letting each other go

Archive for the ‘Ups’ 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 »

Another Month Come and Gone

Posted by Leo G on September 4, 2007

world in a cupIt’s probably a good thing when you’re not hearing from me. And actually, things are very good. Bup seems to have discovered his internal motivation along the way this summer. I think the trips to Sweden and Turkey helped in two ways: first, they let him know that his parents love him and want him to have good things and are willing (when possible) to give them to him. And second, he got some serious one-on-one time with non-parental adults who love him and see his potential. He had long talks with adults who care and treat him like the smart, talented, and special young man he is. This does not happen on a regular basis, unfortunately. I don’t know of a single teacher or administrator at his school that’s taken the time to get to know him. His world was being completely defined by his peers.

Speaking of peers, when Bup was talking about another friend of his, he mentioned that they are having similar struggles to “completely cut off the bad influences” in their lives. That’s the very first time he has said anything that didn’t protect and defend the two friends that we think have been a big part of the problem. Of course, he may not have been talking about them, but he at least admitted that he has had some bad influences and is trying to fight or avoid them. I’m encouraged because this is coming from him, not from parental pressure.

He’s a good kid and I’ve known that all along. My fear was that he was skirting the edges and maybe even heading toward the middle of addiction. That doesn’t seem to be true. He has tested “clean” a few times now and so has been enjoying the benefits of that. (getting to drive, increased trust, etc.) He has, I think, had his eyes opened to how big the world is and how full of possibilities. I think, hope, and pray that we’ve stopped the inertia that had begun and given him some reasons to not only go to school, but succeed there.

I’m feeling hopeful, which is a long way from where I was when I began this blog. Deep breath. Thank you.

Posted in Ups | 8 Comments »

Tomorrow, Tomorrow…I love ya, Tomorrow…

Posted by Leo G on June 27, 2007

nullThe kids come home tomorrow night. I really miss them. It seems while they were away, Bup has found love. They were visiting his sister’s best friend from second grade in Sweden. (She’s fifteen now.) I guess spending almost two weeks in her company sparked something. Their grandmother called more than once to tell us how sweet he is with her: how he holds her hand, touches her arm, looks at her with such tender eyes. What an interesting development!

He’s always had a tendency to fall for girls who are somehow unavailable. Him in the States, her in Sweden–that’s long distance! Of course they can chat and webcam these days, but still. Of course, the “practical dad” in me is pleased. It’s very hard to get a girl pregnant from 4966 miles (as the crow flies) away.

One of the goals of these summer trips was to remind him (and his sister) that life is much much bigger than their little group of friends or school or even this city. I guess we achieved that goal. I just hope he doesn’t pine after her too much.

Posted in Ups | 1 Comment »

A Break for Everyone

Posted by Leo G on June 15, 2007

Bup and his sister are off on their annual summer trip with their grandmother. This year’s destination is Stockholm, Sweden. (I know, they are spoiled. I’ve never been to Europe…) This is a wonderful thing that she can do for them that we’d never be able to make happen.

I think, having heard about the trouble Bup’s been in, she was very nervous about traveling with him. She came in the night before and we all had dinner together and she just couldn’t stop saying what a wonderful young man he is. She’s right. He is engaging, smart, and charming. A conversation with him is a real delight and a bit of an adventure because he is such a creative thinker.

Things seem to be particularly good because he and his two best friends made a pact to quit using the day school got out. So far I think they’ve stuck to it and it shows in Bup’s attitude and energy level. He seems very focused on this book he’s writing and now illustrating. Last week he drew an incredibly picture of Moses. (from Exodus.)

Anyway, my partner and I get a break, the kids are having a great adventure, and even the dog seems more relaxed.

Posted in Ups | 4 Comments »

A Weekend Together

Posted by Leo G on April 9, 2007

My son and I haven’t spent a lot of time together recently, as you might have guessed. But this past weekend we planned some time away and had a great time. We spent four days together in the Bay Area, where we lived when Bup was little. His best friend from kindergarten was also in town, and it seemed a good balance of time with (healthy) friends and time together.

On Saturday, we spent the day together at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. I was impressed that Bup’s goal seemed to be to see everything we saw when we went when he was young and to visit all the art galleries. I got him a couple of t-shirts he wanted, a caricature of himself jumping off the Golden Gate, way too much junk food, and some other silly touristy stuff. It was fun, and we reconnected in a way that brought me hope.

Really, the whole weekend was great. I made a point not to fuss or lecture and he made a point to be present and non-defensive. I learned a lot about what he’s actually thinking and while it’s full of a sixteen-year-old’s conviction that nothing bad will ever happen to him, it was good to hear that he seems to be trying balance his desire to do nothing but have fun with some forethought about his future.

My sense of relief comes from spending enough time with him to really listen to his thoughts and realize that while he is definitely abusing drugs, his thought processes (when not using, which he wasn’t this weekend) are still sound. He is negotiating a particularly difficult peer situation that is worse than the usual peer pressure. He’s trying to get clear about how to be loyal to himself and balance the crazy intensity of adolescent friendship. Our time together, at very least, helped me start feeling compassion alongside all my worry. And that’s a good thing.

Posted in Ups | 6 Comments »

Knocking on Wood

Posted by Leo G on March 29, 2007

It’s been a quiet week. Bup seems to be trying really hard to be good. He’s doing the little things that we usually have to nag about: bringing dirty dishes back up to the kitchen, feeding the dog, being ready on time for school. And he’s being pleasant to his sister and his parents. Maybe he is trying to show us that he’s not really the scary kid who made threats in his rage. Maybe he’s just trying to lull us back into complacency. Maybe he is being good as he plots our demise. Or maybe the long conversation we had reminded him of who he wants to be. He doesn’t really want to grow up to be an addict and a dealer, does he?

In the meantime, we’ve started planning a “rite of passage” trip for him this summer. We’re thinking of sending him to a very close family friend who lives in the Mediterranean. (not in the sea, but in the area.) There are several reasons we think this might be a good idea. We think he needs some one-on-one time with his “Uncle” who is mixed race, was raised here, and understands that part of what Bup is going through. We think a trip like this might remind him how big the world is and how much there is “out there” for him to explore. He’d also be going to a place where, for the first time, he wouldn’t be in the minority as a brown-skinned young man. And he’d be going alone–a cool thing for a sixteen year old and by handling the travel, he could have an experience of his own competence. Plus, would you turn down three weeks in the Mediterranean instead of hanging out at home all summer?

For now, things are at peace in our home. He doesn’t appear to be using much. He finally got his learner’s permit and is able to drive with a parent, which is a first step. We scheduled a drug test for a few weeks from now, giving him time to get the stuff out of his system. We want him to pass, after all. If he does, he’ll get to expand his driving to busy streets and even the freeway, though he’ll need to still be with a parent until he completes driver’s ed. So for now, things are calm.

But I’m still knocking on wood.

Posted in Ups | 8 Comments »

A Good Weekend and Happy Birthday

Posted by Leo G on March 13, 2007

Happy Sixteenth, Buppy!

We had a good weekend. We went to a second family session with his new therapist. It was good. The Doc pointed out how much alike my son and I are when it comes to our determination to be heard. We worked out a plan of action for getting clear on whether or not Bup can go on the band trip with his school. We managed to laugh a bit.

The only hard moment this weekend was my fault. I called him Friday night, being extremely crabby and “hard.” Turns out he’d already left a message (on our home phone, not cell) giving me all the information I needed. He had gotten a VIP pass to a very cool local indoor mini theme park and was having the time of his life for free. Roller coaster, inline skating, movies, free food… And I called and gave him all sorts of attitude. And he’d really tried to do the right thing.

Sigh. Oh well. I apologized. We had a decent talk after that. I apologized again during the therapy session. I know it sounds wimpy, but I am trying hard to model respect and decency in our relationship. I think it made a difference.

He doesn’t appear to be using much, but that may be because he’s out of money. That will change today when he gets cash gifts from his grandparents. He has an A in English, because he seems to like that teacher. (There are a few F’s too.) I’m glad he is applying himself to something.

Mostly, I am hoping this birthday is the start of continuing maturity. For sixteen years, the half of the year from his birthday to September has been the easy time. The six months from his “half birthday” to March have been hard every single year. A dad can hope…

Posted in Ups | 3 Comments »

First Therapy

Posted by Leo G on February 28, 2007

Well, the therapist is down-to-earth, caring, and very blunt. I think all that’s a good thing. My son seemed pretty open to the whole thing. Coming on the heels of being suspended for fighting may have been an advantage. I know he knows why we’re worried. I know he knows we love him. I know he knows we are trying to get him quality help.

At the same time, the therapist is clearly not going to just be a tool for us parents. He told us all that he really doesn’t like adults, he much prefers teens and children. He was clear about what he would have to share with us and what he would not. One part of that was to trust him to let us know if he begins to think the drug abuse is enough of a problem to warrant treatment. From my perspective, that is a relief. We have help. We have someone we can check in with about our fears. But most of all, our son can be totally honest about his use, because he can trust that this guy isn’t going to overreact.

So, all in all, I think it was good. I feel a little hope. At least my son–who I suppose I should give some kind of name here–can be sure that we are not trying to punish him, but work with him. I feel like maybe we could get to a point where we are all, at some very basic level, on the same team. I don’t need him to be perfect, I need him to be safe enough and healthy enough to survive his adolescence.

UPDATE: I talked with my son and he says he wants to continue with counseling. I think this is a very good thing.

Posted in Ups | 9 Comments »

A Better Day

Posted by Leo G on February 27, 2007

I think his “stash” is gone. His behavior has improved, along with his attitude. He got to go to a professional basketball game last night and had a great time. We’re also looking at options. We have a meeting with a counselor (for him) tomorrow. We are educating ourselves about treatment options. It helps to feel like there might be some good resources to help us with this.

The overwhelming thing is when I see lists like this:

Physical Signs

* Change in sleeping patterns–check.
* Bloodshot eyes–check.
* Slurred or agitated speech–check.
* Sudden or dramatic weight loss or gain–nope.
* Skin abrasions/bruises–nope.
* Neglected appearance/poor hygiene–nope.
* Sick more frequently–check.
* Accidents or injuries–nope.

Behavioral Signs

* Hiding use; lying and covering up–check.
* Sense that the person will “do anything” to use again regardless of consequences–check.
* Loss of control or choice of use (drug-seeking behavior)–possibly
* Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities–check.
* Emotional instability–check.
* Hyperactive or hyper-aggressive–check.
* Depression–check.
* Missing school or work–check.
* Failure to fulfill responsibilities at school or work–check.
* Complaints from teachers or co-workers–check.
* Reports of intoxication at school or work–nope.
* Furtive or secretive behavior–check.
* Avoiding eye contact–check.
* Locked doors–check.
* Going out every night–check.
* Change in friends or peer group–nope. (I wish they *would* change.)
* Change in clothing or appearance–nope.
* Unusual smells on clothing or breath–check.
* Heavy use of over-the-counter preparations to reduce eye reddening, nasal irritation, or bad breath–check.
* Hidden stashes of alcohol–nope.
* Alcohol missing from your supply–check (but only once, cuz he got caught.)
* Prescription medicine missing–nope.
* Money missing–nope.
* Valuables missing–nope.
* Disappearances for long periods of time–nope.
* Running away–nope.
* Secretive phone calls–nope.
* Unusual containers or wrappers–do soda can “pipes” count?–check.

He’s definitely using. It’s impossible not to see that. He’s tested positive for marijuana and benzos. (ativan or valium, most likely.) Is he addicted? Possibly. Is he using enough to have serious consequences? Definitely. And the million billion dollar question: How can we help?

We’re trying to figure that out, but it’s not as “cut and dried” as it may seem. We could force him into treatment, but that’s not really the most effective way to help. (When kids feel forced they resist all the more.) We’re going to try to get him to think of this counselor as a resource to deal with what we know is not an easy life. We’ll get his professional opinion on what to do next.

And, I’ll write here. Because I know I need to process my own anger, sadness, anxiety, fear, and pain in order to be a better dad.

Posted in Ups | 2 Comments »