As I sat before my computer musing over what to do with this day’s prompt of “delivery,” I thought of a million things. Humorous times when I’d jump over the unexpected package that appeared. Nah, none stood out to write about. The only thing that came to mind were three special deliveries, very special ones that I’ve lost. No, they were born. They grew up before my eyes and now, they’re gone; they flew away like doves.
Problem is, there was a great deal of pain involved and now, I don’t speak to them. There IS progress but that’s not what this is about. This is the letter I need to write to them. It’s no longer about me. It’s about them. My beautiful daughter and my two amazing sons who serve this country with great pride as US Marines. I’ve caused them great pain and, it didn’t click that I had until very recently.
I’m returning to the workforce after both the loss of a parent as well as illness of my own. I’m tired of being “sick” and dealing with the issues of mental illness. I am fine – everything is under control. What I’m truly “sick” with? FEAR. I want my life to move forward. I want love in my life, a career, a feeling of belonging to life around me and all of the things that life can offer. That includes a healthy relationship with my daughter and sons. The problem is, there’s a divide as large as the Grand Canyon that separates us. I couldn’t see how this divide could be bridged; that is, until I was putting together, of all things, my resume. A resume, is, of course, a timeline of events. In this case, the events are the places you’ve worked and for how long. As I was putting together this “timeline” of my places of employment, I saw, for the first time, not just my symptoms of mental illness creeping in but the young, bright faces of my children – my daughter and my sons. They would be so excited to see me when I’d come home.
But the secrets I tried to hide from them. I kept gaining and losing jobs and thought I was hiding everything. Now that they’re grown, I’ve now been told, it was all a lie. They knew it all and were TELLING it all to their father, from whom I was divorced. I wasn’t managing finances well – another symptom of my mental illness – and the panic I had was unbelievable. But what I put my kids through was sheer hell. My moods would go up and they’d crash but for them? They had no idea of what type of person they had as a mother. I’d gain, then I’d lose a job. I was terrified and I’d try to hide it; but not very well. I’d work to keep things the same to hide everything. I didn’t hide anything from them; they saw it all and through it all.
This hiding didn’t end. It went on for years. Many years. I tried to be involved in their activities but my moods were not very stable and I was being “shut out” from participation and was even told by my kids to “stay out” because their friends didn’t like me. It was those mood swings again. THAT was devastating for me at the time but I can’t even imagine how devastating it was for THEM! How they wanted to be proud of their mother and to hear this? It must have destroyed them. And where could they go to confide in? Their father. It just became worse over time. The car was repossessed. The apartment was lost. More jobs were lost. My depression and mania became worse but yet I tried to keep things normal to no avail. How could I?
And the kids suffered greatly. They wanted their mother to be happy, to be safe, to be “Mom.” They were terrified for me. And all I did? Bring them MORE misery, worry, fear, and uncertainty. By now, they were well into their teens and getting very socially active. A very normal event. I couldn’t see that. I was struggling to survive and the kids were seeing that and for them to see that, I feel such tremendous sadness for that to have happened. I didn’t want that for them. I wanted better than what I had for them. I truly did. I can say that I did the best I can with what I had but the truth is, I didn’t have what it took to be a mother for them. Their father should have had them all the time, not the split custody. I needed help desperately. I was not in a great place emotionally, spiritually or as far as my mental health was concerned. I just didn’t know where to go.
But for my kids, they had their friends, they had school and they were excelling, thriving despite it all and I was proud of that. Now it’s starting to hit high school and things are really becoming critical for both me and for them. I’m now dealing with a mother who is dying across the country and my mental illness has to take a back seat. Plus three teenagers who didn’t understand why I HAD to leave. Despite all of the issues I faced, this was the last straw for them, I believe. Mom and her Alzheimers…that’s another posting for another day.
Then I returned and things had changed radically. The kids grew up on me. We had lost touch. That year and a half away destroyed that fabric of a bond we once shared. Oh, they missed me terribly, no question. But it was never the same. Nor was my sanity. This was when it all changed and the kids showed that they were not just “Kids.” They had grown up and had minds of their own. They stood up for themselves. Looking back, they did something I could never have done – set up their own boundaries and honored them. I am very proud of them for doing that. Very proud. When I was growing up I couldn’t. Mom was the martyr and guilt was the weapon she used. But for these three? They had determined that their safety was paramount. Sure, they were harsh and, of course, it may have sounded disrespectful. But, looking back on it all, I knew what they were trying to do. They were breaking away, growing up. Me? I wasn’t letting go.
Now the mental illness comes into play. The divide grows and doesn’t stop growing. Two hospitalizations, government aid that comes into play after being homeless? Talk about humiliating. The kids, especially, were humiliatED. No wonder they wanted nothing to do with me! They were scared, worried, confused, frightened. They stopped talking to me altogether. All I kept thinking? If I got out, things would be better.
They didn’t. The kids had grown up; they had independent lives now and I wasn’t able to see that. I wanted the Friday night pizza nights like we used to have. Now? They had their own friends with their own lives and I didn’t count any longer. I was also living “out of the way,” was how all of them put it. My life was contingent upon them; my self-worth was contingent upon them. One had a girlfriend and he was focused upon her; the other two thought she was a sister to them. I had to honor that, in their eyes. When I didn’t, I was “dirt.”
The divide grew so wide, it was impossible to reach each other by this time. Long story short, it ended up in court. I won’t go into details there. No one would speak to anyone. That is until the youngest one wants to join the Marines and needs my signature; I give it and then….nothing. He’s gone. Next thing I hear, the next oldest is a Marine, then my daughter is one as well.
Now, the two boys are US Marines; my daughter tried to be a Marine and is out on a medical discharge, but works not far from where I live. And when I put that resume together, I saw all of this come together into an epiphany. I saw the pain I caused them; horrible pain. I can’t say “I’m sorry” because what would that accomplish? You can’t apologize years of pain like that. You just can’t. All I can say is this: I get it. I absolutely get it. I hurt you, my beloved children, so badly, so many times on so many levels I cannot imagine the pain I caused to you. I made you worry at ages you should never have had to worry. You loved me so much and wanted me to be happy but were helpless to do anything at your young ages. You thought that if you hugged me, kissed me and pleased me that way, you’d make all the demons go away. But, you couldn’t. For that, I can say I am sorry for. I wish I could have told you all of this when you were so young but that age gap killed any chance of that.
I am very proud of all three of you for growing up into the beautiful, talented and brilliant and headstrong young woman and the two handsome, brilliant, honorable and proud, young men who are protecting and serving my country and MY freedoms each and every day as US Marines. As both an American and your mother, I couldn’t be more proud. Wherever the three of you go in life, I wish you love. I wish you peace. And, I finally, release you, my precious doves, to fly and to discover where your journeys take you.