The Use of Talking

There is no end of things in the heart.


with 4 comments

This post is very hard to write. The only way into it is to say what has to be said at the beginning: My son is fifteen years old; since the age of six, he has suffered from a serious emotional illness. This has resulted in a number of hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and a stay in a group home. He has had years of therapy and special schools and medication.

I wrote, “he has suffered.” In fact, all of us have suffered, his mother and I, and his four siblings, along with him. This illness has cost us tears and time and money; it has cankered our relationships with each other; it has flayed us to the nerves and made us afraid. It has kept me skating around the edge of despair, for him and for us. It has reopened old wounds and made new ones.

Sunday mornings are not easy here on the mountain. Our son’s resentments and irritation and anger and boredom and depression, always there under the surface, often show themselves then. This morning his talk suddenly became hostile and unpleasant, and his mother and brother went on to church without him. A reason for his mood soon surfaced—he was angry about losing his Sunday video/computer game playing time the day before—and after a half hour or so he was feeling better.

Today everything settled down. But in the back of all our minds is the chance that it won’t, that he won’t, settle down, that he will go too far down the road he’s chosen. And that will mean a 911 call and police and paramedics and an ambulance ride to the emergency room and a struggle over insurance, because, as of right now, he doesn’t have any.

The wounds every member of our family bears are unique to him or her. For me, the most painful is the knowledge that when I look at my son I look at myself, my own weakness and anxiety and depression and fear and, worst of all, my own stubborn and cruel self-absorption blown up from sixteen millimeter to CinemaScope. And with it the thought that it was I who passed all this on to him.

There are nights when I go to bed dreading what might happen the next day; there are nights when I go to bed too tired to care. There are nights when all I can pray for is another day’s endurance; there are nights when I can’t pray at all. There are nights when I’m up half the night worrying about his future: Will he ever go to college? Will he be able to support himself? Will he manage to stay out of the hospital? Will he manage to stay alive?

After my son had calmed down, we went to church together, to the big parish church down one hill and up another. On the way back we laughed, and he sprinkled snow down the back of my neck. A father and his son, just like all the others, on a bright sunny winter afternoon.

Written by hans castorp

January 22, 2012 at 6:43 pm

Posted in Autobiography

Tagged with ,

4 Responses

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  1. The ups and the downs are the hard part, for the see-saw of hope and hopelessness can send not only our material lives but our spiritual ones into a tizzy. There’s an element of the erratic in it that surely, in a different time and place, we would have attributed to the whims of competing deities playing with our lives. It helps to think of the fluctuations as curves etched out on the x-y axis of the cross. For you yourself would say that the only intelligible answer to the suffering is Christ crucified. I know you would.

    And I know you know this, but… the fact that you can see yourself in him isn’t the same as being responsible for his illness. He has some of your genes, yes, and hence a predisposition to anxiety and depression. But there’s no guilt in that.

    Julia at Lotsa Laundry

    January 22, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    • Yes, I would say that the only answer is the cross. And I will write about that more directly sometime. And I don’t feel guilty about my genes, but about my behaviors that are, in kind if not in degree, like his.

      I know what you mean about fluctuations, and I like your image of battling deities. But I think that I, at least, have lower expectations than I once did, and hence I don’t swing up and down so much.

      hans castorp

      January 22, 2012 at 9:19 pm

  2. No one promised raising kids would be easy. I’ve had my own share of beating myself up for spanking my first child too much, too harshly, and then watching him become an angry kid. I’ve opened bedroom doors afraid what I might find. It’s funny how the older a child gets, the more prayers they need and how much more worthy they are for prayer and how much more I love them.

    Keep the faith — may your son find himself in this crazy, hard world.

  3. You are so intelligent and well read and beyond me in your posts, except for this one about your son. Your wife’s blogs are very inspiring to me and I know the hard and heavy challenges you face as a family. There is nothing I have to offer except to let you know you are heard and that even a stranger cares and prays for you all. God Bless.
    Ps. Maybe someday I will share my experience with you in defense of your “new age – occult – ersacht” comments below. Have you ever read Emmet Fox?


    January 29, 2012 at 7:36 am

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