So I’ve got this cousin

And, really I don’t know any details yet and probably I shouldn’t even be sharing this, but it is looking like he’s going to spend the next twenty years in prison.  He isn’t even thirty yet.  He’s a father.  His kids are so little and will be grown when he gets out. 

It’s easy, very easy, to look at him and say he belongs in jail.  God knows I’ve wanted to kick his ass pretty much for forever.  Like most people facing what he is, he has done some bad things.  Sometimes to other people, but maybe mostly to himself.  I haven’t talked to him in a couple of years, and before that it had been a long time. 

It’s a huge awful mess and it’s not my story to tell, but what is mine to tell is the part I own: the part about being a mother to boys; the part about struggling with depression and self esteem; the part about seeing that addiction has the power to hurt you from angles that you never even knew about until they’d already knocked you flat.  I’m so far removed from his life and his story, but the big picture I see is one of a person who just doesn’t have enough belief in his own worth to make the choices that he needed to in order to thrive.  If you don’t care what happens to you, or if you don’t think you deserve good things, then doesn’t it follow that you’ll end up placing yourself in the path of all kinds of disaster? 

Probably most people have felt that recklessness of not caring about what happens to them, even if only for a moment or two.  Maybe you felt it and took a totally dumb risk or said something you shouldn’t have.  Or, just, I don’t know, acted stupidly and couldn’t really explain why.  And think about how different your life might be if you felt that all the time and all your choices were governed by that apathy.  Or how about being born with the brain chemistry that predisposes you toward addiction?  It sounds like I’m making excuses for him, and I don’t at all mean to.  He was born with so much and he chose to quite literally throw it away.  He was given chance after chance after chance after chance, usually at the expense of the people who loved him.  Then he was given more chances.  And, still, he couldn’t get it together.  And.  But.  I really think that he is suffering and I am willing to bet that if he gets psychiatric treatment in prison, he will be diagnosed with depression and maybe post traumatic stress disorder.  I know I sound like what my Poppa would have called a “bleeding-heart liberal.”  I also know that I’m the mother of two children who have been diagnosed with depression and that stories like my cousin’s make my stomach cold with worry and fear for my own kids.  How do I steer them through this shit, I wonder, so that they will be okay? 

Sophie’s eye doctor today wrote her a prescription for glasses and so she tried on all the frames they had and chose a pair:


And tonight I heard her telling her dad about them.  She said, “I think I look better without them, but I’m still pretty with them and they help my eyes.”  This was before I heard about my cousin, but I was still so happy to hear her say that in this very matter-of-fact way.  It’s like every good comment they make about themselves is a layer of protection from all the worries I have for them.  Those worries that get more real on days like today.  Days when I think, Damn, I remember the day he was born.  I remember him so thrilled when he was a teenager to get his Girbaud jeans and nice shirts for Christmas because he was all about dressing well for school.  WTF?  How did this happen, exactly?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *