letting each other go

Archive for the ‘Before and After’ Category

I don’t know who you voted for…

Posted by Leo G on November 4, 2008

and I don’t know what you think about President Obama. But let me tell you something. Last night, as Barack Obama was elected to the Presidency of this nation, my seventeen-year-old son wept. I don’t mean a few tears. I mean ten minutes of quiet tears, rolling one after the other down his face.

See, my son is mixed race. He read President-elect Obama’s first book a few years ago. He told me back then, “Barack Obama is me.” And last night, he saw that this country can overcome racism, division, and pettiness and elect a mixed race man to the highest office of the land.

Something in him broke open. Something was deeply affirmed–for the very first time. My son knows he matters. He knows he can recover from his mistakes and do anything. He knows that more people in America believe in hope than in fear and anger.

He wept. For ten minutes. So did Rev. Jesse Jackson. So did every African-American person I know. The white folks smiled and cheered and celebrated. But our African-American brothers and sisters wept. Before they could cheer, they had to weep.

I can’t say I completely understand. Even for me, it’s second hand. As much as I love my dear Bup, I could only observe and be affected by what he was feeling. I didn’t feel it in the same way. But I witnessed it. And I want you to know that it matters. Forty percent of the children in this country are people of color or mixed race. And they just understood, for the very first time, that their lives matter. They understand that they can make a difference. They understand that it is possible that they too could be president of our nation.

My son has been clean for seven months. His grades are good. My marriage ended, and Bup and I are living in an apartment in a way that I can only describe as “easy.” He still hides his vulnerability most of the time, fronting about how strong he is and how tough he can be. But tonight, for ten minutes, tears rolled down his face. Tonight, the part of him that was beginning to be beaten down, draining his hope and self-confidence–tonight, that part began to be healed.

President Obama, I will pray for you every day. I will pray for wisdom, for strength, and for your safety. You have taken on the burden of leadership, and I thank you for your willingness to serve in this way. I believe that tonight you began to heal our nation. Perhaps the healing is just in the heart of one adolescent young man for now, but it will spread. Thank you and God Bless you and the ones you love.

Posted in Before and After, gratitude, Trying to communicate, Ups | 4 Comments »

Before and After

Posted by Leo G on February 25, 2007

A Perfect Post – February 2007
I’m starting this blog because I am hurting. That may be as self-centered a reason as there is, but I don’t know what else to do. My son is almost sixteen and about six months ago he seemed to wake up angry as hell that the world has rules and determined not to follow them. It was like he’d undergone a transformation from Jekyll to Hyde. People say this is normal, but when it’s your kid, there’s nothing normal about it. It’s just confusing and maddening and painful.

My son has always been such an amazing person. He’s intelligent, loyal, dedicated, and extremely charismatic. He’s never had any trouble making friends. Babies love him. Kids love him. His peers love him. Adults love him. Or they once did. I don’t know if that’s still true, because every day he looks more like a drug user. His eyes are bloodshot. He’s got that glazed look in his eyes. And he’s unpredictable.

That’s the hardest thing so far. When I see my son, I see him through a kind of kaleidescope of time. I see the baby I held just moments after his birth. I see the child that scared the hell out of me by riding his “Big Wheel” down the steps. I see the kindergartener who made friends the very first day of school to whom he is still loyal. I see the child who was so nervous at his first school concert he spun around and around and around in his bright gold kente cloth shirt, looking for all the world like a lighthouse. I see the child who took on fifth graders to protect the tadpoles in the school pond. I see the kid who told amazing stories and the kid who surprised me one day when I picked him up from school and found him wearing a knight’s helmet–that even opened and closed–entirely fashioned out of paper. I see the kid who was so determined to become a professional basketball player that he practiced for hours every night. The kid who never had trouble saying, “I love you.”

Then came the phone call from camp last summer. My son had gotten caught with marijuana at camp. They sent him home. When he got home he explained that yes, they’d smoked some pot, but that he “took the fall” for a bunch of kids who convinced him that they’d be beaten or killed if they got sent home. He knew he’d be in trouble, but safe, so he confessed. He cooperated with every consequence we gave him, including working with a good attitude to pay me back almost $1000 toward the cost of camp. I thought it was a stupid one-time thing and he’d learned his lesson.

Then he got picked up for shoplifting. Again, I thought it was a one-time thing. He’d had no money for a really long time (paying me back) and it was his best friend’s birthday. It made a certain, stupid, adolescent sense. But then we started noticing the red eyes. And he started skipping school–and eventually pretty much stopped going at all. He failed many of his classes. He didn’t make the basketball team because of his grades. Same for the band trip he was so excited about. Then he learned that he might not get to go to his school next year because he’s a transfer student. For a short while he straightened up…

Then, he got some cash. Suddenly, his eyes weren’t only bloodshot, he was a different person. Angry. His constant refrain, “I don’t care.” He started leaving homemade pot pipes in the basement. He started burning candles and spraying cologne all over, but his room still smells of pot. He stuck with school for a little while, then started skipping again. He’s angry and defensive all the time. Things are spiraling out of control.

And all I can really say is…it’s breaking my heart. I have no solutions yet. I have no strategies yet. I have only this sadness.

P.S. and right as I wrote that, I get a text message from him. It says: “I think you’re worrying too much about stuff.”

Posted in Before and After | 27 Comments »