I'm not sure if I ever mentioned it, but I was a nanny for seven years. I started when I was 20 and the boys were 1 and 3. Even after I stopped being their nanny, I had become a part of the family and I had gotten to be really close with their mom. They owned restaurants and clubs around Denver, all of which my friends and I could go to pretty much free of charge whenever we wanted. She was unbelievably generous with everything – time, money, whatever – you needed it and she could provide it? Done. She was there for me through two big boyfriend breakups, and countless dramas. When my roommate got evicted two months after we moved in, she immediately put me on their cell phone plan so that I wouldn’t be without a phone. Birthdays and Christmas were extravagant – I usually had as many presents as the kids did, and when I graduated from college, she gave me a pair of diamond earrings. We went to Napa Valley together on vacation. We went to kid events, we did family events – I was one of the family, through and through. I learned about cooking – she’s a chef, and I watched her cook a million times – I loved coming into the house in the winter because it smelled like her unbelievable homemade spaghetti sauce. Big dinners, small dinners, simple dinners, fancy dinners – you name it. Sundays meant Mexican food, Saturdays in the summer were barbecue. If she happened to be in the kitchen when I came into one of the restaurants, I didn’t even have to order – she made me what she knew I would love. Which, I’d like to say is no small feat, what with my myriad of food issues. Anyway. I learned how to properly set a table and I learned how to host a fabulous party.
I learned how to deal with an alcoholic. I can see drunk a mile away now, no matter how hard the person tries to hide it. I can smell it, I can see it, I can recognize someone hiding a problem. I learned how to overlook it, to gloss over it, to cover it. She used to call me when the boys were little so that I could come over and put them to bed because she was too drunk to do it. I've hauled her out of numerous neighborhood parties – literally hauled, as I dragged her down the street back to her house, after she'd pissed off her friends for the first time... after she'd pissed them off for the last time. I’ve driven her home from numerous occasions and stayed the night because she said she'd be home at 10 and didn't show up until 3. I’ve stayed up for hours trying to listen to and console her drunken ramblings, to keep her from calling anyone, to make sure that her husband was home before I left in case the boys needed something. I've endured ten and fifteen calls in an evening, and I've endured calls in the middle of the night, even when I had to go to work the next morning. Most of all, I've made countless excuses for her behavior. She is a very powerful and intimidating person, and in all the years I’ve known her, she is always the boss of everyone because no one dares to say otherwise. Including me. I knew she had a problem. But I didn’t know what to do – she lost so many friends because of her drinking behavior that I couldn’t leave her. She'd done so much for me. She needed me. The boys needed me. I did what I did because I loved her and I love those boys and I thought I was helping.
But a year ago came the last straw. My boss lives across the street from her, and mentioned to me how the older of the boys (he was 10) came over and asked to borrow a cooking ingredient. When my boss asked him why, he said “because mommy drank too much and can’t cook me dinner.” I lost it. See, in my head, I could tell myself that the boys didn’t know, and if the boys didn’t know, that was somehow ok. But for a ten year old to know what drinking too much is, much less that his MOM was drinking too much, much less that he had to make dinner for him and his little brother because of that? No way. I had let countless “incidents” slide over the 8 years that I knew her, but this? This was not something I was going to let slide.
That day after work, I drove straight to their house and walked in, looking for the 10 year old. I found him and told him I needed to talk to him outside. I asked him if what my boss said was true, and he said no, but I knew he was lying to me. I told him that I needed him to tell me the truth, because I was going to talk to mommy about her drinking. His little lip began to tremble and he finally told me that what my boss said was true. It was all I could do not to cry as I hugged him and told him that he was a good boy for telling me the truth.
Just then, she walked out of the house and asked what was going on. I sent him back in and told her that we needed to talk. I am a patient person. But when I do get mad – I get really mad. Especially if it has something to do with someone I love. I was furious – so furious and hurt and sick to my stomach that I was shaking and I wasn’t sure I could even talk. I told her I couldn't do it anymore. That her drinking was out of control and I couldn't deal with the calls every night and the drunken crying in the middle of the night. That most of all, I couldn't watch her destroy the lives of her boys.
She sent me an email the next day, apologizing for putting me in difficult situations, but that that drinking was her way of dealing with the fucking worthless son of a bitch that she’s married to (MY words, not hers – I have no use for that bastard). She said that the story my boss had told me must have just been a misunderstanding. I wrote back and told her that she didn’t need to apologize to me – that she didn’t do anything to me that I couldn’t forgive her for. I told her she needed to get help, and that I would do whatever it took for her to do that, because I loved her. I would take the boys, I would stay at the house – anything she needed, but she had to get help. That the people she needed to be apologizing to were those boys. But she refused to admit she has a problem. I haven’t seen or talked to her since.
This was by far the hardest decision I’ve ever made -- harder than any break up. And I constantly question and second guess myself, wondering if I did the right thing, or if I was just being selfish. I love those boys as if they were mine. I would throw myself in front of a car for them without a second thought. But this wasn't something I could protect them from -- and I felt totally helpless.
I miss them so much, especially the younger one. He was MY baby. He came to me for hugs and stories. When he was a little bitty one year old, he'd get up from his nap and want to dance. And we'd dance around the living room forEVER. When he learned how to talk, mine was the last name he said -- he called me "Ma ma ma", which got confusing, because that's also what he called his mom. I got all choked up the first time he got his blonde baby curls cut off, and when I looked at him one day and realized that his fat baby belly was disappearing. When I'd spend the night there, I’d put him to bed and without fail, he would come in and want to climb in bed with me. We talked about lots of stuff, and he went everywhere with me. He's 10 now. I miss him so much. I still see him when I'm in the neighborhood -- it's the place where I'm always housesitting and also since my boss lives across the street. My boy always runs to my car to give me a kiss and then he follows me around while I take care of the dog. He asks me why I don't come over anymore, and I tell him that it doesn't mean that I stopped loving him because I didn't and I never will. And from what I hear from everyone (but never him), his mom has gotten worse. It tears me up. I feel like I deserted them. I feel like I left them to a life...what kind of life? What did I leave them to? I feel like if I keep thinking about it, my heart might break. I feel like that every single day when I think about them and I feel awful.