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Something pretty remarkable has happened since I was diagnosed for the third time back in October of last year. My oldest son broke up with his girlfriend and needed a place to stay while he mended a broken heart.
Ours has been an intense and sometimes troubled relationship. Without airing too much personal laundry I will just say that when he and his brother told me quite earnestly while they were still small boys that they didn’t want me ever to remarry, they weren’t kidding.
Since at 35 I was feeling ancient (and somewhat unloved or perhaps worse, unlovable) I didn’t heed their request. Not only did I remarry, but I followed my then-new husband halfway across the country. One of my sons eventually came to live with me, the other (my eldest) opted to stay with his dad.
So, nearly 30 years ago life as I knew it and as I thought it should be, was forever broken. We all made the best of a bad situation, but as anyone who has had to make decisions where no one wins will tell you, they wish there had been some other way to resolve the problem.
The weekend before my recent surgery, Chris moved his stuff into our house. He had put most of his possessions in storage, so all I had to do was clean out a couple of closets, buy a folding bed, and brace myself for what might unfold when he and my husband were under the same roof.
His heart was so broken it made me feel like the air had been sucked out of the room; and this provided me the ability to focus on something besides my own health woes. Quite frankly, I was absolutely terrified to undergo surgery, so having something else to think about, although it wasn’t what I would have wished for, was a godsend.
For the first time in his adult life, my son began talking to me about things other than the weather, the last movie he’d seen or how work was going. I saw him as raw and broken as a human being can get. I was overwhelmed with the desire to save him. I was overwhelmed with the knowledge I couldn’t. I knew only he could work that magic.
I am always amazed as the mother of sons that boys (men) actually have feelings. It’s been my experience as a girl (woman) to feel that those of the male species were pretty much heartless bastards. It’s a prejudice I was surprised I possessed, and one that has proven to be just that – totally off the mark. Actually, what I have come to believe is that the male species feels everything just as acutely as the female, they just don’t articulate it.
The timing of Chris’ arrival found me firmly convinced the only communication I felt comfortable sharing was void of subterfuge or guise. As a result, I spoke from my heart. I shared with him how sorry I was I hadn’t been wiser as a young mother. I told him that women need to hear how a man feels and that words are important. I made sure to tell him about a quote I’d read recently that said we get the love we think we deserve.
I didn’t have to provide a cautionary tale because he’d witnessed my life. What I did advise adamantly was to make sure to have honest communication with the people he wants in his life. Love isn’t always pretty or easy. It tests us and challenges us and makes us examine who we are at our very core. It makes us smile and it makes us cry. But in order to truly live, each of us has to take chances, suffer disappointments and be willing to overlook the folly of others.
In the weeks following my surgery lots of things happened in my household. Chris and my husband talked a bit about the past. They built a fence and they hauled rocks (this is not a metaphor – they actually made improvements here at our house).
Since I have been going to bed so early (if I’ve managed to get out of bed at all) they have bonded over homemade Caesar dressing, double chocolate gelato (these two were not, repeat not, eaten together) and pretty much anything that makes your breath smell and creates gas. I may have gone to bed simply to protect myself!
My husband showed immense insight and compassion during this very trying time. He stayed busy taking care of things to comfort me like wedge pillows, home improvements and the willingness to share our home with a human being who heretofore had held him in less-than-lofty esteem. For the first time in years, I didn’t feel like I had to choose one side or the other. Something tells me we have all grown up just a bit!
A few weeks ago my son and his girlfriend decided to try once again. While he hasn’t moved back in with her, he’s away more nights than not. And as much as I enjoy being able to walk around the house in my birthday suit, I will admit that I was getting used to having more time with him.
He will probably never know how much comfort he provided by just being here when I was trying to save myself. In addition to the fences he built, being under the same roof has also helped us to mend fences. I will forever treasure the gift he has given me. And I will never forget what I told him, because when I was sharing what I’ve learned with him, I was sharing it with myself.
Mistakes are just as messy, painful, disappointing and necessary as love gone wrong. But it is our mistakes that often lead us to a place where we can truly communicate and find that most elusive being of all – ourselves.