Saturday, July 08, 2006

Slips, drips and missed messages

I took a break to get something to eat and ended up with half of it all over the front of my nightgown and the sink and the floor, leaving me the pleasant task of cleaning up the spills, drips and clots of pureed berries, chocolate and coconut milk, all of which I fully expected to enjoy inside instead of outside. Oh, well, I planned to clean the kitchen anyway and at least part of the floor in front of the sink is clean. It's a start. Since I was en dishabille, more so than usual, I decided to get me cleaned up and put on some clothes. That led to a trip downstairs to check the mail and retrieve two boxes delivered by Fed Ex and UPS and a belated message from to renew my domain name, which I did week before last. Guess their computer didn't get the notice that I'm paid up for three years; it's more likely they want me to buy server time with them and get my magazine up and running. I have other things in mind, like contacting one of my errant children.

Yesterday I was told something I suspected but didn't want to believe, my oldest son was still using drugs, which explains why he didn't have enough money to go see his father in South Carolina when he had two heart attacks last fall. I didn't know the full extent of the problem until yesterday. I found out my nephew was sentenced to four years in the same prison David Scott lived in for several years and for the same thing as my son: breaking and entering. My nephew added a new wrinkle to David Scott's crime with aggravated burglary; the people were home at the time he broke in and stole from them. All because of drugs. My sister Carol is devastated and wonders what she did to deserve this happening to her son. She doesn't realize it's not about her, but she will take center stage no matter what.

So far my brother's kids have avoided the drug problem, but Beanie's boys have dabbled in a little herbal refreshment from time to time and her youngest, Cody, has a drinking problem. He obviously inherited the genetic predisposition from his father and from the May and Hanner sides of our family. There were several alcoholics on that side of the family, all of whom are now dead. Like Beanie said, at least Cody isn't cutting himself any more. She is worried Cody will follow his cousins, David Scott and Clint, down the road to drugs and prison, which is not only likely but quite possible. Maybe she will help Cody dodge the bullet and get some help now while he's still young and not too far down the road.

Ultimately, it is up to Cody, just as it was up to Clint and David Scott, to choose for themselves, regardless of how much they are loved and taught. It's something inside of them and not the fault of the way they were raised, although that is definitely a factor. David Scott spent many of his formative years with his father and stepmother, both of whom drink and have problems with alcohol. David Scott also spent time with me but neither alcohol nor drugs were a part of our household and David Scott was held accountable for his actions and his whereabouts. He acted in school plays, sang in the choir, ran track and got pretty good grades while he lived with me, but even if he had lived with me most of his life I don't think he would have chosen a different path. There was something inside of him that followed the call of alcohol and drugs like the mice of Hamelin following the Pied Piper. Each of us hears a different siren's call and some of us end up on the rocks.

I called my ex-husband and talked to his wife, Brenda, wanting to know where I could reach David Scott. He's living with them now and not with his brother AJ, working construction and going to church -- or at least he was going to church last night. I left a message for him: Clint was just sentenced to four years in Orient and I know about the motel room. He didn't return my call and now the phone isn't working. No big surprise there.

I really didn't expect David Scott to call me back, just like I didn't expect him to pay me back when he "borrowed" the money for a bus ticket to go see his father in the hospital last fall. At least now I know what all the delays were about. He and Clint were holed up in a motel room (and not at Clint's sister Shanna's condo as I had been told) using and selling drugs. David Scott was working for Clint and got the boot when David Scott used more than he sold. There were girls involved. That wasn't a surprise either. The money he said he was owed by Denny's in Youngstown, Ohio, where he worked training cooks and setting up new restaurants, he probably got and promptly spent on drugs. He couldn't get the money from my parents (they refused him) so he contacted me for the money, ostensibly to buy a bus ticket for South Carolina. I thwarted his scheme by buying the ticket online and calling him with the information on how to pick it up.

I'd be willing to bet he tried to cash in the ticket but found out I made that impossible for him, so he stalled for several days looking for ways to get around the system and get the money. It didn't work. When I told him he'd better be on the bus without any more delays on excuses by a certain time and date or I'd cancel the ticket, he knew he'd been had. He forgets that I am the only person, outside of Shanna and Clint who have done drugs with him, who knows who and what he really is and that I keep more than a couple steps ahead of him. His charm and lies don't work on me like they do on everyone else, especially my mother and father, but even they finally caught on. He's burned his bridges in Ohio and with me but I'm certain he hasn't burned his bridges in South Carolina yet or he wouldn't be living with his father.

I have to admit my son is bold as brass. When he called and asked me to help him buy a bus ticket to see his father, telling me his usual cock and bull story of having had his money robbed by friends while he slept, he had the chutzpah to tell me I owed him and to consider it his birthday present since his birthday was the following week. I know his birthday. I was there when he was born. I asked him if he knew when my birthday was and when I could expect a present or card or call from him. He didn't know when my birthday is and he gave the usual excuses of not knowing how to reach me. I reminded him we were talking at that moment and he knew how to get in touch with me to touch me for some money. He sputtered and stuttered and used his final resort tactic -- crying. I listened for about 15 seconds and then told him he was wasting his tears just like I would waste my time waiting for a birthday card or call or even a note or call on Mother's Day.

It sounds harsh and it is. He chose his life and chose not to include me. I am his mother but I am not his personal ATM. I told him, just as I told his brothers, that if he wanted anything from me he had to have a relationship with me. He would have to call or send a postcard on a regular basis, find out and remember my birthday, Mother's Day or just any old day if he wanted anything from me. If he chose to call me only when he wanted money, he could continue to stay away and not call, not write, not involve me in any aspect of his life. I have no guilt for the path I have chosen. I have always been here, always been available, and all my boys know how to get in touch with me when they want something -- like money. However, if they can't have a relationship with me when they don't want something other than getting to know me then they can forget they know me when they want money.

Everyone chooses their own life. It doesn't always work out like you plan. The trick is to accept your failures as well as your successes and keep going. I love my boys and I love my nephew Clint, and all my other nieces and nephews. That will never change. The paths they have chosen are theirs alone and the responsibility is theirs to accept what comes, good and bad. No matter what excuses they offer or where they would prefer to place the blame, neither their parents nor I am responsible for their lives or their choices. It's not about us; it's about them.

No matter what people do to us or how they misuse or mistreat us, what we do with our lives is ultimately up to us. My life has been interesting and difficult and rewarding at times and there was a time when I blamed my parents, specifically my mother, for what happened to me and then I realized that no one made me choose the path I walked; I did that all on my own, and I offer no apologies for what I cannot change. I feel no guilt for what I have done because I cannot change the past. I can only learn from it and move on, hopefully with a better understanding and clearer vision, just as I hope my children, my brother, my sisters, my parents, and my nieces and nephews will figure that out for themselves. Regret is a wasted emotion full of wasted energy and apologies ultimately mean nothing. People will forgive or forget or continue to blame others as long as they fail to learn that we cannot change anyone but ourselves. The best we can do is take what we can from life and give a little something back without regret, without guilt and without expecting anyone to make our lives better or worse. We already do a good enough job of that ourselves.

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