Let me paint a picture for you. It’s of the time when I had no choice but to have my most difficult conversation with my then fourteen year old son, G. For just a moment, I ask that you place yourself in G’s shoes. If you do, you’ll discover just why I consider him to be my rock.
The day I was discharged from the hospital I called G, told him I was sick, that I’d been hospitalized, and that I was now going to stay with his grandparents until I was better. I didn’t explain what my illness was nor did I tell him why I was hospitalized. I just wasn’t ready to have that conversation.
A few days after my call to G, I received a telephone call from his school. He was ill and had to come home. The school couldn’t reach my ex-wife so they reached out to me. I spoke to my parents and persuaded them to drive me to G’s school and bring him to stay with us until I could speak to my ex. I spoke with her later that day and, since it was a weekend, we agreed that G could stay with me.
I thought myself lucky. He was ill enough that he spent most of the weekend in bed and I spent it tending to his needs. And, he was sufficiently ill that the reason for my recent hospitalization never came up. It could wait, I decided, until he was better.
At the end of the weekend, we drove G to his mum’s. Everything fell apart. There was no-one home. There was, though, a note for G telling him that his mum was in crisis and had checked herself into the hospital.
Consider the circumstances that exist at this time. A fourteen year old has just learned that his mum is in hospital in crisis, whatever that means. His dad was recently in hospital for an undisclosed illness. He is ill himself. There’s no-one home to comfort him or explain to him what’s going on. He was confused and so alone.
So I brought him back to my parents. And then I had the conversation I wasn’t ready for, the most difficult conversation I’ve ever had with G.
I began by explaining that his mum was in the best place she could be. She realized she was in danger, for whatever reason, and placed herself into safety. I explained that her action took a great deal of courage and that he should be glad she had that courage within her. I reiterated that she was safe.
I then contrasted her actions with mine. I told him why I was hospitalized, that I’d attempted suicide, and that while I was now seeking help, I nearly left it too late. I told him that I didn’t have the courage displayed by his mum. I told him that I loved him. And then I held him while he cried. G and I spoke about my illness. I told him I’d been ill for a very long time, that I’d hidden it from him. I used my experience to teach him what his mum was going through.
It was a long conversation. It was exhausting and emotional and, in the end, freeing.
It ended by G hugging me and forgiving me.
I draw on the power of that memory, of the day I had my most difficult conversation, to help fuel my recovery to this day. G deserves nothing less. And, as I’ve since come to understand, I deserve nothing less.