Thursday, June 17, 2010

When do we exhale?

I have been reading Beautiful Boy by David Sheff. It is a searing memoir of his son Nic's addiction to crystal meth. Nic Sheff also wrote a memoir, Tweak. Same story, different shoes. I think I will read that one too. And of course, I have thought a lot about 18-year-old Henry Granju, who died on May 30 from an overdose and a brutal beating during a drug buy gone wrong in Knoxville. As his mother rocked him in her arms, he gave up the struggle to live. I visit his mother's blog, mamapundit, daily. I cannot fathom how she is getting through this. She is 9 months pregnant. Even as she is grieving for her firstborn, she must prepare for fragile new life. I am in awe. She reminds us that we can't just curl up and die no matter how much we hurt. We have to keep living. There are always others depending on us. We have to take the next breath, and the next. Sometimes, blindsided by pain, that is all we can do.

Henry and my son are the same age, born just three days apart. My son is off working as a camp counselor this summer. He seems fine. He's a little manic sometimes, which is why athletics are such a good outlet for him, track and field, soccer, basketball, swimming, volleyball, he does them all. Overall, I think he is managing his brain chemistry (so like mine). I think he is in tune with his body in a way I have never been. And he is less irritable with me these days, which is a nice perk of his growing older.

My daughter will be traveling to Italy for her slow food-culinary-travel program in two weeks. She will be part of a group of 12 American teenagers, who will start out in Rome, then do a two-week homestay in San Sebastiano, then a 12-day course in a well-known cooking school in the Piedmont region, then the final days in Venice. In Beautiful Boy, the author recounts his son telling him that he crossed into true addiction on a school trip he took to Paris. With no parental supervision, he drank continuously, and when he got home, began doing drugs more intensely. He was 17. Of course, as soon as I read this, I sat my daughter down and told her she had to indulge me, but I needed to tell her something. I begged her not to drink or allow anyone to convince her to use any mind-altering substances in Italy, not to follow anyone down this path. I encouraged her to plan ahead what she would say if confronted with such a scenario. I reminded her she would be far away, and I needed to be able to trust her in this regard. She rolled her eyes and said, "Moooom, I know. I know this. You have told me this a million times. I promise, you don't have to worry!"

When can we stop worrying about our children? How old do they have to be before we can exhale and believe they are finally safe?

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