I turned sixty years old; the kids were at varying stages of their teenage years and we were all facing new challenges every day. Teenage years are difficult ones for growing and changing bodies. Hormones were running wild in young bodies and my aging post menopausal body was less able to handle the evolutionary hills and valleys ravaging so many different personalities. The boys were busy trying to identify and prove their manhood while the girls were approaching womanhood determined to remain “cool” while proving their femininity. I, who had been so involved with their development up to this time, found myself in the background. I was totally unable to get my arms around what they were doing and with whom they were doing it. I worried no less and felt more and more frantic watching their new lives emerge around and without me. It was that old feeling again of abandonment and not being needed or wanted. While I recognized it as a necessary phase and normal part of the growing up process, I longed for inclusion. In my uncertainty and exclusion, I worried more. I felt sidelined and worried about what they were doing, with whom they hung out, and more specifically where they hung out. My imagination was exploding with fast new generational divisions. I feared they were ill-equipped to handle increased sexual and emotional demands challenging their young minds and bodies at such an alarming rate. The boys became more and more independent, reaching further away from the homestead, stretching their good looks and fearlessness to the limit. And the girls? They became more beautiful, secretive and aloof than ever before.
My beloved husband and father, John, never missed a beat in the family sagas playing out. He was the gentlest most accepting man in the universe. He was a veritable “blue bird of happiness”. I don’t believe it was in his ken to ever have a negative thought about anything. He remained always trusting and upbeat. His belief and mantra was ”not to worry; everything will be okay; worry never solved anything; these kids are great; they love us; and we love them; they’re just going through a teenage phase of growing up.” He insisted I worried too much and that when or if I ran out of things to worry about, he’d give me a new list to think about.
I supplied him with what I felt were more than enough to make me crazy. The girls were enrolled in a private all girls school and had few friends their age in the local co-ed public school.
Consequently there were few afterschool activities in which they could participate. The boys found their own amusement. With no names mentioned, one of them took great pleasure in “streaking” the local high school girl’s basketball finals tournament. As the crowd silenced for a needed winning free shot, he and his red-headed friend ran across the gym floor with nothing on but face covering ski masks. (They were easily identified by their red hair ) Another of the boys had great fun jumping the ice cakes on the Hudson River after school to “rescue” a stranded deer. Thankfully, he was rescued by our local police and EMS. Another ‘s activity involved drinking illegally obtained (stolen from home?) beer under the bleachers at the high school football field. Yet another was suspected with urinating in the hot air ducks of the high school heating system. Many calls from local high school officials believing illicit smoking of “funny cigarettes” was taking place. Included in those calls were reports of some forged absentee excuses (they were able to sign my name as well as their own!) At one point evidence was indisputable that one of the girls was too familiar with marijuana and we decided she needed outside counseling. We contracted with a local “drug counselor” only to find out his idea of counseling was to smoke pot with the student during their weekly session!
With love and solid family grounding we somehow survived those rocky roads. However, I do believe the worst was yet to come.
I began to drink each day to get through the bad times. It felt good. I could ease the pain and guilt. I didn’t feel it so much when it was buried in a fog of liquor. I adored these children and loved my family. How could I be so stupid myself to abuse liquor? I surely didn’t want to feel the pain and guilt of those times. And it was patently easier to numb the pain with a few scotches and to enable myself to believe that we were okay.
This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to admit much less put into words. And because it is so painful to remember it’s even more painful to write. I can only credit Almighty God and that mystical, mysterious guardian angel assigned to me at birth. Sometimes they whisper in our ears; other times they scream and shout. Mine whispered in my ear on the day one of my beautiful grandchildren was born. She told me I deserved better than I was treating myself and certainly worthy of more love than I was denying myself. She told me forgiveness was the greatest gift we can give ourselves. And the greatest gift we can receive.
I’ve not had a drink since that fateful day some 25 year ago. Nor have I wanted one. I pray I’ve learned my lesson. It’s so much better to face demons than to bury them.