Pictures of You

[Note for the sensitive: I just stirred up a lot of really deep stuff. Nothing deep and generalizable here, this is all personal. Read if you like, it’s my catharsis. Skip if you’d rather. Just so you can keep actors straight: Renee is my ex, and the mother of S. My wife now is the mother of C. S, if you’re reading, there’s nothing new here. Read or not as you care to. You may want to have your therapist handy, though.]

I am, for a family project, looking through old pictures for certain relatives. I can’t believe I did not think about the ramifications. I am looking through my old pictures…

…which inherently means running into pictures of my son.

Not the son I talk about now, that’s C. I’m talking about S. He’s fourteen now, and in a foster home. That’s because he assaulted myself, my wife, and C multiple times. Multiple. Both C and my wife are effectively (if not officially) PTSD because of the continual emotional abuse this child visited upon them.

You would never guess it from the pictures. And they hurt to look at.

Some are over a decade old. I am younger – though you can mostly tell because I’m fifty to eighty pounds lighter, and my parents look different. Then, we didn’t know how bad it would get. We didn’t know how bad it had gotten, when he had been with his birth mother, before he was with me.

I can see it in hindsight. I can see the over-flamboyant posing. I can see the beginnings of the egocentrism that ended up with feces on the wall when he didn’t get his way. I know the subtle clues to look for now, the warning signs that are so specific to him.

I also know what is not in the pictures. I know that five minutes after one where he’s smiling naturally at a scenic rest stop he flooded the seat with urine. I know that two hours into each and every one of the activities, zoos, museums he would simply melt down.

In hindsight, I know that was due to his brain being miswired early on. That it is due to being neglected so often by his birth mother that he could not accept and deal with it when things went right. I know that effect was multiplied a millionfold when my wife and C came into the picture – because suddenly everything was really, finally, okay. My wife had worked with children with problems before, and had successfully helped them. So she worked overtime to make it okay for S. And the more it was okay, the worse his behavior got.

But still, those five years of hell aren’t completely enough to destroy the fun at playgrounds, or very real good times that happened. It isn’t enough to obliterate the memories of Mother’s Day presents he gave me. They made them at school, and we hadn’t heard from his birth mother for months.

It’s not quite enough to destroy those memories, but I wish it were.

I haven’t seen him for most of a year. I haven’t spoken to him for a few months; when we did speak, it was largely subtle taunting and bragging about how he was breaking the rules there.

I don’t miss what he became. I miss who he was. I miss what he could have been.

Missing hurts – but it doesn’t hurt as much as living with who he became. It’s been thirteen months, and we’re just now starting to heal. Luckily, guilt is not one of my problems. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t do everything – hell, even most things – correctly.

But I know who set the stage for his problems. I know who deserves the guilt.

Happy “Mother’s” Day, Renee. You screwed his life up so bad that he couldn’t accept love and caring.

I don’t wish any harm or bad upon you. I just want you to know.

That all the bad stuff in his life has come directly from you. That you screwed that sweet kid over into becoming what he did. I want you to remember that every last time someone says “Happy Mother’s Day” to you.

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