He did it! A few days ago, after saying he would ever since Jess left, Sam just rang a travel agent and booked a plane ticket to Vancouver. He is taking himself off for 2 months: it’s really weird – I still don’t quite believe it – but exactly 2 weeks after taking Jess to Manchester airport I have another Monday morning airport drive to do, this time to Heathrow. ‘Goodbye son, see you on Christmas Day’ – undoubtedly numb with tears and prayers all the way home.
It is weird too, because this was the drive I did to Acton back in October 2005 when Sam first left home at the age of 19. I guess we’ll drive past the M40 junction at around 6.45am and the memory of those London years will turn in their grave again. That first time 6 years ago I was taking him and all his stuff to set up camp in the top bedroom of an Edwardian house belonging to friends of friends. We were pleased to have found them and it seemed the best we could do to give him some safety in London while he did his diploma at Drumtech, just round the corner… But he only lasted 3 months with that family before he found a better alternative, house-sharing with fellow students who didn’t mind him practising at all hours! I had to drive down to move him all over again… seems a lifetime ago now.
After the diploma he didn’t want to continue with the degree and ended up back at home for a miserable year. Unable to make progress or get a job, rightly or wrongly we persuaded him to go to university, at least to graduate in something – a chance for independence and time to grow up a bit, perhaps. So he was full of the possibilities when I made the trip back again in October 2007 to the old stomping ground of Drumtech and Thames Valley University for the 3 year Popular Performance degree – bless him, setting up camp yet again in the brand new student block. It was doomed from the start…
9 months later and 40 months ago last weekend Sam dropped out of university having failed the first year and came home again to live with us. Along with the terrible sense of failure there was the tension of having him in my space again – angry and depressed, lost and ill – the painful growing that both of us had to do to find a way to communicate our boundaries and continue to love in the dreary, hopeless months pre-diagnosis. By March 2009 he had headaches and visual disturbances caused by raised intra-cranial pressure, with the discovery of large ‘lesions’ in his right brain on April Fool’s Day and e-v-e-n-t-u-a-l-l-y in January 2010… the cancer diagnosis. We plunged into the months of radiotherapy and alternative diet and so on and so on…
All this time I have been the carer, trying to help at a distance, dancing round him trying to both give room and cover all the bases. My biggest lesson as a mum has been to back off and give him room – the hardest thing to do for someone who is patently not making the best choices. All a young man in his early 20’s wants is to escape his mother, live his own life, have his own adventures… so hard for him – so hard for me too. Last April we made room for Jessa to come over – an attempt to give him what he wanted, help him have some kind of normal life – and her presence catalysed him moving out at last (remember When the bough breaks…!) It then led into buying the new house round the corner – that he will soon leave standing empty!
I know I’ve written all of this before – but how many times have I let go?! I gained some space in June, it’s true, but recent months of tensions in the relationship with Jess, both sets of needs and struggles taking up my energy almost every day, especially over the past month… October’s calendar covered in crossings out – instead of a marriage a flight home to Pennsylvania. In just the last few weeks since he split with Jess, I have made things work for him, run errands and completed benefit claims, emptied the cat litter and topped up the finances… running 2 houses now as well as cleaning out the old flat. No wonder I am tired!
I undoubtedly need a good break and this is definitely that – an amazing opportunity to rest, to live a ‘normal life’ and just think about myself and my husband with no extra demands or pressures every day, no walking past his house wondering what’s happening inside, the unexpected turn of his key in the door for visits to use his drum-kit or borrow my computer inconveniently late at night; I’m always jumping at his presence on the edge of our daily lives and haunted by the anxiety. I finally can put that aside and just let go – can’t I? Of course he can manage alone – he is a man! OK – a man with a brain tumour, but still with the right to choose his life and this trip is what he has chosen…
And that’s the constant challenge to us, his parents, in letting him make his own choices… as if ‘letting’ comes into it! He is going! He has money from selling a drum-kit he won in a writing competition and he wants to go to British Columbia to get some good ‘herbal medication’ for his head… whether it works or not. He has a reliable sounding contact who’ll look after him… don’t young men travel the world at this age normally? Not usually without medical insurance and a lump in their head, I know… I didn’t say it wasn’t a huge risk. I don’t have to drive him to the airport… we are not exactly pleased he will arrive back on 25th December and disrupt our Christmas day… yet again, what can we do but love – and let go again?
I know it’s also a gift of course, when I really am at the end of my resources. I don’t think I have never felt so exhausted in my life, drained physically and emotionally, an effort just to string sentences together… and beyond Monday I can smell the fresh air of freedom – time for myself!
All being well and if I can deal with the worry while he’s gone, I’m going to make the most of it 🙂