Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hello, Goodbye

It is such an odd thing. He comes and goes like a dream.

Hello, goodbye.

This is not the way of most thirteen-year-old boys. The healthy and the happy ones stay, mostly. Sure, they go for short periods of time. Sleep-away camp. Sleep overs with friends. School trips. Visits to Grandmas and Grandpas and aunts and uncles and cousins.

But their home is with their parents, their siblings, their dogs or their cats. Their neighborhood is theirs to roam. They feel comfortable in it. Their community -- the one in which their house sits and their parents pay taxes -- opens its arms to them.

Not my boy. He had to go a hundred miles from here to find a community that would open its arms to him. To find a home that was not bounded by four walls, and companionship that was not always and only his mother.

If the cost was seeing Lars and Saskia and the Hellacious Hound and me only twice a month, it was worth it to all of us. I know he misses us. He misses this little house and the butterscotch couch and the trampoline out back. He misses sleeping in his own bed.

But what I have not quite figured out is, which home is his REAL home? Ours? The one he flits in and out of like a dream? Or the one that lies a hundred miles from here, where his friends also live, as does the large staff that helps him navigate life and learning? The one that comes with the three people who love him more than the world, or the one where he can access just about everything he wants to do, and feel successful?

Readers, it is not just that this school has a working farm on it, and lap-bunnies in the classrooms. This is a place that can offer Benjy things like golf (yes, he goes every week to a golf course. He is learning and loving the game). And on-site batting cages. Tennis and swimming right outside his door. Access to a gym where he can lift weights. A ropes course. 3-D printers that will let him create all kinds of cool stuff. A fly-fishing pond a short drive from his current house, and just behind the house he would like to move into (and is self-advocating a strong case for said move).

I could go on and on. But it will just confuse me more. I don't know for sure which home is Ben's real home now, but I am so glad he has them both.

He's coming here tomorrow for his first two-night stay since he left us in early July. To say I'm excited would be an understatement. I'm a little scared, too. But Lars and I have a plan. We're going to keep him active the whole time. After school he plays football and Frisbee and tennis, or goes to the gym or the golf course. Here, he will get to go kayaking, play tennis, do some archery, maybe teach his younger cousins how to throw a football with just the right spin. We're going to have him plan some meals and help cook them. He is going to eat good food.

Most of all, we are going to love him and keep him as close as we should, but no closer. If I had my way I'd just hold him the entire 48 hours, but that is not, apparently, what you do with a happy and healthy 13 year old.

He's not cured. He will live with what he's got his whole life -- just like I do. And so many others, too. But he is learning to manage his Homeric catalogue of Hard Things. What a gift that is, to all of us.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Something We Can All Do

Readers, next week is Mental Illness Awareness Week.

Were you aware of that?

Would you do something for me? In Benjy's honor? Would you take a few minutes next week to learn something new about psychiatric disorders and the many and diverse people who struggle with them?

Understanding is as important as funding. The brain is elegant and powerful and nebulous. There are still uncharted regions in its hemispheres. We all know less than we think we do about our control centers, I am quite sure of that. Even practitioners with many years of education and clinical experience in the field of mental health are still learning.

And that is such a good thing!

Why some minds are restless or disrupted or unquiet and some aren't is a puzzle doctors and scientists are trying to solve. It's one I ponder all the time, when I look at the face of my dear, darling boy and see pain and dysregulation, then gaze at my beloved girl and see calm and quietude.

I simply don't know. So next week I am going to do some more reading and research. I am going to connect with others who are parenting children like Ben, or who have lived with siblings or parents with mental health disorders. I am going to lend an ear and my thoughts to anyone who needs them.

In case you are interested, this might be a good place to start:

The National Alliance on Mental Illness

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I Know You're Wondering...

Is she dead? Destroyed by that fluffy monster who eats the brains of those who look him in the eye? Comatose from indulging in too many almond flour muffins?


No, not really. Writing has been hard for me lately. I don't quite know why. Because Benjy is doing things we never, ever imagined he would. He has grown tall and rangy and toned and as handsome as he ever was. He is learning how to live in this world and not want to die in it. He is just plain LEARNING. Yep, you heard it here first.

I get weepy with gratitude and joy when it strikes me that I now have hope.

A treasured clinician said to me once, when I told her I had no hope left, "But I have hope. And I will hold it here for you (pressing hand to heart) until you are ready to receive it."

Readers, that was one of the most beautiful gestures anyone has ever made to me. (Mindy, if you are out there: <3)

So, my silence is not conceived of my own child's struggle. It might be the fibromyalgic fog that envelops me these days -- a brain not quite so sharp as it used to be.

But there is something else: I am tired.

It's really that simple. I need rest.

Recently, I have had to go back into Mombot mode, rally all my depleted resources, tune up my adrenal glands and rush to the aid of a very deeply loved and very deeply suffering relative.  A beautiful and smart and unbearably sad young woman. I had to do it but I was glad to. For her, anything.

I wish I had been more attuned to her suffering when she was just a bitty little girl. (Although, it can be so hard to know, even when you share a house with someone. I suffered as a girl, and I think, for those who loved me, it was hard to tell just how deep my pain was.) And when she was growing up not so nearby, and then when she went to college practically down the road from where I live. And all those times things went awry but I was focused on my own child -- and later, finally, on myself.

But I had this moment of gorgeous clarity the other day, when I was planning with doctors and talking to family and making arrangements for her, the best I could.

This is what I thought: Let's move forward. Let's look to the future and not the past. No one can erase all those years of suffering. But we can help now. It's never too late, you know? Like when you adopt a dog or a cat -- or a child!!! -- who was neglected or abused by the people previously responsible for her. (And no, I do not mean to suggest that this person was neglected or abused. Just struggling mightily.) The scars may remain and they may not, but you can offer respite and repair. You can make things better going forward.

I've missed you, my Bloggy friends. I've missed writing you these letters (they ARE letters of sorts, adapted to this post-digital universe we inhabit together). I miss my child, and exult in the presence of my other child, who is an unbelievable joy. I miss my old energy and drive.

But I must say, things are not so bad. Today I gave myself permission to buy pizza for dinner, even though there will be others at our table tonight. And I think I can see my way to finish an essay I started a while back.
The essay is about the paradox of a daughter and granddaughter of Holocaust victims falling in love with her Worst Nightmare: a German, a child of Nazis. And let's not forget the sartorial nightmares, of which I have written right here at The Striped Nickel, and which may even be worse than the concentration camp nightmares.

(Lars, you are the WORST DRESSER I have ever met -- except on the rare occasions you heed my advice and TAKE YOUR SOCKS OFF BEFORE DONNING THE BIRKENSTOCKS. Oh, and Lars? I love you.)

I guess this is where I end the letter. And what is it I'm supposed to say?

Sincerely Yours?


S.W.A.K.? (Remember that, fellow children of the 60s-70s?)

All my best?

Kuss und Gruess? (Only if I am writing in German. And I only talk in German, so this one is out.)

OK, I'll go with this:

C Ya L8tr, Dawgs.

p.s. it has been so long since I've blogged, and since my brain has worked to full capacity, that I cannot for the life of me remember how to spell-check on Blogger. Apologies for any typos. :)