still want to protect her and her feelings.  But I can’t.  I can have bad days and be overwhelmed and still call on my small, yet fierce army of supporters.  Who does she have in that prison?  I keep praying that while she is literally a captive audience, that God will be allowed to move in her heart.  My fear is she has learned to harden her heart and immediately assumes the worst in my motives.  Truthfully, I’m sure she’s felt the same way about me.

Relationships between mothers and daughters can be complicated.  I had a conversation today with my child I never wanted to have.  I opened wounds that will likely take years to heal, and I did it in defense of these children that we have been given the responsibility for.  Yet in doing so, my child feels as if I’ve turned on her and want her removed from our life story.  I hope one day when my daughter reads these posts she will understand.  She will come to see that this mom tried her very best, made lots of mistakes, loved fiercely and always, always wanted the best in the world for her.  God tells us not all lived to see the fruition of their prayers and hopes and dreams … maybe I will be able to see my children come home, but maybe I will not.  Either way, I’m going to continue moving forward one step at a time, and I am going to lean on those around me when I don’t feel I can take the next step.

And I will always, no matter what, as long as I draw a breath, love my children more fiercely with every passing day.  But in this moment, I’m going to wipe my tears, go wash my face, and snuggle with the Bear while we have movie night and watch The Greatest Showman … because she has wanted to see that movie her whole life!  And I will pray fervently for her mom, even when I can’t form the words.

God is good always.  He loves my kids more than I do.