When a Birth Mother’s Love Isn’t Enough
“Wake up. You have your meeting today. Remember?”
As soon as I lift my head, it feels like someone took a sledgehammer to it. I don’t even know what today is. Is it Monday or the weekend? I don’t even remember last night, really. Then, all of a sudden, it hit me.
I haven’t seen my little man in a week, but it seems like forever. I miss him, and today is the day I get to see him again.
In all of my fogginess, I make my way to the shower. As the water washes off last night, my memory slowly comes back to me.
Gene is back. Jackson’s father.
My friend, Maggy, stayed with me last night and was trying to get me to snap back into reality. She just got out of jail and had been staying at the half-way house across town.
“Gene’s back, huh?” she said disapprovingly.
“I don’t know,” I said “and I don’t care.”
“Sure you don’t. You’ve been doing well, Trish. Don’t go backwards.”
I mean it. Gene is the last person on earth I should be around.
We grew up in the same neighborhood. I was one of the many girls who had a crush on him, but he never paid me any attention. He’s 11 years older than me. He enlisted in the war after 9/11, and I hadn’t seen him in a long time. When he came back, he was different. He was somehow more mature and even more handsome. He was also quieter than I remember. One day, I snuck into the neighborhood club. He slipped a drink to me, and the rest was history.
It was a whirlwind. It felt like a dream come true. He was perfect. Certainly nicer to me than any other man had been. My dad was a drunk who beat me and my mom. I would run away to Maggy’s house and stay with her for a few days, but I always went home.
One day, things got too bad, and I ran away again. This time, to Gene.
Life was great for a while, but I started to see what he was about. He had Bipolar Disorder, and didn’t even know it. We found out after he had a meltdown and ended up in the VA hospital.
He occasionally did drugs around me. Since I lived with him, he always did them in front of me. Then, he made me try.
First it was weed.
Then, things got out of control. I got to the point where I had so many track marks on my body, there was nowhere to stick the needle.
I dropped out of school, and quit my job at the laundry mat. Not too long after that, I got pregnant with Jackson.
I knew I had to get clean to have the baby, but Gene didn’t care. He kept trying to get me high. When I refused, he beat me.
I couldn’t believe it. I was my mom. I hated that she stayed with my dad. But in some crazy way, I understood. I wondered if he was my mom’s first love like Gene was mine.
Some days I fought the urge to get high, and some days I didn’t. I knew I was wrong, but I couldn’t stop.
Something stronger than me had control. I thought I was the one in control, until I realized I never was.
When Jackson was born, he was a healthy baby boy — my little miracle. Gene acted like a proud father for all but two seconds. His addiction and bipolar drew him out into the streets. He would come back here and there to grab things from the house to sell for his fix — to pick arguments and make up excuses to put his hands on me. But I fought back.
I also fought my addiction. I lost. And I lost my son. My Jackson.
He was the only person who truly made me happy. I remember when I would leave earlier in the day and come home late at night, Jackson would be laying on the couch waiting for me. I’d pick him up, put on his Scooby-Doo pajamas and put him in bed to let him know I was home.
I wanted to kill myself for what I had done. For who I had become. Some days I would walk past the creek and talk myself into jumping off the ledge. But I couldn’t.
I have to live for Jackson.
I started going to rehab to get clean for my son. I’ve been seeing him every week for a couple of months now, and he shows me all of his drawings. My baby is an artist. I think he gets that from me. I used to always draw when I was a little girl. Especially the days I locked myself in the room so I wouldn’t have to be around my dad and his bottle of whiskey.
Drawing gave me peace. I hope it does that for Jackson too.
Last week, Gene came back. He looked good. He told me he was working on getting himself together. He was getting treatment for his bipolar. He got a job at the car wash downtown. He apologized for everything he had done to me — and to Jackson. He told me, “He’s my child too.” I agreed. He said that, together, we will get our son back and finally be a happy family.
But…we had fun last night. It was like old times.
The doorbell rings. It’s Gene.
“Where are you going?” Maggy asks. “You have visitation today.”
“I’ll go next week. I promise.”