Saturday, February 25, 2006

Time to spill

Okay, I guess it's time I told you about the OTHER big thing going on around here.

Joe. Big, strong, responsible Joe. Joe, who was tough, angry, difficult as a young kid, then once he hit about 13, turned suddenly easy as pie, and since then has given me a grand total of about 10 minutes worry in his entire teenagehood. Joe, with the good grades, the level head, the shiny-looking career in front of him, everything going for him.

Except.

Except he's actually just a tad shy. Which is probably what led him to stay with his girlfriend since 10th grade all these years. They're not a very good fit, and despite the fact that she was with us for dinner, for TV watching, for card games several times a week for years, no one other than she and Joe could understand why they stayed together. But they did.

Until last spring, when they finally broke up.

He moved a couple hours away for a training position, she got a good job and worked steadily. They were still civil, just not a couple.

And then she got cancer. Uterine.

And he supported her through it, came to see her every now and then, let her cry on his shoulder.

And then came last Christmas, when, apparently, they had a one-night fling.

And now she's pregnant. And yes, it's his. And yes, they have no idea how it happened because they used BC. And he is shocked and scared and concerned all at once. And happy, once they decided to keep it. And still not wanting to be part of a couple with her, yet excited about being a dad. And scared shitless, too.

Kindof like how I feel for him.

His whole life, changed. Just like that. His whole life, now tied to her, just like that. This child's life -- omg, I can't even go there. I know how hard it is to be a single parent, lord, do I know. And what are the chances that this baby will be healthy, given her medical troubles?

My dreams for my kid -- you know? Everything I couldn't do, I hoped he could. Everything I felt thwarted by, I hoped he'd circumvent. I wanted him to backpack in Europe. To see the Alps. To go to school, get a good job, not have to worry about money his whole life. Find someone he loved, passionately. Someone he got along with. To live an uncomplicated life, a smooth life. And he's so good. That's the thing -- he's so damn good. So loyal, so THERE for any of us when we need him. Yet entrenched in school, in his engineering projects, his hobbies, his friends.

Now, apparently, also entrenched co-parenting, in scheduling whose weekend it is, in arguments over child support. GOD. I didn't want this for him.

You hate to see your kids suffer. You hate it. Logan's had so much to cope with. Now Joe.

And I know, I know. It'll probably bring him great joy, and I know we can't control our kids' lives, and I know he's his own man and has his own life and yada yada yada.

But still. Fuck. You know?

##

Sorry, no novel

Read about the latest Frey weirdness here. Not sure it's much of a surprise, though, really.

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Happy birthday, kiddo

So. It's Logan's 21st birthday today.

I feel like I shouild be waxing eloquent about the day he was born, and how much changes in 21 years, my hopes for him when he was tiny, how unfreakinglybelievably cute he was as a toddler, how other kids were always drawn to him at places like the beach or parks because he was always so busy, so intent on finding frogs or crabs or snakes or lizards, as the locale warranted...but really, I'm just sad. Sad because I can't be with him, sad because I don't want him to be alone on such a significant day but neither do I want him to go party, sad because the gift I bought him is actually a duplicate, it turns out, of something hs asshole father just bought him, so I didn't even get that right. Sad because I miss him.

##

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Execute that dream, as in, kill it

Well, I lived through the meeting. Lotsnlots of corporate-speak, so I'm not sure I even know what they want, or if I can provide it. Oops, I mean, "deliver" it. Or if it's an "executable" within the scope of my "strategies."

Um, ya know? I'm a simple girl; I need it in simple language. And that's what I then produce: clear, simple, direct materials. Anyway, I do get the opportunity to pitch further to them, so that's good.

In other news, Logan turns 21 this week and I dreamed awful dreams about him last night. Clear, vivid dreams where he was with me, and where he at first resisted but then slipped off to join his old, old friends. When they came back I confronted all three of them: Did you get high? Noooooo, two of them said, but he admitted Yes. PROGRESS, I thought, he's admitting it -- and RELAPSE, oh no, all at once.

It was a dream packed with strong emotion, and I have a feeling it'll sit in my subconscious all day and fester. Yick.

##

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Can you coerce the universe?

The stuff of life this week:

1) Just booked tickets to Ireland for a business conference. Never been overseas before; tres, tres excited.

2) Logan turns 21 this week. Tres, tres nervous on his behalf and can't do a damn thing about it. I doubt he'd appreciate mama calling and telling him not to drink. I will anyway.

3) Got rejuvenated about the novel I'm working on (in addition to the real-life about Logan). Can't wait to get back into it. Can't yet, though, because...

4) Biggest lunch of my life is tomorrow. Well, probably the smallest, in terms of how much I'll eat, you know, but biggest in terms of potential. Meeting with the VP of Corporate Communications for a huge corporate in our area, to see if my biz qualifies for some major outsourcing work from them. I think we are one of only two being considered right now. Talk about tres, tres exciting. I'd be freaked out, but I can't afford to be.

So maybe it's time for a little GOOD news around here. Hmm? Universe, are you listening? I think we've had QUITE ENOUGH sadness in this house. Time for a round of joy.

##

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Update

And she just died, lying on the floor beside me, waiting for the vet to return our call.

You think you won't cry. After all, it's just a dog. Right.

##

Addendum to What's a "Saturday"?


And then, and then.

You come home to find your dog — that's right, your funny little, silly little, loyal, lovable little dog of 15 years, the one you almost can't remember living without — is dying.

"Oh, SHIT," says your husband as you both arrive home at 11:15 at night, tired, so tired. You cleaned out all those old files at the office, almost three years worth, and damn, it was exhausting, but it feels so good to be done with it.

"What," you ask, noticing the pile of dog poop on the dining room rug. You worried about the dog being home alone for so long today, knew there'd be a mess to clean up when you got home.

"Well, maybe it's not, maybe it's throw-up," says your hub. "All over our nice white bedroom rug. It's from...hey, the dog doesn't look so good."

"THE DOG IS IN THE BEDROOM?" You sound incredulous, because, well, the dog knows not to go in the bedroom. Ten years in this house and she damn well knows better.

And then you see her. She's lying on the carpet near a green-black stain, the size of a dinner plate, all over your, well, yeah, all over your nice white rug. But the stain isn't what bothers you, not at that moment. It's the fact that the dog doesn't get up. She lifts her shaggy little head and wags her stump of a tail.

"This isn't her normal greeting," your hub says.

No shit. Usually she's running in circles and yelping with excitement because you, the absolute light of her life, have arrived home. And she does it more with you than with anyone else. The kids used to complain: She doesn't do that when I get home.

She tries to stand, and falls.

"Oh, shit," you say. The word of the night.

Your husband looks at you, sympathy in his eyes.

You shake your head. "It's always something," you say.

He nods, knowing the depth of what you mean, how you seem to be caught on this merry-go-round that's spinning circles from from one heartache to the next. "Yes, it's always something."

And after you've cleaned up the spread of doggie puke, along with its five other counterparts you discover when you step in them by accident on the darker colored rugs, SHIT, SHIT, SHIT, you sit beside her a little while, rubbing her soft head and knowing this will be hard, hard.

And you finally go to bed, and you wake up later in the night, hearing her soft doggie moans just outside your door, and you go to her and you smell death in the air. Same smell you remember from less than two months ago, when your kitty of 15 years died. You think of how old couples sometimes die within weeks of each other. The cat's death was slow, extracted. The dog's does not seem like it will be. She was fine this morning when you left for work. Now she's barely able to move.

You think suddenly of your Uncle Dave, who, when he died last year, climbed happily down the stairs to his rec room to take an afternoon nap. When your aunt went to check on him an hour later, she found her beloved husband gone, passed quietly to the other side in his sleep. Death does not always come with a warning.

You realize this, and you swell with a sudden onslaught of emotion. No, NO, you tell yourself firmly. Logan is fine. FINE. He just enrolled in college, remember? But it is the middle of the night and rationale is as absent as sleep. You stroke the dog's fur and tell yourself it is the DOG you are losing, not your son, the sweet little guy to whom you gave this ball of fluff back when he still liked to be read to and she was so tiny she could sit in the palm of your hand with ease. It's the DOG, it's not your son.

Yeah, but. They overdose so easily when they're in recovery. One time using, sometimes that's all it takes. How do you, all these thousands of miles away, know he won't slip up?

It's the DOG, it's not your son.

And this is how you keep yourself from crying as you sit on the floor at 2 am and stroke the soft white fur of the creature who's been so good to you all these years, so very, very good.

##

Saturday, February 11, 2006

What's a "Saturday"?

Here is your life lately. Tell me how you feel.

You run a small business. Very small. You look at your books one day and realize something has to be done. So you fire one of your employees. You only had two full-time, and a slim handful part-time. You've never fired anyone before. He's been with you for two years, day in, day out. You feel like utter crap doing it, but something has to be done, and besides, you weren't that thrilled with the job he was doing, anyway.

So now you have to do his job — and your own. But you're strong, so bring it on. Three weeks later you've put in 12-16 hour days every single day, and worked all three weekends. It's the fourth weekend now, and this morning you sleep till 9 am — MYGAWD — roll out of bed, throw your hair in a ponytail, and drive bleary-eyed to your office.

It's quiet in the building, and you sink gratefully into the absence of pressure. You slide room to room, adjusting pictures, straightening up, thinking how nice it would be if every day was this quiet. Maybe you like working weekends, after all. Maybe there's nothing better to do out there in the big, busy world. You used to rock climb. You used to bike. You used to take your kids on weekend trips, here, there, anywhere as long as you could be together.

Now one's with his dad for the weekend, one's in California in sober-living, and one's nearby, with sudden chaos in his life.

You pour some coffee, spike it heavily with Baileys, and settle in to the piles and piles of work on your desk. Payroll's Monday. Yesterday you realized, panicky, you didn't have enough to make payroll. Today — you check the mail — oh, miracle of miracles, there's a payment in for $1,900. You rearrange the bills, putting the most urgent — the ones with cancellation notices — on top. After payroll, you promise them, mumbling into the thick quiet of the room.

And how's the middle kiddo? You put down the bills, pick up your steaming coffee, and your mind wanders out West. He's enrolled in college, first time since last year when he dropped out, too doped up to make classes. Now it's English 100, Business 100, Ceramics.

You look at your cluttered office and you can't help it, you tear up a little bit, realizing it. Realizing that you made the right decision. If you had to lose one fight, the fight for your kid's return from heroin or the fight to run a successful small business, you picked the right one.

You pick the bills back up, hand shaky, and start writing out checks. You count your lucky stars. You'll make payroll tomorrow; safe for another week. Remember what you learned in Al Anon, you mutter to yourself.

One. Day. At. A. Time.

##

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

You never know

I stare at my son as he tells me about it. This is Joe, the good one, Joe, the responsible one. Joe, who twice now in just over 12 months has had to tell me life-changing news.

I hug him and tell him it'll be okay, it really will.

He asks me not to tell anyone, not yet. So I won't.

[Not yet. I'm sorry.]

He leaves, telling me he'll call me later and tell me how it goes. I hug him, tight. You hate for your kids to suffer heartache, you know? Especially the big strong, wonderful ones. Well, okay, you hate it for all of them.

It's pouring snow out and I chicken out on driving home. My husband comes to get me and I climb into the safety of his big truck, where I immediately feel safe, protected, sheltered.

My son doesn't have any big truck to climb into.

Or does he? Maybe I'm his big truck. Maybe he just climbed in.

We reach home fine, going a heart-thudding 40 mph on the snow-crusted highway. We're barely in the door and Logan calls. After we chat, he asks if he can talk to Joe. Unusual.

Why don't you call him, I say. I'm sure he'd like to hear your voice.

The weaker one gives strength to the stronger one? You never know.

##

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Chapter 1, since you asked



Someone in one of the comments trails asked me about chapter one. Okay, sure. Here goes.

1

It’s the night after Christmas and I’m relishing an evening alone, music in the CD player and dear god, finally, peace on earth after all that Christmas prep, when my oldest calls, his voice strained. “Mom, we need to talk. I’m coming over. And I’m calling Dad and telling him to come, too.”

My heart flies to my throat, but I say, mom-like and practical, “Sure, hon. What’s up?”

“Just be there. Is Noah home?”

“He’s not. Is everything okay?”

His voice breaks. “No.”

I hang up, shaky. Joe’s 20, the picture of stability. His voice never breaks. Not about anything. I’m alone. My husband has taken 14-year-old Noah to a movie for the evening.

It has to be about his year-younger brother, Logan. The two older boys live together in the city. They moved out so similarly, on two separate nights last summer. Just gathered bedding and pillows in their arms, the two of them almost identical in the way they left, grinning, dimpled, “Bye, Mom! Headed to my new house.” No ceremony, no family trip in a U-Haul. Just a grin and a wave and a gentle goodbye click of the front door.

Now it’s six months later, the New Year is looming, and we’ve been worried about Logan. He’s enrolled in junior college, yes, but is he going to classes? He seemed so strange the last few times he was over. In fact, our family Christmas dinner was torture. He was late, then drooped over his girlfriend all evening, syrupy, disgustingly. Seemed almost wired afterwards, while we sat around the living room and played games.

Is he doing pot again? Is that it?

The half-hour it takes Joe to get here is torture. I go online and surf the web for a little while, trying to distract myself.

After a while I leave the computer room and sit on the couch. The house is clean, save for the piles of gifts still un-put-away. Leather gloves, CDs, sweaters for Logan. Funny he didn’t take them with him. Joe took everything but the new lamp for his house. Noah has stacks of DVDs and X-Box games neatly stacked.

I put on some different, softer music, and try to breathe normally. Don’t give in to conjecture. Maybe Joe just wants to talk to us about changing his major or something. Right.

The door opens and he comes in. Even in the dim light, I can see his eyes are red. My calm dissolves as I stand up and hug him.

“Joe, what’s wrong?”

“Where’s Dad?”

“I don’t know. Didn’t you call him?”

“I couldn’t reach him, but I left him a message. He hasn’t called here?”

“No.”

He sighs, his 6-foot frame curled at the top like a wilted leaf. “Do you want to wait for him?”

Hell no, I want to know what’s going on. “Tell me what’s wrong, son. You’re kind of scaring me.”

He ushers me to the couch and sits down next to me. This is odd, awkward. I don’t know how to act. I smile nervously.

He sucks in a breath and says, “It’s Logan, Mom. He’s been shooting up heroin.”

He stops and looks at me, waits for my reaction. I have none. My brain registers that I’m supposed to react, so I say, “Oh, god,” and shut my eyes as if to keep out the news. But I feel nothing. Heroin? Heroin? What the—?

“I’ve known about it for about 6 months,” Joe continues, looking into my eyes as if he expects me to start screaming at him or shaking in hysteria. When I don’t, he says, “I’ve talked to him, over and over, told him he had to stop. He promised me he would.” Tears leak out his eyes. “But he hasn’t.” He rubs the tears. “I was moving a table upstairs at our house tonight, and I needed his help. But he couldn’t get off the couch. He just laid there, in a daze. Like he always does.” His voice breaks on “always,” and he sobs for a moment.

I gather him in my arms and he cries. I do too, but more because Joe is crying, my big, rock-solid 20-year-old, and it evokes a maternal sadness in me. The practical part of me is already whirring to life, already formulating a plan.

We’ll fix this. We will. We always do.

“The thing is, Mom, if he could stop, he probably would have. A couple weeks ago when I came home from class, Logan was home looking really scared. He said his friend Freddy almost died from a heroin overdose that afternoon—right on our couch in our house! So Logan and his other friend Tommy carried Freddy out of the house to try to drive him to the hospital. But I guess this cop came by right then and asked them what was going on, and the cop called an ambulance. Then he came in and searched our house, and didn’t find anything.”

The image of skinny Logan and tall Tommy, who I’ve known for years, carrying their overdosing friend out to the snowy curb fills me with horror.

Joe’s voice turns soft. “The thing is, you’d think that would’ve scared him enough to make him quit doing it.” He pauses. “I don’t think he can stop.” He turns his face toward mine. “Mom, we have to do something.”

I nod. “I know. Yes, of course we do. But what?” I search his eyes for an answer. “What are you supposed to do in a situation like this?”

He whispers, “I don’t know.”

Of course he doesn’t know. He came to me for help. I’m the mom. It’s up to me to figure out a plan. I stand up and pace. Oh dear Jesus, what do I do? Why did this have to happen when Reid isn’t home? Wise Reid, who would know what to do.

The phone rings, and I grab it. It’s my ex, James, sounding annoyed. “Yeah, Joe called and wants me to come over, but I’m busy. He said it’s something about Logan. What’s going on?”

“Just come over.” It comes out ragged.

Silence. “All right, I guess, if it’s really that important.”

“Yeah. It’s important.”

Joe goes into the bathroom and I pace, wondering how long we’ll have to wait for James to arrive. The problem is here, now. What do we do?

James arrives with a blast of icy air from outside. He comes in, warily. It’s not very often he’s invited in here. In fact, I’ve fought with him about not coming into my house as if it were his own. It might as well be my own, he sometimes says, for the amount I’ve paid you in child support.

He sits and looks from Joe to me. “What’s up.”

Joe tells him. “Logan’s been shooting heroin.”

James shakes his head, and I brace myself for how he’ll react. I don’t have to wait long. “I can’t believe this. Do you know what this means? This means he’s been lying to me. I told you I was missing money, remember that? He took that money!”

Joe sits up straighter. “Dad, that’s not what this is about.”

James ignores Joe. “He lied to me. He lied to me and took my money for drugs. I even asked him. I said to him, ‘What, are you using that money for pot or something?’ And he said ‘no.’ He lied to me!”

Time for me to be mom again. “James, of course he lied to you. That’s what drug addicts do.”

“But why?” His voice is a lament, and then suddenly it turns. “This makes me really angry.” His lips become a hard line. “That’s it. I’m cutting him off. He’s not getting anything else from me. What a rotten little liar.”

Joe’s voice has a low, steel edge. “Dad, we’re trying to find a way to help Logan. The money’s not what’s important.”

James looks surprised. “He’s not getting any more money from me.”

A dam of anger bursts inside me. “Joe, would you step outside for a moment so your father and I can talk in private?”

“No.”

It catches me off guard. Joe never says ‘no’ to me. Ever.

“Joe, I need to be alone with your father.”

“No.”

“Joe, please!”

He stands, wavering for an excruciating moment. He wants to be there. He doesn’t want to be treated like a kid. He’s in this with us. But he steps outside, hot anger evident in the slam of the door.

“James.” I feel years of fury under the surface. “Now you listen to me, and you listen well.” My face feels like it will explode. “Your son needs help. You, of all people, should know what it’s like to have an addiction. I swear, James if you treat him like he’s a loser, if you act like he’s a stupid idiot for this, so help me god, I will cut you out of this and not include you in anything that goes on here. I swear it.” The fool. Acting like it’s all about money when his kid’s life is on the line. I have never hated this man more.

He acquiesces. “No, I know. He probably needs our help. Okay. It just makes me mad, is all.”

Joe comes back inside, into the hot trail of my fury. He sits, angry, jilted. Treated like a kid. Shut out when the chips were down. Not allowed to jump into the fray. Have I always done this to him? Yes. Yes, I’ve protected him. I protected all of them. Never let on in front of the kids how bad it really is.

Is it me? Have I been wrong? Is that why my kid has turned to heroin?

After a while, James leaves, and Joe and I cry some more. Tomorrow, we decide. Tomorrow we’ll figure out what to do. Tomorrow we’ll act.

Right. What am I going to do? After Joe leaves, I call my sister and tell her, through sobs. It’s only now that I really break down, here with my sister on the phone, who is as shocked as I am. Oh my god, Frankie. Logan? Sweet little Logan? After a few minutes she says she has a friend who is an AODA counselor, an acronym for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse. She hangs up to call the friend and ask for advice. A minute later, she calls back. “Mel said it’s important not to do anything until you’re prepared.”

“Prepared to do what?”

“I don’t know. She just said there are certain steps you need to take, and you shouldn’t confront him until those steps are taken.”

Steps? There are steps? There is a plan, a course of action? Oh thank god. If there is a plan, I can get through this. I feel the first rush of relief.

“Mel says you can call her in the morning and she’ll tell you what you need to do. Oh, Jeez, Frankie, I’m so sorry.”

It makes me cry, so we hang up, promising to talk again in the morning.

Reid still isn’t back from the movies with Noah.

That’s all it takes: the space of one movie, and your life is completely and utterly turned upside down. You thought your kid was just doing a little pot? Oh, it worried you, all right, you even took him to drug counselors once a week and made him undergo drug tests when you first found out he was doing it. Dragged the kid to the clinic after school for UAs. Endured his I-hate-you stares when you made him pee into a cup for the tests. But you couldn’t make him stop using, all those years ago, no matter what you did. All your efforts just made him better at hiding it. So you learned to live with the idea. A little pot, hey. You wish he wasn’t doing it, but you know plenty of fine, successful adults who do it and cope just fine. And all the highschoolers do it: you read how it’s more common than drinking. So you rationalize the weird behavior away. Pot. Psssh. You listen to him tell you that it’s not a gateway drug. You read his high school essays about how marijuana should be legalized. And you slowly, slowly, learn to live with the knowledge that your kid uses a little dope here and there.

Until someone smacks you upside the head with the news that it’s not a little dope anymore: it’s heroin and needles and syringes and drug dealers and kids who die.

And you go to bed, and you try to breathe, and you hide in your husband’s arms and you cry into the dark for your boy to live until morning, when you can do something: you can start a plan.

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