first steps

IMG_7679 (1)I just got off the phone with my son Jack. He touched in as he often does these days after school, to say hi, to tell me about the few questions he missed on a test, to let me know he’s going to AA tonight, where he’ll receive a 30-day sobriety chip.

It’s been a month since Jack had a beer or used any other substance, 80 days since he last smoked pot, his drug of choice.

At 23, he is meeting his own sober adult self for the first time. In a way, so am I.

These have not been ordinary days. But in all my years as his mother, I have never been so proud.

A month ago, on his 50th consecutive day of not getting high, Jack told me he was going to write a status update on Facebook to share what he’d been going through. My first response was concern for him, for his privacy and for the fragility of his still-new sobriety.

“Think carefully before you do that,” I said. He already had. He’d led a double life for years. And he didn’t want to do it anymore. So he put it out there, for all to see: [continue…]

spring thaw
(inside and out)

IMG_2216 - Version 2I step out of the shower and stand dripping with my towel wrapped around me, looking out the bathroom window. The new day seems luminous, worth pausing for and gazing into even as my toes curl on the freezing tile floor.

The fields below the house are still covered with snow although the tops of the stone walls are finally visible. The sky seems a bit less austere, the sun more committed to its silent shining. It really doesn’t look like spring out there yet, with everything still bare and frozen, but something seems to have yielded. Something ineffable has changed. It’s as if the air itself is richer.

morningSomething subtle has changed inside me, too. Everything external appears the same: upper-arm skin a bit saggy, belly soft, hair thinning and badly in need of a cut, the face in the mirror looking less and less like the younger person I still feel myself inside to be and more like my Grammie Stanchfield every day. (Those puckery little vertical lines above my upper lip! Where did they come from? Her.)

And yet, my heart is lighter.

A few weeks ago, I sat on the couch in my kitchen, brushing away tears, wondering how to respond to the most recent words of someone who has hurt me deeply. [continue…]

to love like a grandmother

grammie s“Break a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole.” ~Derek Wolcott

I was not the best little girl. Shy, bookish, solitary, dreamy, not athletic, a bit chubby, I was certainly no trouble-maker. At school, a year younger than most of my classmates, utterly clueless about fashion, part of no clique and always two steps behind on the latest trend, I kept my head down and my mouth shut, hoping not to be noticed. At home, where repercussions for misbehavior were swift, I did as I was told and tried to stay out of the way. I read a lot. I wrote. I colored, painstakingly, in a beloved, finely drawn coloring book with my colored pencils. I sat contentedly on the floor of my bedroom, making tiny dolls from wooden clothespins and sewing clothes for them.

But the truth is, at my grandmother’s house, I pushed the limits. When my brother and I were little we spent many weekends with our grandparents, who were happy to give my young, overworked parents a break. My grandmother who, at the age I’m remembering her, was just a few years older than I am now, seemed to me at once frail, elderly, and immortal. She was tiny, less than a hundred pounds, with feet the size of a small child’s. Asthma sometimes forced her to lie down on the couch in the middle of the day, wheezing with each breath. Her heart was weak. She was always in and out of the hospital, for gallstones and kidney stones and I don’t know what else. And yet, because I’d never known anyone to die, it never occurred to me that someday she would. [continue…]