Love and Frostbite

Two years ago on Valentine's Day dawn I stood in my son's empty room and cried, wondering why he didn't come home, hadn't called me or left a message. I feared he was dead, shot or stabbed, dead on the streets of Chicago. I went downstairs and started face booking his friends. He had left his computer on and I recklessly contacted every one of them until one volunteered some information and I was able to find where he was. When I called I was told he was being loaded into an ambulance with frostbite. I ran out of the house and drove like a mad woman to the street where I saw an ambulance loading a stretcher bearing my son whose bare feet were wrapped in bandages. It was a very cold day and the night before had been colder.

Calmly I told the attendants I was his mother and asked if I could drive him to the hospital. They were very kind and put him in my car and we drove to an emergency room of a nearby hospital. I could not allow myself to imagine how badly he had hurt himself and we were both quiet on the way over. I remembered out of the depths of my past falling through the ice of Lake Carnegie when I drunkenly fled a party causing havoc and nearly killing myself. I was a drunken teenager and it's a miracle I lived to see fifty. But I have and I've been completely sober for over 26 years. But this was my son, the boy I would lose my life for and I was powerless in a way I could hardly bear. But bear it I must. When I saw his feet remembering the perfect chunks of baby flesh I had once covered with kisses they were frostbitten and he would bear those scars for life.

In the emergency room a young man, a volunteer at the hospital, saw what had happened and took my son to task. "How could you do this to your mother," he said. My son tried to maintain his composure but he broke down and cried. I didn't yell or scream or threaten. I didn't tell him how to behave or how much he was hurting me. As we drove home we talked a little bit. I made him breakfast and then we sat on the couch together and he told me what he could remember about the night before, the blackout, the loss of his shoes, his humiliation, his sorrow. I kept a mantra in my brain that was basically, "Listen."

He hasn't stopped drinking completely or smoking pot. But he did go to a meeting and he knows he has a problem. He's trying to find a way to drink moderately which I doubt will ever work but until he's had enough, he will not stop successfully. His grades are very high and he's being accepted into wonderful colleges.

This past Valentine's Day he went to school, work and returned to our house with a dozen yellow roses. I had been in a terrible place in my marriage, attacked and publicly shamed by two of my stepchildren and weighing divorcing my husband whom I love. He came in my bedroom where I was lying in the dark watching Parenthood and I was stunned. This boy loves me but I don't think I knew how much. Also, I had no idea how brave and good he was. I mean,  I knew, but I didn't know. He handed me the roses and I burst into tears. He put his arms around me, told me I was the best mother in the world and that he was going to call his stepfather and tell him how badly he was behaving.

The years of loneliness after I separated from his father, the years of trying to do the right thing, the years of working full time and spending as much of my remaining energy on him with hours of papers to correct, the years of negotiating with his father who sometimes behaved like a total jerk, the lifetime of never giving up and always trying to let him know I will always love you and be here to help any way I can, have been worth it. I know there will be other difficult times, there have been less dramatic misdemeanors since that frostbite night.  But nothing will feel like that morning he didn't come home because I have accepted my darling has his own higher power and I can only pray for his happiness.


  1. And that's all we can ever hope for Molly. Thank you again


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