I painted this stencil over the top of Tim’s closet when he was eleven years old. That was the year everything changed. Tim was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia. He attempted suicide. He had two inpatient hospitalizations. Tim has always loved Superman, and Tom has always loved REM, so this stencil was the perfect expression of what Tim loved, sung by a band his dad loved, and the sentiment I hoped he would remember.
Today, Tim and I are painting it over.
Tim is 21 now and we agreed, at this age, he deserved a bedroom fit for a young man, instead of a boy. I’m a little melancholy about painting over the stencil. Tim is too. He asked if there might be a way to keep it, in his new, “man of steel” themed room. But, standing on a ladder, paint brush in hand, I reminded him that even though he won’t be able to see it, it will still be there.
As I looked around the room, I saw the hundreds of patches Tom had done to fix the holes and dents Tim had made over the years.
Every hole and dent is like a scar, covering over the pain and damage of the worst times in our lives; Tim’s most unstable, his most psychotic, his most dangerous, to himself and to us.
As Tim and I paint over the patchwork, I know that, like the mural, those scars will still be there, even if we can no longer see them.
By painting them over, we are removing the worst of them. The pain that resulted from that horrible time has faded. We’ve moved on to a new phase of Tim’s life where he is (mostly) stable, and hasn’t been hospitalized in over a year. But I will always be on alert, because I remember what is possible, underneath it all. I’m optimistic, but always at the ready.
For today, we just celebrate moving on.