“I hate this place. It’s stupid.”
Those words, painting the colorless walls of what was essentially our holding tank at the local hospital, still ring in my ears as the events of the past days make fierce attempts to take hold. As with many things that are difficult, I prefer to push what I am facing away for a time, to soften it with a rush of tears, tears that have been waiting for the chance to fall.
The school called. It had been a challenging morning. The previous day, too, had been intense, with several interventions and the manifestation of behaviors that a parent can hope only to read of but never have to witness or, unthinkably, endure.
“You stupid vulture. I hate you, and I am NOT going to school.”
The other kids had the day off, which made Ethan’s combat especially fierce, and the morning’s battle left me breathless. By the time the bus door closed, I was more than ready for the rest of my lukewarm coffee.
“Mom? Can we make cupcakes?” The little voice from the couch piped two times before I asked what kind.
Braids needed to be undone.
Hair needed to be shampooed.
As long as we took down the braids and shampooed the hair, it seemed a fine day for a hot oil treatment. And a tight covering of Saran wrap for safe keeping. And then a hot oil treatment for the little brother, complete with Saran wrap, just because he thought it looked really cool.
It’s finally time for the cupcakes.
Then the phone rings. It’s this day that the inevitable is going to happen. I guess we are going to have to wait to make the cupcakes.
The room was cold, and the atmosphere buzzed with anxiety, perhaps even pity. It would take an especially long time, most likely, because the situation is complicated. A torturous blood draw, three times; multiple orders from “room service”; the kind offering of a cell phone charger by our nurse; intermittent pleas to go home; trying to breathe in all that was my seven-year-old with his Thomas the Tank Engine blanket, this boy that had come to us as a two-day-old infant born to another woman; and, finally, the social worker bearing the news which was, however anticipated, life-altering: inpatient.
Mental illness is so scary.
As I fought to block the images that crept into my head, a photo came through on my phone. I saw wire baking racks with vanilla cupcakes, frosted and beautiful. While I was quietly falling apart, my husband had been working to make sure that Aaron did, indeed, have his vanilla cupcakes.
And when Ethan makes it home, there will be one waiting for him.