Thursday, May 31, 2012

Long Story Short....

My sister told me a story this weekend.  A story that has many sides, all of which I understand.

To make a long story short, my sister was put in an awkward position by the mother of one her son's friends.  When the mother, Nikki, dropped her son off at my sister's house for a playdate she said, "What time do you want me to pick him up?"

"How about 5:00 PM?" my sister said.

"Sounds great," said Nikki.  "How about when I pick him up, I'll bring your son back to my house for a sleepover?"

"That would be perfect."

"I'll have to drop your son off at 9:00 AM tomorrow because my older child has to be at church.  Will that work?"

"That would be fine."

Plans confirmed, the mothers parted ways and the boys happily played the day away.  And then 5 PM rolled around and Nikki didn't come to pick up the boys for the promised sleepover.  One hour passed.  And then two.  Finally, worried, my sister called the woman's cell phone multiple times.  She sent her emails when she didn't hear from her for hours.  And, finally, she called Nikki's ex-husband (her husband from her first marriage and not the father of the little boy, but the only other number she had).  And to her surprise...he didn't sound surprised.

"She has a drinking problem," he said.  "This kind of thing happens all of the time.  Call her mother."

After getting the number for the little boy's grandmother, my sister called and spoke to a woman she had never met before and confirmed that, yes...Nikki had a drinking problem.

"She hasn't been the same since her brother, my son, died years ago," said the grandmother.  "It broke her heart and she's been grieving ever since."

To make a long story short, Nikki finally called my sister at 11:00 PM that night, confused and apologetic, after the boys had been put down for a spur-of-the-moment sleepover. My sister realized that Nikki had no recollection of the plans that had been made earlier that day and even after promising her, during that late night conversation, that she would pick up her son at 9:00 the next morning...Nikki still didn't come for the little boy until well into the afternoon.

I know, that after reading this story, you are relating to someone in it.

It could be that you're relating to my sister, who didn't get much sleep, worrying about the little boy's mother and what she should do about it.  Is it any of her business?  Should she step in?  Should she report the woman?  And to whom?  The private school that the boys attend?  Social services?  As my sister told me over the phone, "Once you ring that bell, it can't be un-rung."  And that's something to think long and hard about.

You may be relating to the boy who, my sister said, seemed to handle everything "okay" but still cried a little, worried about his mom and where she was.  The little boy my sister gently questioned over and over, "Are you okay?  Are there ever times that you're scared?  Can you talk to me?"  The little boy who shook his 8-year-old head and said, "I'm okay" through a slightly trembling mouth.

Of course you may be thinking about the ex-husband and the grandmother who are both doing what they can, but worried that one misstep on their part might cut them off from the little boy and the mother forever.  You could be relating to the support dance- you know the two step with the unexpected dip - that they have to do, just trying to keep everyone on track.

But then again, you may be relating to the mother.  The one who is so consumed by her grief, she decided (or maybe didn't decide.  It was probably less logical than a decision) to "take a night off."  Who wanted to numb herself just for a little while from the virus that is sorrow that's been eating its way from the inside out.  Who made the mistake of forgetting her life just for a little while.  And accidentally forgot about her little boy when she did.

I guess I lied.

No long story - with as many sides as there are people - can ever be made short.

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.


  1. I can relate to this 100 percent. I was in the same situation as the little mother was an alcoholic and did the same things to me. I am now 42 years old and an over-protective mother to 3 boys of my own. As I was living the 'never-knowing where I'd be' life with my mom I decided I would never be like her. I loved her and worried about her endlessly as I was growing up and took on the mothering role to her. Years later - now - I seldom drink alcohol and when I do, it's only a couple drinks - my life with Mom taught me how NOT to be a mom, but I loved her and felt protective towards her all through my childhood. My mom passed away a year and 8 months ago and I was with her through the whole cancer battle and until she took her last breath. I miss her every day and love her for the good times she provided when she was sober. The best thing your sister can do is provide stability for the little boy and a place he can feel safe being. If children's service gets involved he will just be bounced around through the foster system, and I don't think that would be any better for him.

    1. Bridget,

      Thank you so much for your comment and your input. You have a point: No one wants to see a child put in the "system." And I wanted to let you know that I received an email from someone who related to the story you told. There is no doubt that love like that is complicated. But it's love, just the same.

      Thank you again for sharing your story.