I am excited to share today’s Caregivers in the Spotlight guest post written by Tom Klein. I met Tom many years ago when he coached my older son’s little league team . I am grateful that not only did I get to know Tom as a coach but over the years a friendship has developed between his family and mine. This is the first of two guest posts that the Klein’s would like to share. Thank you Tom for your courage to step out into the light with your story, it will no doubt resonate with many caregivers and their families.
Could Perseverance be Perfection?
I am aware that the bar for perfection is set extraordinarily high and encompasses a tremendous range of topics.
- Our houses should look like we are masters of Feng Shui
- Our careers should be financially lucrative and spiritually rewarding
- We should have a Body Mass Index that’s the envy of an Olympic gymnast
- Our relationships should be the inspiration for Hallmark cards
For parents supporting a son or daughter with addiction, the reality is that we’re dealing with challenges we’d never expected. Our reality now includes struggles like: out-patient treatment, in-patient programs, lost dreams, court dates, broken trust, relapses and the dreaded late-night phone calls.
We watch our child become consumed by a beast that is larger than any of us. We love and we hurt.
Yet we deal with it. We manage to hold on to our jobs. We get the proposal written, we do a decent job with the client presentation, we teach the class, we get the deal. And that’s pretty impressive.
Our house remains standing, though the laundry may be piling up, a tile may be broken, and there may be remnants of a few too many take out dinners.
Our bodies haven’t exactly given up, even though the only real rationale for going to the gym is to sit in the steam room for ten glorious minutes of solitude (and to alleviate the guilt of having binged on the iced lemon cake at Starbucks in a frenzy of classic stress eating).
We share a laugh with our partner which reminds us of our connectedness, even when it feels like there is just nothing funny anymore.
We continue to believe in a better future for our child. We hold on to hope. We do the best we can.
I was recently talking to an acquaintance and he asked how the family was doing. In a moment of unusual public unveiling, I asked, “Is this where I say ‘great’ or tell you how things really are?” He seemed genuinely interested in how things were, so I explained the situation with my son. He clearly had all of the signs of the perfect life, so I was prepared to be judged as a terrible parent as I told a condensed version of my son’s story. He nodded his head in empathy and said, “If you replace ‘son’ with ‘daughter’ that’s my family’s story too.” We spent the next hour talking about the thefts, arrests, treatment programs and relapses. An acquaintance had quickly evolved into a friend.
As I reflected on the conversation, my immediate reaction was, “so much for my impression of the perfect life.” Then I thought, “But maybe that is the perfect life. He and his family are persevering. Maybe instead of defining perfection as an unachievable ideal, we should define perfection as the ability to endure. To continue to offer our unconditional love and support. Maybe perfection is having the temerity to get out of bed despite the challenges the day will bring, and the strength to proceed despite the exhaustion.”
I’m well aware of my tendency to quote Bruce Springsteen far too often. But I find solace in Rocky Ground, so I think it worth citing here:
“You raise your children and you teach them to walk straight and sure
You pray that hard times, hard times come no more
You try to sleep you toss and turn the bottom’s dropping out
Where you once had faith now there’s only doubt
You pray for guidance only silence now meets your prayers
The morning breaks, you awake, but no one’s there
There’s a new day coming”
A new day is coming. And we’ll greet it with whatever energy we can muster. We’ll get through this. We’ll persevere. And that’s perfect.
Tom Klein – Professionally, Tom is a software consultant and solution architect for a global services company. Personally, he has been married to his lovely wife, Barb, for 25+ years, and he is the father of two wonderful sons. As his writing will suggest, he is a Springsteen devotee who spends too much time at Starbucks. When not working or with his family, he can frequently be found on a motorcycle, a tennis court, at a movie theater or restaurant (presumably not at the same time, but one never knows). And don’t let the picture fool you; his hair is more grey than the photo suggests.
Photos provide by author