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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Sixteen

On 12/9/14 Teale turns sixteen years old. Turning sixteen conjures up memories for most I'm sure. You might remember a Sweet 16 party and or getting your learners permit or even your drivers license. It is a big milestone year for most. Independence is gained and you no longer have to count on your parents for all your transportation needs. It is the year parents worry and kids blossom into young adults. Many seek their first "real" jobs outside the babysitting and lawn cutting money makers of youth. I believe it is a year kids and parents butt heads often, curfews get broken, limits get tested. It's a year of proving you are to be trusted or possibly a year of much argument. Parents try to let go and kids try to fly. Sixteen is a big year for most kids and for most parents. For me, Teale turning 16 just makes me feel alone, in a sadness I have felt on other milestone years. It is a year I feel different from many other Mothers. I am the Mother of a daughter who is chronologically 16, but mentally much younger. Oh, I know there are others out there who understand this pain. I've watched several friends feel similar loss when their "special" child turned 16. So I do realize I am not really alone in this feeling. But all people are unique and therefore so are our feelings. Even the one person who could have the most similar feelings, my partner in this crazy life, Mark, has his own unique thoughts as sixteen approaches for his middle daughter. I won't even try to voice the differences between us, because honestly, I've avoided the discussion. My fear of a floodgate of emotions pouring out of me has kept me from any deep conversation. I know he is hurting too, but I can really only speak for myself when I share the loss I feel. It is like life is passing Teale by in some ways. I often think about all those kids who she was raised with in the public elementary school. They are in tenth grade this year, probably most of them have some idea of what they want out of life. They may be thinking about colleges and lifelong careers. Many have had dating experiences and crushes. Some are already driving and working. Their lives might be filled with sports, instruments, clubs and or social connections. Teale misses out on many of those typical experiences and no matter how much Mark and I try to fill up her life, it will never be typical. Most likely Mark and I will always be her biggest supporters and her best friends. I occasionally allow myself to wallow in my sadness. Today that sadness has overtaken much of my thoughts. The tears started to flow at one point and I realized I was missing my Mom in all this. Somehow I knew she would understand my sadness as Teale turns sixteen. She wasn't a perfect Mom by any means, but she really shined as an understanding, unconditionally loving Grandmother with Teale. I remember her heartbreak when Mark and I decided we had to hospitalize Teale as a young child, for what turned out to be a manic episode of a new diagnosis at the time, bi-polar. That day was one of the lowest ever and my Mom came to my home to offer support. It was in that moment that I finally felt true forgiveness toward her. There was "stuff" I had held onto, anger I had not let go of. But that day, in our messy garage, as Mark left to go pick up Teale from her elementary school and I broke down sobbing, I started to understand my Mom better. My rock, Mark wasn't there to support my sadness, he had the awful task of admitting our young daughter into a pediatric mental hospital. I was a disaster and in my horrible pain. I saw my kid's Grandmother, my Mother, who was hurting deeply too. I remember her wishing out loud that she could make it all better, but it wasn't the words I heard, it was the sincerity I felt. It hit me hard, my Mom was the one other person besides Mark and I, who truly understood the anguish that we felt. It was a pivotal moment for me, a moment I will never forget. I finally let all that "pent up stuff" against my Mom go. I finally saw her as a person, a person who wasn't perfect and I realized I had tried to hold my expectations of her too high. Mom left us almost eight years ago and the thing I still miss the most is her not knowing my kids as they grow. What I regret is that it took me so long to just love her as is...faults and all. I wish you were here Mom to wish Teale a Happy 16th Birthday, I know you would be proud...

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