I want to see him, but I don’t want to see him. I want to be with him and talk to him like we used to do before the Parkinson’s. I want to see my son and not the Parkinson’s. I work hard at it. I owe it to Andrew to see him and not the disease.
He is a man full of ideas, overflowing with creative projects. Racing to complete them: two books of poetry, a book of photography; rocks he has balanced in unbelievable ways, seemingly impossible ways. He is studying Buddhism to become a teacher. I know he will do this. He is brave and courageous.
He tells me that Parkinson’s makes its victims self-centered and without socialization so that they speak out without thinking about consequences. I have seen this in him and have thought “who would not be self centered, who would not speak the uncensored truth as they see it if they had Parkinson’s?”
I thought I learned an important lesson years ago. The lesson about what a mother can do what a mother cannot do. I thought I learned that lesson but I did not. Sarah’s psychiatrist told me that it was important for me, Sarah’s mother, to move forward with my life. “Be a role model for Sarah, show her that it is ok to have your own life.” She said. I know that lesson but it doesn’t stick. In fact it is more difficult the second time around. Practice does not make perfect here.
Sarah was 13 when she tried to kill herself. I was young and without experience. My world darkened; there was only a small tunnel of light left for me for a very long time. The mysteries of mental illness are complex and the outcomes are uncertain. Somehow I muddled through and Sarah with her great strength did too. It seemed a miracle to all of us that after five years of hospitalization and help she left the hospital and went to college. Her doctor told us, “She is stronger than you think she is.”
She never returned to our family, that is, she never came home again to live with us. She could not. That environment was not a good one for her. And, as it turned out, it was not a good one of any of us. The mix was not a nurturing one. Andrew dropped out of the college we had chosen for him and went to music school; Anne left for Rhode Island School of Design not Yale; and I divorced their father.
Many years have passed. I still cry when I think about Sarah and what she endured so many years ago. I will always cry. There is no place to put such memories — wall them off someplace where we cannot feel them. They are part of me; and Andrew too, struggling every moment of every day to move.
So, here I am, a mother wanting so to fix it all, knowing I cannot. I am working hard at my own life, to be the “role model and have my own life.” In fact, Andrew is an inspiration to me: his courage, his inner strength, his abundant gifts. I am in awe of him.
In my heart and in my head, I put my arms around him every day and love him and pray that he feels that love. It is all a mother can do.
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