My Son and I Aren’t Speaking

I love my son so it hurts to end up here. I say end up because I can’t see this problem unknotting itself.

I was talking with my brother this week and he said I should talk to J. He also has stopped talking to him because of my son’s extreme political views. I did get some insight into this when my brother told me my truck driver son listens to extreme radio talk shows as he drives. That explains a lot as I had experienced that phenomena myself before the 2016 presidential election when I stayed with a cousin for several days. I was horrified at the brain washing I witnessed over a few days.

But what my brother does not understand is my history with my now 48 year old boy.

I have to go back to the first few months of his life. Before his memories, before his understanding, before my own memories. I’ve never talked about this publically before. I who use my experiences to drive my writing. My husband is always is amazed at how open I am; how I talk about such personal things on a public platform. Well, that’s who I am. A writer who uses her writing to wind her way through her own personal dilemmas. I write to understand the world, my friends, my family and myself.

I’m not sure why this is so hard. These are facts, most of which are not under my control. This is history I don’t want. This is not shameful. It is not – yet for some reason it must be – buried inside me somewhere. It certainly reveals who my mother was – not just who I am.

When my son was 2 months old, he spend a large amount of his waking hours crying. Perhaps the old-fashioned “colicky” baby? I was in Washington state, thousands of miles from family and friends, stationed at an Air Force base in Tacoma. I had no one to talk to about baby care. My mom was never much of a baby person and her visit right after his birth was awful as she ended wanting us to cater to her rather than her helping with the baby.

My husband started working night shifts right after our son’s birth. I was left with trying to keep the baby quiet during the day while his father tried to sleep.

Then one day I found myself standing over his playpen about to pick him up and throw him against the wall.

Let that sink in.

Without any conscious thought, I was about to hurt my child.

I froze.

And contacted the child abuse program there in Tacoma. It was one of, if not the first, programs in the country.

That contact and the subsequent support and programs was a lifesaver to both me and my son.

I talked with my mother, explaining what happened, when suddenly she asked me, “Delia, what do you remember before age 5?”

My answer was, “pretty much nothing.”

She replied, “good”.

So stop and let that one sink in.

Before age five, something happened to me that I don’t remember. Something so horrific that it came sneaking back in decades later. I am grateful I have no memory but also want badly to know what the details are.

So the take away was simple. I could not trust that I could physically handle my son safely.

This very conscious decision molded the way he grew up.

Unfortunately or fortunately, (I truly don’t know which) J. was not a normal child. I know now for a fact he is learning disabled – he has massive problems with both auditory and visual input. He can only learn by doing. He is typical LD – smart and by high school, charming, funny and fun. This leads to another part of his personality – an inability to understand social cues and the world around him, very much like autism.

His problems were apparent early as he didn’t talk to us until age 3 even though his babysitter overheard him talking to other children at day care. He needed personalized attention at school – he needed special education. In order to get that for him we needed him assessed. The psychologist made a very quick diagnosis of behaviourally disturbed based on my marriage! That did get him into special classes but subsequent requests for LD testing went unanswered until he was a repeating sophmore in high school. He was 17 when he finally got tested.

I did get some suggestions about how to handle him but this was the 80’s. Schools really weren’t effectively addressing these types of disabilities very well.

Two things I did drove his life. One, was let him test limits and suffer consequences. He could not be verbally reasoned with. And two, was he was not subjected to physical punishments. I didn’t dare. My family was horrified at his behavior and my apparent lack of “control”. Sigh.

I did tell him I loved him often and I think in the end he is confident in that knowledge. I wish I could have hugged him and physically shown that love as well but the truth is that he may not have been able to accept physical attention due to his autistic type reactions to his world.

There is one thing I am sure of now that drives his life. Early on, through all those Air Force moves, the chaos of my marriage, his realization as a teen that there was something really wrong with his father, he reacted by shutting emotions down, denying and burying his emotions. An example of this happened after the birth of his son. His wife decided to get rid of all the pets. She talked him into giving up the little dog he adored. He shut that off and went on as if it were no big deal. He buried the pain.

So here we are all those decades after him leaving home and of course our relationship hasn’t changed. He has enormous problems expressing his feelings for me and I have continually forgiven him for the hurt he has dished out to me. I have always forgiven him for neglecting me, for ignoring me. I can count on less than the fingers on my hand the times he, as an adult, showed up to do something for me. To help or express his love for me.

I have decades of hurt. Decades of just letting him be, decades of working very hard at not interfering with his life, of avoiding giving him unasked for advice, decades of trying to be the best mom possible of a LD adult.

He has been clear he disapproves of my treatment of him, the way I raised him. A counselor told me when he was 12 that this was to be my life. He is secure in my love for him so he can criticize me without losing my love. His father is another story. J was 35 before he asked me what was wrong with his dad. I was able to put forth some theories. He never talked about it again and appeared to be fine when his dad died early due to COPD. I doubt seriously he has never examined his feelings for a father who was incapable of love.

So here I am today – 18 months after last speaking with my son. His dive into conspiracy theories – most specifically about vaccines – has done what all those decades didn’t do. He simply cares more about his theories than about the lives of his disabled mother and her immunocompromised husband.

No, I have no desire to talk to him. I have no desire to listen to his rants. I have no desire to be hurt again. It’s amazing how freeing that is. I don’t have to worry about what he’ll say next, whether he’ll call on birthdays or holidays, whether he’ll ever come visit me. It’s a relief.

I hate it.

I’m writing this today to finally have it out there – so that my brother has a better understanding of this relationship, so that my son will someday read this story he’s never heard. So that I can feel this pain again. So that I can stand here and say, I did my best. No parent is perfect and some of us come with horrendous baggage. I did my best. I love you, son.