An Innocent Bystander

September 22, 2014

About two weeks ago during a busy work day, I discovered three missed calls from my ex-husband. Though he and I have been divorced for 13 years, we remain on good terms and have always tried to stay unified when it came to decisions about our two sons. So when I realized he had tried to reach me three times in quick succession, I thought something must be wrong.

My hunch was right. It turns out that he'd lost his job that day. He was devastated and rightly so. He'd worked there for more than 15 years and had an excellent reputation. While he certainly has had his share of personal issues, he'd always been on top when it came to his job, but not anymore. He was suddenly unemployed.

While this news doesn't exactly have a direct impact on my life because I'm not married to him anymore, it definitely affects our two sons, especially our younger son.

At 17 years old, our younger son is planning his future. He's a senior in high school making big decisions about the man he wants to become. He's got so much on his mind already: school work, his job, college applications, his friends...Then there's the fact that his older brother is in prison. And now this. His father is suddenly unemployed. Obviously, he's worried about his dad now just like he's been worrying about his older brother for the last year and half. My concern is that he's going to get so tangled up in their messes that he will lose sight of his own needs. And while I've referred him to his counselor at school, he isn't the type of kid who expresses his feelings too well. He plays his cards close to the vest.

As his mother, I just want him to escape all of this and be free. I want him to reach his full potential without the distractions of his brother and father holding him back. I fear that they will always be burdens he must bear. He's just an innocent bystander in all of this. Why must he suffer? He's already seen much too much in his 17 years. He has learned firsthand what mental illness looks like and how it rips open a family. And he's seen what happens to a man whose lifelong career vanishes in a heartbeat. He has done nothing to deserve such heartache.

I love both my sons. And I want what's best for both of them. My older son is in the midst of turning his life around, but it can't happen until he's released from prison. My younger son has his whole life ahead of him, and he's got such amazing potential. I just hope that the pain he's suffered watching his brother and father struggle will make him a stronger person. I wish there was more I could do to keep him safe and get him away from all of this sadness.

I suppose I need to remember that I am still hopeful mom. That's just what I have to be.

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