Friday, November 27, 2015

Forgive Me Father for I Have Sinned

Forgive me father for I have sinned, I lied on the absentee hotline. My reasons were pure of heart. I wasn't trying to play hooky with my son and road trip to Vegas to give him a quirky indie-film experience that defines his life and becomes his college essay. My son was, indeed, ill; but his true malady, I feared, would not be accepted by the administration as a cause for missing school. I just did not feel I could say "my son is absent with depression."

So I said he had a sore throat.

Unfortunately depression does not come with convenient symptoms and physical evidence. An abundance of mucous, vomit or a good old rash would make legitimizing depression so much easier, not just for us parents and the absentee hotline police, but, quite possibly, for the world at large. Disgusting symptoms would also galvanize the germ-o-phobes into some kind of action to get depression more actively treated since gooey excretions suggest the threat of contagion. Sadly, no pun intended, this is not the case. Depression has invisible symptoms like exhaustion, self-loathing, loss of interest in anything; and these can often be mistaken for typical teenage behavior.

So I lied.

I do not regret keeping him home.

He rested, watched a little TV, we talked and he even did some homework. We did the same things we would have done had snot been pouring out of his nose

And my guilt actually has nothing to do with my latent catholicism. I feel guilty because I should have had the balls to say he was out due to depression. I should have taken this harmless baby step towards normalizing an illness that walks through the halls of life with its head down burdened by the weight of shame. I should have risked the mess the fallout was bound to create. The phone calls, the unexcused absence, the drop in points of all late homework, the revoking of his parking pass because his absence was unexcused. I contributed to the devaluing of my son's suffering by not standing up and confidently stating that this was the reason he was home. That is my sin.

For penance I could speak out and speak up, but therein lies another sin; a sin against my son. For this is his not mine to brandish and rage against the machine. His privacy, his daily battle, his reckoning with confusion, anger, shame and acceptance that he drew this straw. My penance is to forever remember his load and his strength; to care for him and teach him how to care for himself. To go out in my pajamas at 9:30 at night to pick up a Wendy's Baconator because that what he needs; and if there happens to be a Dunkin Donuts on the way, a coping donut for myself might be called for as well.

So, forgive me father for my sin. I will reflect and try to mend my ways. Oh, and, by the way, It's been about 33 years since my last confession.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Two Things I am Thankful for this Thanksgiving

I've always wanted to do that thing where you go around the table on Thanksgiving and everyone says something they are thankful for. But the eye rolling and clearly translatable sighs deter me year after year. But you, dear reader, I cannot see your eyerolls or hear your "ughs!" So here is what I am thankful for this year:

The Mess
Homemade chocolate chip cookies

That's it. That's right, just two things.

I could list walks on the beach, reruns of Castle, cereal, my family, finding five dollars in my winter coat when I put it on for the first time, blah-dity, blah-dity, blah. The truth is though, they all belong to The Mess, or, more accurately they are all the balance to The Mess. And to be clear, when I refer to The Mess, I am not speaking of kitchen duties in the Armed Services, I am speaking of the glorious Mess that is my, and, everybody's life. It is capitalized because it deserves honor and respect.


Yes, honor and respect. Many would say that mess is there to be cleaned up, that is creates a sense of chaos, unease and judgement from visiting relatives this weekend. Yes, it can do that. Mess can be feared and swept under the carpet and stuffed in the closet and crammed under the bed. It can be the hidden secret of shame you carry with you all weekend as you smile and answer "Things are good, thanks for asking." Eventually, though, someone is going to go looking for their coat and when they open the closet the Mess will reveal itself.

Mess will always be there no matter how many baskets you buy from Pottery Barn or drawer organizers you pick up at Bed Bath & Beyond or pictures of idyllic familial bliss you post on Facebook. So, here is the thing I love about the Mess: all the cool stuff I find when I sift through it. I love the feeling of relief when I throw things away I really don't need but was convinced I had to hang onto. I love finding things I completely forgot about that make me squeal with joy and surprise. And I love the new stuff that has found a way into my world. I would never experience all of these things if the Mess did not exist.

Yes, the Mess can be ominous and the anticipation of dealing with it is often unbearable, but there are so many interesting things to be found there; wonderful things, hard things, confusing things, things that create more mess. At the end of the Mess though lies a delicious sense of clarity, accomplishment and pride. It is that moment when you know where everything is, where everything goes. And then the mail comes and the Mess starts anew.

The Mess will always be there, and it is not there to be conquered, it is there to remind us of what living is. Life reveals itself most vividly in the midst of the Mess. So I am thankful for the Mess.

And as for homemade chocolate chip cookies, that's self-explanatory.

Happy Thanksgiving.