Please note: This is a tough story to tell. Before I posted this, I checked with my son to see if it was ok with him...he consented. Depression in children and teens is a growing problem. Something like 20% of all teens will experience a substantial depression before they reach adulthood, and untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide. If you even have a glimmer of suspicion that anyone you know may be depressed, please try to get help for them.
It was a couple days after Christmas. The kids were on a Thursday overnight at Big Daddy's house. I don't remember what I had done the night before, I was seeing another one of my victims during this stretch of time (to be "monikered" later) so most likely I had been out to dinner. I remember the house phone ringing, it was something like 5:00 in the morning. That woke me up, but I didn't get to it in time. Then, my cell started ringing. I got a bad feeling, even before I said a sleepy "Hello??". It was Big Daddy. He was trying to tell me something, but his voice was all funny, all chokey...I heard something about Charlie, and then he totally broke up. There was muffled fumbling and then I heard a female voice.
"Jenny, this is Secretary." I was silent. She continued. "Charlie is on his way to the hospital. He...he had an accident." I finally spoke. "What kind of accident?" She said that Big Daddy had gotten up for something and found Charlie unconscious on the floor. She said that he had tried to shake Charlie awake, walked him to his bed and he started throwing up (I think that's what it was, I honestly do not remember this detail) and that's when Big Daddy noticed the bottles. The empty booze bottles, next to Charlie's bed. Good sense prevailed and an ambulance was called. Charlie was ok for now, but I had best get to the hospital.
I don't remember freaking out, I don't remember crying. What I do remember is that I said something stupid, something bitchy and baiting. I said, "Wow. Good job." To this very second I regret saying that, and I know how wrong it was of me to interject my own anger and resentment into a situation oh so grave. But I did it. What follows is the rest of our conversation (as I remember it). Secretary in bold, me in italics.
What?? What did you say?? FUCK YOU. FUCK YOU, Jenny. You are a horrible person. You are a horrible person, and a terrible mother. Everyone thinks so! XXX and XXXX (Big Daddy's parents) think so, they've told me! You are awful.
ok. Ok. That's right. I'm the terrible person. I'm pretty sure you've done worse things than I have. What hospital is Charlie at?
What? Do you know that I read your stupid weepy letters that you gave to Big Daddy? I read 'em. You are such a horrible person. Do you know we're married now? He's married to me now! Did you know that? The letters she was referring to were some awful, desperate pleas I had written to Big Daddy after he first left, begging him not to leave. In these letters, I took all the blame for everything wrong in our marriage. They were pathetic, I admit it. But hey, I was grasping at straws at that point. I can't believe that a: he kept them and b: he let that person read them. Anyhoo.
Yes, you got him, good for you. Please tell me where my son is.
He's at XXX Hospital, the Emergency Room. This is your fault, you know. You are a horrible person. And you know what else? You're a fat bitch.
I don't remember much of the rest of this sweet exchange, I do remember asking about the other kids and her threatening to call the police if I tried to come get them. I think I was still in shock..I hung up, called my friend-in-crisis and went to see my boy.
Have you ever seen your child unconscious? It's kind of like when they're sleeping...except when they are strapped on a gurney in a small, tucked away room of the ER. I walked in and saw my son. His jaw was slack, he was pure white. The smell of alcohol permeated the air. Big Daddy was there. I don't remember what, if anything we said to each other. I sat down on a chair next to the gurney and held Charlie's hand. My friend pulled Big Daddy aside and told him what his blushing bride had said to me, he came back and apologized. "I don't know why she would say those things. You know my parents love you. They'd never say that." (side note here: I did actually talk to my former mother-in-law about this...she was shocked, and assured me that she and Big Daddy Original think that I'm a-ok.)
I think he and I actually had a civil talk, then. I asked him what happened, he told me the whole story. Nurses silently breezed in, checked Charlie's vitals and then just as silently breezed out. The "main" doctor finally came in, told us that Charlie's blood alcohol level was something like .26 or around there. Told us that there didn't appear to be any major harm done, he was passed out but the stuff that was supposed to be working, was. He told us that Charlie would need to be admitted to the hospital for at least a day, most likely two.
After Charlie was moved to a room on the Pediatric floor, he started to wake up a bit. I remember nothing else but holding his hand, waiting for a sign that he really was ok, that Charlie was really in there. It seemed like hours had passed when he was able to start talking to us.
When he was able to talk, we figured out that he had been feeling depressed, really, deeply depressed, for quite some time. The booze was right there, he was all alone...and he did what depressed people do. Big Daddy revealed that a few empty beer cans had been found in Charlie's room at his house a few weeks earlier, which would have been good to know, but whatever.
The issue at hand was that we had a child who was so sad that he felt like drinking vodka and Jack D's was the only way he could feel better. Or, and this was hard to bear, so sad that he didn't want to be alive anymore. Right away, I blamed myself. How could a mother not see this in her own child?
The divorce, and the aftermath, was hard on all the kids, but none of them showed as much outward pain and sadness as Charlie. He was the one who had the hardest time just getting through the day at first, the one who looked for all the world like a little boy lost. I had talked to our pediatrician, talked to the school counselor, did everything I could to try and help my kid. How do you do it, though? How do you guide a child through the dismemberment of their family? I remember talking to Big Daddy about it one day, mentioning the fact that the kids were having a hard time. He said, 'People get divorced every day. They'll be fine."
Charlie did get better. He didn't go to Big Daddy's house for over a year after "the accident". He and I had a lot of time together, a very rare thing for the eldest of four kids. I look back on that year with sadness, of course, because it was when my son was hurting, but I also look at it with a lot of happiness. That was the year that Charlie and I really got to know each other.
Charlie has become a tall, strapping man/child. He is one of the funniest and smartest people I know. This scary, dark time in his young life is rarely discussed anymore, but from time to time I will talk about it with him, just to sort of check in. I think he's going to be fine...better than fine, actually. Charlie will be great.
Now go hug your kids.