As we left the counselor’s office Bird looked upset. I suggested we go talk in her truck. When we got there, Bird started crying. Dylan’s substance abuse counselor had mentioned that she was going to drug test Dylan. Through her tears, Bird said, “I feel so guilty because he is going to get in trouble for something I’m giving him. I’m like his drug dealer!” I assured Bird that although we had made mistakes, we could change what we did moving forward. She agreed to tell Dylan that evening that she would no longer provide him with marijuana.
The next morning I called her to ask how it had gone. She was vague, and finally said she couldn’t do it because it was late, and she knew it would cause a scene, perhaps leading to a sleepless night. I was disappointed but I attempted to be encouraging. I suggested that she could take him to 12-step meetings, as I had done so and he had enjoyed them. No, she said. Even if I stop giving it to him he will still get it from his friends. There is no way he is going to stop smoking weed. This is what teenagers do. This is what I did when I was a teenager.
We agreed on a few other things that also did not happen. The next time I saw Dylan he was angry and combative. There were dark circles under his eyes. He told me I needed to apologize for all the horrible things I had done to him. When I attempted to question him about those things he would take small pieces of huge incidents that had occurred during the two years prior. Out of context it did appear that I was a mentally unstable person unfit to parent. At one point he said, I talked with my counselor and she agrees that my problem isn’t weed, it’s you.
I was honestly hurt and confused by all the anger he was throwing at me. He was painting me as a neglectful parent who never did anything for him. Just last summer I remembered feeling so good about where our relationship was at. But that was before school started, and his drug use escalated. But even right before he started staying with Bird, when he became so defiant, I still felt like we had a bond and that he saw me as his caring mother. I had never before seen this much hatred directed at me and it hit me to the core. I began to wonder if maybe he was right. He told me he wanted to live with Bird on a permanent basis. I told him he could do that if he wished.
Things were not getting better with Dylan. In fact they seemed to be getting worse. Dylan hated me and had convinced his counselor that I was the source of his problems. Bird was doing whatever she wished with Dylan regardless of my input. Dylan told me he was taking a break from psychedelics because he had taken “a lot” recently. I learned that the “structure” Dylan was referring to meant that he was still being given access to his favorite drug hangout every day after school.
I called the substance abuse counselor and she agreed to meet with Bird and I.
We arrived at the session and the first thing the counselor asked us was, “How did you two meet?” It seems like a good opening question. I don’t know if she knew that she was stepping on a land mine.
I looked at Bird, paused for a moment, and then told the story like I have for the last several decades. I should have let Bird tell it, but like I said, its automatic.
I was 19. She was 26. We both had girlfriends and we were all alcoholics. She and I would sneak kisses and gropes when our girlfriends weren’t around. Then we both got sober individually, met up again and had a year-long very tumultuous relationship.
Bird interjects, “And then we broke up….
Oh we broke up? I said with a head cock. She’d gotten me. It was decades ago that it happened but suddenly it seemed like a freshly opened wound.
Is that how you’re going to tell it? I turned to the counselor. She left me for my best friend, they got married and stayed that way for 15 years.
Bird scrunched her face in a scowl, “Well our relationship (meaning hers and mine) was really bad,” she said shaking her head.
At the time Bird and I had been living together in a house one block away from my best friend, Mel. I was working swing shift as a nurse. Mel was also a nurse and she was married to a cop named Berta. Bird was unemployed as usual, and started spending her free evenings with Mel. I’m not the jealous type. Every time I’ve been cheated on I’ve been shocked because I missed all the signs. One night Mel called me at work. She tells me that she and Bird were having a dinner at a fancy restaurant in town and that Bird had gotten food poisoning and that I needed to go home to tend to her. That night definitely struck me as odd. But of course there were all the denials and We are just friends!
After that I think they knew the gig was about up and Bird said she wanted to talk with me. I made us coffee, we sat down and she announced that she was leaving me. Mel was leaving Berta, Bird and Mel were in love and they were going to get their own place. I’ll never forget that day. I said nothing because by now on some level I knew what was happening. But to hear her say it wounded me and I was hurt and angry. I threw my coffee cup against the wall and it smashed. She left. A few moments after she left I got a call from the person who had been Bird and I’s couples counselor. She told me that Mel and Bird wanted her to call “to make sure I was OK“. A few days later I came home to a house that had been emptied of Bird’s belongings.
Back at the time when it happened, Bird had said those very same words. “Our relationship was really bad anyway. It was uncanny. I could hear her saying it decades ago the same way she was saying it in the counseling session. The very same fucking words. It was like Deja Vu.
Oh, so that’s your justification?” I asked. I was really pissed by then.
“No, it wasn’t justification!” she says, her voice rising.
Next the butch appearing lesbian counselor says to the butch appearing Bird, “So you’ve been in and out of the picture with raising Dylan?” She said it in a non-threatening manner but I could feel Bird recoil and see her stiffen in her chair.
Then Bird turned to me and said, Would you like to explain to her why that is, Jess? her voice oozing with sarcasm. She had a look on her face like she had just Kinged me or something.
I was seriously flabbergasted. Bird never fails to surprise me with her interpretation of events.
Oh, wow! That’s where you are going with this? I was incredulous. She was going to start the “you kept me from my son story.” The one that isn’t true. The same one my son had begun telling.
I looked at the counselor and I said, Well, you’ve hit the mother lode here. This therapy isn’t for us, so I don’t really think we should go there.”
Counselor looks at me and says, “Well I think this is kind of about you two.” She gave us a few stories about how Dylan is a product of how we have raised him, etc.
And that’s when the shit really began to hit the fan.
I brought up how Bird had sued me in an attempt to gain custody of Dylan in order to return him to the drug using friends I had successfully moved him away from. Bird was communicating with Dylan on the fancy phone she bought him. She told him via text that she disagreed with my decision and that what I was really doing was to try to eliminate her from his life. Bird came to where we were for a visit. She came and took him two days in a row to spend time with him, which I freely allowed. A few days later I was served the papers. Looking further into Dylan’s phone and the text messages I discovered that Dylan and Bird had been planning this together for quite some time. To top it off Bird was posting things on Instagram indicating that her son was being cut off from her by her evil ex-partner.
The next thing I recall in the session was Bird saying, “Yeah, you took Dylan to Cali, and how did that work out for you!?”
Bird and I argued about what did and what did not happen in Cali. At one point I stood up because I was so angry and because the wound of that time period reopened. I didn’t yell, but I was very animated in expressing myself, perhaps lending credence to Bird’s characterization of me as being the “crazy one”.
The counselor pressed on, she turned to me, and said, “What about you, Jess? All I hear out of you is, “I’m ill, I’m sick.” She put her hands up in the air when she said it to give it a little dramatic flair.
When I mentioned that I had been disabled by an autoimmune disorder in 2013, she said, “Mm, hmm” and what I read from her was. “You don’t look disabled.” I bet I didn’t look disabled at all that day. I had put on therapist clothing, done my hair, put on my eyebrows and came prepared for battle. I stood for at least half of the session, until she politely told me to sit down. I clean up well. And if I was going to go down, I was going to look good while I was doing it. It is perhaps both my greatest strength and my greatest weakness that when the pressure is on I rise to it, even if the cost is the health of my body.
At one point when I was talking animatedly, Bird turned to the counselor, leaned in, pointed to me with her long bony index finger and said, “You see, this is why I can’t talk to her.” I recall the counselor saying, “Jess, I think what you just said to Bird was condescending. And then she turned to Bird and said, …“And I can see that you are already beginning to shut down”. Poor little big Bird.
The counselor mentioned her own relationship with her partner, and how they had always stuck together in their parenting styles. She also said that her kid had ADHD like Dylan and that they had addressed it with diet, “even though giving him a medication would have been the easy way out”. At one point she said, “It’s just like the straight parents, it’s not any different because we are lesbians”. She told us we needed to work together and that I needed to support Bird in being strong.
I looked the counselor directly in the eye and put my hands together resting my elbows on my knees.
I’ve been trying to make her strong for decades, and it hasn’t worked yet, I said in a flat tone. Later I felt bad for saying it, but it was absolutely factual.