I’ve spent a lot of my rumination time lately, trying to figure out the difference between missing Jesse and missing something in myself. I think of my kids’ childhoods the way some people think of their high school days. I can’t say those days were perfect—I wouldn’t have left their father if they had been even close to okay most of the time. But I can say that the time with my kids was as close to perfect as I could hope for. They were both the kind of boys people love to be with. Rough and sweet, athletic but gentle, loving, smart, funny, tough, a little smart alecky. They could be pains in the ass. I could come home and find mysterious divots in the furniture that defied my investigations. Jesse had a streak of bully, his brother a bit of trickster. But they were beautiful inside and out and it was more than I thought I’d ever get from life. I guess that made those days that much more amazing. And the loss of them that much harder to bear.
So I would be mourning that shining moment of my life, no matter where Jesse and his brother’s lives took them. That’s a thread. Another is that Jesse was angry with me for leaving his father. He pulled further and further away from me as he got older, from around age 11 to 13. So that by the time he finished 6th grade he moved out to live with his dad. He refused to come to my house. In 7th grade, I would sneak over to his school just to catch a peek at him, spend a few minutes while he glared at me and told me to leave him alone. He hated it—it was all I had. I’m trying not to blame his father for all of this, but there wasn’t any question in the court’s mind: the judge, the court psychiatrist, they knew what was going on, but there really wasn’t anything anyone could do. That is the closest I felt to what I feel right now. That I had lost him, but worse, that he hated me and believed horrible, untrue things about me that I couldn’t defend myself from. But at least I believed that somehow I could win him back. It’s not as if I had a choice. If I thought I could get him back from the dead right now, I’d do that, too. Motherhood is a form of insanity.
What changed it? Jesse ended up in the hospital with appendicitis. His father, unaccountably, refused to visit him there. His father’s comment was, “that’s what your mother does.” He couldn’t be bothered, was what it sounded like. After all he’d done to tear Jesse away from me.
I didn’t care. It was my chance. I stayed there for days by his side. He couldn’t leave. If he didn’t want to talk to me he could click his dosage button for morphine and fall asleep. He did that. Mostly though we slipped back into what used to be good between us. It was a tiny break in the wall. Within 6 months he was making excuses to come to my house for dinner. You know how hard it is to start a fire sometimes, and when you get it going, you nurse that little puff of smoke and spark, and hope to God it doesn’t die, but all your attention is on it? Well.
And now, the fire has gone out for good.