Being a parent is one of those things that can bring you great joy one minute and gut you the next. In between there's a great sense of having made these wonderful individual humans with their own thoughts and opinions.. Trouble is your kids get to a certain age where they start to think that they know everything.. and they have plenty of time to tell you all about it.
I spend some of my time moderating on a support group. Women post with all sorts of problems and I take a while, sit back and have a good long think about what they are saying and how they feel about it. I then focus on what I see is a good way to face things, fix things or go about dealing with what's broken in a way that helps a person remain safe and sane. I will then reply with my opinion. The trouble is that, as with most people who can sit and listen and give advice to others, when it comes to my own situations, I usually end up in a huge mess.
You see what I trust in myself when I advise others, namely my ability to see all sides and remain calm and focussed is something that's sorely lacking when my own personal life takes on Dantesque proportions. I have no trouble playing Beatrice to others - I will guide them through any overgrown dark time of the soul - but I have major problems with my own personal purgatories - and at those times my internal guide seems to disappear.
Four years ago when he was 16 my eldest son almost died. It's a complicated thing to go into but suffice it to say that I now have a great respect for microbes as Golden Staph endocarditis almost killed him. Nearly eight weeks of hospitalisation followed and he hovered between life and death for most of it. Those dark days seemed endless, and I would have swapped places with him and lay there in that twilight world of his in a second. I bargained with any god that I felt would listen and when that didn't work, I begged.
How I shut myself in the hospital toilets and howled and cried and sobbed. I watched as sepsis broke his body down, organ by organ and all I could do was rub his feet as the skin sloughed off them and his capillaries broke even under the gentlest touch.
How I prayed that the last line Vancomycin antibiotic drip in his chest would work - that minute - that day- that week - that month ---- my timeline became more desperate and flexible as things went more and more wrong.
My baby lay dying and there was nothing I could do. I have never felt so useless in my entire life.
Finally, by the miracle of science and dedicated doctors, he survived. He doesn't remember much about the major crisis he went through, but I do. I remember it all. I remember the disinfectant smell of the room he was in, the sound of the drip alarms, the creak of my chair by his bed as I tried unsuccessfully to sleep in it. His semi-conscious groans of pain and my own ones of complete sorrow.
The frenzy of willing him to live. The deep well that becomes the life you lead when someone you love becomes terribly ill. The small things that give you a fragile sense of hope and the monstrous fears that grow in the dark shadows of a hospital room at night. The frantic, hopeless wish that I could fix things.
I will always remember.
This same son is the one that gives me so much trouble now and says and does the things that break my heart. How I wish there was a map, a compass, a guide, a wisdom to help me deal with it all - but one thing I learned when those dark nights seemed so endless back then was that the only answers you find are the ones in your own heart. Good, bad or just plain wrong - you just do the best you can.
But by god, I wish I could make him see that broken mother sitting by his side, her head in her hands - offering to deal with the devil himself to take on his illness, pain and fear..
I would've died for him. That is how much I love him. I know for a fact that is as much as you can love another human being because I've been there. I've seen Dante's purgatory.
I hope one day he remembers that too.