O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! That we should, with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause, transform ourselves into beasts.
I have come to realize that a very real part of motherhood is based on lies. It's okay, sweetie, everything is fine, you are safe, I am here, there are no monsters, have a treat, watch a Dora, sshhhh... and we pat the backs of our children while making promises we cannot keep. Things happen in life that mothers cannot prevent or fix and this, the greatest tragedy of parenting, is matter of fact, indifferent. It simply is.
I am reading a book--Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through his Son's Addiction. I read it at night under the covers with cold hands, much like I read the story of The Patchwork Monkey as a child. Because "Beautiful Boy" scares the fuck out of me, a memoir of an involved father watching his son battle meth addiction. It all seems so arbitrary, a crapshoot, which children survive the dangerous ribbon of adolescence and which do not.
He started toward her, his smile growing wider and thinner until it was a red line of yarn across a flat face. He laughed in a silly falsetto that wasn't Jason's laugh at all. "I'm not fooling," the monkey said.--The Patchwork Monkey
I come from an illustrious long line of alcoholics and addicts, some highly functioning, some not so much. My father got sober when I was 20ish, but before that my house was full of pot seeds and smoke, bottles of cognac, days and nights without time and full of secrets. My mother, on the other hand, has never been a drinker. When we moved I found a cache of her old calendars, 1975 through 1988. She was meticulous about writing in them: Darryl to vet's, Andy asthma appointment, block party. Sometime in 1977 the entries grew comically topical: Susannah sleepover @ Margaret's, hot tub @ the Swanson's, Quaaludes. Over time, Quaaludes was shortened to 'ludes, and then the hot tub grew cold, and the 'ludes disappeared by 1980. My mother was not cut out for drinking and drugs, prone to keeping time on her calendars by the telephone.
Tomorrow I have an appointment at the DMV. I like writing things down. I have tried my fair share of drinking and drugs but here I am at 36 and I know what I have to do this week. I don't know how or why but my brother and I seem to have escaped addiction relatively unscathed. Based on our family history, we should not have. But here we are; we drink Vitamin Water, eat hot tamales, the few bottles of wine on our countertops bought by our spouses or received as gifts. Mmm, it's got a fruity taste, blackberries, maybe, with a smoky afternote... I let the spoonful of Ben & Jerry's melt on my palette fine. In high school we had parties at The Ridge, The Meadows, The Shooting Range, word of mouth gatherings of foggy nights huddled around a keg in the middle of nowhere, dark save the red plastic cups and quick puffs of teen breath in the cold. We drove cars fast up winding mountain roads, fast on slick wet curves, fast past deer staring straight into the headlights like a flashback. I saw one boy die right in front of me, the blood dripping from his ear, bloated chest, a car crash quick, a few others I did not see but they died nonetheless. I would creep into my house at curfew and clean the kitchen. This was my chore and I was a good kid. Sometimes my mother would come out to say hello, climb out of her warm bed where she had been reading, and I would talk into the Cascade steam of the dishwasher so she could not smell the wine coolers on my breath. I will talk to Zoey about drugs. She is not yet three so I don't know yet what I will say, or if it will matter. But I will talk to her about self-medicating, about self-esteem, about birds and bees and budgets and I will tell her to remember to bring a pair of flip flops when she gets a pedicure. I will talk and I will listen and I will pray, but in the end I have to know that she will live or die with or without me, and that is the most terrifying fact of them all. Sshhh, it's okay, I am here, you are fine. I say these things to her, addicted as I am to platitudes, the words a mantra, in some ways meaningless, consonants and the empty vibration of vowels echoing, in other ways quite possibly capable of transformation, if not of purpose, then at least of promise, however true. *I should probably mention that the boys in that photo are in no way related to me. I just love the pic for the sheer abitrariness of genetics. I imagine they are brothers home for the holidays. Click on image for source.