As Mother’s Day approaches I think on each of my children. All of them are special, unique, and have become remarkable adults. I have three of them: my two sons, to whom I gave birth, and my beautiful daughter who came to me along with her father, when she had just turned thirteen. My daughter is the youngest of the three, but she was not my baby.
This little essay is for my baby, my Darlin’, My baby.
That is, my youngest son: a hulking, huge, almost 35 year old man. He is over six feet tall (by a bunch), has deep brown eyes a person can get lost in, thick gorgeous black hair, and a beautiful smile that occasionally lights up his face and makes me think of the double rainbow in the sky the day he was born. I love him beyond expression.
I also haven’t seen or heard from him in months.
He suffers from a mental illness that makes it hard to be around him. He has a mind that experiences incredible highs and devastating lows. Even the highs, manic episodes during which his mind races so fast and hard he can’t keep up with it, are difficult and have from time to time forced him into situations where he attempts to hurt himself, without completely understanding why.
I’m not even sure if the above paragraph really describes what he has lived through, because surely, I do not understand what it is, no matter how much I have tried. These are his experiences. They belong to him.
Here’s what I do understand.
Mental illness is a family disorder. The person who has the dis-ease often feels alone and bereft, lost, and misunderstood. But, as John Donne so eloquently said, we are not islands; we are all members of a tribe. All who love anyone, suffer when that anyone is hurting. My other children, his friends, his child, anyone who loves him, are affected by what he, apparently, has chosen not to control, but rather to embrace. I admit I do not understand his choice, but I respect that it is his choice.
So I have chosen to watch my child from the sidelines. Some might call me selfish, loving him only from afar. But it is better for me, and it is probably better for him.
So this brings me back to Mother’s Day. I want to take this forum, this little blog that very few people read, to explain how very proud I am of this person I call my baby. When he loves, he loves without a seat-belt. Well, really, he has lived his whole life without a seat-belt, a crash helmet, or a safety net. When he was only a teenager, he spent time taking care of a grandparent at the end of her life. When she slipped away he was inconsolable. I remember he called me and wanted me to hop in the car and drive the ten hours to where he was. Right now. It’s what he would have done.
I am proud of him for doing what he thinks is the right thing to do. I don’t agree with much that he does, and he has made some extremely poor decisions in his life. But I don’t think he ever gives up. I always imagine a person taking two steps back, and one step forward. He takes the one step forward. He takes one step forward.
This is for you my Darlin’… I am choosing this Mother’s Day to remember all the reasons I have ever been proud of you.