My last post did not go where I intended it to go. I was planning on only briefly mentioning my guilt over not finding the body, but that was the memory that took over. My trait, once a positive one, now one I find puzzling is what I planned to write about.
Once my guilt over not finding the body was examined over and over a much heavier guilt set in. It is one thing to let a dead person hang for too long. It is quite another to let a live person die. My son walked passed me. My son, who had already attempted suicide once, walked passed me with a determined look on his face. He was stuffing something is his pocket and said he was going out to smoke a cigarette. I was nonchalant. After thirty minutes of waiting for him I did not worry. I went to bed without finding him.
I have always been a laissez-faire parent. By nature I am an optimist and do not worry too much. My kids climbed trees, slid down the stairs, played rough, got dirty and ruined their clothes without me ever freaking out. When I had my children they were text book pregnancies. Thing always seemed to work out. When Lee had surgery for his broken wrist everything turned out like it should. Later when he had a more extensive jaw surgery he healed as expected. There seemed to be a pattern. I did not worry and when things went wrong they righted themselves or we fought our way through them.
Deep down, when Jason was sick, I do not think I ever believed he would die. I expected it to be a long hard fight, a slow recovery, but I knew we would beat this. Looking back I seem so naïve, so stupid. I let my son die, because I believed he was getting better. I thought we were on our way.
There were things in Jason's life that I was watching closely because they were the only way I knew to measure how he was doing. One of the things I watched was where he was sleeping. He had trouble both being alone and sleeping. Because of this combination bad nights were usually spent in my bed. He had been sleeping in the living room since he came home from the psych ward. I took this as a good sign.
I watched to see if he was being social. He had been laughing and spending more time with the family since he came home too. Tuesday he had went to a friend's house to spend the morning with them. To me this was huge, a big step in the right direction.
The sore on his chin was always the first thing I checked when I came home. On one of his worst nights, the Thursday before his first suicide attempt, he was convinced the whole world could read his mind. This was a delusion he had often, but this night he ripped open his chin and tried to pull the wires out of his face. He told me he could feel the wires that were transmitting his thoughts with his pocket knife. His chin would almost heal then I would notice he had opened the wound again. Tuesday night as I sat on the couch next to him I examined his chin and noticed it had healed. There was a scar, but the wound had healed.
For years I thought my optimism was one of the things that made me a good parent. So often when parents worry they make situations for their children worse. Sometimes when my children were struggling I gave them my support but let them work the problem out for themselves. Now I wish I had been worried and scared. In my memory I picture me jumping out of the chair and tackling him football style when he tried to walk out the door. I cannot change who I am. I cannot change the past.
I spent all weekend beating myself up. As a mother I really did fail at the one thing a mother is supposed to do: keep her child alive. After a month of thinking this over I believe it was a trait that I used to count as a positive one that failed him.
After reading his autopsy report I am sure he killed himself Tuesday night. So first I felt horrible for not finding his body sooner. It was cold. I only went outside once on Wednesday. It is hard for me to believe that I did not see him then. Several people came and went that day. It is unreal that nobody did see him. He was hanging in a small building with a both a window frame and a door frame that are wide. I had not gotten around to putting in a window or door yet. He was visible from the street. Nobody who was here can believe that he was there on Wednesday. Diva cried when I told her I thought he was. She is sure she would have seen him.
The day he died Fria Chica told me that she had talked to him Wednesday morning. She pulled up early in the morning. It was still dark outside. My mom's headlights were shining a small amount of light into the building. She said that he was looking down at his phone and would not talk to her. That did not alarm her. Often if he was in a paranoid mood he ignored people, or talked so quite he was hard to hear. She was in a hurry so she took this as assent that she could borrow his car and rushed off to work. Since driving caused him to have a harder time controlling his thoughts he did not use his car much and she had been driving it to work everyday.
I did not know Fria Chica had taken his car, so I thought that Jason had taken his car in the middle of the night. My mom said that Fria Chica told her Jason was in the building as she left. My mom climbed the steps to the building and stood in the doorway. She did not go inside. She looked around and did not see him.
All of this led to much confusion and conversation. Was he in the room alive when Fria Chica talked to him? Did he hide from my mom? Could he have survived all night out in the sub-freezing temperatures in his thin jacket? I kept thinking it was a different scenario.
I suspected he had killed himself Tuesday night. Fria Chica does not have the best eyes. She is also not observant when she is in a hurry. Jason did not have his phone. He left it on the kitchen table. I think he was looking down because he was hanging there already dead. Something deep inside of Fria Chica knew this too. She was over emotional all day. At the end of her work day she walked off and quit without a word.
What then of my mom? She has poor night vision like Fria Chica. She also has a strong defense mechanism that leads her to forget things she does not want to remember. Whenever she talks about the past I wonder if we lived in the same universe. Could her mind just have blocked him out?
I have suggested that maybe there was some sort of spiritual veil over him. How else could so many people have walked passed him and not noticed him. I think I was supposed to find him when I did.
Most everybody else believes he could not have been there all day Wednesday. It must have been after dark on Wednesday when he died.
We have been waiting for the autopsy to see when the doctors would place his time of death. They left it as undetermined. The blood analysis from the state is not back yet. If he had meth in his system we would know that he did leave Tuesday night. After looking up a few things in the report I really believe he did kill himself Tuesday, right after I talked to him. The report had said rigor mortis had passed. Of course freezing temperatures make rigor mortis less accurate as measure for time of death.
His body was frozen when found. The autopsy said there were signs of post mortem hypothermia. He was missing for about 36 hours. I do not think rigor mortis could have set in and passed in much less time than that.
My mind is a jumbled mess today. For some reason this week has been harder than last. I'm not sure why. Maybe because I am making decisions on the headstone, or reading the autopsy report. It could just be that I'm tired from other commitments like work, we're shorthanded again, and school board. All day I am exhausted then night comes and my brain won't shut off. It feels like I am starting over on dealing with the guilt and pain. The nausea is increased back to the original level too. On the plus side at least I do not have to deal with the guilt of moving on.
Last night I went to bed at ten, slept fitfully until four, then fell into a really deep sleep until six-thirty. For the first week or two after Jason's death I did occasionally forget when I was asleep and suddenly remember after being awake for a few seconds. I thought that phase was in the past.
When I woke up this morning I laid still for a minute with a vague feeling like there was something I had been trying to remember. I thought to myself, "why was I thinking about death last night?" Then it hit me suddenly and hard. The brain is a funny thing. I wonder if it had to temporarily forget so I could get those few hours of sleep.
I had set today as the deadline for picking out a headstone. It turned out to be a much harder decision than I expected. You see a headstone is not important for me. If I had everything my way I would put all of his ashes, minus what I need for lockets, in a memorial in my yard. Lane and his dad would like a him to be in our town cemetery. So this is something I am doing to help Lane, His dad, and Jason's friends, deal with their loss.
Also, I have always resisted the idea that we need to spend thousands of dollars to honor our loved ones. Large blocks of granite with names and dates carved into it does not seem personal enough to express my love. I think instinctively many people feel the same way. The family of people who have died in car wrecks buy large headstones, but still put homemade crosses along the highway. I feel that these more personal signs are a stronger expression of love. Because of all this I intended to spend a minimal amount on the headstone.
Like with any large decision I figured I had better do some research. I spent four hours Saturday night searching the internet for ideas and prices. Sunday Fria Chica, her six year old son, Huggy Bear (who needs a new name now that she is eight), and I walked through two cemeteries to see what we liked best. We had a picnic and discussed what our favorite ones had in common.
We all liked as much personal information as possible on the monument. We liked knowing the names of the parents and siblings. Pictures were nice. One had a poem written by one of the deceased grandsons carved on the back. These were the touches we liked.
As I started to look at my options I was not happy with anything in the $500 - $1000 price range. There was not room for any personal expression. In the $1000 - $2000 price range I could get a bit more room, but it still seemed too small and insignificant to express our love for Jason. For $3000- $6000 I felt I could get what I wanted. I just could not bring myself to spend that kind of money.
If I wanted to I know I could get a loan for the full amount. Fria Chica offered to give me her tax return. Rolando and Miss Universe assured me that they would help me get the money for whichever one I picked out. I know that if I asked, Jason's dad and his family would pitch in too. The dilemma was that I do not feel like it is money well spent.
Jason hated for me to spend money on him. He always told me he did not want anything for Christmas. The year before my mom asked him what he wanted for Christmas. His answer was, "Grandma, unless you are going to get me a stripper who will let me snort coke off her ass save your money. I don't need anything." While he was sick and living with me he kept a running total on how much money he owed me. No matter how many times I explained to him that at nineteen he was still a kid and could rely on me he never liked the idea. I know he would hate the idea of everybody spending all of this money on a headstone for him. Especially because I do not think he ever wanted to be in a cemetery either.
What then was the answer? I was in tears. I wanted to give up and not deal with this right now. If I had not already told everyone the date of internment was March 8th I may have quit. I needed to think out goals for the headstone in my head. Granite is used because it lasts forever. Jason, to my knowledge, has no children. He will never have any grandchildren. The youngest person alive that will remember him is six. So realistically our monument only needs to last one hundred years. What was important to me was the personal reflection of my son and our love for him. Granite seemed too cold to do that for me. That is why we needed it to be big enough to hold so many words and pictures.
Grace had mentioned that her brother-in-law had made four headstones out of steel. The problem with these is that they do need repainted every year or so. We had looked at them in one of the cemeteries. I liked them. One had peeling paint and was beginning to rust. There was another somebody else had made that was simply a large steel cross with the name and date cut out. It had been painted blue. The family had hung a wreath on it for Christmas. It was one that I liked for the simplicity.
The shaped I liked best was a pillar. In granite it was going to cost as least $2800 to get a simple pillar. I went to talk to Miss Universe and Rolando. I drew out what I wanted and asked Rolando if he thought we could do it in steel? What about stainless steel? At the funeral home they had priced 8x10 ceramic photos at $1000 a piece. I wanted at least two of these. We found them online for $100. Could we make our own headstone? Am I crazy to try this? He is going to talk to his dad. We are lucky to have a welder in the family. Miss Universe suggested powder coating the steel. Rolando agreed that the finish would last for years if we coated it. If we are lucky we think we can do the whole thing for $600. If we do not like it we can always order a granite one later.
Way back in January of 2011 I mentioned that my friend and neighbor Anna had been diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. She was diagnosed right before her 49th birthday. Last Friday was her 51st birthday. Her last two scans have come back completely clean.
On Thursday evening I was taking a shower. I picked up an empty bottle, cursed, turned off the water, and stepped out of the shower. My phone rang. It was Anna wanting to know what I was doing. She was impressed when I told her I was in the middle of a shower. "You answered your phone during a shower to talk to me!"
"Actually," I replied, "I stepped out because I needed more body wash."
"We are celebrating and you are two shots and one beer behind." I could hear Diva laughing in the background. It sounded like I needed to go join them. They were moving on to another friend's house. I finished my shower and met them there. I took two very small shots and drank a couple of beers. We all broke up and went home by 8:30. Parties don't last all night on Thursdays anymore. I'm not sure if it is being physically older or more responsible that brings us home early.
On Friday I picked up Jason's ashes at the funeral home after work. On the drive home I called my friend Grace to invite her to come have a cider with Jason & I. Jason and her son had been close friends. She is the friend I called to come sit with me the morning I found Jason.
One evening last February we were sitting in my house drinking a beer. I told her that I had admitted Jason's meth addiction to myself.
He had come home to help his dad move to Oklahoma. He was thin, pale and jittery. I had known for a month that he was 'occasionally' smoking meth, but finally I had to admit that he had a problem. He was cranky during the trip and had argued with Lane about everything.
She was the friend I told for a reason. Her daughter had gone through a meth addiction right after high school also. Now years later her daughter has a nursing degree, a great job, and an adorable 4 year old daughter. She quit without rehab, struggled to get healthy again, and is a great mom and person. She gave me hope.
Grace looked at me and said, "You are about to go through hell. You will come out the other side, but it is going to be hell." So many nights as I cried about the pain my son was in I thought of those words and they kept me going.
When we received my sisters ashes they were in a white cardboard mailing box. When that box was opened there was a completely sealed brown plastic box inside. That brown box has never been opened. One of the things I have been wondering about is how I would cut Jason's plastic box open to get out small amount of ashes for a locket without making a mess.
Before Grace arrived I decided to take Jason out of the mailing box and set him on the coffee table with a photo so we could toast his life. I was shocked to find a clear plastic bag full of ashes. I could see them. They were grainy, more like granulated sure than powdered sugar. I had to take a deep breath to compose myself. I left the bag in the box with the lid open and set one of his senior pictures on top so that we could see the gray of his ashes.
Grace and I split three ciders. I had them leftover from a Woodchuck variety pack I had bought a few weeks before. We poured them into glasses so we could split each cider in half since they were three different kinds. Our favorite was the spring cider. We toasted Jason with each glass and talked.
I have found that there are some things I know for certain.
1. All of the best days of my life are behind me.
2. The term lighthearted will never again fit as a description for me.
3. I will heal and enjoy life.
I have spent this week examining objects in the attic of my soul. Some of them are very dusty. In thinking about my guilt and the need to forgive myself I realized that hidden deep down I still had some resentment towards my mom for the death of my sister. When I was around fifteen my nine year old sister died of pneumonia while she was in the hospital for an uncommon intestinal problem. What odd trail led to this realization?
A phrase that I have been puzzling over for a few years had been playing through my mind. "You are only as happy as your saddest child." My mom had been at work one day when a man said this in front of her. We were talking that evening and she told me she had rejected that idea. One of my mom's strengths is her ability to laugh and have fun no matter what life throws at her. Having more than one child who suffers from depression it would be hard on her to live her whole life under the constraints of that phrase. I understood her point; she does deserve to be as happy as possible; life is too long to be unhappy. On the other hand I felt that she should acknowledge that some of the reasons her children were unhappy stemmed from their childhoods. I filed the whole thing away under things that confuse me.
Now, several years later, I was examining the phrase to see how I felt about it for myself. As I try to heal there is guilt for feeling better. If I walk outside and smile because it is a beautiful day out I feel guilty for enjoying a day that Jason cannot. If my son died because he lost hope in life can I ever truly be happy? These are the questions I wrestle with every day now.
As I thought about myself it became obvious to me that I had never forgiven my mother for her mistakes as a parent. My father was a horrible parent, and person overall. I did make it a point in my early twenties to forgive him. It was nothing I needed to tell him about. We were already estranged and I had no intentions of reversing that. It was something I needed to do to let go of any anger that could make me bitter. So right there at work I paused to forgive my mother for her mistakes as a parent. I know I will have to do this more than once as other resentments come to the surface, but I immediately felt better.
I was talking with my mom tonight and the subject came around to the fact that as a family we never did grieve for my sister. There was no funeral or burial. One day she was just gone. My mom was not in a strong enough position at the time to lead us through it. We did not mention this during our conversation, but the fact was there. I hope she forgives herself. Life is hard enough without carrying around loads of guilt.
Drama Queen was let out of the psych ward yesterday. Early in the afternoon she called the girls and told them she was leaving to drive down and pick them up. I checked my phone during my school board meeting last night and noticed she had tried to call. I sent a text promising to call back after my meeting. She sent a couple of apology/I love you texts. It was good to know she was not mad at me for sending the police to her house.
After my meeting she did not answer her phone. I set up a space documentary on my laptop for myself and Maxie to watch while we folded clothes. Then the feel sorry for myself/I hate you texts started. I asked if she was drinking. I know I should not have been, but I was shocked. This just started her on a whole new line of why I was a disappointment to her. I ignored her and went to bed. She did pick up the girls tonight. Of course there was some drama in which she told me to fuck off. No thank you for making sure the girls were picked up as soon as possible. Soon enough that they were not assigned a social worker and were kept out of the system. That did not surprise me.
I flipped open my laptop after they left. There smiling back at me was the picture of Jason I have as a background. The funny thing is that yesterday was the first day I could think of him before he became sick. Before when I tried my brain always led me back to him being sick, and then to his death. For two days now I have been smiling at all of the fun times we have had with him.
You know that little voice that stops you from doing things that would be funny but also problematic? Jason did not have one of those. One day I sat down next to him on the sofa with a bowl of cereal. Suddenly he reached over and grabbed a handful of my cereal, milk and all, which he then tried to shove in his mouth.
Looking at his picture tonight it hit me that that kid was dead. Not just Jason who had been suffering for months, but also the sweet, funny kid that I has made my house so interesting for years. He is gone too. I wonder if I am going to be constantly getting used to this idea for the rest of my life.
My sister, Drama Queen, lives four hours away. Before she moved away her two daughters were constantly at my house. She was working full time at a hospital and going through nursing school so she needed a babysitter 6 to 7 days a week. Then when the girls were 3 and 6 she moved away. Her live in boyfriend was going to college and she was going with him. After a year they broke up, but she did not move back home. She liked living in the city, and away from us.
In past posts the girls have gone by Princess and Curly top. Now that they are older they need better names. Leanne and Laray are what I am now going with. Naming people is one of the hardest parts of writing.
Living alone in a city with two children is hard. She never has built up a social network she can rely on to help with the kids. Without noticing it she lashes out and pushes people away. This makes it hard for her to have close friends. Several times over the years I have tried to get her to move closer so we can help more. Not that we have not helped. It is just that driving four hours when she needs a sitter is not practical.
When Laray was four Drama Queen developed a drinking problem. This has made raising the girls harder for her. They have moved in with me for extended time periods over and over again because of this. They had been living with me for three years until last August. Drama Queen had announced she was pregnant back in November. I told the girls they had to put the crib in their room. While pregnant my sister did really well. No drinking at all.
Not long after Ralee was born we started getting angry or crying phone calls. This is never a good sign. On my next visit up she assured me she only drinks a few beers after the baby is asleep then goes to bed herself. The girls are amazingly good with the baby. My sister is too. She cooks, cleans, puts the baby to bed, drinks a bit, and sleeps. Not ideal, but it is working for now.
The day Jason died I talked to her for an hour. She does not deal with anything well, especially not loss. I talked to her everyday on the phone trying to help her deal with it. She could not make up her mind on whether to come to the funeral or not. I felt that the girls needed to be here with their cousins. Family should come together and talk, laugh, and cry at times of pain. I cleared it with Drama Queen then sent Fria Chica to pick up the girls. The morning of the funeral Drama Queen drove down, went to the funeral, took her girls home with her.
Not long after that the hateful texts and phone calls started coming. She blamed the family for Jason's death. She was sure he would still be alive if anybody had taken drug and alcohol abuse seriously. She told me that not one of us had done anything to help him. It was startling and hurt at first, but we know we should have expected this from her. It is what she does. We tried to keep brushing it off.
One Friday night she called me at 9:30 p.m. and asked me to come pick up the girls. She was crying. She was drunk. I was not sure what to do. I knew that getting the girls would be a good idea, but also that Drama Queen is erratic. After the long drive she could refuse to let me in. I also thought driving straight there and back would put the girls in a dangerous situation. I had to be to work at 8 the next morning, and was already tired. I have done this before, but I really felt it was too risky.
Instead of leaving right away I waited. At 11:30 she told me not to come. Had I left when she wanted me to I would have been halfway there. The next day she was fine.
Wednesday morning she wants me to come pick up the girls again. It is 6:00 a.m. I have to work. She is extremely drunk. I tell her she needs to figure out something for the day, because I can not be there until the evening. I offer to send Fria Chica. "I hate her right now." Is her answer.She explains that she is going to kill herself and does not want the girls to see it. My response may sound callous but we have had similar conversations in the past. I tell her she needs to keep it together for one more day, and I will be there this evening. She hangs up.
Two minutes later she calls back. She says that she has just swallowed a bottle of pills and I had better call in sick and come get the girls. I try to ask her questions, but she will only say that she is going to be in the basement dead when I get here.
There is a good chance she is lying to manipulate me. What if I am wrong? If I am right she is still too drunk to handle a five month old baby while the girls are at school. I call the police.
I was right. She had not taken any pills. She is put into a facility to watch and assess whether she is suicidal or not. I send Fria Chica after the girls.
I talked to her doctor that day. He does not believe she is suicidal. He thinks it is something she says while drinking. He notices it has happened more than once in her file. He tells me he is going to keep her a couple of days for observation to make sure.
Now it is Sunday. I have not been able to contact her. Her phone goes straight to voicemail. Nobody answers the number I have for the facility. Maybe it is just a call out line? I do not know if the girls are here to stay or not. I need to enroll them in school if they are.
It is the little things that get me. Rolando, Miss Universe, and I decided to cook supper at their house tonight and play a game of Sequence. It is the one game we can all agree on right now. Rolando wanted to know what kind of potatoes we should make to go with the bbq beef sandwiches. I was excited, it doesn't take much, about making French fries. I don't do much frying, so it always seems festive when I do. As I watched everybody coming in for plate after plate of fries my chest tightened and I had trouble catching my breath.
I knew if Jason were alive we would be doing this at my house. He was also one of those people who is easily pleased. Whenever I cooked his favorite foods he would act as if I had just built him a house. Sandwiches and fries were one of his favorite meals. He would eat enough fries for 3 people. If there were any left he would eat them at two in the morning. A year ago, when he was healthy, he would have had several of his friends over. I would fry enough for all of them. The house would be full of noise and laughter.
Instead I am at home in a silent house. If not for this baby sleeping in my bed I would be all alone. I managed to calm myself several times this evening. By eleven thirty though I was ready to come home and cry myself to sleep.
I probably should explain why I have a baby in my bed, but that is a story for tomorrow.
Grief is a funny creature. For several hours a day it is a shadow lurking behind you. Then suddenly for no noticeable reason it springs, covering you to a point of near smothering. Sometimes during the day I can be distracted to the point of enjoying myself. Then the overwhelming guilt takes over.
There are moments of clarity. Yesterday a woman came in and was complaining about her day. She casually said that she shouldn't complain because there was always somebody having a worse day than you. Feeling sorry for myself I thought, "No, I'm pretty sure I'm having the worst fucking day imaginable." The next customer is a lady I know well. Her daughter was born with a serious disease that for eight years has kept her confined to a bed, or a stroller on outings. She is not expected to live much past her childhood. Yet I have never seen this woman sit around feeling sorry for herself. It hit me that I have so much to be thankful for.
I loved watching Jason during his childhood. He ran, climbed, jumped. I watched him play football, baseball, basketball. He had girlfriends. He had fathers chasing him out of houses. I sat with him all night after his first broken heart.
Jason was one of those people who was honest to the point of embarrassing people. He would tell stories of his late night escapades at the breakfast table. My mom would say, "You just said that to your grandma!" One evening, after visiting his girlfriend, he came home and pulled off his shirt. He asked me if he had scratches down his back. Lee is watching television and says wryly, "We get it; your getting laid."
There are tons of things Jason is going to miss out on. There are moments that as his mother I am going to feel as if my heart is getting ripped out. Much like Prometheus I am going to constantly be healed only to be opened up again. This will continue for the rest of my life. Happy moments are going to be as bad as the sad ones, because he won't be there to share them with us. However, I do have many beautiful memories of my son enjoying life. I realize things like this in moments of clarity.
Then, while in a crowd, watching Lanes basketball games tears spring to my eyes. The thought that my boys will never all three be together again crushes me. All of the best days of my life are behind me.
The board secretary, who is who answered the phone when I called the school, arrived first. She sat on the freezing ground with her arms around me. I watched Rolando's work pick up pull away from his mom's house. For the past two months he has been in the habit of getting coffee at his mom's then driving slowly by my house to see is Jason is outside smoking. If Jason is outside Rolando will stop and talk to him, keep him company in the morning.
He stops in front of me and asks if everything is ok. I shake my head and motion for him to get out and come to me. I tell him what has happened. I point to Jason. From the street we can see him through the doorway. "Ah shit" Rolando said. He wants to cut him down. I am not sure we should disturb him before the police and coroner arrive. Miss Universe comes, Rolando must have called her. She asks who would like coffee or tea. Everybody declined except for me. I asked for tea. At this instant I realized I was still living. The police arrive. He hangs a blanket on the doorway. Rolando goes to the school to pick up the kids. The ambulance arrives, but we all have to wait for the coroner. I don't know why this takes over an hour, but it does.
After much crying and hugging the kids decide to walk back to the school and pick up their belongings. I am glad they leave. I do not want them to watch the body be cut down and leave in the ambulance. As they load up his body it strikes me that this is the last time I will be with my son. I follow the ambulance as it pulls away.
We all go to Rolando's and Miss Universe's house to call the rest of the family. While out on the street I keep thinking about the funeral. I cannot imagine having somebody who does not know Jason doing the service. Since it has been years since we have associated with a church, so I decide a preacher is unlikely. Then I remember that one of Jason's favorite teachers has retired and took a position as a Methodist minister. The high school gym seems a fitting place to say goodbye to our baby.
I realize that after three cups of tea I really need to use the bathroom. This one act seems pivotal to me. If I go that means I am moving on. I have always thought that if anything happened to one of my children I would just lie in bed and waste away. Suddenly it is time to make that decision. I go to the bathroom. I am moving on. Every mundane thing I do means I am living in a world in which my son is dead.
When I wake the next day Jason still is not home. Lane goes to school. I am glad I have the day off. Jason is always a mess the day after a relapse. I don't expect him till around noon so I take a nap. The phone rings at 11:30. Not recognizing the number I answer it. It is Valley Hope, the rehab center that would not take him back. The person on the phone asked how Jason is doing. She said that she had been wondering about him. I try to give the generic answer that he is fine. She keeps talking. I start to cry. I tell her that Jason disappeared the night before and I do not know where he is. She tells me she will keep us in her prayers. I'm sure you know what I was thinking I need not type it out.
I had already planned to have a few friends over that evening. I have a friend that I have not seen since Jason's overdose. My time had been focused on Jason. I did get out some for Lane's ballgames but not much else. I had invited her over along with some other friends who she had not seen either. I am thinking about cancelling just in case Jason needs me to sit with him.
As it gets closer and closer to five and I still have not heard from my son I decide to clean up the house and go ahead with my get together. While picking up the house I find his phone. No wonder he has not answered my texts. He has always been the best of my sons about answering me. Even at his worst times he will at least tell me he loves me. People start showing up at 4:30. My friends bring pizza and wine. We laugh and talk for a few hours before everybody bundles back up to go home.
I wake at three in the morning and am worried about Jason. It is extremely cold out. I am worried that whoever he is with could not deal with him and kicked him out. He could freeze to death outside. Without his phone he will have no way to call me. I fall back to sleep around 5:00 am.
When I wake up at eight I decide I will call all of his friends today and see if anyone has seen him. I am also going to put out a missing person report. Oh yes, it is my ex's, his dad's, birthday today I will send him a text to wish him a happy birthday. I am not sure what I will tell him about Jason.
I put on my coat to walk to work.
As I walk down the driveway I look into an outbuilding window. There is Jason. My heart leaps in excitement and relief. "Jason is home." I say out loud. I yell his name. He does not answer me. He is staring at the wall. This is typical for the day after a relapse. After his last relapse I found him in an empty apartment my sister was moving out of. He stood and talked to me while looking straight at the wall not even turning his head towards me. He was hungry. I told him I would bring him biscuits and gravy. As I turned to leave he said, "What no hug?"
He still does not answer me as I turn towards the doorway. I decide I will be a little late to work so I can get him inside and fed. Then I see the rope. I drop everything and run to him. I spin him around to see his face. It is rested and peaceful. His eyes are closed. His lips and tongue are dark purple almost black. I run back out screaming. There is a pickup driving by. I run across my yard to stop it. I stop myself. Run back to where I dropped my phone. I call 911 and tell them my son is dead. I call in a replacement to work for me. I call his dad. I call the school. I do not want Lane to hear about this on Facebook or through a text. I call a good friend who I know will come sit through this with me. I wait for the ambulance.
Jason is lying on the couch when I get home. I sit down next to him. The skin around his eyes is tight. I can tell he is struggling. We talk about his day. He spent the day with friends and smoked pot. I ask him if he thinks the pot made him worse. Normally I would agree that pot is better than meth, but it can also cause schizophrenia in young people. Given what Jason is already dealing with I have not thought it is a good idea for him. The one time since his overdose that he has tried pot it definitely made him worse.
The day after that first time we were driving to a doctors appointment. He was irritable and told me not to talk if I would not tell him what was going on. He was convinced there was a global conspiracy against him. He was sure I knew about it, but could not tell him on fear of death. I broached the idea that pot smoking had worsened his psychosis. I was using phrases like 'do you think' and 'have you noticed' trying to be gentle. Finally he looked at me and said, "Should I smoke pot? Yes or no?" "No." I answered. "Ok, then I won't." He said as he laid his head back and closed his eyes. As far as I know this is the first time since then.
He thinks it is the nutmeg making him worse. The website had said it could take a while to see the effects. I mention that maybe he should be googling ways to get better instead of ways to get high. He shakes his head and laughs gently. "Mama, I'm going to have these voices in my head the rest of my life. I might as well have some fun too." I disagree. I tell him the medicine is starting to work. He just needs to give it time. It was not one night of meth that changed his brain. He asks me to read to him. I say yes, but can I get something to eat first. I have been out all day and know that lying down reading will put me to sleep. I would like a cup of tea and some cookies before bed.
I am eating my cookies, that I dunk in my tea, when he walks by. He has been in his room. He has a resolute look on his face. "Never mind mom." He says as he walks by. "I am going out to smoke a cigarette." I sit on the couch and flip through channels while I wait for him to come back inside. Lane walks in about thirty minutes later. I ask if he noticed his brother outside. He did not, but his car is still there. I wait another fifteen minutes. It is midnight. I am exhausted. I walk outside and yell his name. I look in his car. I cannot find him. There had been a couple of cars come by while I was inside waiting. I assume he has called a friend to pick him up. I go to bed and sleep fitfully.
With the drive being so far I knew I would only be able to visit Jason on Sundays. I sent Lee a text telling him I would be in Newton on Sunday and that we should meet for lunch. I feel bad that I don't see my oldest son often enough. Jason had wanted me to drive to Lawrence a few weeks before this to visit Lee with him. He had picked a week that I could not take off of work. I seem to have too many of those.
Wednesday I get a call from Prairie View. They are releasing Jason the next day. I need to be there to transfer him to a rehab facility, which they are still trying to find one to take him, or to drive him home with me. The social worker is trying hard to place him in a dual facility that can deal with his mental illness as well as his addiction problem. She called Valley Hope and tried to talk them into taking him back but they refused. This irritated me. No mom likes to hear that somebody does not want their son. If they only knew how lovely he could be.
When I get there I meet with Jason and the social worker. One look at his eyes and know he is having a bad day. I mention how fidgety he is to her. I was really encouraged on Monday, but now I am having second thoughts. Maybe he should stay a bit longer. I never imagined they would let him out so soon. I had expected to be visiting him at least two more Sundays. The doctor had signed off on him being no longer a danger to himself or others.
On the drive home he crawled in the backseat to finish a short story he had started writing. I think this is a good sign. I had been encouraging him to keep a journal and do something creative. When we finish we listen to Nirvana. It is cold and snowy for the last half of the drive. On road trips like this I always appreciate my children. All three of them are good travelling partners. Jason and I like much of the same music and have several things to talk about. He tells me about going to the gym and playing basketball. He is excited about the fact that he can run now. Despite the cold he has me drop him off a block from home so he can show me how fast he can run. His enthusiasm makes me laugh. In so many ways he is still my baby boy.
He seems better that weekend. In the nights to follow he does not climb in to bed with me. I take this as a sign that his medication is starting to work. On Saturday I decide to go out with some friends for drinks. I have not done this is months. I was afraid I would overdo it and I was right. To many tequila shots land me in bed sick by midnight. My sister, Miss Universe, came over and spent the night talking to Jason. Her, Lane, and Jason take some adorable selfies. The next day Jason sleeps in; they were up most of the night. I go have lunch with some friends.
That evening Jason is rummaging through the cabinets. He asks where I keep the nutmeg. I ask him what he is doing as I look for it. Cooking is his answer. What are you cooking I say as I look around the kitchen at zero other ingredients. I read online that two tablespoons of nutmeg will get you high he tells me. I look in the jar. There is maybe two teaspoons left. What does it do I ask. It causes auditory hallucinations is his answer. That is what we are trying to cure! I am glad I do not have more for him to take.
After work on Monday he is excited to show me that he has found a way to get high with tabasco sauce. It is a complicated procedure that includes putting some in his eye. I shake my head. I have a school board meeting that night. I make him a couple of sandwiches before I leave. I warn him that the tabasco sauce cannot possibly be good for his eye. I fear he is headed for another relapse. I am frustrated that I do not know how to stop it.
The next morning I call and remind him he has a psychiatrist appointment that afternoon. I arrange for my sister, Fria Chica, to take him. Later when I get home from work he still is not home. I had talked to Jason's dad earlier in the day and had learned from him that Jason had went to Hugoton and hung out with a couple of friends that morning. He talked to his dad on the phone and was cheerful. It really does seem like he is getting back to being himself. I leave for Lane's out of town ball game.
On the way to the game Jason calls me he asks for $20. For what I ask. Oh, you know I just want to buy stuff. I tell him it will be a couple of hours before I am back in town. He wants to drive to me and get it. I tell him I do not want to give him money for anything he wants that bad. Crap, now I am sure he is heading for relapse.
Saturday morning I was at work. My cell rang. I usually do not answer it at work, but since Jason has been sick I have been breaking the rules more often. It was Valley Hope. They apologized but said they were not able to handle someone with Jason's level of psychosis. He refused to go to class and just sat in his room all day. I had noticed when I dropped him off, and on the phone, that nobody seemed to bat an eye when I mentioned his psychosis. When the admitting nurse asked why he wanted to come to rehab he told her he needed to get rid of the voices in his head. She just went on to the next question. I thought this meant they were used to dealing with meth addicts. Now I think they did not understand what we were talking about. They wanted me to come pick him up. They were going to recommend he go to Prairie View. I had no idea what that meant. I told them I would come, but that it would be evening before I arrived. They seemed relieved.
I was on my way when they called again. Jason had tried to escape so they were transporting him to Prairie View themselves. I called my sister who is a nurse in the Wichita area. She looked up Prairie View and told me it looked like a good option. I called the facility. They told the visiting hours for Saturday and Sunday. I was not going to make it in time for that night. I stayed the night in Wichita and came as soon as I could on Sunday.
The minute they told Jason his mom was there he smiled and put on his jacket. He knew I was coming to rescue him. I told him we should talk about what was best for him. This place may be a good idea. He showed me his room, before we realized that was against the rules. He was mad when I suggested he stay. He told me to leave and went to his room to lie down. Knowing him as well as I do I sat down and read a magazine. The staff seemed nice. I liked the way they interacted with the patients. I had been surprised to see that he was in the psych ward instead of in the rehab portion of the building, not because he did not need it, but because I did not know it existed. I thought this was just another rehab facility. The patients here all seemed to like the place. I talked to some of them and did not here any complaints.
Jason came out two more times to talk to me. He was pissed each time I suggested he stay and give the place a try. Finally, I told him what I had just been told a few minutes before, I did not have a choice. He had been committed and could not leave without being released by doctor. I made sure they would not let him leave without contacting me. I was worried about him being lost outside in the cold without a heavy coat, money, or cell phone. After several hours in the waiting room I decided to drive back home. It broke my heart to leave him while he was still angry with me.
I was still driving home when Jason's father called me. Upon leaving the facility I had called him with Jason's contact information. He had called Jason and he was not angry anymore. Several times during the phone call he had made his dad promise to call me and apologize for how he had treated me. It lightened my heart a little, but I knew he was still hurt. I also knew this was probably the best place for him. Monday morning he would meet with a doctor. This could be the turning point.
Monday evening I called him. He had liked his doctor. His medicine had been changed to a faster acting anti-psychotic. My son was cheerful. There was yelling in the background. He told me he needed to go because he was watching a football game with his friends. This is what it is supposed to be like when you call your 19 year old son I thought as I hung up. That night I slept better than I had in months.
Monday came, our family doctor would not be in until the afternoon. He is a man casually approaching retirement. I talked to him in the afternoon. He refused to write a script for the meds. I was surprised because when we had first talked at the beginning of October he agreed that I needed to Jason on anti-psychotic drugs to stop the hallucinations. I did see his point. These are serious drugs with serious side effects. They should be monitored by a psychiatrist. The problem was finding one who was not too overloaded to book new patients in a timely manner. We had another appointment with the psychologist the next day.
She gave me a list of family doctors who she thought might prescribe him the meds. Jason told her of his plan to go into rehab. She was happy with the plan and volunteered to make some calls to help him get in.
The next morning I decided to try again to get him in to see our local psychiatrist. One of the reasons I had not been too pushy before on this is that she has a reputation as a pill pusher. I knew Jason needed more than just medication. We were getting desperate. I was willing to try anything. Instead of calling the office and trying to make an appointment again. I went to the hospital, where I knew she was working, and stood in the hallway talking to the nurses. I cried and explained my fears for my son. They went into the psych unit and came out with the verdict. She would see my son the next morning.
I had to work, but he assured me he could handle this on his own. He stopped by the office on his way out of town to drop off the scripts for me to fill. He was cheerful and smiling. His boyish charm and great smile charmed my co-workers. He said it had worked on the doctor too. She, an older woman, had told him how handsome he was. She had told him he could do anything he wanted in this life. Later, after I was home, he told me he was going to be a millionaire and buy me new house. When he was happy like this you could not help but absolutely love him. Not just me, I'm his mother, but everybody he met adored him.
I started calling around to rehab clinics again. I made an appointment for a drug and alcohol screening, which most of them required to let him in. The appointment was in Wichita, a four hour drive. The problem was that none of these clinics are in our half of the state. There was one facility that told him he could come tonight. He started packing. I was transferred to the detox unit he was entering through. I mentioned that I did not think his detox would be too hard on them, since he had been clean for over a week. I was then informed he had to have a dirty u.a. to enter through detox, and there were no other openings except for in detox. He suggested we start the drive over, stop by some friends in Liberal, and he could have a dirty u.a. by the time we arrived. While it was the logical solution I could not do it.
Finally I found that he could do a video screening in Liberal that would work for all of the clinics. With so many of our plans falling through I had learned that once I had a appointment I kept it until I was absolutely sure we would not be needing it. Our screening was for Wednesday. The day before Thanksgiving. I had scheduled to have that day off over a month before so I could spend it at home with the kids.
At the screening I sat back, but still on camera while Jason talked. He did not paint a really clear picture of his drug use. Not because he was trying to hide anything, but he was just answering the direct questions they asked. Being young and unsure of the process he did not realize he was interviewing. The lady doing the interview told him he did not do enough drugs to qualify for rehab. Without missing a beat he smiled and told her he could come back next week.
I asked if I could talk. I filled her in on his recent overdose, and explained that was the reason he is clean. If he were in better health physically he would be having a much harder time staying away from the drugs. She called around the state to find a bed for him. The soonest she could get him in was January 21st. She booked him for that time, but told him to call on a weekly basis and they may get him in sooner if somebody else left early or canceled. I asked her about my other options. She suggested I call a private facility such as Valley Hope.
I called. They could get him in that day. She gave me a list of what he should pack. While I was doing his laundry and trying to make sure he had everything we needed he was rushing me to just take him right away. I laughed at his enthusiasm, but told him to calm down so we could do this right. Moundridge is roughly a five hour drive, so we needed to think ahead. The closer we got to our destination the more nervous he became. He explained that he thought getting away from home might make his mind better, but it was getting worse. Stress, lack of sleep, new situations were all things that made him worse. This was going to be rough at first.
While checking him in it was explained to me that since he was only 19 he would be treated as a minor and unable to leave the grounds. I was happy to hear this. He would be given his two medications, both an anti-psychotic and an anti-depressant by the staff. Everybody was nice. The residents looked cheerful. I felt good about the place, but nervous about leaving my son somewhere so far away. I tried to be cheerful as I hugged him goodbye.
It turns out that getting a person into rehab is much harder than I expected. I do not know what I imagined it would be like exactly, but easier than it was. Jason has another appointment with his psychologist on Tuesday. I wondered if it might be better for him to get on the medication before he went to rehab, on the other hand they probably had psychiatrists at most facilities that could prescribe him medication. I really did not know enough about the system to know what to do. I called my insurance company to talk about benefits. We are lucky that my employer provides one of the best insurance plans available. They gave me a list of preferred providers.
One of the EMTs that worked the night Jason attempted suicide had given me a number for a rehab that he had heard was good. They were the new kind of rehab. One of the 'not an addict for life' places. Having never been to rehab I did not know which was the best kind. I did a bit of reading online. One person said that what mattered was only how affective it is for your child. It is only 0% or 100% that matters. I did not know what would work best for Jason. He did not know either. With his brain functioning the way it was he had trouble with any decisions, big or small. When asked his opinion on most things he would say 'you're in a better position to know what's best. I'll do whatever you decide."
looking at the website this place looked like a high dollar summer camp. I wanted Jason to go there. My biggest hope was that he would learn to enjoy life again. He was still Jason, still funny, but he had too many anxieties to get out of the house much. Going to his brother's football games was out because of the crowds. When he occasionally walked down the streets of our town, a place of 400 people where he had lived his entire childhood, he was nervous because he knew everybody here wanted to kill him. I called.
First the man had me watch a video on the website about meth abuse while we were on the phone. I could not figure out while we had to stay on the line while I watched a video. There was not any new information on the video. I do not know, but I imagine most parents of meth addicts have already learned much of this on their own way before their child is ready to go to rehab, like I had done. The man, a counselor, seemed so enthusiastic about it that I told him it was interesting. He asked me to tell him about Jason. I assumed counselor meant therapist and was relieved somebody was finally going to help us.
I started telling him about Jason in high school. He was smart, funny, athletic. He graduated valedictorian of his class. He loved football. Then in October he had started doing meth, now he was suffering from extreme psychosis, has lost 30 pounds of muscle overnight from an intentional overdose. He is still Jason though. When I read stories online about extreme addicts he does not fit that profile. He had never stolen from me, made me afraid of violence, or been manipulative.
He stopped me there. In a sneering voice he said, "He's not manipulative? What, is he smoking meth at the kitchen table?" I was shocked and immediately on the defensive. "You asked me to tell you about my son and I was." My tone showed my irritation. "Yes, but do not fool yourself." He said. "Your son is not better than any of these other addicts. He just is not as far down the road as they are."
He then moved into a high pressure sales pitch. Throwing our phrases like "The cost is worth it to keep your son alive." He through in things I had told him before in the 'describe your son' part to guide me. I felt I was being manipulated. They would not try billing insurance first. I needed to come up with thirty thousand dollars. Not to worry though they would admit him while I tried to get a loan through my home equity. He pointed out that if I looked at their website I could see that their clientele was mostly upper middle class. He talked some more; I hung up.
When my ex-husband and I split up I felt lucky to have a great job. I know many single moms who had to go out and find work. I have been able to provide for my children. Sure we go on less vacations and I spend less on their school clothes, but we are doing alright. However, we are not living extravagantly. There is no bank around that will loan me thirty thousand on a run down double wide. Something about this whole phone call made me understand how desperate parents are to save their children and how easy we are to manipulate.