On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Without Sissy

The last time we went fishing as a family, it ended poorly. That is to say, it nearly required a 911 call for Sissy. This Saturday we were on the fishing dock (see photo below) and The Dad asked me, "Why don't we do this more often?" We were having such a good time it was a fair question to ask.

I already knew the answer, I just hadn't felt like bringing it up. I remembered the minute the van pulled into the parking lot that led to the fishing dock. Right. Last time fishing ended badly. A flood of emotions overwhelmed me and despite the medication, my heart raced and my ears rang. I was able to breathe through it, bolstered by the beautiful day and the serene lake so when The Dad asked his question, I was ready to answer but with a hint of sadness. "We haven't done this in a year because last time we ended the day on the dam side of the lake and Sissy was violent with two little boys on the playground. When we sent her to the van for a timeout, she threw a fit that nearly required a 911 call because she was pounding on the glass and you could hear her screaming through the closed van doors."

"Ah yes. I remember."

We didn't say much else after that. For me the day had a yin-yang feel. I would be overwhelmed by the remembrances of Sissy's incessant grumbling, complaining and yen to make everyone else miserable and then I'd be overwhelmed by the beautiful day, the serenity of the lake and the lightness I felt because Sissy wasn't there. See, I told myself, You ARE a good mom. Your family can have a nice time at the lake. It IS possible. It's even fun.

Even AB had a good time for a little while, although he was immediately displeased with the fact that he couldn't catch a fish and more importantly, catch a fish worthy of mounting on his bedroom wall. Unfortunately, AB's opinion of fishing is to be Captain Ahab.

The fishing dock in the distance

Here is AB mid-swing. When I snapped the photo he was busy stimming, doing his arm swing/clap thing. Sometimes,I find myself doing it too. Really, some days I wonder if autism is catching.

Here's my pole and my bobbin in the water. The shellcrackers (scroll down on the link to see photo) were swimming in the shallows and were snacking on the hybrid pink worms so they were an easy catch. Between The Dad and I, we caught 11 total but none worth keeping. Of course, our luck only exasperated AB. It's hard for AB to have patience with anything that requires time, stillness and silence to be successful.

On Sunday we headed back up to the lake to spend the afternoon at the kids' grandparent's lake house. We recalled the first Easter we spent with them, 14 years ago, long before we were bonded as family through adoption. I was 22 at the time, the same age Aunt A is now. We laughed about that Easter, Aunt A only 8 and mad as a hornet because she had to share the eggs she'd found with the younger cousins. We chuckled because WG has Aunt A's temper. Overall, it was good food, good times, lots of love and laughter and another beautiful day. At super, AB was a stubborn mule about the cake his Aunt A had made and WG made a big deal about sitting next to Aunt T whom we don't see often enough.

That afternoon we headed down to the cove and dock. (I left the camera in the van but here's a picture from December)

A recent storm had ruined the decking leading to the dock, twisting it, flipping it and nearly tearing the stairs from the foundation. Fortunately a tree fell on the cables that anchor the dock so it didn't float out into the middle of the cove.

The walk to the cove is rocky and hilly and usually everyone rides in the trekkers to get down there. The trekkers scare me. Well, not the trekkers themselves but the steepness of the hills that the trekkers climb and in particular, the speed with which Aunt A tears around the trail. I prefer to walk it anyway because it's pretty. Everyone at the house was lolly-gagging so I took off by myself, enjoying the peacefulness, hoping to make it to the dock before the roar of the trekker engine echoed off the trees. Halfway there I was kicking myself for leaving the camera in the van. Such a pretty day.

It was a trick getting to the beached dock, taking off our shoes to jump into the shallow water, climbing over dislodged floats and ducking under Spanish moss covered low hanging tree limbs. But once on the dock, Papa took the kids out in the Jon boat with the troller motor. WG was curious about how it came to be named after Jon and there was mention of renaming it a Papa boat. They putted about the cove and found two dead Crappie (see link above for photo), likely bopped on the head by passing boats. AB of course asked if he could have them mounted.

I went to the top deck of the dock and breathed in the vista. It was a holiday after all and I was one child down. So strange to spend a holiday without your child. I wondered if the hospital was doing anything festive or if Sissy even cared. I marveled at how peaceful life is without her, bewildered that we could have lived for so long under such duress without noticing how bad things had gotten. I was saddened that in order to be a happy family it required that I be one child less and questioned whether or not that could actually be considered happiness after all. I shook my head at myself knowing that part of me wishes Sissy could just stay gone and the other part wishes she could come home. I pinched myself to force myself to remember that unless she chooses to change, we will always live in hell if she is with us.

On the drive home I told The Dad, "I'm glad we can be a happy family. But I will always hate that in order to be happy, it requires we be without Sissy. I'll accept it but I'll always hate it."

This past fall a family at our church lost a daughter, she was only six. And my IRL RAD mommy friend's RAD has cancer. I'm keenly aware that loss of a daughter would be unbearable and I pray for them often, probably more than the average person because although my daughter is physically still alive, for me, I've already lost her.

It's the same strangeness as in the beginning of adoption. When you are preparing to adopt, there's no round belly to tell people this woman is about to be a mother. Yet your whole being is screaming, "I'm about to be a mommy!" And even when you tell people you're adopting, it's not the same response as when a woman announces, "I'm expecting." There's a gap that's not bridgeable. It's not bad, it's just ... different.

So it goes with a child that can't or won't heal, a child that is gone. My whole being is screaming, "I'm losing my daughter!" and I tell them, "My daughter is in a hospital." But it's not the same as telling people that your child has cancer and could die. There's a gap that's not bridgeable. At church I knew I was celebrating Easter without my child. To the onlooker, we were a happy family of four.

And so it goes. I go about my daily life, feeling freer and happier by the day fully knowing that I can only be this free, that life is beautiful and bright again ... without Sissy.


GB's Mom said...


Ashley said...

I'm so sorry for your pain. But I'm so glad you had your day

Dana @ WhatWereWeThinking? said...

I can't begin to imagine how your emotions are torn with all of this. I'm so glad y'all had a good Easter overall, as a family. These memories are so precious.

Brandy-new rad mom said...

Wow. I am so glad you were able to have a good time and "breathe" through the emotions. It is going to be a long hard road but you are making it and everyday you can start to heal YOURSELF. Something you have not had time for. Keep it up, your smile will become intoxicating.

Bridging the gap will always be just that.

beemommy said...

Oh Jennie, I so know how you're feeling. I have to say that feeling you are losing your child to mental illness is so much more overwhelming than having a child with a chronic/terminal illness or disability. IV poles, wheelchairs, people can look at and see the disability/illness and thank God it isn't them while at the same time hopefully muttering a prayer for your child and smiling sympathetically at your family. I have been there with our oldest daughter and it was hard but so much easier. I knew what the doctors could and couldn't do for her. I knew what to expect and what the probable prognosis was. Why is it that because our children's "broken" body part is invisible, that somehow it's okay for the insurance companies and the public to limit resources and try to lay blame. Hang in there, if nothing else, you KNOW you are not alone. Love you, Jeri

Tara - SanitySrchr said...

Praying for peace, happiness, and healing.