Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Pink Elephant

This is the post I feel I have to write before I can go on. It's as if to ignore the huge pink elephant in the room, I am somehow lying. It's as if I can't blog at all unless people know what is really going on in my life because without a proper dramatic backdrop, the trite and trivial stuff that I would rather comment about is just buzzing in my ears, and it gets annoying even to me. It's a variation on the "without the bad, we can't appreciate the good" cliche, only here, I would replace "good" with "little things."

Part of what holds me back, aside from my most introverted nature and the fact that I don't really have the time, is the fact that what I perceive as "bad" or troublesome pales in comparison to the pain and suffering of others in the world. I really try to keep things in their proper perspective, but that said, this past year has been especially painful and troublesome for me and this is my journal, not the Hitchhiker's Guide to the whole entire Galaxy, for Pete's sake.

So here's the bad, from my little corner of the world...starting with the good...

Most people in my world now know that I have a little grandson, named Julian. He just turned 9 months old but was born 10 weeks early, so he's not even crawling yet (his Auntie was racing around our apartment on her hands and feet at this age, and running around the entire park at 12 months)! I love him dearly! I can honestly say, I think I love him more than any other person on earth! I've never known the strength of the parent-child love relationship like I know it with Julian (C.S. Lewis wrote a brilliant little book on this, along with the three other kinds of love, in a book entitled...wait for it...The Four Loves). While I have known and helped raise my two step-daughters since they were 6 months and two years old, we didn't have custody of them until they were 4 and 5, after the most important formative, bonding years were over (in my opinion). Not that I didn't love them and raise them as my own from that point forward, but I never felt like this before. Their biological mother was still a big part of their lives even though she was a severe alcoholic. I still deferred to her role as their mother and tried not to poison them (not always successfully, I might add...I'm not looking for any Mother-of-The-Year nominations here!) Maybe because of that, I never felt fully in control of their lives (ahem, I do know who's really at the Helm), and my controlling nature tends to let go of things if I cannot control them. All I'm saying is that, while I have helped raise two bright beautiful girls (more about one of them in a minute), I've never felt the love I feel for Julian. And that is such a true blessing that I feel guilty about the fact that I am so emotionally bankrupt right now.

And now, for the bad...

When our oldest turned 18 (actually two weeks after she turned 18, even though I showed her the door on her 18th birthday since she'd been talking about this moment since she was like 12), she moved out to experience all of the freedom she expected to find in the real world. Of course, what she found in reality was that freedom comes with responsibility and that without behaving responsibly, one can lose the freedom she craves very quickly. And she did. She must have gone to jail 5 or 6 times in the course of a year, all for misdemeanor infractions ranging from unpaid parking tickets to shoplifting.* After her second time, we quit getting the crying "please come bail me out" phone calls because we refused to bail her out. Instead, she became well acquainted with a particular bail bondsman who became one of her best friends. We would always breathe a sigh of relief when we did get those calls because at least, we knew where she was and that she was alive. Amazingly, she did not get caught or go to jail for the more serious crimes that she committed while running with a dangerous crowd of drug dealers and car thiefs (oh yeah, one of the cars stolen was mine, since I let her drive it on the night she left and decided not to come home...the police were no help when I admitted that yes, I had given her the key but not permission to take my car indefinitely).

*I should mention that this is no small issue in my eyes given that nobody in my family has ever gone to jail for anything except the 4 hours my husband spent doing time for picking up mussels on the beach without a license, which is a funny post for another time. It's not like Jerry Springer around here.

When she learned she was pregnant, she was living with her fiance at the time. She called us up and wanted us to meet him. They came over and fixed us dinner. We thought that, all things considered, he seemed like a nice guy...until we learned that he too, was a drug dealer, and packing heat at our house (notice the jacket? He never took it off)! We later learned that he also trafficked in fake payroll checks among any number of other unknown "trades" and was doing very well financially. He was also in this country illegally. And while he may be Julian's biological father (he's not on the birth certificate and no paternity tests have been taken since he is nowhere to be found...we hope he is either in prison or back in his home country), he has had no contact with our daughter or Julian since she was about 2 months pregnant. At that time, they broke up, and our daughter asked if she could move back home. We saw this as an opportunity for her to clean up her life and get off of the destructive path she was on, so we ultimately agreed, with a lot of conditions. And basically that is what she did until Julian was born.

During the months she was living with us, we tried counseling her about placing her baby for adoption. We knew she was not ready to be a mother and abortion was not an option (despite her careless and unscrupulous lifestyle, she feels strongly about abortion, so I give her some credit). And despite her adamant resistance, we continued to hold out hope that time would change her mind and we thought we had plenty of that. Until Father's Day, when, 10 weeks early, Julian decided to enter the world before anything could change her mind.

Fast forward, through 6 weeks in the NICU, bringing home a 5 pound preemie (still a full month earlier than his gestational birthday), many sleepless nights, difficulties bonding with a baby that interfered with her "freedom," lots of babysitting on our end while she got her first real job in over a year and a half, working evenings as a waitress (we were thrilled that she was on the right track even if this meant more babysitting for helped relieve some of her stress which made her easier to live with and frankly, we relished the alone time with Julian). Eventually though, exhaustion, depression and temptation got the better of her. Hanging out with friends at work after hours lead first to late nights, then to all nights, then to several all nights in a row of partying while we sat home with Julian wondering where (in the HELL?!) is his mother and what does she think she's doing and why won't she even answer her phone, let alone call to let us know where she is?!?! Well, you get the picture. Basically, we freaked out, bought some home test kits for her drug of choice, methamphetamine, and sure enough, she was using again. Initially, we insisted that if she wanted to continue living in our house, she had to stop using and get into a recovery program. She did that, but prior to our Christmas vacation, she dropped out of ithe program. We tested her again before we left and sure enough, she was still using. The withdrawals made her a bear to travel with! We went on vacation anyway and had serious reservations about leaving her with Julian alone in the care of other family members (namely her mother who is at least now a recovering alcoholic and knows about her daughter's "issue" and was prepared to intervene if problems arose). Still, we worried, but then, a miracle happened...Julian got sick with brochiolitis and had to be hospitalized. Our daughter's motherly instincts kicked up a notch and she actually remained clean throughout the vacation and things were good until just before Valentine's Day. We began to have hope that maybe she was really committed to a life of change and we talked to her about resuming the recovery program "just in case." She thought she could do it on her own.

When the inevitable relapse happened again, this time we kicked her out (she was already out...we simply told her that she wasn't welcome back into our house until she checked into a fulltime in-patient program and committed to a long-term treatment program following that. Truly committed. At that time, thank God, Julian was already in our care, so we didn't have to wonder and worry about where he was while she was out "partying." Our biggest fear has always been that she might "run" with him although honestly, she sees him as a noose around her neck and would love it if we would take him off her hands. Our second biggest fear is that Julian might become a pawn in her hands, a way to get what she wants when she needs it (welfare assistance, for example), a thing to call her own, something to fight for, but not someone to love and nurture and care for like he deserves. I didn't want this to be a case of history repeating itself, much like her own mother who fought for custody of two girls that she later admitted she had no business raising in her condition.

At first, we had some hope that she would check into a program and make the right decision. That was foolish on our part. Since we kicked her out, we have received two phone calls, each time she claimed to be in a program (we confirmed with her employer that she had requested a leave of absence, but we couldn't confirm anything with the facility). And both times, her cell phone log betrayed her. It appears that she may have checked in twice, judging by the lack of calls for a few days at a time, but it also appears she checked out, judging by the round-the-clock phone calls following the "quiet" days. But none of those phone calls were to us and none of our phone calls to her were answered. I can't tell you how utterly angry, hateful, frustrated, disappointed, and terribly sad this makes me.

Yesterday morning, before my husband went to work, she showed up at our door crying, for the first time in over a month. She claimed that she missed her son (whom she hadn't even asked about for over a month), but she went first to her room to gather up some things. I jumped out of bed when I heard her talking and ran to Julian's room like a mother bear protecting her cub. I begged my husband to stay home until she left (we both agreed she could not stay) because I couldn't trust her with him and he couldn't trust me with her! When she finally asked to hold Julian (he woke up during the commotion and I was holding him), I hesitated at first, but with my husband as back-up, I handed him over and pleaded with her not to cry and upset him. She cried anyway, and then he cooed and smiled and giggled at her, making all of us cry. I really thought after that, that our offers to drive her straight back to the rehab facility might be accepted, but instead, she asked to be dropped off at the Quik Trip in her old stomping grounds.

At this point, I hold no hope for her recovery. She has been given more chances than many and yet, if she were a drowning victim in the high seas, she refuses to grab the rope. Now, our only focus is on finalizing the paperwork and proceedings to become Julian's legal guardians (a process we temporarily put on hold over the holidays and then some, while the situation appeared to improve) and to provide him the best we have to offer.

All that to say, I really need your help. Julian is not the problem. Our daughter is not even the problem. The fact that I am still working part-time when I'd like nothing better than to stay home with him full-time is not the problem. The fact that as of April 15th, I'll be able to stay with him full-time but then won' t be making any money is not the problem. All of those are worries that can and do cause me to cry, but the real problem is the resentment and anger and something that borders on hatred that I feel towards her right now. I don't want this to affect my relationship with Julian and I don't want it to affect his life anymore than the issues surrounding his mother and father already will. I know some might say that placing him for adoption would be the best choice, to remove him from the situation completely, but I assure you, there is no place in our hearts to do that. I need your experiences, expertise, prayers, wisdom, guidance, whatever you can offer. My problems may be few but they run deep and most of them stem from my fierce stubborness and self-reliant independence. For me to move on right now, I really need help with forgiveness. I know, intellectually, that this is what I need to do, but emotionally, I'm on a very slippery slope...

Labels: , ,


At 9:52 PM, March 19, 2009, Blogger Janie at Sounding Forth said...

Hey, girl. I'm praying for y'all. This is hard, no doubt.

If you get a second e-mail me(it's on my blog).

At 10:40 PM, March 19, 2009, Blogger Eric said...

Gwynne, thank you for sharing your heart so eloquently, and giving us the privilege of partnering with you in prayer.

It occurs to me that the fact that you're asking for prayer in this very specific way is an indication that you're already on your way to overcoming those things that are burdening you. God will honor your desire to rise above them, I have no doubt.

Keep in mind also that anger is a legitimate reaction to injustice, and it's possible to be angry without sinning (Jesus clearing the Temple comes to mind).

I believe (and have said on many occasions; forgive me if I sound like a broken record) that God's purposes are redemptive. He's in the business of restoring hope, providing healing, returning joy, and rewarding faith. May your life and the lives of your family prove to be amazing testimonies to those truths!

At 11:30 PM, March 19, 2009, Blogger Gwynne said...

You West Texas folks have wonderfully big hearts!! Thank you both so much.

Eric, you amaze me with your words and ability to use them to comfort and heal. You are true salt, my friend. Thank you!

At 8:47 AM, March 20, 2009, Blogger Sisiggy said...

I think you're being a little hard on yourself, expecting to be in a place of forgiveness at this point. I mean, you aren't even in "clean-up-the-mess" mode -- the "messes" are still being made.

Eric addressed the spiritual aspect perfectly so I can't add to that. And, while I'm reluctant to give advice, I can share how I coped in a time of great stress, the circumstances which you are well acquainted.

For what it's worth: You can only work with the strength God gives you. I don't mean to trivialize what you're feeling, but I know you're approaching this prayerfully and He is answering with giving you the power in the areas where you need it and where it is needed, whether you like it or not. Your anger and outrage may be the only way your daughter will finally -- someday -- hold herself accountable; or maybe it's what gives you the drive to fight on Julian's behalf. While you say your daughter is not the problem, in a tangible sense, yes she is. You may have a fight ahead of you and the law favors the birth parent (I could tell you stories...). No one knows what the effect will be of what you do now and last year at this time I wouldn't have been able to tell you this. I was very hard on myself for my inability to act in the loving and helpful way I thought I should and could not understand why I wasn't given that strength. Hindsight being 20/20, I should have just accepted that what God did give me the strength to do is exactly what was needed.

But, most of all -- and you know this -- take it one moment at a time. It's okay if, within the storm, you find your moments of joy. When you think about it, there's always a storm to some extent.

At 11:33 AM, March 20, 2009, Blogger Gwynne said...

Sisiggy, I was hoping you might offer some words of wisdom and you did! And you help put things in're absolutely right about having the strength where we need it at the time. I hadn't thought about that and it's so true. This is where my stubborn self-reliance kicks in and I think I should have strength for all things at once!

Oh, don't even get me started on how she is the problem and the law favoring birth parents (although I will say in MO, meth is treated more seriously than any other substance and I have no doubts about what the judge will decide). That's where I start sliding quickly! *sigh*

Thank you!

At 7:50 AM, March 21, 2009, Blogger Sisiggy said...

In case you missed it, my e-mail address in the sidebar of my blog-- ya know, in case you need someone to assure you you're not crazy... (Really -- I'm not a stalker. But, then, if I'm a stalker, I'd say that, wouldn't I?)

At 11:04 AM, March 21, 2009, Blogger Jen said...

I really can't add to anything the others have said, except that Beau and I are and will be praying for you all.

And I know that little Julian is blessed beyond measure to have been placed in the care of his loving grandparents.

At 8:17 PM, March 21, 2009, Blogger Gwynne said...

Sisiggy, me asking someone to confirm I'm not crazy is a bit like the stalker saying she's not a stalker. ;-) I've never felt crazier in my life...almost like my mind and my body have become disconnected. I'm sure there's a medical term for that. But I may take you up on the offer...guard your email box. ;-)

Jen, thank you for praying and for your kind words. We may not be the best option for Julian, but we feel blessed that we were given the opportunity to be here for him. This whole situation has opened my eyes to the truly desperate situation that many kids live with every day and it saddens me that we (the universal "we") can't help them all.

At 8:11 PM, March 23, 2009, Blogger beth said...

I have nothing but hugs and prayers for you all.

At 12:51 AM, March 24, 2009, Blogger Library girl said...

She has been in my prayers weekly for a while as well as you and your husband and will continue to be (I can focus them better after this post). Kia Kaha (which in English means stay strong) and remember Hebrews 10:39 - But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. (You will overcome! Some days may not feel like that but you will :)).

At 11:54 PM, March 24, 2009, Blogger Gwynne said...

Thanks, Beth. I appreciate the prayers! And hugs!! :-)

That is encouraging, Library girl. Thanks for lifting my spirits! :-)

At 8:35 PM, March 28, 2009, Blogger Foo said...

As a non-parent and someone who came from a family where only one sibling ever spent a night in jail - minor in possession of wine coolers - I can't even begin to comprehend everything that you're going through. It has to be so hard, and my heart breaks for you to have to feel so emotionally torn between the child who won't be saved and the grandchild that can and needs to be.

At 9:40 PM, March 28, 2009, Blogger Gwynne said...

Foo, I think that is part of the problem...I can't even begin to comprehend what I'm going through either! Thank you for your compassion.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home