The Titanic

I keep hearing the oldsummer camp song “The Titanic” in my head this morning.

O, they built the ship Titanic to sail the ocean blue
And the people said that the water’d never come through
So they had a big surprise when the water rushed inside
It was sad when the great ship went down.
(Hit the bottom)
It was sad. (So sad.)
It was sad. (Too bad.)
It was sad when the great ship went downto the bottom of the
sea/Husbands and wives, little children lost their lives
It was sad when the great ship went down.

My family of origin is that ship. Mom and Dad did it all so right. They worked hard, loved hard, did the next right things, and parented well. For decades. It was a beautiful ship. And yet, here I am watching the family ship sink.

My only brother is an addict of the worst variety and has been since 1999, at least. His body is imploding, medically speaking. And his mind? Remember the old TV commercial- “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. See the difference?” He has now gone completely crazy, clinically speaking.

But only my parents, three family members, and I know. They are “being strong” and doing the best they can. He is a physical danger to them and himself. He lives with them and holds them physically and mentally hostage. In trying to care for and love their sick son (addiction is a disease aftre all), they have enabled his mental deterioration and now live all day, every day, in fear and shame. They are exhausted. Their bodies and minds are failing them. They love their son and are trying to keep him safe, at their own risk.

The iceberg? Alcohol, then drugs, then mental illness. Just like the giant floating chunks of ice in cartoons, it seemed treatable enough, at first. But there was so much hidden beneath the roiling waves. It got bigger and bigger and badder and badderr. Fathoms beneath the surface is the insanity of what was a beautiful little boy. And here we are with a sinking ship and not enough life boats.

I, and my little family, are safe enough on one of those rescue crafts. But it sucks watching the ship go down, with your parents on deck crying and waving good bye. And it sucks even more to know your brother drove that boat straight into that iceberg, in spite of all the warnings and assistance he was offered. It even sucks to be the one who survived- so far.

The more I write this, the more apt the metaphor feels. I don’t honestly know if my little life boat with my husband and children on board will make it safely to shore. While witness and prayer instruct our navigation to safety, there is just no guarantee we’ll all make it back in one piece. What happened to those carefree days of singing by the campfire that cautionary tale of hubris and terror? So blithely I belted out those lyrics, hardly suspecting that very story would be replayed in my own life.

I am sad. I am angry. Despair washes over me again and again like the tumultuous crests of the North Atlantic. I am scared. But fear, I’ve heard, is the very thing we feel as we summon the courage to accept the things we cannot change, change the things we can, and learn the difference between them.

I am trying to be brave.

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