I’ll be your keeper for life as your guardian
I’ll be your warrior of care your first warden
I’ll be your angel on call, I’ll be on demand
The greatest honor of all, as your guardian
~ Guardian, Alanis Morissette
I opened the door and there they stood. My drug addicted daughter, who had the good sense to leave her piece of shit husband in the car, and my 3 year old grandson. My first thought is always that he looked so pale and dirty. And unhappy.
They walked in with his tiny suitcase, which I will open later and find it holds only a few items of clothing, most of which don’t fit. There were no toys. No stuffed animals. No books. Nothing offering the comforts of ‘home’.
That is likely because he didn’t have any of those things. Including a home.
She walked in to the kitchen where my husband and a notary are waiting, papers lined up on the kitchen table.
Two days prior, my daughter called me and asked me if we would take her son. They had no home. She and her husband fought all the time. He was a thief and a drug addict. Come to think of it, so was she. They needed someone to take this boy…because he’d become inconvenient.
My husband and I scrambled to find a family lawyer that could get this done quickly before she had a chance to change her mind and take off because neither of us believed this little boy would survive what was coming.
I don’t believe she doesn’t love him. I know that she does and I know the pain she was in at that moment as she approached the table and eyed the words on paper that, instead of legal jargon, said in her eyes, “I’m a failure as a mother. I am giving up the right to call my son…my son. I will have no rights to him. He will no longer be mine. I am giving up this little person who loves me more than anything, despite my faults.”
She signed the papers and with a quick goodbye, she walked out the door. She walked out the door without her son. For all intents and purposes, he was now mine.
In the midst of lawyers and judges all in a span of two days, I had made him a room in this, his new home. There was a big bed with clean sheets. There were toys offered up by my then seven-year old son. There were stuffed animals lovingly placed on the bed from the stash of my then eight-year old daughter. Clothes that my son had outgrown that I had been saving for him were now clean and folded, stored in the drawers of his very own dresser.
The delight in his eyes was heartwarming yet sad because there is something he didn’t know.
He doesn’t know she isn’t coming back. The task of telling him has been left up to me. What is worse? He doesn’t know who I am. He thinks I am a random stranger because in their whirlwind life of addiction and chaos we didn’t see him much for two years. The only time he’s ever stayed at our house overnight was the night my daughter was being arrested for shoplifting at Macy’s and I had to go pick him up so they wouldn’t call social services.
He came to live with us on September 15th, 2011. My daughter asked us to keep him for six months.
He is still here.
I love him and I’m happy to have him. I think my daughter did the right thing and I never in a million years would have said no. Never.
Since the day she left, she stayed high. She’s called me suicidal and I’ve spoken to her on a cell phone, trying to find out where she is while having my mom on the land line calling 911 to send help to her. I’ve put her in rehab facilities, hospitals, and pulled strings to get her into a domestic violence shelter while her husband was sitting in jail, only to have her leave and go back to him as soon as he was freed.
For two years I raised a troubled kid, because all that he had witnessed and been subjected to had fucked him up. He was holed up in dark places with only God knows what going on, moved from place to place. The first time I put him in a bathtub to clean his dirty body and hair, he screamed like a wild animal the whole time. Why? He was three and couldn’t tell me so I had to let my imagination take flight which wasn’t a good thing. He wasn’t potty trained and wouldn’t be until well into his sixth year. He was prone to violent outbursts. He didn’t have any idea how to interact with other children. To this day he has a hard time making friends. He had no filter and no boundaries and they are minimal today, at best. As recently as this past December at a family dinner he asked me how I knew his mother. WHAT? He still has no idea how he fits in with all of us even though it’s been explained several times.
He didn’t hug. He had never been read a bedtime story. It took him two years to say I love you in response to the same. If I told him I loved him he’d say, ‘Okay’.
She filed for divorce from the asshat but didn’t leave the addict life. She did what she had to in order to feed her demon and I never saw her or heard from her. I think she was just quietly waiting to die while I quietly waited to find out she had.
Her addict lifestyle eventually caught up with her and she went to jail. Then she went to prison. The downward spiral was quick and, I’m sure, very painful.
Whether or not there is a happy ending to this story for them as mother and son remains to be seen. She was released in December 2014. She is living with her grandparents and, thanks to having a family owned business, is gainfully employed. She is working on one thing at a time, keeping her expectations low so as not to overwhelm herself with all that needs to be done to once more become a responsible member of society. She sees her son every week at our home. He deals with it the best he can, usually by becoming obnoxious, because he has no idea how to play the hand he’s been dealt.
Because it sucks.
Except for the fact that he has a very good life. It has had its challenges and not just for him. My other children have had to make adjustments over the past three and a half years and not all of them have been easy.
I had never, ever been called to the principal’s office at school. I have now. Twice.
I’d never been physically pushed into a bathtub by a four-year old. I have now.
I’d never carried a crazed screaming child across a parking lot in 100 degree weather with strangers staring at me like I was a kidnapper. I have now.
I have never felt like I’d saved someone’s life.
I do now.
He has lived with us now for what will be four years this September and there is no doubt he will be with us longer. His mom has a long way to go and being a recovering addict myself I know it’s a tough road she has ahead. I know life would be less stressful if he could just be our grandson, visiting on weekends so we could spoil him and send him home to his mother.
Sometimes that’s just not how things work.
I don’t write this so that others will stand me on a pedestal and tell me how wonderful I am. I’m no saint. I realize that my own active addiction had an impact on my daughter. I am not a victim of circumstance. I am not a victim by any stretch of the imagination.
These are consequences of a chain of addiction, silence, shame, and fear in our family history. I know I am not alone.
That is why I write this.
photo credit: Teddy via photopin (license)