Oh, I should have known it was too good to last. Even though the director of the school told us about that month-long "honeymoon" period, in which students love everything about their new lives, followed by a big dose of end-of--vacation blues, I thought we were in the clear.
I thought I could start worrying about myself, taking care of my own, increasingly significant needs. I thought I could try to relax. To sleep more and better. To exercise (as much as I could swallow -- unfortunately, exercise and I do not get along very well). I thought Benjy was all settled, with friends and activities and good food in his beautiful green-meadow-and-dry-stone-wall corner of New England.
I guess I thought wrong, once again.
The sad phone calls have returned. We'd only had two of those at the very beginning of his stay. Three at most. But they're back.
They always start out OK. With a forced optimism that makes me think (fool that I am!) that this time I've dodged the bullet. That he really is happy.
Benjy: Hi Mom!
Me: Hi Ben! How ARE you?
Ben (slightly flat in affect, but that is his usual mode): I'm good.
Me (all bouncy): What did you do today?
Ben: Uh, I played Mumbleply.
Me: I'm sorry, could you repeat that?
Ben: I played Monopoly. And mumblemumble with credit cards and you can mumble stuff.
(Benjy has developed a habit of rushed, slurred, and mumbled speech. I guess it's from all those pills he knocks back every day.)
Me: Wow, that sounds like FUN! A new version of Monopoly with credit cards? And did you play with your FRIENDS in your house?
Ben: Uh, I guess. Oh, and I have earned $20 in allowance. Tonight when we went to the store I spent half on a card game.
Me: Awesome! Good work! And you can play it with your FRIENDS?
Ben: Uh, yeah. Whatever.
Readers, I think you know where this is going.
Me: So, what else, Honey?
Ben (in a lowered voice): Look, can I just tell you something?
Me (heart sinking): Sure!
Ben: This place is not for me. I miss you,. I want to come home. No one will be friends with me here.
Me: Honey, I heard you've made a great connection with C.
Ben: C is leaving end of August. I want to be a day student. Can't you help me? Can't you get me out of here? I will go as a day student. I just miss you and want to be home.
And then, Readers, the tears fell. His tears and mine, although mine were, and must always be, secret. As hard as it is, I have to be strong.
I told Benjy that he cannot be a day student at a school that's an hour and a half from home. It just will not work. Of course he did not believe me. I am so afraid he thinks we don't want him with us. That we've thrown him away. Oh god, that thought is killing me.
I tried my best to remind him of his sadness and loneliness at home. Of how little there is to do, and how our lack of expendable income rules out most of the little there is. (Benjy is not a fan of free stuff, like strolls along the river, unless he can bring his fishing pole. But I don't feel qualified to supervise fishing.)
I tried to remind him about the revolving door into the hospital, how that is no life for a boy of 13.
It didn't work. He tried so hard not to cry but I suppose in the relative privacy of the porch of his house, with my familiar voice in his ear, he let himself go. It's what happens now.
I asked him to get the house mother on the phone. He said no at first, because he thought he would get in trouble for having a negative conversation. I promised him that would not happen.
"This was not negative," I told him. "You are feeling sad, and you shared your feelings. That is OK, and I will tell her so."
So he fetched the house mother and we talked about Ben. He is having trouble connecting with the other kids -- especially on weekends, because on weekends his house closes up and he goes to stay in another house, where the kids are less familiar and older.
This is one of the few things I don't like about the school. Most other kids in his house have been there long enough to have earned home privileges every other weekend. So with only one or two kids around, they close up Ben's house every weekend and consolidate with another. This would be hard for any kid, but for a kid with Aspergian social skills?
I can see I need to get to work on this. The next thing I do this morning will be to compose an email to Ben's therapist. Someone has to help him figure out this weekend stuff, fast. I don't know how many more sad phone calls I can take. And as I am trying to climb my way out of this well of pain and fatigue I now dwell in, I need to try to fix this fast. Because each time he asks me for help and I have to say no, I get a little sicker.
Today, at least, he's going to the beach. Sea-gods (or lake-gods, more likely), be kind to my boy! Let him have some joy and some fun. And maybe, if he does not find a friend today, he'll find some cool fish or crabs to observe. Ben has always loved poking around for those little constituents of the shallow waters.