I was just shy of 8 months pregnant with Jay J in June of 1997. At the time, I had a waterbed which was not easy to get out of in that condition. Lumbering out of bed, my back hurt and I knew it was from the lack of support. Let’s face it, when you are that pregnant a water bed is as useful as a sump pump would have been on the Titanic. The water basically parted like an act of God, settling me nicely on the wooden frame on the bottom of the bed. As the day wore on my back pain felt better, and then worse, and then better and then worse, not to mention I was congested. Fearing I had a sinus infection I called my doctor, and they told me to come in. JoDee was playing Hungry Hungry Hippo at the time in her room. I stuck my head through the door way to tell her to get her shoes on. She was sitting in that way only children can with her knees bent out to the sides beside her. At my age if I tried to sit with my butt on the ground and my knees bent with me feet out to the side, it would take a crane to pick me back up and reconstructive surgery to get my legs straight.
I told her we were going to the doctor’s office, so to get her shoes on. She nodded in agreement, never taking her eyes off her game. I brushed my teeth, got my shoes on, let the dogs out and back in, and went back to her room. She was in the same spot, not having moved except to pound the hippo on the head to grab the marbles. I told her again we needed to go so to get her shoes. Again she nodded her head in acknowledgment without moving a muscle. I paged ex-Husband The Original to call me, waited for his call, told him we were heading to the doctor, and went back to her room. Still playing the game. Typical kid. Not listening, doing what she wanted, not paying attention. At the time, I did not know I was in labor. At the time, I was ridiculously preggers, with a sore back, who slept on a water bed, and had no desire to go to the doctors to begin with. I was annoyed. And fat. And hadn’t seen my toes since Reagan was in office. In two giant steps I was in her room standing next to her, and I grabbed her arm yanking her to her feet. I startled her. Badly. She had the most terrified look on her face. Her eye brows, a slightly darker blonde than her long hair, shot up and her brown eyes opened wide. She pulled her hands up to her chest in a protective stance. That look has haunted me ever since. Not just the look, the body language. The person with whom she should feel the most comfortable suddenly became the most frightening.
As a parent it’s my job to protect my kids not scare the shit out of them. Granted, it was probably insignificant to her. She probably doesn’t even remember it. Once we finally got to the doctors they determined I was in fact in labor. Active labor. They sent us over to the hospital. Ol’daddy’o was at an interview for the fire department so she had to come with me. I was, of course, hooked up to a fetal monitor and had an IV so I was pretty much stuck in bed. I’m sure when JoDee thinks about the day Jay J was born, she thinks about how she came strutting out of the bathroom in my labor room naked as a jay bird save for her little white ruffled socks exclaiming that there was a “tubby so I take tubby” as I frantically hit the button for the nurse. The nurse laughed and politely re-dressed her telling her that the tubby was for mommy’s only.
There have been many times over course of JoDee’s life that I have seen that same look on her face. The first time I got called to the principal’s office because she was acting less than lady like. The first time the dentist told me she had a cavity and needed a filling. The many times her father reported some poor behavior to her brothers when she was with him. And later in life, when she would come home late, or I found out she was somewhere she wasn’t supposed to be. There were also times that I knew she was up to no good, that I did nothing. One time she got dropped off by her then boyfriend and I could tell she had been drinking. She was rambling on about some fight they had crying. It wasn’t funny by any means but somehow I thought it was comical. I told her to go to bed and in the morning I gave her a lecture about drinking and being under age. She told me it was the first time (it wasn’t) and I told her I believed her (I didn’t). I assumed, then, that this was normal teenage rebellion stuff and since she was basically a good kid whom was responsible, it would be ok. Wrong. At the time Ex-Husband II lectured me about yelling at her, and telling her she was grounded and blah blah blah. To some extent, he is probably right, but at that time he was blitzed out of his head 99% of the time so I felt he was hypocritical. Also true to some extent, though there is the whole adult vs child argument. That relationship was going downhill at the general speed of an avalanche so it’s possible I just didn’t want to listen to him. I have been known to be stubborn on occasion…. I know it’s hard to believe.
I also thought about the time my dad caught me drinking. He didn’t tell my mom. He didn’t yell at me. In fact we have never spoken about it. But I know when he knew. And he knew that was not typical behavior for me. He must have known that I was not putting myself at grave risk and it was just normal teenage rebellion. How did he know that I would not turn out to be a raging alcoholic, heroin user but I didn’t know JoDee would? Was he just lucky? Or was I just unlucky? Or was I being paid in full cosmically for all the wrongs I had ever done to someone else? I mean the reality is if you really want to make a person suffer, suffer their child, because no parent suffers more than when their child is in pain. I’m not a very religious person, and I have never found comfort in the church as some people do. JoDee has a higher power, Jay J is atheist, Jared is too young to make a definitive decision, as it should be. That being said I do believe that everything happens for a reason. There is no such thing as coincidences. But try as I might, I cannot make heads or tails of addiction hitting my family so hard. Maybe it’s so JoDee could find her soul mate (JayPay). Maybe it was to gear our life from one place to another. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t a good parent. Maybe being a teen mother lead JoDee down a path that she couldn’t have changed no matter what. As a young mother I certainly had no patience. Not like I do now. I was in a troubled relationship. The kids saw fighting; break ups, getting back together, a lot of instability. Granted, we are both in stable relationships now both partnered to people the other really like and admire, but it wasn’t always that way. It was a long road. Not just for me but for Daddy-O and his wife too. We have come a long way, blending families and traditions and cultures is not easy for anyone. But that isn’t where I think the problem happened. I can’t put my finger on it. I keep repalying incidents from the past and thinking is that it? Was that where everything went wrong? Are our children doomed from birth because of their parents? Is it because the influence from our extended families? Was it because of a broken family?
I could ask myself this question a thousand times for the rest of my life, but I will never get an answer. I have to be careful that I don’t dig myself into a depressing hole trying to pinpoint the moment, the instant, the very second that she started down the wrong path. It only serves to distract me from the present. It is another way that addiction, heroin, robs the family. It’s ancillary damage done and it’s a continued symptom of the real problem. Just as JoDee needs to focus on her recovery every single day, making sure to wake up and face the day clean and serene, I need to wake up making the decided choice to concentrate on what I know and feel. Not berating myself for anything I can’t change. I tell JoDee that things she did in the past, in active addiction or in an attempt to find sobriety, should stay in her past. She is allowed to forgive herself and not dwell on them because they are part of the what was not the what is. When we spend too much time contemplating the mistakes we made we bring them into our future. By remembering them and using them to make better choices we grow and evolve into a better stronger person. If I could only practice what I preach….