Tim was home last weekend for a visit. Tom picked him up after work on Friday, and by the time they got home it was after eight, and Tim was tired. Hugs, meds, and a glass of water later, and he was in bed. We decided to have a low key Saturday and, since the weather is still very cold, stay in. Tim did go out to the grocery store with Tom Saturday morning, and while they were out, I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies. They stopped at Walmart as well because Tim had some money burning a hole in his pocket, and Tim bought a game, Apples to Apples, a great game for kids and adults both. If you’ve never played it, the basics are there are two decks of cards, one green, one red. The green cards have adjectives on them – friendly, scary, etc. The red cards have nouns of all types. Will Smith. A new car. Talk Radio. Everyone takes turns pulling a green card, and everyone else plunks down a red card they think describes the adjective. The person who pulled the green card decides which is closest, and the person who played the noun card that wins gets the green card. First person to seven green cards wins. Now, it’s not just a game about language, it’s also a game about reading people. For example, I pulled a green card that said “shiny.” Two of the noun cards played said Mardi Gras and Academy Award. I decided Mardi Gras was the best match – and Tom had played that card, knowing me and that I would judge all the wonderment of Mardi Gras floats and beads as “shinier” than a single Academy Award. We had lunch, ate cookies, and played Apples to Apples until it got dark.
Tim wanted tacos for dinner because they don’t have tacos at school, so Tom made amazing pork adobo tacos with homemade tortillas. Afterwards we watched a movie – RED, staring Bruce Willis, and if you haven’t seen it, we recommend it as funny and great action. Around nine-ish, Tim and Di went to bed.
Sunday Tim had a basketball tournament with his school team up in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, about a 2 hour drive from home. Tim and I left at ten-ish and made it there at noon, so he had time for a hot dog before his games started. Most of the boys on the team were in a great mood, all except P, who was sitting with his hood up, sour look on his face. P is a 16 year old young man that has been on Tim’s dorm floor as long as Tim’s been there. He and the coaches were not seeing eye to eye, and P was sitting on the bleachers, alone. Tim was in high spirits, warming up with the team, so I sat down next to P to see if he would feel better if he talked to me.
I managed to get out of him that the coaches wouldn’t let him play because he’d been pretty sick the past two weeks and needed a few more days to recuperate. He argued that he felt fine, and they were just being mean to him. I tried to give him another point of view, that the coaches had his health in mind and really wanted him to be at full strength for the next game. He begrudgingly thought that might be it, but was still disappointed that he couldn’t play right then. I sat next to P through the entire tournament (three games), and at each half time and between games, P jumped off the bleachers onto the court and practiced his free throws. Each time he returned to the bleachers beside me he got closer and closer until he was sitting leg to leg. I took this as a cry for affection and I reach over and put my arm around his shoulder. He sighed and leaned in, and, during game two, told me how his dad had left his mom when he was a baby, his mom had gotten sick and couldn’t take care of him and his brother, and, his words, “gave me away. She died,” he continued. “I have a picture of her. Her name was Linda.” He never said it, but I realized he was telling me that he’d never had parents, or a family to go home to.
He mentioned how lucky Tim was to have two parents to go home and visit, and I melted, choking back tears. I didn’t say anything, just listened, as he matter-of-factly explained that he’d never really lived with his mom and brother. I just sat there, my arm around him, listening. By the end of the second game he jumped off the bleachers for his free throw practice, turning to be sure I was watching, big grin on his face. When I left after the tournament, I said goodbye to all the boys, gave Tim a big hug and a kiss, and saw P out of the corner of my eye, head down, foot tracing circles on the ground. I walked over to him and said, “see you next time, ok?” And he grinned, and gave me a big bear hug. “Ok,” he replied, “please come see me next time you’re at the school.” And hugged me again. I got in my car for the long drive back home and realized just how lucky we are. And I’ll be sure to make a point of seeking out P for a hug and a chat next time we go to pick up Tim for a home visit.
Ow ow ow. I was just saying to two friends (both of whom have kids who have mental illness) how painful it is to be part of this community. Of course, the benefits of being around other families dealing with similar challenges far, far outweigh the risks. Still, we witness so much heartache. There is almost always someone in my circle who is in crisis and that just hurts. I'm so glad you were able to share those moments with P.
And glad, too, that you had a quiet weekend with Tim!
Thanks, Adrienne! It was a good weekend with Tim – a better home visit than we've had in some time. Some days my heart aches and I consider throwing all the corporate crap off and becoming a child advocate. Every child deserves a family.