The last week has been unusual. It’s not every day that an adult son comes home because of health issues, a younger son is asked to move out because he’s smashing basic boundaries, or a deeply loved animal friend is diagnosed with cancer. Those kinds of things are unusual, and deeply impacting. What was typical about it were the unnecessary extras that come when you’re navigating life with a passive aggressive partner.
What does that mean? It means extra pain, extra drama.
Two nights ago, our youngest son called because his asthma was getting progressively worse since he left (this was predictable because he was probably eating lots of garbage he’s allergic to, and sleeping where it wasn’t all that clean). My husband initially answered the phone call. Our son was telling him that his inhaler was barely helping him breathe. If you’re familiar with asthma, you know this is very bad. I waited to hear a sane response that would focus on helping him as a priority, but it wasn’t there. My husband’s responses were… how can I describe them… bland, non-committal? I took the phone, and soon as I heard my son’s voice (breathing), I told him that I thought we should pick him up, and that everything else could be decided later after his breathing was stabilized and returning to normal. My son didn’t hesitate to agree to that.
My husband left to pick him up, but later returned without him. He said that our son seemed cheerful (and in my husband’s opinion, didn’t have the proper repentant attitude), so he’d said to our son “We need to talk” and that he didn’t like his attitude etc. In other words, he was going to attempt a serious ‘talk’ about the issues, and our son didn’t respond well to that. When oxygen is low in the body and brain it’s not a good time to attempt these kinds of conversations. In fact, it’s a bit like trying to have a serious conversation with someone whose blood sugar has dropped, or someone who has too much alcohol in their system, or even someone in the middle of vomiting. It’s just not the right time.
So there he stood in our kitchen, telling me he’d just left our struggling to breathe son in a parking lot. Well, of course he didn’t say ‘struggling to breathe’, but I knew it. I was so angry. So angry. I grabbed my purse and jacket and headed out the door. Now, when I get that angry, I can be very… colorful. I don’t mean swearing. I mean that unusual and unique turns of phrase can come pouring out of me. I was definitely that angry, and even more. When he walked in without our son, and I’d already heard the terrible state of his breathing on the phone, I was beyond flabberghasted when I heard his reason. His pathetic reason that he didn’t like his attitude.
In that window of time, I felt no love, compassion, empathy, or understanding for my husband. Just the focused, icy heat of a mother intent on protecting her kid. In fact, it’s a good thing that I had no means or access to do him harm. I did tell him what I thought and how I felt on the twelve minute drive there. In detail.
It didn’t help that just that very morning in our business meeting, he’d not only been swimming in passive aggressive, but when called out on it, typically resorted to a downright nasty dig. When I was holding him accountable, he responded by telling me I’d better be careful, or I’d drive him and our sons away.
The state of the nation is that right now, I’m not tolerating any crapola. (spell check says that isn’t a word) So when my husband threw out the dig about our sons, I sat back calmly and called him out on it. He denied it, and started escalating. Did the usual threat of being sick of me etc. and I eagerly offered to switch from the business at hand to working on dissolution paperwork. He stormed off, calmed down, came back and apologized. So that was a precursor to his leaving our son behind because he didn’t like his attitude.
Oh… the irony. The flaming double standards. A blind man with a huge log in his eye, swinging it around the room and leaving destruction while he tries to pounce on a twig.
When we arrived at the parking lot of the apartment building where my son had been staying with a friend, it was late (after eleven at night), dark, chilly, and all I saw was his backpack and a garbage bag of his clothes sitting on the concrete landing of the stairwell. No son in sight. My fear level (referenced in yesterday’s blog) shot up. Years ago, the nineteen year old son of a client had died from an asthma attack. I’ve never forgotten it. I guess I never will. I walked to the door and knocked, and when the young man answered with surprise and said he thought my son had left with his father, I just about lost the plot. Maybe I did temporarily lose the plot. I started walking the perimeter of the parking lot, calling out his name, straining to see in the dark. I borrowed a phone and called the same son who had kindly taken me on a walk, because he had the other car and my phone. He’d gone to work out and then hang out awhile with friends. I asked him to please meet up and help find his brother, and he was annoyed and angry.
In fact, the two brothers in the middle of birth order, were both annoyed and angry that their brother came home. Just for the record, they both put us through a lot of grief, and made their own stupid and destructive choices in the past, but somehow they felt what they did wasn’t as bad. So if anything, their younger brother followed in their footsteps, then took it a couple steps further.
What had happened was that when my husband drove away, our son didn’t know what to do. He didn’t want to go back to the apartment because he knew it was contributing to his struggle to breathe. He got in his friend’s car in the parking lot and just sat there. The car wasn’t parked too near the apartment, so he didn’t see us and we didn’t see him. When at some point, he walked out, I was so relieved to see him. I’d brought a fresh hot ginger tea with me for him, so I gave it to him and watched his rigid, angry body language. I told him “Look, I don’t care if you’re angry at me now or two days from now. It’s okay if you still want to live somewhere else, but right now, all that doesn’t matter. Nothing else matters except you being able to breathe. Let’s work together on stabilizing that, set everything else aside for a couple days, and then we can talk about the rest of it.” He just said, “Okay.” I could see he was angry and miserable. He came home to a clean sleeping area, more tea, some supplements, and an air cleaner running near his bed. I put hot tea on his desk in case he woke up, and told him to wake me if he felt any worse.
By morning, he was just ever so slightly better. He stayed home from school and rested. Yesterday afternoon, he told me he wanted to live here. I told him he needed to talk with his father. The short, long story on that is that in the big picture, that will make things go smoothly. I told him to let his father know what he wanted, ask his father what rules or boundaries would need to be agreed on, and then either commit to it, or not. No matter what, he could stay here as long as it took to get well.
What I didn’t tell him was that if he decided to leave and keep living in ways that made him sick, that he’d need to go to the emergency room, not call home. That it wouldn’t be healthy for me to be codependent and enabling if he continued to make choices that were hurting himself. What I didn’t tell him was that I’d decided to keep paying for his medical appointments, inhalers etc. until a reasonable date in mid-summer, at which time he’d need to be working and paying himself. This was IF he decided to keep living a lifestyle that was full of self-destructive choices.
I haven’t had to say any of it. So far, he’s just tired, and he told his father that he hadn’t realized how good he had it here, and that he agreed to the rules and boundaries to live here. So now we’ll see, but I’m going to hope for the very best for him.
Last night, I was physically jumpy and starting to get adrenaline surges from small, unexpected sounds. This time I asked my husband to please rub my feet so I could calm down enough to fall asleep. He did, and I appreciated that he did it.
So the state of the nation is status quo. But guess what? I walked a few miles yesterday, and the day before! I plan to walk a few miles later today. Do you know what this means if I keep up with that? I’ll fit in my jeans again. Right now it’s just pajamas, a pair of sweat pants, and one pair of dress pants that I don’t really like. Just keeping it honest here.
By the way, I’m blogging and listening to music on the Bose speakers our oldest son just hooked up to my computer because my old speakers were barely-working-terrible-sound-relics that were handed down to me by my husband. It was kind of funny because as our son was hooking them up, his father walked out, saw it, and made a smiling joke sounding comment like “Oh, Mom gets the good speakers…” and as he finished the last syllable, our son replied crisply “Yep!” My husband said “That was a fast response…”
Then our son, as the good man he is, asked his father “Are your speakers not good? Do you need new speakers?” My husband replied, “They’re okay. I got them from the thrift store.” Good grief. I hope he doesn’t add this to a pile of reasons why he’s not appreciated.
I won’t think about that. I’m really hoping he’s in a good stretch of behavior so I can get him to help get the rest of the garden planted. There’s actually lots of stuff I need his help with right now, so I’m going to lah lah lah pink bunnies, and hope for a peaceful stretch here.