My Oldest Son

I say my oldest son because I hate saying my “middle” child. First of all, it is true that he was born second of three which technically makes him in the middle but middle implies not significance. Not the baby, not the eldest. When in fact, Jay J has a lot of significance. As do all children born between other children. So I say my oldest son because that is what he is, the older of the two boys.

This is a significant year for him. He is a senior in high school. He is turning 18 soon and if we did things correctly, he will be out in the world furthering his education and discovering his next chapter of life. It’s also a time for me to be suffering PTSD. JoDee graduated high school, left the house with her friends after the graduation party and completely derailed her life. It is hard not to imagine that it will happen again. It is hard not worry that whatever went wrong with the first kid will go wrong with the second. Though, to be fair they are two absolutely, polar opposite, individuals. Even though they were raised the same, in the same lunacy and chaos, their personal approaches to life are leaps and bounds different.

Where JoDee is spastic and hyper, Jay J is calm and mellow. While telling a story JoDee uses ten thousand words to get her point across, Jay J would use four, effectively. But you never guess what is on JoDee’s mind. She will tell you up front and honest. Jay J internalizes everything and won’t volunteer any information unless absolutely necessary. When JoDee is sick the entire world has to know, and give her sympathy, and dote on her hand and foot. Jay J was passing a kidney stone and didn’t tell me until he was about to pass out from pain. It would be the equivalent to giving birth in his room, silently. So when JoDee was graduating, when it was her senior year it was all about her. The Prom, the graduation dress, the senior pictures, a banging graduation party. It was “The Year of JoDee” and basically that hasn’t stopped. JoDee’s addiction, recovery, relapse has been front and center in our lives. There is almost no time for anything else, and let us not even discuss the money.

As Jay J embarks on this last year of his life, I find I am reflecting on his younger years a lot. I am also finding myself riddled with guilt. JoDee’s senior pictures were done right away, with no delay, printed and ready to give out to anyone who wanted one. Jay J didn’t have his done until January and I had to call the school to beg them to hold a place in the yearbook. As the prom approaches I realized I hadn’t even asked Jay J if he wanted to go. I finally remember to broach the subject with him the other day and he made some offhand comment about not being able to afford it. That is like taking a bullet, let me tell you. Why would he think he would have to pay for it? Does he ask? No. He doesn’t want to burden me so he just quietly accepts that he isn’t going to go. I told him I would pay for it, I told him I would cover all the expenses and the limo and everything just like JoDee. He just sort of shrugged and said he would think about it. This is the kid that would take the lunch money I gave him, and spend half so he could save half. He has always been fiscally aware, even as a really young child. I swear he was born with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Just because he doesn’t ask, or expect anything, doesn’t mean he shouldn’t get it. This should be “The Year of Jay J.” He is graduating now, he will have a big graduation party and 18th birthday party (which happen to be on the same day! Convenient!). But he is not going to have the freedom or derailment that JoDee had. That is really hard actually. Whenever Jay J wants to do something or go somewhere or when I want to check his phone or snoop on his Facebook he says you didn’t do this to JoDee why do I have to suffer. I always say the same thing, “And look what happened to her” to which he always responds “I’m not JoDee and I am not heroin addict” which is true. But JoDee wasn’t a heroin addict when she was 17 either. I mean, nothing changes if it doesn’t change, right?

Jay J is definitely a withdrawn kid. He would prefer to be alone in his room, with the light out, watching Breaking Bad or Walking Dead or playing some game that involves hockey on his Xbox 1 or 4 or 900 or white or whatever it’s called now. It is like pulling a wisdom tooth with a meat hook to get him out of his room, but it happens. When it does it is usually centered on food, the need to go out with friends, or work. But it’s sort of a constant reminder of how much he changed. I know he is supposed to. I know that is part of growing up and teenage boys have a tendency to be sullen. So that would be even truer for an already quiet kid like him. But I can remember when he would be reading the Hungry Games Books and tell me all about them. Or when I tried to teach him to use the snow blower and it took off with his legs blowing in the breeze behind him, pulling him down the driveway. I can remember him always asking to play Uno or Risk or something else. Usually with Eric. Eric still comes over, as does all his other friends; my house seems to be the hot spot. I certainly don’t leave them alone; I am constantly doing to sneak checks to make sure everyone is behaving. I like when he has his friends there because we hear them laughing and being raucous like teenagers should be.

Maybe I am just getting nostalgic because it isn’t almost time for him to fly the coop. Maybe it’s because he was always the most precious of the kids- born early, in NICU on oxygen for a while, now he is taller than me, strong as an ox and smart- how time has changed. When I was a single mother with three small kids, I remember thinking this will get easier when they are older. Now I would go back to those times, even though we were broke, harried and strapped. The four of us had each other, and we had fun. JoDee, Jay J and Jared would be singing along to the radio, mocking each other, usually JoDee and Jay J ganged up on Jared, and laughing. Today, Jay J and Jared might grunt at each other when they pass one another on the way to the bathroom and JoDee is typically fighting with everyone. Well, she yells, I don’t know if it is actual fighting. I don’t really know if this is a result of addiction in our family or if it would have been this way no matter what. It’s hard telling.

Somewhere along the way I think I took my eye off the prize, the prize being all of the kids being well rounded and happy. I hope that JoDee truly is on the road to long term recovery. I hope that with a new sponsor, appropriate medication and counseling, she will really find her way to life. But even if she hasn’t, regardless of what she has going on, I am going to make this final year of high school for Jay J the best it can be, help him choose his college, plan his graduation party, deck out the backyard and enjoy these last few months before he turns 18. Because once he turns 18 he is going to think he runs his own show, just like his sister did, and it will be game on because that is not happening twice to this family

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