March 10 - A Sad Heart
Last Updated on Sunday, 30 December 2012 14:59
I wrote this several years ago, but it still calls my heart every time I remember the experience.
I have had a sad heart for the last few days, and when I sat down to write this hors-d’oeuvre it kept whispering for me to express what I am feeling, so I will listen to my heart and share with you today why it is heavy.
During the second season of “American Idol,” a television talent show, a young man named Clay Aiken finished second in the competition. From week one, his voice moved me to tears...it is extraordinarily beautiful. But more than his voice, there was something in his eyes that haunted me. They just didn’t seem to fit with the friendly energy and engaging smiles that one otherwise noticed about Clay.
I regularly voted for him throughout the competition, and the night of the finals I dialed the phone for hours trying to register my votes…but his voting line was always busy. A friend and I had two different phones, and we never stopped dialing until the voting time had ended! We were like two teenage kids, intent on our getting our favorite through. Quite honestly, I was even surprised at the emotion that this young man aroused in us...I typically don’t even know who sings a song, nor do I usually care!
Several months after the end of the show, there was a prime time special hosted by Diane Sawyer where she interviewed Clay in depth. I settled in to watch, and, as I did, the tears ran from my eyes and the pieces started fitting together. Clay revealed that his biological father was an alcoholic who had abandoned him and his mother when he was two years old. He had also allegedly physically abused Clay’s mother. Now I understood the sadness that I had noted in his eyes...it was the sadness I had seen so often staring back at me when I looked in the mirror as a child.
Clay said he and his “sperm donor” (this is how he referred to his biological father) had not spoken for a very long time. When Diane Sawyer asked him if he would speak to his father if he should hear from him, Clay answered, “yes.”
He said he just wanted to hear, “I love you,” and have his father mean it. Oh, my heart broke when I heard that. It broke for both of them and for all of the children and parents who are missing the close relationships they are meant to share.
The sadness I feel in my heart tonight appeared as I was remembering how I felt when I first learned that Clay’s biological father had suddenly and unexpectedly died. And sadly, it was before they had found a way to understand each other as adults…and that to me is so very, very heartbreaking.
As regular readers of the hors-d’oeuvre section probably know, my father was an alcoholic as well. We were never estranged, but he died three weeks after I started college and alcohol had kept us from knowing each other very well when he was alive. I too had so little time with him and never knew him when he did not have a drinking problem.
So my heart is heavy tonight not only for what Clay and I will never know, but for what all those children out there might never know about their parents who suffer from addictive behaviors or substance abuse.
I share this with you in hopes that our experiences might help you to keep your focus on your connection to your family, rather than be tempted to revert to old, unsatisfying addictive behaviors.
Children believe that if they were only smart enough, cute enough, good enough, or “whatever” enough, their parents would stop drinking (smoking, working, eating too much, etc.) and be available to take good care of them. How can you let them know that they do not have to earn that privilege, that indeed it is your privilege to have the sacred responsibility of caring for them while they are young. How can you let them know that they are loved, just as they are…and that you are responsible for yourself?
If you are one of these children, young or old, and your parents are suffering from any addictions, please know that their problems in no way reflect how much they do or do not love you. They have a sickness about which we really know relatively very little. Hopefully in the near future some more answers will be discovered that will help the recovery rate improve.
So I am making a request of us all: that we each take at least one step to lead this world to a place where we can be authentically connected to the love that we feel towards each other. This might include setting aside our own addictive habits, volunteering for a nonprofit or attending a twelve-step group regularly, donating funds for research, or perhaps letting your own children or parent know that you care, and if appropriate, that help is both possible and available.
What can you do to let your loved ones know that you care? What can you do to be available to them in a heartfelt way? What step can you take today to insure that your family does not lose you to your addictive behaviors/habits? Will you help me erase the pain from the eyes of the children all over the world and see that they get their parents back?