Not long ago I faced a situation with one of the boys where it became necessary to divulge information about his mother. I often have to try to ‘nice up’ certain things that aren’t very nice. I never speak ill of her, despite the difficult relationship we had. I try to present things in a way that ‘teach’ rather than slander. There is not now, nor will there ever be a good reason to vilify his mother to him.
I’ve been chastised, here on my blog, for saying things that appeared ‘negative’ about his mom. Taking ‘cheap shots’ at her. I’ve re-read my words, and know my intent when I wrote them, and they were not presented nor were they meant as a ‘cheap shot.’ Long after I write them, they may be read by her son, and I try to be mindful of that and write compassionately and considerately. It will be hard enough to have him learn things about his mother’s life as he grows. I don’t ever want to be his enemy in terms of him having a ‘safe place’ to come to and express whatever he feels about what he learns, good or bad.
Yesterday he yelled at me for ‘lying to him’ about something regarding his mother. He obviously remembers the talk we had not long ago, and when faced with something that contradicted what he was told, his interpretation of it was that he had been lied to, by me. I told him that I didn’t lie to him, and I’m sorry he feels that I did, but what I told him was true.
As I get older, I learn (the hard way) that there is never really one ‘truth’ when it comes to people and the relationships we have with them. There are a million truths. They are all just as real and valid as anyone else’s. I have my truths about my childhood, about my siblings, about my parents, about myself. Some are pleasant, some are painful. They are all just ‘my truths’.
My truth about her, about my relationship with her, is not easy to talk about, nor to put behind me. My relationship with her was nonexistent for many years until he came along. But once he was here, no matter what our past was, no matter how challenging it was to see her living the life she lead and the impact on all of us that tried for years to help her to no avail, no matter what was thrown at me, I kept taking it in, taking it on, and trying to rise above it. I never did it for me. I did it for him. I did it because I loved him from the first moment I held him in my arms when he was just days old. So many times I wanted to just walk away from it. So many times I sat in a corner in a darkened room and put my head in my hands and cried and cursed and felt completely and utterly defeated and at a loss to know how to get through even that moment and go on. People I know asked me why I didn’t do just that…walk away. The only answer I could come up with was that I would be walking away from him, and no matter what I wasn’t willing to do that. I made a commitment to him….a lifelong commitment….to do whatever I could to protect him, to help him, and to be there for him, and that was something I wouldn’t walk away from, no matter how difficult things got.
And things were difficult. They were very difficult. There were nights I laid awake hour after hour more frightened than I’d ever been in my life; frightened because I could take care of myself but I couldn’t do anything about this fear, the fear for the safety of someone else. I couldn’t do anything but feel it, day in and day out, with no relief. There were times when my mind went to places darker than I ever knew existed there. There were times, when I had to abide by the rules and regulations of state agencies and try to navigate and understand a very broken system, and when ‘the law’ worked against the best interests of an innocent child and I felt angry enough that I wanted to hit someone again and again until they felt as badly as I felt. There were moments when I knew, for the first time in my life, how anyone could ever consider taking a child and simply ‘disappearing’ with them. There were moments when no matter what I learned in my life about right and wrong….no matter what ‘moral code’ I try to live by…I no longer cared. I just wanted the fear and the hurt to stop, and let my mind contemplate all the ways I could possibly make that happen.
But I didn’t do any of them. I did what I was expected to do. I buried the fear as deeply as I could and all the dark thoughts I had and just continued on day in and day out, scared and defeated and desperate.
That was my truth. That was what I felt and how I lived for five years.
No matter what, though; that was not his truth.
His truth about his mom was that he loved her and she loved him. Some might say that’s all he ‘needs’ to know….but others, professionals I have spoken with, have said differently. They agree that it’s important to separate my relationship with her, and my ‘truths’ about that relationship, from how I relate things to him about his mom and about her life. I suppose in that respect it’s beneficial that I’m not a vindictive person. I don’t want my truth to become his truth about her. I don’t want him to ever lose sight of the fact that she loved him, and that he was the brightest light in her life…something she waited a very long time to have and to be. She fought to keep him, tooth and nail, no matter what the obstacles were. He was her reason for getting up in the morning and ‘going on’ up until the day she died.
His truth is that he has never known his biological father except for a few days several years ago when he got to meet him. His truth is that no matter what his mom was his mom. His truth is that at age six he had to be sat down and told that his mom had died. His truth is that he has only a few photos of her and only a few years of memories of her to last his entire lifetime. His truth is that he still doesn’t understand how this happened and why she left and can’t ever come back. His truth is that he misses her, every moment of every day…whether he’s smiling and laughing and having more fun than he ever thought possible. He still misses her, and always will.
There is a picture of the two of them in my living room. I put it there when the time felt ‘right’ and that to see it would be more helpful than ‘harmful’ to him. He may not think I notice how often he looks at it….how often he puts a small finger on the frame or the picture, and lets it linger there for just a moment, and the look that washes over his youthful face that says ‘No matter what I become or achieve in life, no matter what I ever have or earn or win…no matter what anyone ever hands to me…..I will always be missing you.’ He may not think I see this, but I do.
There is no one truth in any situation when it comes to our lives and our minds and our hearts. We all have our own truths. We all have a million truths about our own lives. We all have our memories and experiences that shape and form those truths for us, and no matter what anyone says most times we still cling to them and hold on for dear life until the day we stop breathing, because sometimes it’s the only thing we have, and we refuse to let go because someone else’s truth, perhaps not as nice as our own, may be more than we can handle.
My truth is just that: my truth. It’s about pain, and anger, and humiliation, and a thousand other negative emotions. But it’s mine, and mine alone.
His truth is something very different. His truth is about love, about loss, and about finding a place in a world that has tossed him some tough curves pretty early on. His truth is that he misses her. His truth is that he loved her.
Who am I to contradict it?