17 years ago I became a mother when this little rockstar came into the world after 25 hours of natural labor. He was exhausted after his journey to life and once he arrived, he just slept like a little angel. And that’s been his disposition for most of his life: a quiet, gentle peace-maker. At school he was friendly with just about everyone and always got the “pleasure to have in class” comments on his report card (following the “work on penmanship” comment). He was a little performer who would regularly put on shows in our living room, his bedroom, the backyard and school talent shows: singing, doing card tricks, telling jokes, dancing, playing music, making up fantastical stories and plays. He was the life of the party.
Then he became a teenager
…and we moved him from the only home he knew in California to Boise, Idaho at the tender age of 13. Somewhere between that move and now, school work got hard for him, his friend group changed, his parents got divorced, his dog got diabetes and died and a global pandemic overtook the world. I’m not making excuses for the choices he’s made; I’m just giving some context into how that sweet boy ended up in a therapeutic boarding school.
His 17th birthday was last Tuesday and I have to be real: it sucked. It was a really tough day for me and I can feel the tears welling up in the back of my throat as I attempt to put into words the reconciliation between the head and the heart. You see, I know that Austin needs help that I cannot give him. As a mom, that is incredibly painful to admit. I have prided myself on being a Super Mom. For 13 years of my life, I dedicated my work to my children: I was a stay-at-home Mom who ran carpools, scheduled playdates, made home-cooked meals, helped with homework, shopped for Halloween costumes, cleats and back to school clothes, hosted countless dinner and holiday parties, directed the school talent show, and raised a ridiculous amount of money for the elementary school by upgrading their “turkey trot” to a “jaws-a-thon” (costumes and all), and God Almighty, I listened to their music in the car as we drove around town (can anyone else reading this recite the lyrics to Harry Potter in 99 seconds or the Kermit the Frog vs Stan Lee rap battle?). In short, I was there for him in every way I knew how. And now I’m not.
My head knows that Ozzie (his newly chosen name) is in a great school, with lots of support to lovingly get him to work through all the tough emotions that he’s been bottling up and numbing out. I know that they will be able to get him through his final year in high school. I know that he will have the opportunity to play sports and partake in theater. I know that he will be able to continue developing his skills as a guitarist and a song-writer. I know that he’ll be safe. And well fed. And warm. And encouraged. And guided. And disciplined. And loved. But tell that to my heart.
My heart feels the pain of our separation. My heart misses hearing him play Sweet Child O Mine and eating his homemade cookies. My heart longs to have our daily car conversations on the way to school. My heart hurts for Nora and Landen as they grieve the unexpected absence of their older brother and friend. My heart is breaking for this boy who has to learn his lessons the hard way. My heart wants my boy home for his senior year and it doesn’t understand why things had to go this way. My heart doesn’t think; it feels. And I don’t know how to reconcile that. So I do the only thing I know how to do and that’s to live each day as fully present as I can and to repeat the mantra “a year for a lifetime”
To quote one of Ozzie’s rock idols:“We are made up of two contrasting ideals: Love and Fear. Pick one and live” -Axl Rose
I choose love. I will always choose love. And I will send him my love across the miles, silently in my daily prayers. When Austin was still in and out of behavior hospitals for suicide attempts last winter, a friend of mine taught me the Ho’oponopono prayer. It’s a Hawaiian prayer for forgiveness, healing and making things right. This is how it was taught to me: bring the person who you’re sending the prayer to into your mind-space. Then repeat the following simple prayer as many times as needed…often until you drift asleep or feel that your message has transcended the distance.
I love you.
Please forgive me.
Nora, Landen and I were able to spend a day with Ozzie last Sunday. It was incredible, like nothing has changed, and yet everything has changed. He will not be coming home until he has completed the program, which will be another 10 months or so and I have to let go. Let go of what I had expected his senior year of life to be like. Let go of feeling responsible for why he’s there. Let go of my fear about how he’s doing. Let go of trying to control the outcome. And instead, I need to trust. Somewhere in the middle of head and heart there’s a space where I need to make my new home and I think I’ll find it when I finally learn to let go and trust. Ozzie: I love you, I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.