After my 30 year old son threw me out the day after Thanksgiving, I sat with the pain until after Christmas. I thought the pain would fade, but it only intensified. It was eating me up from the inside out. I thought we had a good relationship, and then this.
So I wrote him a letter, asking what I had done to cause him to do this thing.
A couple of weeks went by. He was kind enough to send me a note saying that he wanted to take time to sit down and write me a well-thought out letter. I waited eagerly, hoping for a positive answer.
What I received tore my heart into even smaller shreds.
He detailed grudges that he held from childhood, that I thought had been addressed during the two years of intensive family therapy at the therapeutic boarding school I sent him to as an alternative to jail after he got arrested when he was 16. I guess that wore off.
More grudges for things I had done unintentionally, that I did not know had bothered him, or even knew anything about.
Worst of all, he disapproves of my current lifestyle, my past lifestyle, and I got the impression (or maybe her wrote it) that he believes I am irresponsible, and worries that I will run out of money (possible, since I have given so much of it to him, in one way or another).
I waited another few weeks, went through the letter with my therapist, discussed the triggers…
Being thrown out by my own son would be bad enough. For krissake, I wasn’t drunk or abusive or anything that would merit being shown the door. But since my mother used to do that all the time when I came to visit her, hoping once again that I would find her transformed into the Mommy that I never had, the trigger was like a hammer brought down on my head.
And his letter, so full of judgement and criticism, triggered my childhood of constant criticism by both parents. How can I relax if I never know whether what I’m doing will be accepted or considered wrong? How can I trust him ever again, since he holds grudges even for things I didn’t know were wrong, in his eyes?
And who the hell does he think he is, to judge his mother? I have never abused him: the opposite. I have struggled ever since he was born to find ways of helping him to be happy.
As one of my first boyfriend’s Irish mother said to him when he criticized her, “Don’t you judge me! I wiped your shitty ass!”
I wrote my son another letter, explaining that we are different people with different values, and just because someone is different doesn’t mean they’re a bad person (you’d think someone would know this by the time they’re 30, but I guess not).
I also reiterated how much his behavior had hurt me, and how my current financial situation is largely due to the more than $200,000 that ate up my retirement fund, plus having to borrow another $75,000 from my parents, who amazingly mortgaged their paid-for home to save his life. He has never thanked any of us, nor offered to pay us back even a fraction. I have never mentioned the money thing to him before, not wanting to lay a guilt trip on him. But since he brought it up, and since he is behaving like an entitled brat, I let him in on the secret.
I have not heard back from him yet, and I wonder how he will take these harsh realities.
I also told him something of my health issues, both physical and mental, and that since I have no one to care for me and I refuse to go into a nursing home, at some point this life will end, either naturally or, if the pain is too severe, by assistance.
I feel that I have lost him. This too is triggering, as I had the same feeling when he was a lying, stealing, addicted teenager, running with others of the same ilk, in and out of every kind of rehab, even a stint of involuntary hospitalization that turned out to be a nightmare.
He managed to either fake his way through the programs or get himself thrown out by fighting or otherwise flagrantly breaking the rules.
Finally his stepmother threw him out, and he ended up in a homeless shelter, where he broke the rules and I don’t remember what happened after that because I was having my own catatonic breakdown and two hospitalizations.
During those times I felt like I had lost my son, but he was still alive, which was worse than having lost him by death in some ways.
If he had died, at least I could have grieved him and kept the good memories. But losing him alive was unremitting torture, as it is today.
Why, all of a sudden, have I become a villain?
I think I know.
Now that he’s become known in the scientific world, he’s emulating his famous scientist dad. He’s dressing like his dad, even talking like him.
I’m sure people ask him what his mother does, and he doesn’t know what to say.
He’s not proud of me; in fact, he’s embarrassed, because I am disabled by mental illness, I don’t work, and I don’t even have a home.
He writes that he wants me to settle down and have a real bed for him to sleep in when he visits.
Funny about that: when I did have a real home with a real guest bed, he never visited. Of course, my real home was in Israel, and although I offered to pay his fare countless times, he always had an excuse why he couldn’t come. But he was happy to go to Hawaii with his dad.
I told my mother, who is not the greatest role model; nevertheless I told her, and she said, “Let him go. He’s never been a part of our family anyway.”
That hurt me even more, and made me wish I hadn’t said anything.
Thirty years ago today, I was great with this child. I have a photo of myself in profile, naked and glistening with oil like a wrestler. I am very short. I looked like I had swallowed a giant watermelon. I was so happy.
Now, I wonder whether having him was the right thing. He has never been happy. He screamed constantly for years. He started seeing a child psychologist when he was three. My ex-husband started sleeping with him when I started my internship, because otherwise he just screamed all night. This child drove a wedge between my former husband and I. I’ve observed, during my 20 years practicing pediatrics, that a sick child will either cement or destroy a marriage, depending on the health of that marriage to begin with. I consider the child to be a symptom of family dysfunction.
Usually divorce will help the stricken child; in our case, that was not to be.
Anger, and more anger, has been this child’s life. I thought he had developed coping skills and self awareness. I was so proud.
Now I am lost in a sea of pain.
If I had known then what I know now, I believe I would not have conceived him.