I did something yesterday that I hadn’t intended to do, and I’m reeling from it. It started out innocently, having a good time with my best friend/brother on a nice afternoon. We went golfing – technically, he went golfing and I hit some balls around – and it’s tradition to have a drink at the first and tenth tees. That would have been fine had it stopped there, but I didn’t. When we got to the turn and stopped in the restaurant, I had a drink and a snack. Then I had a drink on the tenth for tradition sake, and had a few more after that… I’m not much of a drinker and can handle my own pretty well, but in the emotional state I’m in this was obviously a bad idea – I didn’t think anything of it until it was too late.
Growing up, my (ex)step dad was a very conflicted man and a drinker. He had a rough go of it early on with an abusive dad and a strong mother who fought back, which made for an interesting dynamic for their several children. This carried through to further generations as his son physically and emotionally abused my mom, said some inappropriate things to other family members, and did his best to maintain control over me. He was very Jekyll-Hyde; extremely affectionate towards Mom one minute and then very terse the next or offering to help teach me how to drive and then making me schedule appointments with him ‘when he could fit it in his schedule’. When I was younger I didn’t realize that he was drinking several beers in the garage on bad days, but as I matured and realized what was going on it was too late – the cycle had progressed over a course of several years and the family was in the thick of it. You never knew what mood he’d be in until he sat down in his spot on the couch with either a can of Pepsi or a six pack of Budweiser. Needless to say, I tend to keep my distance from alcohol when I’m emotional, more than one drink here or there anyway.
After yesterday I understand a little better about why he would have turned to alcohol in the first place even through it broke me – it creates a disconnection. The distance created by having a mind grown hazy by booze could be a comfort zone to those who are trying to forget something or simply to feel it less. I’m obviously no expert on this type of addiction or emotional response, but I think I caught a glimpse of it. The problem in my specific case, however, is that I wasn’t trying to forget. The only thing we have to hold close to us are memories of Jonah, and I have never felt as far from him as I did yesterday. The guilt I held was one that I’ve never felt before and that I never want to feel again. Those moments were ones that he would not have been proud of; I feel like I failed him. I got home in much better condition after a few hours and pizza (shameless plug for my wonderful wife right here) and broke down in the nursery. I cradled his raccoon close like when he was in my arms and wept. I looked through his album, taking in memories of the gender reveal and the printout of his heart beating. Looking through photos of his baptism, of the first time in his mother’s arms… of the last chance we had to say good bye to him in person. And wept some more.
Looking at those same photos this morning, I realize I need to forgive myself. As much as I feel like I failed him yesterday, I can try to redeem that by refusing to continue that same despair today. If I’m being honest with myself, I’m already afraid that I’ll forget what he looked like or how his weight felt in my arms and I don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize that. Maintaining my connection to Jonah means spending time in prayer, spending time with his memory in its ups and downs, and remembering what it felt like to be far from him.
Friends, we spend so much time thinking about how much better it would be if people would just do what we expect that we miss out on the things we do that contribute to turbulence in relationships. I’ve done more than my fair share of creating unfair expectations – of others as well as myself – that I create a dissonance where harmony would otherwise be. Instead of allowing people to be themselves and making my own decisions to contribute to our relationship, I end up making my life so much more stressful that I miss out on the very things that I should be placing more value on than anything. Moving forward and moving on are two different things, and I want to be able to tell the difference with my son as well as with my relationships past and present. In accepting what happened yesterday and acknowledge the way I contributed to feeling like I lost my connection, I’m making the choice to pick up the broken pieces of yesterday and move forward.
This is a day that I’m going to do my best to make it a habit of appreciating other people’s choices for what they are, and accept my own as they were. For those of you holding on to the weight of things that have shaped you, know that your circumstances do not determine your character. You are strong, you are capable, and you are loved. With any luck we’ll find peace together, and I’ll keep Jonah close along the way.