Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Birthday, Andy!

Well, I did it. This is my son's birthday/Mamma Mia wedding cake that he wanted for his birthday. After many, many labor intensive hours, I now know why cake makers charge so much. My back is killing me, my kitchen is covered in powdered sugar and butter cream and I think every dish I own is dirty, but it was worth it.

And today is my four year anniversary of being sober. Nice:)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It's All For You

Tomorrow, Andy will be 20 years old and I'm making him a wedding cake for his birthday. That's what he wants, so that's what I'm giving him. Maybe it's just coincidence, but it wasn't until I got sober that I started really listening to him.

Since Andy was born, I went out of my way to try and make things as normal as possible for him. As a single mom of an only child with a disability, I tried particularly hard to make Christmas, Easter and his birthday special. I wanted him to experience the traditions my brother and I had as we were growing up: believing in and waiting for Santa, the excitement of presents under the tree, the surprise Easter baskets from the Easter bunny, egg hunts, special birthdays...

But Andy never got it. He never understood those abstract concepts, and to make matters worse, he's never cared much for candy, so stockings and baskets filled with chocolate and jelly beans meant nothing to him. That didn't stop me from trying, though. I kept thinking that one year, it would click with him and he'd get to experience the magic I remembered as a child.

I bought him a tricycle for his fifth birthday and and spent the entire night putting it together complete with a little license plate with his name on it. I tried to teach him to ride it. Other people, his grandparents and therapists, have tried over the years to teach him to ride a bike, but he doesn’t get it.

I’d watch other kids do all the things kids are supposed to do, and I’d secretly resent them. I’ve never cared about the Down syndrome. I just wanted him to have a normal, happy childhood.

One Easter, when he was ten years old, I designed an extravagant basket heaped with solid chocolate bunnies and all the other required goodies that any good parent would provide in attempt to disguise themselves as a giant, invisible rabbit. I spent hours dyeing elaborate eggs.

On Easter morning, I brought him out to the living room and could barely contain my excitement.

"Andy, look! The Easter bunny was here! Look what he brought you!" I was so giddy, I could barely stand still.

Andy took one look at the basket, waved his hand in dismissal and said, "Oh, no fanks, Mom," and padded off toward his room in his little yellow blanket sleepers.

I was crushed.

Now, in my defense, I was also exhausted from having been up most of the night dyeing and designing, so I blame what happened next on temporary insanity: I yelled.

"Fine! You know what? It's been me the whole time. There is no Santa Claus! There is no Easter Bunny! It's just me. It's always been me!" I sat down in the middle of the living room and started crying.

Andy turned around and looked at me, his head tilted to one side. He came to me, wrapped his skinny arms around my neck and kissed my nose. Then he patted my cheek and said, "It's awright, Mom. It's okay," and padded off down the hallway to watch Star Wars in his room.

I least I bought the kind of candy I liked.

So this year, he wants a wedding cake for his birthday because his favorite movie du jour is Mamma Mia. He keeps saying he's getting married tomorrow. To who? I don't know. I think to the movie itself. I guess he thinks if he has the cake it's a done deal. So that's what I'm getting him. For better or for worse, I'm making a three tier wedding cake with each tier a different flavor and filling. It certainly isn't what I would want. It most DEFIANTLY isn't what his grandfather wants for him, but it's what Andy wants more than anything. And it's his birthday.


Friday, February 4, 2011

I'll love you more than anybody can

My bug-in-a-boy-suit
My perfect person
The best human I've ever known

Last night, not long after falling asleep, my son's voice broke through my dreams. Mommy! Mommy! So rarely does he use those two syllables, and when he does, they tear at the corners of my heart. The last time I remember him saying, "Mommy! Mommy!" was the first time he came to visit me at the Walker Center after I'd been there a week. I'd just rounded the corner of a long hallway to see him standing at the other end, and when he saw me, he threw his arms out and started running toward me with that slightly loose hipped gait I'm so familiar with as a parent of a child with Down's syndrome. We could have been two lovers on a beach in a cheesy love story, running toward each other in that hallway, but there was nothing cheesy about our reunion. Our hearts are magnets for each other. It's a law of physics.

When I heard those words again last night, the surreal images of my dreams were vivid, but I recognized the reality of his voice, and called him to my bed.

Patter, patter, thud, thud, patter, patter, thud....scurry up and over and under the covers with Mom.

I cradled his head in the nook of one arm and traced an imaginary line from his temple to the nape of his neck with the fingertips of my other hand as we lay there in the dark, foreheads touching. "What's wrong, honey? Did you have a sad dream?" Sniff. Swallow. "It's okay. Mom's here. Everything's alright now. Shhh." Sniff. Sigh.

He reached up, pointed to his eye, and in the shadows I could see him tug at one lower lid. "Wook, Mom. I cwyin'."
"I know, baby. You had a sad dream, huh?" Sniff.

We lay like that for a while and when I thought he was drifting away, I turned to face the opposite direction. (I should get a Nobel Peace Prize for enduring my son's morning breath.) As I lay there, edging back toward sleep, I was once again caught in the all too familiar loop of agonizing yearning for something I've never had: insight to my son's thoughts, hopes and dreams. His expressive speech is the area I struggle with most. He can't tell me what he's feeling, or dreaming, or hoping, or wishing, and I want so much to know those things about him. After almost twenty years, you would think I'd be used to it. I'm not.

I was almost asleep again when I felt his square little hand brush my hair back from my cheek. His touch was as soft as his whisper. "Mom. Shhhh. Ess okay. Enna hospital. Shhhh. Andy take care of you, Mom. Ess okay. Shhhh."

His hand moved down my back to rest over where my left kidney is. "Inna take care of you, Mom. Shhhh. Ess okay."

It was all I could do to lie still and keep silent

I didn't get much sleep last night. Neither did he, but he doesn't know that I know that. I was too aware of whispering hands and dragon breath trying to assure me, even as I slept, that everything would be all right for me today, and on Monday, as well.

And I can't stop thinking about how much I learn by being silent.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Don't look back, you can never look back

The worst thing for me about being in recovery has been trying to forgive myself for my past. The hurt I've caused other people, damaged relationships, things I've said and done, or didn't but wish I had. "Forgive yourself and move on." That's what they'll tell you. And they're right. I've spoken before about the law of attraction, and it's in this area that the concept has helped me most. The more I think about what might have been, or what I think should have been, the more I'm living in that moment, and the less I'm present in this one.

I get all that. I agree with all that. It's the cornerstone of my recovery. But it's hard, and I'm human, and today, I'm kicking the hell out of myself.

I'm having surgery Monday morning. There's a three inch stone in my left kidney that looks a lot like this:

Tomorrow, I'll go in to radiology where they'll insert a tube through my back into my left kidney. On Monday, I'll be admitted for the surgery. The doctor will enter the tube, puncture my kidney and (his words here), "Use a jackhammer to break it up and then extract the pieces. It's too big and too involved for us to handle it any other way."

A jackhammer. I love technology.

What does this have to do with being a recovering meth addict? Meth, unlike other drugs and alcohol, is metabolized by the kidneys rather than the liver. I did have a kidney stone when I was using. I remember going to the hospital (although I don't remember having a CAT scan, which I apparently did.) I know that when it passed, I refused to take it back to the hospital to have it examined for cause. In my drug soaked mind, I assumed it was made up exclusively of meth and therefore saw no reason to involve any authorities. Embarrassing, but true.

That was in 2005. I had no further problems until a year ago when one thing led to another and I ended up at a urologist who sent me for a CAT scan and X-ray, which showed the lovely image you see above. 

Lots of things can cause kidney stones - many of which are innate to the lifestyle of a chronic meth-addict. The leading cause of kidney stones is lack of water. Check.(Meth addicts are notorious for forgetting to do things like eat and drink.) Excessive use of caffeine? Check. (And when we do, it's rarely what we should be drinking. Some of us could just never get too amped.)

So I asked my doctor, as I sat looking at the twisted, gnarled thing on the X-ray: did I do this to myself? Is this the result of my meth addiction? He told me no, because it's been growing for the past five years. We know this because of the first CAT scan and stone I passed at the time. What else could he tell me? "Yes, you did this to yourself and...."

And what? What does it matter? Next Sunday, February 13th, I will have been sober for 4 years. It's pretty obvious, even to an ex meth-head like me, when I put the numbers together that it is possible that I did this to myself. But I'll never know for sure if my meth use caused this, or if it's just "one of those things." I have my suspicions, but I doubt I'll ever know.

And what if I did?

There's no way to isolate the situation. I can dwell and worry and regret and drive myself crazy with the what if's. It won't change anything. All I can do - with everything in my life - is the best I can with what I have. My past serves to inform my present choices. "I probably should make sure to drink a lot of water."

To spend my energy on regret leaves me empty for today, and today I want to play with my *bug-in-a-boy-suit before I go to the hospital tomorrow. And I want to hang out with him this weekend. Next week, I'll make his birthday cake... and on and on I'll go, doing the next right thing. Because I can't change my past, but I can try like hell to make sure that from now on, my decisions are the right ones.

*one of many nicknames for my son, Andy - for those who may not know;)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Kid...we don't like your kind

A year and a half ago, I had a job. I made decent money and didn't despise what I did, though I always viewed it as a of weigh station until my book was published. Then I lost it. The job, that is. Or rather, I was fired. No warning signs, not an inkling of what was to happen on that lovely June afternoon. Just BAM! You're outta here, kid, and don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.

I was crushed. I completely fell apart. Not because I loved the job so much, but because I knew what it meant for someone in my position to be suddenly out of work. Have I mentioned that I'm a felon? Yes sir, a middle aged woman with a felony drug conviction and, thanks to years of addiction and self-destruction, a rather shady resume. Don't get me wrong. I have what the hip kids would call mad skillz - I just look bad on paper.

My sudden change in employment status coincided nicely with the economic downturn, and jobs were scarce, as they still are. But I managed. The following day, I was offered a part time job driving for my son's van service. Perfect! So I turned down the air conditioner, made a few other minor adjustments, and found a way to survive on half of what we had previously. I concentrated on the book and wrote a not so good novel. Then I lost my job driving.

It seems Medicaid took over the transportation services and they don't want felons driving for them unless the felony is five years old. Rat bastiges. Fargin ice-holes. So I finished collecting what was left of my unemployment, which ran out in November last year.

I looked for a job. I interviewed. The felony issue always came up. (I don't remember job applications having so much focus on criminal history when I was younger.) So I started thinking, "This isn't fair. I can see people not wanting to hire child molesters or rapists, but me?? ME? This just isn't right. And I know there are others like me who a break. I know what I'll do! Someday, I'll open a business and make it a point to hire people with felonies. People who are marginalized by the system. Damn it, I'll make a place for us! As God as my witness!"

I was feeling self-righteous. I was going to fight the good fight for myself and others like me. I'd be like MLK leading the way for people who just want the right to work like anyone else. I was energized. And then I thought,
"Yeah, but I don't want a bunch of criminals working for me."

Ah. Right. Okay, okay, so I get it. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.

So until the book sells, I've taken matters into my own hands. Have you seen this?

We do what we can with what we have. So far, so good.