When he was nine, he wrote poems that made me weep.
When he was ten, I found pornography in his room.
When he was twelve, the fistfights began. His grades dropped precipitously. He spent most of his time at school wandering the halls or sitting in the principal's office. He did not graduate with his his class; even the special-ed classes he attended to help him cope with the illness that was diagnosed too late did not help him achieve the grades he needed.
And now he is getting A's in college.
School and soccer are the two most important things in his life. He loves Barcelona, and has gotten me hooked on following Messi and Puyol and their astonishingly fine team. Watching them is like watching an athletic form of ballet carried out on a grassy pitch. Watching them, I can understand why the rest of the world calls soccer football.
His own pitch is a field full of stones and mud, with ragged nets through which the ball slips through and he must go chasing after it. He is the single player on either team: the manic team and the depressive. But that does not deter him. He runs. He struggles.
He once punched a hole in the wall because he had forgotten a payment deadline and had been dropped from the classes he had registered for. It is a hole the size of a man's fist. I think of him as a boy, but he is not. He is twenty-one years old.
And I suppose I must tell you that he has never held a job, does not drive a car, and has only online friends. But he sees his therapist once every two months, his nurse clinician every three months, and is compliant with his meds. He is a gentle, compassionate soul who gives what little money he has, the cash he earns from doing raking or mowing the lawn or washing the car for us and for the neighbors to earthquake relief and food for the poor.
I will mention that his school is a community college. Some people look down on such schools. I see it as an opportunity to grow academically in a safe environment, with a diverse but largely mature student population and a disabilities counselor.
You may judge me as you will. I am sure I have not been anywhere near the perfect mother, or the semi-perfect mother, or even the good-enough mother. I did not see his disease coming until it hit me like a Mack truck.
Of course I worry about him. I worry that he will be living at home at age forty, his life having stalled where it is. But I think that as he transfers to the University, as he is edged into what is known as "the real world" by some, things will change. I hope he will learn to cope with his illness. I see the meds at work, the therapy helping him come out of his room more often. I know how difficult bipolar disorder can be to cope with, having lived with it every day of my adult life and my adolescence and possibly my childhood as well. I push gently. I try not to nag. I am not the overachiever I hoped to be at this point in my life. But I take one step at a time, and I hope he can do it as well.
Barcelona lost to Hercules a couple of weeks ago, 2-0. I thought he would be upset, but he was resigned. It is early in the season, after all.