beat his mother to death. It turned out, in one of those too-few degrees of separation things, that the boy went to high school with my friend Ellen's son.
I have a child who has raged out of control. I have a teenage son who has been in psychiatric hospitals, who is in therapy and on medication. This news story slipped in under my skin, lodging itself on my nerve endings, making the slightest thought painful. There have been times -- admittedly not many, and not lately -- when I have gone to bed with the clear knowledge that some day my child could kill me in a rage.
The horror story did me in. I went to bed very, very early. I curled up in a ball and waited for the wave of anguish to pass. It didn't. I lay still, keeping my eyes shut, floating in the pain. I heard Andrew calling the kids for bed, heard the clatter of dishes being washed, heard all the sounds of a normal evening. Eventually I fell into an uneasy sleep filled with endless dreams of court cases and jail cells and misunderstandings, dreams in which I was the perpetrator one moment and the grieving parent the next.
I awoke at 5am. Unrested. Fragile. This morning when the bus ate an extra fare on my transit card, I burst into tears. I arrived at the DMV on the next-to-last day to get a non-driver's license before my passport expires, found a line winding around the block, and began to cry. Be nice to me, I wanted to whisper to the world, Today I can't manage.
I turned myself around and walked back to the bus stop. I rode back across town, face dripping with grief, wondering why the people of this city all wear black. Is it because they are filled with sorrow, or because it primes us to have colorful personalities, or because monochrome fashion makes it easier to cry in peace? I looked for a place to suffer and found that the only rest was to keep going. There's truth in that, you know.
This afternoon I am better, stronger, still shaken. I have told myself all the things I need to: I've highlighted the differences between my son and this young man, noted the progress Big Guy has made, emphasized the support structures we have in place, and reminded myself that most stories don't end this way. I've spent an entire day talking myself out of catastrophizing, out of predicting, out of overreacting.
Which isn't to say that I've forgotten that my son could murder me. He could. I don't think it will happen, but it could. And here's what's important for me to know about that: it doesn't in any way change my job for today. I still have to be his mother as best I can be, to love him as best I know how, and to give him the very best that I can. I still have to live my life according to all I believe is important. I have to grow and give and cherish and find the joyful things in life.
That's today's job, and I can't let fear of an unknown and undefined future prevent me from doing it.I have to -- somehow -- carry the weight of 'what could be' without having it set me off-balance for dealing with what is. Because today is today, and it's what I know is given to me to handle.
Today is today. Live it.