Tamara: “My Daughter Is A Drug Addict?”
After a trip to Disney World took an unexpected turn, Tamara’s world fell apart at the so-called “happiest place on earth.” At nearly 60 years old, Tamara suddenly found herself a mother all over again: this time, raising her six-year-old grandson. Tamara shares how addiction and loss brought her to this place, and how re-learning the act of parenting has been nothing at all like she expected — and everything she needed to carry on.
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Tamara, Stephanie Wittels Wachs
He comes out and says, well, I’m going to recommend that she do outpatient treatment, but really, based on her use, I would recommend inpatient treatment. And I give him mean, you could have knocked me over with a feather. At that point, I just, you know, it’s like, what is happening here? My daughter is a drug addict?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 00:33
When someone you love has an addiction, everything is so clear, in hindsight, painfully and crystal fucking clear. But in the moment, you don’t know what to do. And the not knowing is gut wrenching. Nothing makes sense, everything is upside down. And a feasible solution is nowhere in sight. It can be especially painful to not have a solution when the person who needs it is your own child, someone for whom you’ve been problem solving since day one. Unfortunately, for some, there might not ever be a solution, just an aftermath. And for a mom named Tamara. The aftermath required more of her than she ever could have imagined. Because it asked her to become a mother all over again. For someone who had just lost his own.
Kids get can get really animated when they’re really excited or nervous or something. And Cameron, he was he’s being really Uber animated. And he’s like, oh, you know what happened to my mommy did it to my mommy die or something. And I’m just kidding. He says this, and I’m just like, you know, what do we do?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 02:00
This is Last Day, a show about the moments that change us. I’m your host, Stephanie Wittels Wachs. Today, the story of losing a daughter and gaining a son. And just how much there is to learn and love the second time around.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 02:25
Tamara Morris is a mother, a grandmother and a recent retiree. She’s married to a man named Steve and they live together in southern Indiana. That’s where they’ve spent most of their lives. And it’s where they raised their two daughters, Lauren, and Kristen. As Tamara puts it, their family was about as traditional as it could get, at least by American Dream standards, two college educated parents, two well paying jobs to kids. They did things that lots of other families did in the 90s and early 2000s. Like signing their kids up for sports and hanging out with other families in the neighborhood.
There was a couple other moms. And we all three had two daughters. And I remember going to see Britney Spears and they were just you know, like gaga over Britney, but I mean, justifiably so.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 03:17
Lauren and Kristen were both good, sweet kids, but uh, sisters, they were very different. Kristen was the youngest.
She was really goofy, and kind of, you know, naive. Kind, really kind of, I mean, she was such a good friend to her friends, and would really not say, you know, bad things about them. She wasn’t a big gossip or anything. She was just very laid back. Totally different than my older daughter who was I’m shocked she’s not a lawyer because she used to talk back and argue her case. You know, with such good points that it was hard to ever tell her no, because her arguments were so good, but Kristin was way laid back I mean, she, you know, she didn’t hardly ever get in trouble or anything like the older one or just being her mouth, this is constantly going that Kristin went like that.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 04:22
And as a family you know, how did y’all get along?
The family got along, learn and Kristen, and not so much. I mean, constant fighting and mainly because I think, you know, as a younger sister, you know, she was just annoying to her older sister and maybe wanted to be around, you know, more so than the older one wanted to be, but as far as you know, a family I mean, we just, you know, everybody got along pretty well and we did a lot of things they were both involved in a lot of, you know, sports activities dance, um, my husband what for a while he was a coach, so we, you know, we’d go to his ball games and stuff and, you know, did a lot of things together.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 05:09
And what was the relationship like between you and Kristin growing up.
Really close, and I felt like we were kind of more kindred spirits, because she was a lot more reserved. Whereas my other daughter was, you know, very outgoing, very confident, very, you know, positive, you know, about her abilities of everything.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 05:30
As Kristen got older, her soft, reserved demeanor didn’t just make her stand out from her sister started to make her vulnerable out in the world, especially once she reached Middle School.
She had had this little posse of friends, they were maybe six or eight of them. And they did everything together. Well, then in sixth grade, she got put in the other class, they had one class that I guess they put the maybe the little bit more higher achievers, together, and she was the only one that wasn’t in that class. And at that point, then she kind of became, you know, out of sight out of mind, you’re not my class so I’m not thinking about you know, and, I mean, that probably hurt me more than it did her, she just seemed to kind of, she never really said a whole lot about that, and she made other friends. But I’m sure that, you know, she was hurt by that. And that’s just kind of like that point on. Things just kind of started to go off the rails a little bit. I think she really suffered from anxiety. She I remember, the two of us were sharing a bed at my sister in law and brother in law’s house. And she was so upset, you know, like, tears in her eyes I’m like what’s wrong? And she said, I’m so afraid I’m not going to be able to fall asleep. And I said, well, you know honey, that’s, you know I’m sure you will eventually fall, you know, try, you know, relaxing yourself and, you know, gave her some techniques and stuff, but that, you know, I would have never, at that time thought, oh, she needs to go into counseling. That wasn’t the kind of thing people really even talked about back then.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 07:24
But so I’m, you know, just thinking back, I know that she did suffer from anxiety, she had a lot of social anxiety. Once she got into middle school. Then she started being bullied. With which, you know, just broke my heart. I mean, she was beautiful. I mean, I’m not just saying this, because she’s my daughter, but she I mean, she was stunningly beautiful. This long, really dark, almost black hair and these huge eyes with big, long eyelashes, and just, I mean, just stunning. But a couple mean, kids would say things to her, like, basically every day when she would come get to school. And I said, what do you want me to talk to the, you know, administration or the teachers? You know no, we can’t do that, and I said, we’ll just, you know, just ignore these kids, they’re nothing, they’re no, they’re, you know, anybody who would talk like that, you know, they’re not even worth your time but it was, you know, it’s all the talking in the world wasn’t going to change. You know, once the say it, you know, she couldn’t see herself in the other way.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 08:42
As Tamara understands it. The struggles that Kristen had was self esteem, led Kristen to experiment with drugs and eventually abuse them. And are you seeing any signs that are pointing you to like, is she taking something? Is she behaving differently? Was there anything like that going on?
Looking back on it? Absolutely.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 09:10
While I’m in it. No, I mean. No, I would.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 09:22
Have especially a teenage girl.
Right? They’re just, you know, they’re they’re getting bad moods and she felt seemed like a lot of times she seemed bored, lonely, you know, and she never, you know, like how people say all of their grades start dropping and that kind of thing but she back even in elementary school, I was concerned about her grades, you know, like she was getting A’s B’s and some C’s. And, you know, we even went and met with the principal, you know, like, oh, you know if I’d be more concerned if they D’s and F’s and, you know, kind of just, you know, poo pooed it like it was not that big of a deal. So, you know, to say, oh, well, her grades were dropping, I mean, they were never really that great to begin with. So, all of that, no, I wasn’t thinking that she was at or first doing any kind of drugs or drinking or anything. Now, as time went on through high school, yes, it, it became more apparent. And when we finally then did get her into some counseling, and she was constantly having to have her, her car taken away or his privileges. You know, it’s just, it started becoming one thing after the other.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 10:50
Were you surprised to learn that it was pain medication?
Yes, yes, in fact, she had been going to see a counselor. And I would, I would take her, but I wouldn’t be in there while she was talking to the person. She was probably about, maybe at that point, she might have even been 18. But the counselor called me in and said that Kristen said that she would be willing to go talk to like a drug counselor or something. And apparently, they had been talking about this for a while, but I didn’t know that. And so she calls the place, right then in there and makes an appointment for her to come over. And so I take her over. And she goes in and meets with this counselor and had done like a little, you know, survey or something. He comes out and says, well, I’m going to recommend that she do outpatient treatment, but really, based on her use, I would recommend inpatient treatment. And I mean, you could knock me over with a feather at that point. I just, you know, just like what is happening here. My daughter is a drug addict? I mean, like I have no words for it, it was just so shocking. And that’s when my world turned upside down, really.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 12:30
Kristen tells her mom that she first started using a pain medication she got from a friend at a party. This friend had offered it as something to take the edge off. Tamara recalls Kristen saying, but evidently, it became much more than that. That moment you describe where, you know, the words inpatient treatment are coming up now, and you realize like, now we’re in a different category, we’re in a different world than we were yesterday. What is that start to do? I mean, are you then trying to figure out how to get her treatment? Is she going into treatment? Or like what’s happening in that phase?
Yeah, there was a intensive outpatient treatment. And she did agree to go to that and, you know, there were certain nights where the families could come to and, you know, that was really my first experience with being around other people. And, you know, hearing other people’s stories and realizing that, hey, you know, I’m not alone, I am not happy that other people are experiencing this, but at least I feel like I’m not alone I’m not crazy, or, you know, in thinking, you know, that this is way beyond what, you know, what kid should be doing? It, you know, I mean, there was just a lot of anxiety in our lives at that time.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 14:02
I bet, I know that feeling well, actually, it’s a terrible feeling to sit on the sidelines and watch somebody that you love, go through it and not know what to do to help them.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 14:14
Yeah, and I just got back then to I just really didn’t understand the disease of addiction. I went to the to these meetings and it was still kind of like I was thinking what would just stop doing this?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 14:35
We’re back, by the time she’s 20 years old, Kristen has Is tried counseling for anxiety, and outpatient treatment for her substance use disorder. Tamara is trying to create boundaries and to make sense of her daughter struggles, but it’s hard. It’s really fucking hard. Kristen is living with her parents at this point. And her behavior continues to test them. Anything from coming and going at all hours of the night to getting into an accident and Tamara’s car. At one point, Tamara and Steve even tell Kristen, she can’t live there anymore, they kick her out of the house.
I think she was living in my old van. So she was living in my minivan somewhere near her boyfriend’s home. And that probably went on for about four months. And April of 2013, I guess, she comes to me and tells me she’s expecting. By then she’s almost 21. So okay, what are you going to do? You know, we’ve had to let her back in by then and before he even knew that she was expecting she had gotten a job. And which, you know, and that’s so sad too, because it’s like our first grand child. And, but we can’t tell anybody because she didn’t want anybody to know. She was very embarrassed about it. But, you know, they’re gonna live with us, so we’ve got all everything set up in our basement, and it was just joyful, but sad all at the same time. But I mean, thank God, you know, we were able to help them, but it was just you know, it’s just not what I had envisioned.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 17:04
Kristen son Cameron is born on November 13 2012. And he is a sweet and well behaved baby. So, you know, he might have been an unexpected houseguest for Tamara and Steve, but at least he was a pleasant one.
Both of my girls and he slept through the night like, early on, which made it really nice. And I think she was okay, until maybe a month or so after he was born. And then that’s when she got introduced to heroin. And at first, she said no to it. And then but then I don’t think it took much arm twisting to, for her to try that. And then she, you know, became a heroin addict. I’ll never forget, we were going to a wedding of a friend in this beautiful venue, and Cameron’s dad was at our house and he had written I think his jaw was wired shut at the time because he’d gotten into a fight with someone and gotten bust. Oh my God, and so he had written on a piece of paper. Just as we’re getting ready to go out the door to this beautiful wedding. Kristen and I can’t take care of Cameron because we’re both addicted to heroin, and yet, I have to go to this wedding and act like I’m a normal person. Don’t know why I’m laughing, it’s not funny at all it was horrible, it’s so okay, now what now? Now what do we do? I you know, like, what do we do?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 19:10
Do I get this laughter? All too well, I tell you the incredulous laughter of how on earth is this possibly my reality? A recurring question when you are in the thick of it, but almost seems absurd, years later. There are so many unanswerable questions that arise when someone you love is in the throes of addiction. And the question of what do we do? Never gets much clearer to Tamara, but she tries her damnedest to do whatever she can think of at the time. She watches Cameron when she can. She eventually starts going to Al Anon meetings, and she trusts Kristen to stay employed, which she does and take care of things like Cameron’s daycare, but life just continues to get more and more unpredictable and soon It’s more and more often that Tamara feels like she needs to intervene, especially when it comes to Cameron.
Mainly I was being my husband and I were being his parents. I mean, yeah. For the most part, I’d say. She wanted to.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 20:17
She wanted to, and she loved him so much. And he loved her so much. It’s just, you know, it just breaks your heart.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 20:30
Yeah, it does. To have a baby in the mix. It’s probably equal parts. Thank God and Oh, my God, like.
Well it was when he was three, the day care actually was had to close this one day because somebody had head lice at the daycare wasn’t Cameron, but it’s somebody else. And it’s, oh, so they had to, they closed it to kind of like, you know, fumigate the place, and all this and, and so I was working, I worked from home, but I, you know, I still had stuff I had to do. And Kristen told me, you know, that she got a call the daycare was closed, and I said, well, Kristen, I can’t watch him today, I can’t, you know, I’ve got it, I got a lot of calls and stuff I got to do and so I said you’re gonna have to take off today and take care of him. While I was sitting there at my desk, which was on the first floor of the house in, I think he must have still been sleeping. And I see her car go back and down the driveway, and I’m I texted her this is when I’m just being really mean. And I say said to text her, oh, drug run. Of course, she doesn’t respond to me, but I just like, oh, my blood was boiling like, how can you be doing this? And then I get a call this is when we still had a home phone, I get a call from the bank, saying wanting to know if I had authorized someone, you know, cashing a check on my account? And I’m like, no and it’s so this was like, she’d never done anything like that before. I mean, this was like, beyond and so they kept the check, and I texted her and I said, Kristen, this is beyond work. This is like way beyond anything that you’ve ever done before. You need to come home, and we need to figure out what needs to happen. And so she finally does come home, and I’ll ever she’s sitting in their chair in my office, and I said, you have to get help and she listens.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 22:58
Kristen starts calling up local treatment centers. There’s one that seems like a good fit, but they tell her it’s going to be at least another six hours before she can be admitted. So she reaches out to another place and they can take her immediately.
So Cameron and I go over there with you know, he’s three. So you didn’t really understand, you know, what’s happening here, you know, and here, she’s got her suitcase, and she’s checking into this place, and you know, she told me later that the only reason that she agreed to go there was because she knew that there was no way she could have cared for him for those six hours until she could get into the other place. And so things changed after that, you know, she was in treatment from then on to the next for the next three years. And we just told Cameron that, you know, he she was seeing in the doctor, you know, she was getting, you know, trying to she was sick, and she needed to get well. And it was like the happiest day of my life. When she was there, I knew she was safe. And you know, there was hope that you know, maybe she could overcome this.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 24:24
This all happens in the spring of 2016. And for the next few years Tamara finally has some peace of mind. She and Steve settle into a routine of caring for Cameron and they become his temporary legal guardians so they can do things like take him to the doctor. It is a difficult thing for Kristen to agree to, but she does. Plus the conditions are that once she’s sober for certain amount of time, she can regain custody. In the meantime, Tamara and Steve take their guardian duties very seriously. And in the spring of 2019. They take Cameron to Disney World for Vacation. At this point, Kristen is in sober living, but her recovery is still in its early stages. So she doesn’t come along for the trip.
We had talked to her a bunch while we were there. And she was, you know, we were sending videos and pictures and, you know, we were feeling a little bad even about taking him because I know that she, I’m sure she thought, well, you know, I would love to be able to do that. But anyway, we were on the, the tea cup thing. And I had sent some pictures of the three of us and the T cups, I sent it to her and her other daughter, and you know, and she had responded and said, Oh, you know, he’s, you know, something like, oh, send, send more pictures and you know, in this was about four or 20. And then I didn’t have my, you know, I had my phone and it was in the backpack. And we go on to some other things, we go to the Polynesian village and have dinner character dinner. And you know, Cameron is like, all about these characters. You know, he just has no idea that they’re humans, people, you know, I mean, he truly thought that they were chipmunks and Mickey and you know, I mean, it was just, like, amazing that he could believe that.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 26:26
It is the most magical place on earth.after all. Later in the day, the three of them head into one of those colorful, lively indoor shows, at some point, Cameron has to go to the bathroom, so Steve breaks off to take them and he brings cameras phone with him.
And so I go in there, and I’m enjoying, you know, the parents and everything’s talking and singing and I come out. An athlete was like, there’s hardly anyone around which Disney world there’s hardly ever case was like, nobody around. And I’m looking for them, I’m like, Oh, my God, you know, like, I don’t have my phone like, how am I good? Like, did we miss each other something and so I’m standing there. And finally him, Cameron come walking towards me, and he was like, looking really stern. Like, you know, he’s mad about something and I’m thinking, Oh, my gosh, Cameron has once again asked for a sword or, you know, every ride we come off of, they have all this. And he wanted every single thing you know, every time they they know how to get you. So I thought he was irritated because Cameron was badgering him about you know, wanting something, and he looks at me, and he said, you sit here and then, you know, he wanted Cameron to sit on the other side of him, and I jokingly said, what am I in trouble or something? And he looks at me and mouse out to me, Kristin died.
I again, like could have knocked me over with a feather I was in such shock, and it’s like, it felt like, you know how you see in a movie where it’s like, there’s this these people are in the center and like the world is whirling around them or you know, like the eye of a hurricane. Where we’re here, and all of these happy people are whirling around us all these nice normal families whirling around us and having fun and and we’re in our own little private, worst day of my life, you know, at the happiest place on earth I mean, it’s just, I can’t even describe it.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 28:55
Tamara is in shock. She takes back her phone from Steve then excuses herself to the bathroom. She locks herself in a stall and calls her older daughter Lauren, who’d been the one to call Steve just a few minutes before and the pieces of what happened start to come together. Kristen had been about to start a new job and she needed her high school diploma as identification. So she driven the hour from her Sober Living apartment to Tamara and Steve’s house to get the diploma. While she was sitting in her car outside her parents house she used and shortly after she died of fentanyl poisoning. Lauren, her big sister had to be the one to identify her body. Tamara and Steve are thrust into a dark, dark reality, except that they are still at fucking Disney World. Tamara has to eventually leave the bathroom and put her grandma hat back on. Cameron still has no idea what happened and it’s an unspoken understanding In between Steve and Tamara that they can’t tell him yet, not here.
On the way back to the bus to go to go back to our hotel where we’re staying. You know, kids can get really animated when they’re really excited or nervous or something, Cameron, he was he’s being really Uber animated and he’s like, you know, what happened to my mommy did it to my mommy die or something? And I’m just kidding, he says this and I’m just like, you know, like stoically, no, you know, I don’t even know what to say, what do you say? I mean, I don’t know I can’t say, oh, sure yeah. I just, you know, kind of, and then he moved on, he was talking about some other things so it’s like, changed the subject. But at that point, then I knew he knew, so we get back to the hotel room and of course, it’s like, one room, two beds, the, you know, the sink, you know, it’s all in the same room, there was a separate room where the toilet was, but it’s like, here we are all there together. So I say, oh, I’m gonna go get some ice. So I take the the ice bucket, and I go down to the ice thing, and I’m calling, frantically calling a friend of mine who’s a psychologist and I’m like, Joy, I don’t know what to do I mean, what should we tell him? You know what? I don’t know what to I don’t know how to handle this and she said, well, you know, if he asks you, you probably shouldn’t lie to him. And then, you know, and then I call my sisters and my daughter again, I mean, I was, I don’t probably thought I, you know, like, got sucked up into the ice machine. I was gone for so long. So finally, I get back and Steve and I are, you know, we’re in bed and we’re like, whisper like, what are we going to do? I mean, should we go home? Like, what should we do, and there’s really nothing we can do, and I don’t want to ruin Disney World for him and so we got up and, you know, just tried to act like a normal family at Disneyworld.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 32:40
Back Cameron and Steve have gotten the horrible news while they’re on vacation at Disney World. But their 27 year old daughter Kristen has died of a fentanyl overdose. On top of their own grief, they have their six year old grandson Cameron to consider. They decide to wait until they’re back home to tell him what happened.
You know, we get the flight home, and we get home and I call him in and I said, you know, you know, I said your your mommy died. And I know I’m sorry, I didn’t tell you while we were there but I just didn’t want to ruin the trip. And it just wasn’t the right time. And he cried for a little bit. And then my daughter and son in law came over and I think he my son in law may take him play baseball or something and he you know, he was kind of okay. I mean, I’m sure he was sad and he’s been sad for the last four years, but I just don’t want to have him forget about her totally. But then I also don’t want to be sitting there crying all the time. I don’t think that’s healthy, either.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 33:58
And holding on to these two things at once. That is immediately Tamara’s new balancing act. She has to manage her own grief and also the billions of things that have to happen when someone dies. She has to manage Cameron’s emotional experience and also the logistical side because what other option is there? His father hadn’t really been in his life and now his mother is gone. Tamara and Steve decide pretty quickly to adopt Cameron. It feels like the right move, especially since they already had guardianship. But deep down inside Tamara is terrified.
You know early on I mean, it was a practically hyperventilating thinking about oh my how, how are we going to do this at our age? I mean, I’m healthy thank God I’m healthy. But just like taking on a six year old when you’re 59? You know I mean, it was just absolutely overwhelming to think about it.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 35:08
Yeah, it must have been absolutely brutal to be dealing with the loss of your daughter, the fact that you’re now a mother to this child fully, I mean, you had guardianship, but the idea was that you would be giving him back.
Someday she’s gonna be okay, she’s gonna be, you know, pass this and they’re gonna, you know, I mean, we used to look for a cute little, you know, houses that oh, you know, rental houses or houses where we can buy for them, you know, for the two of them, and I really did think, you know, maybe some day they would be reunited, and they could live, you know, on their own. I did have hope for that.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 35:55
Tamara and Steve, no, they can’t change what happened. So ready or not, they move forward with the adoption process in the months following Kristen’s death. And by early the following year, the adoption is finalized.
I think it was February of 2020 so right before COVID hit, we went to the courthouse, and he was there, Cameron came with us, and actually Cameron’s dad and his grandpa came, which we didn’t really, because he had not really been a big part of his life, we didn’t really need for him to sign over his rights but he did. And I really, appreciated that I thought that was very mature of him to do that. So he stood up there with us. And I was bawling my eyes out. I mean, I just was I was saying, you know, just the fact that not sad that we were adopting him, but just the the reason why we needed to do this, and I’m, you know, when we get done, we’re walking out and someone said, congratulations, I probably like what is wrong with this woman.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 37:14
For the second time in her life, and in a very different stage of it, Tamara is a mother to a young child. And just like her daughters, Cameron is running around doing all the sports, Tamara finds herself once again, driving him to and from activities and showing up to games. But she knows the other parents and grandparents on the sidelines are very different from her.
My past life was 20 years ago, when my daughters were, you know, 12 and 16. And we were doing the volleyball and the basketball. And, you know, we had all these parents that they were our social life, you know, the parents of the teammates. And that’s what, that’s what we did. And so now I’ve got, I’ve got my left foot in that past life, because here we are at the you know, in Nashville at the baseball tournament, and we’re with all the parents that are, you know, 20 years, they could be our children. You know, so we got that side, and then we have this other side that’s our friends are, you know, in their 60s, they’re retiring, some of them are retired or rich, getting ready to, you know, and they’ve got grandchildren. But it’s like, we don’t really fit over there either because, you know, like, they can go and do whatever they want, whenever they want, they don’t have to think about oh, what do you do? Like, what’s the basketball schedule? what’s the, what’s the school schedule, what’s, you know, they, they’re with their grandchildren, then they just leave and they go home, and you know, and then it’s just the two of them there. And I am not saying that, you know that I would want it to be that way because honestly, I almost feel like we’d be bored if we didn’t, we didn’t have Cameron in our house. And he absolutely brings us so much joy. I mean, it’s I’m sorry, he’s it’s what got us through which really, you know, I mean, having him I mean, he kind of saved us, I think because you gotta go on, you gotta be there for him and, but he’s just so fun and funny and athletic and, you know, he’s just, he’s witty and, you know, I just I love him so much. So, you know, I say the grandparent what, and I have two other grandparent children too by the way, it’s not he’s not the only one. I don’t want to leave them out but, they don’t live with us.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 40:04
Right, yeah, I mean, it’s, my mom says all the time that my daughter who’s almost 10 saved her when my brother passed. I mean, they are such a good reason to keep getting out of bed in the morning. Cameron makes many things easier, but this new reality for Tamara and Steve is not easy. It is confusing and ever changing. And it’s impacted Tamara’s sense of identity, particularly going from a Grandma or Mimi back to a mom, way more than she could have expected.
One on, one time, this sounds so vain and ridiculous but we were at one of Cameron’s baseball games, and my daughter and son in law and the two grandkids come […] Kevin calls me Mimi also but it’s like, oh, you know, like I’m the mom here, I know, you’re like, I don’t I mean, it was like I was trying to deny the fact that I’m it 64 year old woman, you know, no, I’m not 45 I know that
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 41:11
Tamara is able to find a sense of connectivity and understanding elsewhere. She’s part of several grief groups, one of which she just been hanging out with the night before our interview.
This one that I was with last night, they’re all parents, or one of them’s a grandparent, of someone who has passed away due to, you know, fit in almost most everybody. And I’ve met, there’s a couple of different grief groups that I belong to, and it’s just, you don’t just to be around people who know exactly what you’ve been through exactly. The all the years of the anxiety and, you know, begging and pleading for them to stop and they’re different, but they’re the same, and it’s so it’s really comforting to know that you’re not alone. And then I’m also an involved in a grandparents group. And not all of them have adopted the grand children, and not all of them even, you know, some of the parents are actually still living. But we all you know, have our grandkids for whatever reason. And so that’s been that’s been a good group too.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 42:41
Not all grandparents find themselves being parents again but Tamara is definitely not the only one in this boat. Grief groups remind her that she’s anything but alone. Another tool she finds herself using is prayer, especially praying for other people that are currently struggling with addiction. And it turns out, it can provide a bit of comic relief as well.
Some other funny thing that Cameron said not long ago, when we were he asked me to lay down in bed with him, and we used to always say prayers and, you know, we hadn’t done that a long time to set you know, let’s say a prayer, you know, and I start that now I lay me down to sleep one. And then we always say, you know, at the end game, God bless and like […] do we need to pray for him? I don’t know, I said well, surely there’s somebody in your life you could pray for he’s like, I don’t know, Joe Burrow? Who’s the quarterback of the Cincinnati Bengals, I’m like, okay, he’s not really in our life but why do we need to pray for him? Well, because he’s hurt and they’re doing terrible.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 43:52
Obviously, Cameron is a riot, he’s as wittiest hammer says, and he’s got a lot of life to offer to the people around him. He seems to be doing a pretty good job navigating all the things a 10 year old has to figure out like, budding school crushes and what sports he likes best. And Tamara, she’s trying to figure things out, too. She and Steve have had their world turned upside down. But she’s trying her best to find her place in it.
It’s not really what I imagined but I gotta say, I’m retired now. I’ve been retired almost two years.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 44:28
And it’s yeah, we moved into a new house. We built a home and we moved in in March so and I love that it’s busy. But yeah, we have this window from because we are younger grandson. He’s four and we he’s going to pre K so we he comes to our our daughter brings them to our house, and then we take him to school. And then so from about 8:30 to 3:30 we do whatever we want and then from at 3:30, then we go pick him up at school and then are the Cameron and he rides the bus home he gets home about 4:15 and then like it’s you know then it’s all like chaos for a while with the two of them the dog you know all this going on and then usually there’s some sort of practice is that night you know like all of her friends watch all the Siri you know like they watch it you know, Ted last so seeing all of it or what you know, we’re just like we can’t even start that till about you know 9:30 and you know by then we’re like falling asleep on the couch so yeah, we’re now up on all the shows that you know all of our friends watched but you know, I have so much joy in my life. I mean, if I’m grieving all the time, but but I didn’t you know, I was never there like stay in bed all day, I can’t even get out of bed I can’t function I really didn’t have time for I could not do that. You know, and so I still you know, I mean during this this interview, I you know, I’ve cried a little bit that cry every now and then you know, especially if I’m looking at pictures or something like that, but I just try to find the joy in each day. And right now, you know, we’re just trying to, you know, lead as normal live a healthy life as we can for him being to old people.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 46:40
You look fantastic.
There’s even more LAST DAY with Apple premium subscribers get exclusive access to content like behind the scenes chats with the producers of the show, diving deeper into episodes. Sign up now on Apple podcasts. LAST DAY is a production of Lemonada Media. The show is produced by Kegan Zema, Aria Bracci, and Tiffany Bui. Our engineer is Brian Castillo. Music is by Hannis Brown. Steve Nelson is our Vice President of weekly content and production and Jackie Danziger is our Vice President of narrative content and production. Executive Producers are Jessica Cordova Kramer and me Stephanie Wittels Wachs. If you’d like what you heard today, we have three other seasons that you can check out. Have a story you’d like to share, head to bit.ly/lastdaystories, or click the link in the show notes to fill out our confidential Google Form. follow and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership. You can find us online at @LemonadaMedia and you can find me at @WittelStephanie. Thank you for listening, we will see you next week.