Last summer, I spent at least ten hours in my garden every week. It was the first time in all my years of gardening that when the leaves began to fall, the air turned cooler, and the blooms were mostly spent, I was able to put away my rose gloves and best weeder knowing that I had tended every square inch of this sacred space, and confident that, at least for now, my work here was done. This summer, with the anticipated move to our farmhouse, the addition of a new foster baby to our family, and our struggles with the demons of mental illness, I have spent less than ten collective hours on my knees among the thorns, weeds, and unmatched solace of mother nature.
Sometimes, when I am thinking too hard, I wonder why I love the great game of baseball. I look forward to listening to the radio every day, and I am secretly thankful for a late night West Coast game or even a rain delay, for I know that this means more time to anticipate, more time for the chatter of broadcasters, and, perhaps, a little something to distract me, to soften my reality, hours into the night. At times I wonder, though, what it all means. What really is the point of following baseball, day after day, year after year? And then, I remember how much joy this pastime brings into my life, and I think that maybe it doesn’t really have to mean anything at all to be worth something.
After a quarter century of parenting, I have earned an unenviable badge of honor: I have had two children in psychiatric hospitals at the same time for ten long days this July.
“Maybe if you were kinder to her…”
“Maybe if you were more firm with her…”
“She’s so sweet, and so charming! I don’t see the issues.”
“Maybe if you just…”
Unless you have lived with a child with reactive attachment disorder, you really have no idea.
There are some thoughts that I won’t let myself entertain. What would it be like? What would be missing? What would be lost? I can’t think of what might be different or better, because there are no regrets.
“I’m never coming home. Don’t call me; I’ll call you. But I want my stuff.”
Armed with the watered down remains of yesterday’s latte and my Google map to Chicago Behavioral Hospital, I know I am not ready. This is hard, hard stuff. There is no book about it. The pit in my stomach is not just because I, among the most nervous of drivers, have to travel the highway to meet my daughter for visiting hours.
I don’t know what to expect from my little girl, my frightened child, who is now nearly an adult. What has she said? What has she yet to say? Will her words come from that hurt place in her heart, from the place that knows only how to say things to keep a safe distance from those who care for her? Will I once again feel the need to stand in my own defense as she casts, time and time again, the bitterest verbal stones? Can those first, early wounds ever really heal? Do these patterns, these ways of walling herself from those who love her best, come from multiple caregivers and the abrupt disruption of early relationships? Is this even worth wondering about?
There is no medication for reactive attachment disorder.
As she struggles to free herself from the pain inside, she knocks us down, time and again.
“She’s a teenager.”
Attempts at comfort by those who mean well. Yes, she is all of those. And that makes it even scarier, for her, and for us.
These ramps and arrows confuse me as I navigate into the city. So, too, do the messages that come from the lips of my child.
“Mom, I know I need to work on some things. I do miss you guys. I hope I can come home soon.”
The storm seemed to set in to the rhythm of my steps as I made my way to the car. I braced myself for the drive home, which somehow did not seem nearly as daunting now that my visit was behind me. The sky was certainly ominous; it seemed I would be driving right into it. There was a great, bold flash of lightning against the stone gray sky, and just then the road curved to point me to clear skies. The rain was light, and though I was too distracted to look for it, I knew there must be a rainbow somewhere.
I know, too, that whether or not I can find meaning on a given day, there will be a day, nonetheless, and I can listen to the game on the radio. On that day, during that drive home, I listened to the Cubs win a great game.
Dan had taken some of the little kids on a bike ride, and I was able to steal forty-five minutes in the garden while the baby slept in his stroller. My Bonica roses had always been glorious in their midsummer bloom, welcoming guests to our home with their fragrance and sweetness. This year, though, there was just one lonely bloom in a thicket of thorns and dead wood. I had already packed my rose gloves for the farm, so I braved pruning them to a just a few inches with some old work gloves. My hands are sore, but I am hopeful the flowers will come back as before with new found strength.
And I know we are going to be okay.