My ex-wife didn’t tell me our son had turned into a raging weed head so engrossed with his new love for cannabis he had dropped out of college, lost a part-time gig, and was in danger of going to jail.
No, my daughter told my mother, who called me one Sunday afternoon after she got home from church.
“You know your son has to go to rehab or he could end up in jail for violating probation,” she said.
“Mom, hang up.”
I called the ex right away.
“Well I didn’t want to tell you because you would have gotten all angry and come over here and made a scene,” she said.
I breathed in deeply and swore under my breath.
“Well ‘Marcus’ needs somebody to whip his ass,” I snapped back. “Maybe if you had let me beat his ass years ago instead of calling the police on me when he lied about me kicking his ass we wouldn’t be in the position we are now.”
“Look, he has to go to rehab, right? I will be there tomorrow morning to drop his ass off.”
“Well, my mother and father will drive him,” my ex said.
“Hell no! That’s my son and I will take him.”
When we were married she had spoiled my son — tutors, basketball, lacrosse, tennis shoes, birthday parties every year and sleepovers every weekend. And when I had warned her that he was spoiled and tried to discipline him she would undermine me.
Then after I left her and went over to the gay world my ex would use my son as a weapon, turning him against me to get back at me for leaving her. “Your father never did shit for you,” I heard she would say. “He just abandoned us.”
So trying to co-parent during the separation and a divorce has proved an absolute failure.
Take away his cellphone until he did his homework regularly and pulled up his grades. She would get him another cellphone behind my back.
Take away his car. She would give him the keys back in two days.
Ground him for talking back. “Oh, baby, you want to go out with your friends after the football game?” she would say after he whined and begged. “I don’t see anything wrong about letting you off punishment two days early. Just don’t tell your father.”
She was gone by the time I got to the family home on April 1 to drive Marcus to rehab. I was glad. I was so angry about her undermining, secretive ways I was seriously tempted to hit her for the first time.
I had not seen Marcus in a few weeks and he didn’t look good. His skin looked ashy, sallow. He was thinner. His teeth needed a good cleaning. It was hard to wake him up and packed and out the door on time. “Was this boy on something harder than weed,” I thought.
This time I tried not to nag. I tried not to lecture. While we drove I only said one thing.
“Marcus, you need to get out of this house and get from under your mother. You need to get away and grow up and see the world. Why don’t you go into the military.”
His mouth curled in a snide smile. Nineteen-year-olds rarely listen to their parents. They think we are dumb as shit, not realizing we know how a casual drug habit can turn into an addiction that can destroy young lives.
Shit, several of my cousins were heroin and crack heads. When they came to visit you couldn’t leave your wallet or jewelry out. And my father drank himself into an early grave. I knew where Marcus would be in 10 years if he didn’t watch out.
But he was still arrogant.
“I ain’t going into the military. That’s not for me.”
The counselors at the rehab center said the parents were not at fault. If I wasn’t a good parent I wouldn’t be dropping him off now. Marcus used drugs because he wanted to use drugs, they said. At age 19 he had to grow up. We couldn’t do that for him anymore.
Marcus stayed in rehab for 21 days, the time period mandated by our insurance.
Now it is a month later and his mother calls this morning to say he is using again and police are watching the house. He hasn’t landed a new job. He just sits at home sitting on the couch, looking at cable, working on rap music cuts, and getting high.
She plans to throw him by tomorrow. She can’t take it anymore.
I call my mother early this morning to get her up to speed on what is happening with her grandson. Marcus has told his counselors he using drugs because he is angry at me. I still feel some guilt for leaving but that excuse is bullshit — I still pay half the bills in that house he lives in and the lines of communication are open.
But he never returns my calls or texts.
“You a good father and continue to be a good provider,” my mom says. “Your ex-wife created that monster and now she has to live with it.”
“Go to Puerto Rico with your partner Morgan and enjoy yourself and live your live. Let God handle Marcus.”
There is nothing else I can do. It really is out of my hands and up to God.