June 26, 2008

New Chapter

In our family lore, there are a number of historical tales about "before you came to us." The boys like these stories: they know the characters and the settings; me, their dad, our pet cat, this house, Chicago. There is just enough novelty to keep them interested. "You only remember the kitty when she was old and sick, but she was a frisky kitten once, before you came to us." "That's a picture of the Coliseum in Rome. Daddy and I were there together, before you came to us." Whenever we are in Wrigleyville, I point out our apartment. "That's where Daddy and I lived when we were first married, before you came to us."

Further back in the mists of time are another set of tales, those about "when I was a kid." These are much like scary stories told around a campfire, outrageous enough to be scintillating and just barely believable. These stories take place in the exotic setting of Ohio, not in Chicago. The first time I ever used that phrase was after a particularly difficult family event at our synagogue. Perhaps it was too noisy or chaotic for Hart and Jeff, but I had to remove them and they did not want to leave. All three of us finally were panting and crying on the sidewalk when I said, "Sometimes it is just too hard to stay and have fun even when you want to. I was a third grader once and I can remember what that feels like." There wasn't even a sniffle, just a sharp intake of air, as Hart shrieked, "You were not! Who were your mom and dad?!" Reminding him that he knows my mom, a.k.a. Granny, was fruitless. I had to present photographic evidence. I suppose it does stretch the bounds of credulity to explain that I have two younger brothers, they know these two people as grown men with receding hairlines, not as the little boys I describe.

It appears we have completed another chapter of our family history. The working title is either "when we all lived together" or "when Hart lived with us." Over the past three years I have been slowly coming to terms with the bleak reality that Hart will not ever be able to live independently. However, I was determined to make the best of his time at home despite the challenges. About two years ago, I started ambivalently doing research, filling out forms, contacting people and agencies to see what services and resources exist. As recently as this year, when I finished assembling all the forms, documents, medical history, evaluations for Department of Human Services funding, I still believed that there was no rush and if I had made it this far . . .

It must have been a combination of factors, the frequent police visits, the school incidents, the compelling reports of hospital staff, social workers and doctors that made me finally realize that keeping Hart at home was no favor, and in fact a question of safety and security for all three of us.

This week I drove Hart, two suitcases of clothes, all the bags and bundles of his toys that could fit into my Mini Cooper, and drove Hart to his new residential home and school in Wisconsin. He and Jeff had started the farewell party at 5am and were so worked up and out of control by 8am that I had no second thoughts about heading north fast.

In the month preceding the move, Hart had been alternately tearful and anxious, then eager and enthusiastic. Jeff did his part too, assuring Hart that he would sleep in Hart's bed and play with his stuff while he was gone.

Now I feel great. Fewer decisions about the boys have felt so right and appropriate. I have made many agonizing choices, often trying to select the "lesser of two evils." Not this time. As I waved to goodbye to Hart , I felt a weight lifted that I did not know I was carrying.

It is my hope that at some time in the future, I can say, "Remember when we all lived together? There was always fighting and mischief. It was loud, chaotic and unhappy." I want to look back and remember that the process was so difficult, but the outcome, an appropriate educational and living setting, was worthwhile.


Roberta said...

I am really happy that, well, that you feel a weight lifting and not a weight settling on you. I think this means you have made the right decision (having felt much the same thing, in very different circumstances).

Darren said...

Oh, Lydia... What a beautiful, emotional sweet and clear-eyed post. I'm so happy that you were able to find peace in this difficult decision.