“He looks like a homeless person, he’s filthy and has gained 50 pounds. Can he come live with you?”
His voice still triggered me.
My ex-husband had just picked up our son at LAX, he’d been in Viet Nam for the last year doing God knows what and his fear of Covid, which had broken out there, finally got him on a plane. I was relieved since Viet Nam’s idea of mental health care is jail, but, I’m ashamed to say, I was afraid to see my own son, my miracle baby.
I said, “No.”
“You’re something else,” he said, which wasn’t as bad as shit he used to say to me.
I hung up.
I thought how he didn’t care if our son killed me or not. I wondered if “Die evil whore” was considered a threat or if I was overreacting. I thought how my ex would finally be forced to face the fact that mental illness is real and that psychiatry and meds would be our only hope. I thought about that night at Los Encinas 12 years ago and the confrontation he created as he tried to remove our other child, who was suicidal, from the building. I remembered clearly why I hated him so much and, why I left, why I’ve tried to cut all contact with him, and that old but familiar feeling of rage resurface and I felt my heart racing. I thought, serves him right, that his namesake, his pride and joy, has broken. But the thought of my broken son living with this jerk broke my heart and I started sobbing and then singing “I raise a Hallelujah, in the presence of the enemy”, as I carried flakes of hay to the horse sheds, as I mucked the pens, as Wildflower looked at me with that look, as if to say “oh no, she’s broken again.“
I never picked up my restraining order but my daughter had gone through with her’s. I got back into therapy and was regularly attending NAMI Family Support groups on Zoom. I’d read a book on overcoming anosognosia, which is an unawareness of your mental illness. And with the mandatory covid isolation rules, I dove deep into bible study, worship and prayer.
My son was visiting for only the second time since he’d returned to the US. His first visit only lasted 24 hours before his delusional rants overwhelmed me and I ordered him into the truck and drove him two hours back to his dad’s place. I’d laid some ground rules this time and hoped that this visit would go better.
He said he’d taken a shower as I’d asked him to, but he still looked like a homeless person to me. Did he have a soap phobia or had he simply forgotten how to wash himself? I convinced him to let me wash his feet and we were now both seated on the edge of the tub as it slowly filled with warm soapy water. His feet were dark brown, and the soles were jet black. His toenails were long and the callouses were thick. I switched the Dove for Dawn, then I got a nail brush, then a punice stone. I’m not sure how long this all took, maybe a half hour? We didn’t say much to each other, I was afraid of triggering a rant and he was obviously trying very hard not to. I thought about washing his tiny feet 30 years ago and it took all I could do to not cry. I thought about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. I thought, God has a plan, he has been preparing me for this day, this season.