Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Story of Ten Fingers

Benjy is such a confounding boy. Just when you think you've got him figured out he goes and does something confusing.

Last night at dinner he was up. Talking up a storm. Hurling trivia questions at us. (I wish I could remember some of them; there were about twenty, in rapid-fire succession, and they were Doozies.) Laughing -- no, dissolving -- over some YouTube silliness involving an animated cat with a large nostril and bad teeth. Saskia laughed with him. so Lars and I joined in.

O, we were happy!

Fast forward to this morning. Benjy cannot, or does not want to, wake up. He is down, down. Just let me sleep, he murmurs. I can't do it. What "it" is, is not clear to me. I let him sleep, call the Joy School to let them know he'll be late.

At 8:30 I draw him a bath and wake him up. Groggily, he slips into the tub. I close the shower curtain so I can get myself ready at the sink and he can have privacy. When I peek in he is lying there, listless. He has not picked up the soap.

"Can you wash?" I ask. Lars always warns me against making things Benjy's choice. "You need to wash now," I correct myself.

Benjy nods but does not pick up the soap. After a minute he says, "why do you think I have these bruises on my legs?"

Bruises, Readers, are something we watch for here at Chez Delaunay, because in past times Benjy has hit himself -- with his fists and other objects -- and caused bruising.

My heart stops. I examine the bruises but they are not symmetrical. There is no method to them. There are only three of them. His legs look like the legs of an 11-year-old boy.

"Did you hit yourself, Ben?" I ask, trying to remain calm.


"You promise?"

"I do."

"Then it's okay," I tell him, but deep inside I am not sure.

When I return from walking the dog, Benjy is dressed and sitting with Lars at the dining room table. But his hands are still pruney from the bath. I glance at his fingers, and that's when I see it, the first time I've noticed in a couple of months. His ten finger tips are cratered. He's been tearing them up again.

I grab his hands and press them between mine. "Don't pick," I tell him, those two little words swelling with unspoken anguish.

There are days that radiate happiness and peace, and then there are the other days. We take things one day at a time around here, because to a family dealing with mental illness, a day is a lifetime.


  1. Thinking of you all and hoping tomorrow is a better day. Hugs to Benjy. Much love, Laurel, Andrew, and the rest of our clan

  2. Laurel, as always, thank you for your sweet concern. Things are already better today. Never a dull moment, you know?