Friday, January 31, 2014
Letting Go of Painful Memories
We drove to Winston-Salem to a play therapy appointment then stopped at Krispy Kreme on University Parkway and ate a doughnut.
It sounds simple on the surface, and before I made the trip with my daughter and all three Es earlier this month, I would not have been expecting ghosts around every corner. But after the earlier trip derailed me so badly, Thursday's journey was loaded with a bit of trepidation on my part.
Not so long ago, I made the same trip on a monthly basis with Ethan. We followed the same route from Mount Airy down U.S. 52 and across Winston to Stratford Road. We didn't go to the same clinic, but it was on the same street. We always stopped at Krispy Kreme and bought doughnuts on the way home, sitting inside or at one of the picnic tables on the sidewalk to enjoy part of our purchase and catch our breath before the final dash home.
Ethan was visiting an epilepsy clinic for treatment of the seizures he had begun having. His abuse of dextramethorphan was a likely trigger as it is one of the cited risks for overuse. Because it was causing so much physical damage -- he was gaunt and prone to falling in a seizure at any time -- I wrongly assumed that my intelligent son could see the harm and stop. I did not realize he was still using and was, in fact, addicted to the drug during the 18 months or so that we made the regular journey.
Each month on appointment day I would drive to his apartment -- I paid for the apartment and utilities because we were such a volatile combination when he did use that I was afraid to have him at my home where it was often just me and E1. He would come out and meet me and we made the drive down and back in a mostly companionable atmosphere. Sometimes we argued over music; sometimes he slept or feigned sleep. Often we talked, spending the closest to quality time that we managed at all during his adult life as after a few seizures he typically declined invitations to go anywhere. (At the time I blamed the seizures, now I blame the drugs.)
He was on Medicaid and we went from the time the seizures began until his 21st birthday, when he no longer qualified. The seizures were largely under control. He still had a prescription for medication when he was arrested after an altercation with a store manager who caught him shoplifting. He was still taking the Rx when he went into psychosis after taking the DXM and threatened his new roommate (who was also using) with one of his Japanese swords. He spent the next three months in jail and our relationship was irreparably harmed to the point I did not visit him (oh, what I would give for the chance to do so now) although we did write regularly.
So making that journey, even for an almost entirely different reason, was one I dreaded, but felt I needed to do. E1 goes each week for an hour of activities aimed at helping her reprogram her nervous system to be more "normal" and her mom and I have agreed to rotate driving duties while the other adult stays with the smaller girls.
I was looking forward to the chance to see what they do and perhaps gain a better understanding of what we're doing with our at home activities. I also anticipated some fun in the trip, as any one-on-one time is a treasure when I'm generally so badly outnumbered.
Heading down, of course my thoughts turned to Ethan. There was no big boy in the seat next to me, but I was in a different car, so it didn't seem quite so empty -- especially with the back seat full of car seats. I felt a bit teary eyed a time or two.
Then I looked in the rearview and saw E1, with her adorable kitty-cat hat and her focus entirely on the Kindle she had brought along for entertainment. Instead of a tear, I smiled and the ghost that had threatened to occupy the passenger's seat -- a painful, hurt ghost, was replaced by a happier ghost who enjoyed our outings, even if they were part of living a lie. That ghost was more of a happy memory of stops at Taco Bell and a bag of burritos, of missing the turn, getting caught in traffic or failing to set my clock ahead for daylight savings time and being late, of enjoying chocolate-covered, creme-filled doughnuts at a picnic table while we people watched and felt the warm sun on our faces.
Driving home afterwards, E1 was eager for a doughnut treat and wanted to go inside and pick out her own. I was up enough to feel ready to deal with those memories as well, so we did.
There were no unhappy memories there either, just a warm memory of the handsome young man I called a son enjoying himself and new, good ones to be made with the beautiful little girl I call a granddaughter.
While she enjoyed her pick -- the same chocolate-covered, cream-filled concoction he would have chose -- I joined her and added a cup of coffee. We spent a while at the window watching Valentine shaped pastries make their way from dough to glazed.
I came home happy, not burdened with guilt and not dreading a return trip.
I know not all my journeys will be that easy. We're talking about a family trip to the Outer Banks in the spring -- the place Ethan, his sister and I had our absolute best quick vacation, and I know there may be some of the same ghosts there. They should be a laughing, happy little boy who had not yet begun to battle his demons, and I don't know whether they will be easier, or harder to face. But we will find out.
I'm beginning to believe that Ethan's ghosts and I can come to terms with one another, gradually. I'm beginning to believe I can make peace with the past.