Yesterday, a coworker caught me in the stairwell and asked me how things were going with Ty. My voice, usually on the deeper end of the scale, went up a couple of octaves (a sure sign that I’m not being particularly honest) as I said “Things are going very well!”. We chatted for a moment, my face ready to crack under the pressure of my false smile. We (she) joked about toddlers and their tendency to screech in public places, and she reminded me that “potty training is coming soon!” Luckily, before my jaws disintegrated and my face melted away, showing the grimace underneath, we were interrupted by another coworker. I said my goodbyes and made a quick exit.
I usually enjoy talking to this woman but yesterday, I could barely stand to have human interaction. All day long, I struggled to keep my composure – to not break out in huge, heaving sobs.
Monday night at dinner, usually our time to catch each other up on the day’s events, Juan told me that he received an email from Ty’s caseworker. Cryptic, unsolicited and lacking context, the email said simply -the weekly visits with Ty’s parents are going well and Ty is bonding with his parents and siblings. She supplied no further information or explanation, nothing that could have help us process the email or what the email might mean for us in the next few days, weeks and months. Nada.
I’m certain I broke the world record for the fastest descent into an emotional tailspin. And only now can I say that jokingly. I could barely talk for the rest of the evening. An entire herd of emotions stampeded through both head and heart. I was pissed at the caseworker for being so utterly cavalier with our feelings. I couldn’t help but think that she is either amazingly incompetent or fantastically cruel. I asked myself why she would send an email like that to us. She has seen us with Ty and knows how much we love him. How about some f’ing consideration at least!
Anger, my initial defense mechanism, didn’t stave off what came next – an incredible sense of sadness and despair. That two-sentence email sucked out whatever remaining bit of hope I had. It confirmed my worst fears, the rational and the irrational.
Ty is going back.
No one gives a shit about us.
Later that evening, as I moved somewhat aimlessly and silently through the house, I passed Juan and Ty on the 2nd floor landing.. Ty did something “Ty-like”, but now I can’t remember what it was. I’m sure it was something simple – grinned his usual big grin or smacked Juan on the nose or maybe he screeched his now trademarked “daddy!” (which comes out something like “DA-deeeeeee!”). What I do remember is this sudden and intense feeling of panic. I thought,
I’ll never get to see that again.
I made my way quickly down the stairs, trying to get away from that feeling and maybe also away from Juan and Ty. Juan didn’t know my plan of escape and he and Ty followed right behnd me. By the time I made it to the kitchen, I was choking back an onslaught of tears. Juan realized what was going on and, in his usual wonderful way, gave me a shoulder to cry on. Ty, who was in Juan’s arms at the time, was completely oblivious, laughing and chattering the whole time…which takes me (finally) to the point of this post.
As I’m standing there crying like a baby in front of Ty, I suddenly felt very self-conscious. In a few short seconds, my brain fired off a bunch of questions. I wondered what he saw. What should he see? When is it ok for him to see and know that I’m sad or worried? Is there an age when it becomes appropriate for your children to know that life isn’t always full of bliss?
I was struck by both the power of my emotions and my desire to make sure Ty didn’t sense that I had lost hope, if even for a few moments. I cracked a smile for him, maybe to assure him that I was fine.
Or maybe it was to mask my fear of losing him - this beautiful, funny, pushy, determined kid who has absolutely changed me – and that I was absolutely scared of what sort of emotions I’d experience if my fears come true. I didn’t want him to see any of that. So I cracked a smile.
And I continued to do so at work yesterday. Smiling when appropriate, but all the while thinking ”I can’t talk to you. Please go away.”
I’m better today. Juan’s post on our personal blog also helped put some things in perspective for me. I can smile today without feeling like I must look a little zany. Or fake. I can face Ty and not feel what I now realize was some level of shame. I gave up on hope, and I gave up on him during a time when he needs all the hope and support he can get.