I am trying to work. I found out about Abe’s beating later in the day on August 9th, and, obviously, my work has been impacted since that day. Monday and Tuesday I mostly did nothing. although I wrote the last posting. Yesterday, I traveled. But today, I need to catch up. It’s hard because my concentration is weak.
I realized the other day that I could use this blog – for a while anyway – not only to make us look deeper at the totality of what the kids have experienced, but, in doing so, to help keep me together, and focused. And – after I wrote the last posting the other day I felt it – relieved somehow. Of course that means that I straddle, if I don’t cross over, the line I didn’t want to between diarist and blogger. But so what. What does it matter in the end?
I go through periods where I am pretty much okay. I look good – I look like I have it together – at least to myself. But other times – short periods, thank God – I can’t deal with the pain, the finality, the lack of hope I think. When Irving died, one of my friends pointed out that I use everything I can to figure things out: what people say or don’t say; what people do or don’t do. His point was to tell everyone – joking? – to watch what they say around me because I’d use it. But joking or not, he was right. I do that. I don’t know if he realized though that I also use myself.
In the new training we are spending a significant amount of time on the relationship between feelings and beliefs, and how our feelings are, in very deep ways, determined by our beliefs. Change the beliefs and voila – the feelings change.
I am watching that now in me. I know Abraham is dead. I know he is gone. I know that I won’t see him again in this life. I know all that. I am not delusional. Yet I hold myself together more than I don’t. I realized yesterday why. It’s because even though I know it – and I do know it – I don’t think I believe it. I can assent to it; I am not trying to convince anyone that there’s been a mistake, that Abe is really alive. Abraham is dead.
But I guess not to me.
Maybe that means that I am not letting him go. Maybe. But why I write this morning is because it makes me think of what Abe himself experienced so many years ago:
“Pop wasn’t here when I was hurt so badly by all those adults in my life. I know he hadn’t even met me. But it’s Pop’s fault, nonetheless.” Adoption transference we named it. It all looked so simple after we figured it out: I am his father, he wasn’t protected by me. He knew I didn’t know him then; like I know he’s dead. But he believed – I now think – that he can’t have a father, and yet be so unprotected. It doesn’t compute. Even though both things were true, how could he accept that? Like I know Abe is dead; but how could Abe be dead? It doesn’t compute.
I don’t want it to compute.
What is this power of belief that is so much stronger than our logic? It is so strong that it is even the power that undergirds – even determines – our feelings. Anyone who has experienced this grief that is swamping me (at times) has an intuitive sense that what I am saying is true. Yet, what beliefs do we reinforce with our foster kids? What does our behavior say to the kids? Oh, your leaving your friends? Don’t worry, you’ll make new ones. Oh, your bike is missing? Don’t worry, I’ll look for it. Oh, your mom didn’t show for her visit? I’m sorry. Over and over and over we minimize them and their lives. Then we wonder why they grow up with such strong ability to minimize?
I often say that a good parent is one who could raise their kids without ever saying a word. I believe that deeply. Our words are only one part of our behaviors, but it is our behaviors as a whole, now that I think of it, that reinforce the beliefs of our kids.
When the belief, the certainty, that Abraham is dead gets inside me, I can’t control my crying. So, most of the day, I simply do not believe what I know to be true. I think that’s why the missing morphine got to me last week. Abe looked more or less the same when he was brain dead as when he was in the coma. So I was okay – which means I could hold onto my hope. And then I saw the morphine was missing. And it hit me. What hit me? The certain knowledge – which I guess is belief – that he was really dead. Even though I knew he was dead. Now my hope for him to recover was gone.
This power of beliefs in us must be the key for what is causing our kids their trouble. It must be what we are missing. What did Abe come to believe when those mice were in the room with him – assuming what I couldn’t say the other day: that they weren’t rats? What did he come to believe about himself when he couldn’t even move his hands to protect himself? What beliefs got into his six year old head when his mother – his mother – was doing this to him? And what’s the connection between those beliefs and the circumstances of his next thirty three years? And the beatdown that led to his death?
After the operation on his brain ten days ago, the doctor told someone who told me that it was up to Abe now and his will to live. And some very conscious part of me got scared. Because I immediately knew that that was where Abraham and I would differ. Some part of me knew then that if that were true, then it was over for him.
And so it was.
Our kids are entitled to better than we’ve given them and we continue to give to them. They are entitled to believe – to be certain – that they don’t deserve what’s happened to them. Our blah-blah-blah doesn’t cut it; if anything it actually reinforces our minimization. Our loving them doesn’t cut it either. We must teach them to love themselves. Not tell them: teach them.
And that means we need to change our ways.