I understand why they gave me one of those spoon/fork combos, but it was nearly impossible to cut the “grilled chicken” that occupied the styrofoam plate alongside an extraordinary pile of bright green broccoli. They cannot offer knives to mental health patients. It was a parent tray, though. I wouldn’t have used a knife to cut anything but the chicken, but still I was denied. Sometimes big things happen that make the little things hard, like the simple act of eating my dinner.
This is the third day. My mind swirled with thoughts, as something had to occupy the space. There was still much garden work to be done. I am missing my annual “day off” with my longtime friend, and my son is missing his childhood.
Dan and I switched places for a few hours. I hadn’t seen my seven-year-old in nearly twenty-four hours. He opened the door to the van and slipped into my arms, exclaiming, “Mama! I missed you!”. I missed him, too, and I miss everything.
We have been in this very room before, but never for this long. Hours pass, and the door to Room 6 has not been opened. The rhythm varies with the shift change; an occasional nurse takes more interest to see if there is anything that we need. My little son requests a box of Kleenex, but really we are desperate for so much more…so much more than anyone can provide.
Maybe there is a mental health crisis of some sort; clearly, funds for appropriate care must be lacking. But it is hard to find sense in this great pause: Day Three, still “no bed available”.
Again, he is awake. I have been reading a book about spiritual healing that was shared by a good friend. I am hoping that might be the ticket, as this clearly is not. We’re stuck. We can’t get out. We are bound, because there is nowhere to go.
I see him, playing games on a phone to pass one little mark of time in this massive abyss. He adjusts his position in the easy-clean recliner and sometimes laughs audibly. His wide grin makes me smile, too, for this moment. And then I remember.
“I hate being stuck in this little tiny room.”
I can hear his breathing. It sounds thick and a bit labored, as if he may have caught some sort of germ from this extended stay at the ER. He goes back to playing his game. He needs to be out in the fresh air, throwing his football to the high heavens.
He has been mostly quiet here since he arrived by ambulance from school, where the inner turbulence had spilled out to the point that he was a risk to others, except for the times when his blood was drawn and when he was told that he would have another hospital stay.
My head hurts.
It’s so hard to put the pieces together. If we leave him alone within our company, asking nothing of him while nobody sets him off, he is happy. When the teacher accidentally mixes up his name with that of another student, when he has trouble pulling up his socks, or when he is blamed for throwing the football onto the school’s roof (which he did), his mind and body rebel to the point that nothing in his path is sacred. There is screaming, fear, destruction, suffering, and, like this time, there are sirens.
I think they are still going off in my head.
He is calm now, as the need for intense care is reassessed. We know though, that the trials will begin again at the first perceived conflict. Again, we wait.
This time, the spoon/fork is for vegetable soup.
The prospect of staying a third or fourth night here seemed less appealing than the inevitable stampede of verbal and physical angst. I think we would be okay to take him home. We have lived this way for so long.
The time was still as the stale air that surrounded us. The door opened abruptly, and the caseworker sent forth the news in the tidy proclamation that I had been dreading, that I had been waiting to hear.
He was calm and cooperative. His eyes took him elsewhere, almost to another realm, a safe distance from the reality in front of him, as he climbed onto the gurney. It was time to go, and he knew it.
It was hard to see through the fog as I drove home, alone. I thought of him, also alone, on his way to another attempt at calming the forces so far beyond his control.
I am home, where I will be able to use a regular knife to cut my food. I am home, where holes have been kicked in the drywall in moments of frustration and where his absence gapes through the halls.
The voice deep inside tells me that we are close, that things will get better, and that we will soon find what has been elusive. On this day, though, we are held tightly within the cruel grasp of what is beyond our control. We cry, we pray, and we wait, all the while standing, bound to this earth, hoping to see what’s next.
The sun peeked from the clouds for a moment in time on this Sunday, well after the church bells had stopped ringing. I had a little chance in the garden after all, before the end of a weekend which had offered the unexpected in so many ways. There may have been just enough time to rake away the remains of the garden before night fell.
I pulled out a few spent corn stalks and some overzealous creeping charlie. As I was raking up the last fallen green tomatoes, I noticed the top of an onion that somehow escaped the season’s harvest. As I freed this prize-of-the-patch from its place in the soil, I could feel the roots release their hold, a hold that had nearly kept this onion from the dinner table. It was robust and beautiful, all the more so for having had a bit more time to grow.
There’s still hope; there’s still something. When the skies open up and the day comes, I know he is going to be free. And I can’t wait to tell him about that one last onion.