Friday, July 18, 2014

The Wedge Between Them

Throughout this trip I watched Thomas with his biological dad. Their first meeting had been awkward at best and in a way it was very hard to witness. I'm not sure what I had hoped for that moment because I had always felt it wasn't mine to control or to try to repair. They had been separated by years of little communication and many unanswered questions. Thomas, now 19, was an adult, fully cognizant of the meaning of their reunion and long before this, had made up his mind about his bio dad.

What had driven them apart in Thomas' mind was not what I believe were the reasons his bio dad had. I can only imagine, by putting myself in his bio dad's place, that he felt guilt for having let the relationship go. I will never know his side because we didn't have that talk but I know this man has a heart and I know the meeting and the subsequent awkwardness between them during the entire trip, probably broke his heart. In the end though what drove them apart was a gesture that his bio dad had made to Thomas a year or so before.

Thomas is very solid in his political beliefs. They're different than average and perhaps a bit extreme, held together with delusional thinking. He is vocal about them in his social media and at one point his bio dad became aware of them. With his beliefs falling at the complete opposite end of the spectrum and with 23 years more experience to back them, his bio dad saw Thomas as a young kid in need of an education, a broadening of horizons so-to-speak. In his zeal, he purchased and sent a book covering his own political beliefs and in the message attached to the book, he told Thomas that he needed to look at different political ideals so that he could be better educated about the world. It was no surprise that this message and gift from a man who had little to do with his life, set Thomas off in an angry tailspin that ended in a proclamation on Facebook that he was never going to change what he believed and that this was who he was.

He was mad.

In the prime of his schizophrenia, when he was his most sick, his bio dad and done the worst thing he could have done and that was to directly and forcefully and like an ambush, challenge Thomas' delusional beliefs. Without a loving history like Thomas has with me for example, he saw this gesture as a direct attack and as we all know from experience, probably the worst thing you can do to a person in the middle of psychosis is to challenge them. The mistake (?) was a fatal one on his bio dad's part and that set the stage for any future interactions.

With all of that behind him, Thomas came to this trip and to this reunion still harboring a smoldering anger that he wasn't about to let go of. So, sadly, there was no potential for a sustained repair to the relationship. Thomas had had months, at least a year, to hang on to the book and the message he had received and to be mad that this man, who had played little part in his life, had had the gall to open a dialogue with him about the very thing he holds most dear to his heart with a ferocity that we, here, all know and recognize in our own delusional loved ones.

And so it went, the reunion was marred by this thing that had been done and while the two of them found tentative footing around each other, the reunion his bio dad had hoped for, the reunion that a part of my heart had hoped for was just not going to come to pass. In the end, bio son and bio dad parted strangers, still, and when asked in therapy yesterday about his relationship with his bio dad and how it went on the trip, Thomas answered,

"We just don't have anything in common. We are on opposite ends of the spectrum."

His therapist attempted to clarify what Thomas meant and Thomas made it clear that the wedge that was securely between himself and his bio dad was a difference in political beliefs, borne and bred from a history of abandonment, an inability on the part of his bio dad to understand schizophrenia and it's inner workings, and a perhaps well-meaning gesture on the part of his bio dad to educate Thomas on other political perspectives.

What we wanted, those of us who are parents and grandparents to this child who had been abandoned by his bio dad, were tempered with awkward moments we witnessed throughout the trip that indicated that hope for a sustained repair in the relationship was just not possible. In the end, bio dad and bio son said an amicable goodbye and each returned to their lives and their beliefs they hold so dear to their hearts.

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