Friday, March 10, 2006

Fools in the end

I finger the ring I bought last year, the day after I flew to California and put Logan in rehab. “Believe in love” is etched in its silver surface. The ring is scratched and worn now, having circled my finger every day for the past 15 months.

I wonder: what will I do with it now? Take it off my finger and slip it onto a thin necklace chain? No, I don’t think I want to wear it any more. Buy a little shelf, put it on the wall, encased in plastic? No, I’d still have to see it every day if I did that. Maybe a drawer is where it belongs. Shut away in the dark, maybe in a little velvet pouch; protected, but not visible, not constant.

Because how can I continue to wear it, and still find a way to detach? When your heart is broken, you simply don’t want to continue to believe. No. You just want to forget.

Believe in what? Believe in recovery? That hurts too much.

Fuck. I’m sitting on a goddamn airplane, pulling off a cheap silver ring and crying as West Virginia floats past underneath like an ocean floor under a glass-bottom boat.

“Fools in love” plays on my iPod. “Fools in love, are there any other kinds of lovers?” croons Inara George. “Fools in love; never knowing when they’ve lost the game.” Yes, the ring is definitely going in a drawer. “Fools in love, they think they’re heroes.” I just didn’t know the term applied to the love a parent has for her kid. “Fools in love, never knowing when they’ve lost the game.”

I have lost. I do know that. Lost hope, if nothing else.



In the middle of the Cincinnatti airport, I check messages. There is just one. Logan. Logan, who hasn't returned his father's or my calls for three days. Logan, who lied WHILE SOBER about being in school for three months. Logan, who apparently stole the money his father sent for school, and who convinced his dad he needed a laptop to do his assignments.

It's one thing when they do these things while on drugs. It's quite another when they do them sober.

I pull the phone to my ear. "Hi Mom." Voice strong "Hey, I left my cell phone in a friend's car, so I just now got your messages." He's never without his cell phone for more than 2 minutes. "I've talked to my probation officer, and I don't need to report until Monday. So, everything's okay. So, well, call me when you get this message, okay?"

The phone snaps itself shut.

My head is a bowling ball that falls forward into my hands. For the first time, the first time—I do not believe him. He wouldn't leave his cell phone somewhere for three days. And he probably hasn't gone to probation. And I, and not going to do a thing about it. Let probation hunt him down. That's their job.

A few huge sobs tear their way out. I'm sitting next to a packed Outback restaurant, but I don't care who sees or hears me. I have lost my son. And I'm not going after him. I will no longer be snowed. I will no longer let myself hurt like this. This is The End.

I stand up and make my way into the restaurant. My mascara is probably streaked. Who cares? These people, they have no idea. Let them think whatever they want. No one knows, until you've sunk to this level of pain, what it's like. Nothing, absolutely nothing in the entire world, matters compared to it. Someone could set off a bomb and I would calmly walk out amidst the shrieks and screams of the crowd. It's like I'm in a dream zone, surrounded by a bubble of loss. Who the hell cares about anything.

Except, in some unexplainable way, I care about everything. A beautiful woman sits across from me, eating alone on her way from somewhere to somewhere. She's immaculately dressed, and sitting as poised as an angel. She looks dressed and composed enough to be eating with the president. I get up and go stand next to her. She looks up at me.

"Pardon me, but I have to ask you where you got your beautiful suit?"

"Oh!" She smiles, warmth radiating straight from her to me. "Ann Taylor."

"No kidding! I shop the sister store, Ann Taylor Loft, all the time." I wag my finger. "I knew I liked it for a reason. It's just gorgeous."

"It's from last year, though."

"Oh, no."

"But on the back walls they usually have older fashions. You might still be able to find one."

We smile goodbye, the bond of sisterhood between us. And I love this woman, with her perfect posture and her willingness to talk to me when I probably have never lookoed less poised, mascara streaks under my eyes and a fragile cavern in my soul.

On the last leg home, my seatmate is Logan's age. My newborn need to connect with strangers takes over, and we talk for the entire flight. He's from L.A., from a rough neighborhood. He picked himself up and moved to the northern tip of Michigan to go to school. He's one of 30 minorities in a school of tens of thousands. He's studying film. Why Michigan, I ask. Because they're cheap and they give you a free laptop when you go to school there, he answers.

And I love this boy, too. I never ask him his name, but I love him. He is what Logan is not. He is fighting the odds, improving his situation. He got himself a laptop, too. The right way. And yet he's a kid, he makes mistakes. He tells me about getting arrested last Halloween, about times he's "pretty wasted."

And suddenly I feel like believing again. Not in Logan, no. But in humanity, in youth. In love. In hope.

When we arrive at the airport, I touch his arm goodbye. He won't know how he's helped me; I'll never see him again. I watch him walk away, backpack slung over his shoulder, body swaying in that kid-walk that young adults do. Logan walks exactly like that.

My husband is waiting for me at the bottom of the escalator, and I fall into his arms. "Did Logan get a hold of you?" he asks.

I telll him what Logan said, and he reacts with optimism. "That's great!"

No, sweetie, I explain, that's not great. We walk toward baggage claim as I tell him how I have stopped believing Logan. I don't for a minute think he's telling the truth.

Yes, says hub, but he might surprise you. In fact, you may have lots of nice surprises in store.

I stop in my tracks, knowing my hub well enough to know there is hidden meaning here. Over his shoulder I notice a tall teen leaning in the corner, holding a brochure in front of his face. The brochure shifts left, and an eye and half a smile peers out.

"Noah!" I rush to him, opening my arms. He folds into them. He, who can't stand to be seen with mama lately, hugs me back. Tightly. How does he know how much I needed this? How much I am absorbing him right now?

"How is it I get you here, kiddo? Aren't you supposed to be with dad tonight?" Just had a conversation with the dad, not more than 3 hours ago, about it.

"He wanted to come pick you up," says hub.

"You did?" It's so unusual that I almost can't stop asking why.

And he's engaged. We chatter the whole way home. I'm somehow hyped, maybe the natural opposite swing of the pendulum of despair. It feels so good to engage with this son, to see his smiles, hear his honesty, see glimpses of his young teen naivity followed by revelations of his developing maturity. This son, again, brings me hope.

It is apparently part of the deal that in order to be allowed to opick me up aty the airport, he must get a ride out to his dad's afterward. We drive through the dark, laughing and talking the whole way. At his dad's, he climbs out, no ceremony now, no hugs. "See ya." He walks off without looking back.

Less than a minute later, I am in tears again, here in the comfort of my husband's presence. "God, honey, it just hurts so much. I don't know how to explain it to you."

"You don't have to explain. I understand."

Suddenly I know how to explain. "Somewhere after this whole thing started, I knew I would write this story into a book. And I always knew the ending would be the sentencing. And it is. It is. But here's the thing."

I have to stop to let the sobs pass, as the realization hits me.

"I always thought the book would end on a note of hope."

He reaches for my hand.

"But it's not. It doesn't have a happy ending, honey."

He looks at me in the dark. "That other young man? The one we just dropped off at his dad's house? He's your happy ending."

I know, I know. But how does a parent let one kid go and beleive the other can somehow replace him?

A sudden need for Al-Anon washes over me, powerful and intense. Al-Anon, where they teach you to let go, to give up, to surrender. I guess I never did before, not completely.

I always resented Al-Anon, in some small way. But suddenly, as if I can see for the first time, I understand why they try so hard to teach you to let go. It's not for the addict's sake. It's because they know. They know this feeling I have right now, here in my husband's big red truck, my bags packed around me and black streaks on my cheeks. They know addicts lie. They know recovery isn't guaranteed. They know addicts will fucking break your heart, no matter how much you do for them, no matter how much you love them, no matter how much you hope, how much you believe.

They know this feeling because they've been there. And they tell you to give up because they are trying to save YOUR life. Not the addict's. They know there may be no saving the addict. Period. No matter what you do, how good you are, how muh you love your kid. They know believing in love doesn't work.

They know only the addict can do it for himself, and that is not in any fucking way controllable by you.

They know you must give up. Not to save the addict, but to save yourself, to save your other family members. To protect this precious husband sitting next to you holding your hand, this amazing young sprout of a kid you just dropped off, this wonderful oldest you have, somewhere out there on his own making his own life now.

You must let go.

And so you do. It breaks your heart, but you look out the window at the night sky and you pray that a power bigger than yourself can take care of your beloved middle son. Because you can't any more.

And you say goodbye. Goodbye, precious child of mine. Good bye.

And you bring your eyes back into the truck, where they belong now. And you determine to take care of this, this here and now, this you, this fools in love, this us.

This us.



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