Went to Macy’s yesterday. An obvious transgender woman in what seemed like foot high heels and a very BIG WIG was by the make-up counters. She seemed 10 feet tall. I wanted to talk to her but she was in deep conversation with a very ordinary looking guy. Some transgender person’s parent? Her parent? I doubt Emily will be as ostentatious. Then I saw a young man in make-up on the train. I notice these things in something other than a clinical perspective these days. Met a friend on the train, explained I can’t make book club because we have to go to Chicago to deal with a crisis. Made it sound like depression. Not ready to disclose to the world yet. He’s not depressed., he’s happy for the first time. It’s us, at least from time to time..
It sinks in. The loss of one child, the birth of mother. I mourn my sweet son, welcome a daughter. Hold on to that perspective, my mind says as it fluctuates among stigma, freakiness, acceptance, the possibility that my child might know some real happiness for the first time in his life. This truth abides: he has never been able to hold onto joy. It has always crumbled and fallen through his hands like dried leaves
My friend admitted she has no words in this situation, and that part of her sarcastic comments were in reaction to something I said to her, blah, blah, blah, we made amends, poets and the mother of someone in transition – so sensitive. I thought I was good today but kept feeling the slump. Cancelled the last session, came home; in a fetal position on the bed, sobbing “My heart is broken.” I slept for fifteen minutes, woke up and was good to go.
Sunday night, in Chicago, we’re having dinner with him, his friend, and his ex, who is still his friend. I’m so happy he has a support system. I thought she might be my daughter-in-law. Make room for the unexpected.
He’s having trouble sleeping, has had for a long time. Me too. Waking early this AM, I’m filled with “middle of the night anger.” Thanks, Elizabeth Kugler-Ross. All displaced, at my friend, at myself, at the overwhelm of my schedule (which is probably a blessing), at the whole fucking grief process. At the loss of my son. At the loss of my son. At the loss of my son. Got a little manic before our writing workshop, trying to psych myself up, making jokes at my own expense. My friend carried the theme through and that pissed me off, and I wanted to strike her. I am so sensitive, so mercurial. A scene on Thirteen from “Ordinary People” with Tim Hutton and Mary Tyler Moore – the inability to communicate between mother and son. I lost it completely. And then…I was back.
I always knew something was wrong. he never quite fit in, separated himself in social activities despite having constant playdates with other children from our mothers’ group. On a one-to-one he was fine, but more than one mother called after a birthday party to tell me he didn’t participate in the party games. He was such a good kid that everyone accepted him anyway. The conclusion was that he was the type of kid who would grow up and avoid cocktail parties. Social anxiety runs in my husband’s family, but my son’s didn’t seem pathological, just quirky. When comfortable, he was brilliant and hilarious, with the same dry sense of humor my husband and I share. There were always one or two best friends, but usually, if he was invited somewhere- an amusement park, the beach – with a family or as a group, he refused to go. He played sports reluctantly for a few years and spent the three years of high school in his room or at someone’s house, playing video games, mostly. We encouraged, set up things socially and educationally, did everything we could to engage him, but ultimately, he sought isolation. He never did anything bad, there was never anything to punish him for, and what would I have done? Grounding him would have been a gift: I would have had to tell him, “You’re locked out. Go play with somebody .” to make it a punishment.
We fly to Chicago on Sunday for a therapy session with Alex, the therapist, who i quite like on the phone. Today I woke up and it was only the second thought, that’s progress, I think. He’s sending us transgender comic strips, trying hard to help us understand. Too soon, first we have to calm down first. Maybe by Monday. I tell more friends, need the support. Alice cried like a baby and I love her for it.
How to write about your only son’s sex change. Where to begin a process you really don’t want to experience, that in your wildest dreams, you never thought would touch your life in any intimate way. How to survive the five stages of …what…grieving: Denial, and then the next four: anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance…and then, the rest of your life.
I took sustenance from tectonic plates
of complacency, believing
earth was solid, identity a given,
at least in my circles.
my legacy was safe, the particular
crystal ball in which I perceived my future
My, mine, my, mine.
All the while, you hid
behind matchbox cars, denial,
your room walled with secrets,
in battle with those same perceptions, despairing
over the vacuousness of your life.
A seismic apocalypse has freed you, opened
a hole of grief and loss for us.
We honor your passing with sorrow, wash
away the sadness with tears, pray that love
On a Wednesday night in October, a phone call puts my life on “tilt.”
Each day is different, so like mourning, ebbing and flowing in waves, some that soothe, some that flatten me onto banks of sharp shells. My son is dying and my daughter is being born. I tell one friend about it and burst into tears. I tell another and make a joke. This is huge. For thirty years, after a fire and a murder devastated my life, things were pretty normal. One awful death, but normal. No periods of being so crazy I’m speaking in tongues. I’m close to that again, Greenwich Village Liberal that I was and am, there are moments when I feel horror and something really embarrassing…shame. Feeling s rise up and slam me. It’s easy to be tolerant of something foreign, no so easy to be the foreigner in a new land.