When Rain Hurts by Mary Evelyn Greene

April 8, 2010

September 29, 2007 Journal Entry and Chapter 20


Gill's Farm Stand (Hurley, NY, September 2007)September 29, 2007.  Sophie, Pat and I are at the pumpkin patch, tripping over pumpkins littered across a wide field and chasing each other through the deep orange obstacle course.  Sophie picks little pumpkins for Grandma, Lindy, and herself and one big one to carve a few days before Halloween.  Pat and I choose a large, skinny one for Peter, who is home in his room, with Lindy keeping watch.  We made an emergency call an hour earlier and luckily she was able to come over and bring relief.  I had to leave, get away from Peter for a while, but I had no desire to leave Pat and Sophie behind.  In a sickening moment of deja vu, I discovered Peter threw away my new eyeglasses, my engagement ring, my favorite watch, an engraved bracelet Pat gave me as an anniversary present, and a bracelet given to me by my sister.  Like Sophie’s birthday presents, we had come to the conclusion there was no other conclusion that didn’t involve Peter, but we searched and searched for the missing jewelry nonetheless.  Peter participated in the hunt.  An opportunity arose to question him about it and he finally confessed.  He admitted taking my jewelry, which was on top of the vanity, and placing it at the bottom of the wicker trashcan in our bedroom.  My most cherished possessions went out with Monday’s garbage.  The day until then had been going so well.  The kids had a soccer game in the morning, we went by the new house to check on progress, had leftover Chinese for lunch, made silly, homemade Halloween decorations, and were planning an outing to the pumpkin patch later in the afternoon.  One of the happiest days I thought we’d had in a while.  But now I’m numb and dazed, doing my best to feign fun for Sophie’s sake.  She’s nervous but thrilled to have us alone.  I stare at the endless vista of pumpkins and wonder whether Peter will be with us for this annual outing next year.   I should be crying, I feel like crying, but the tears don’t come.  Instead, I chase Sophie and let her chase me.  I take pictures of Pat and Sophie as they zig and zag through the corn maze and scramble into the hay tunnel.  Despite the sorrow burrowing inside, I’m having fun.  As a family of three we’re happy.  As a family of four we sometimes aren’t.  Surely that should be enough to make me cry.

Chapter 20:  Widening our Circle

One sunny morning in May, my sister walked in to find the kids and I playing on the floor.  All three of us looked up when the door opened but only my face registered shock and surprise.  As much as I love the idea of Patty being able to drop in whenever she liked, it’s an impossible wish because she lives in Atlanta.  But there she was, broadly smiling in her quiet way, bracing for the noise and ruckus that her arrival was about to cause.  Surprise!

She had come for my 40th birthday, which was only two days away.  Pat’s mother was turning 80 and with my encouragement, he and his brother had flown to West Palm Beach the night before to surprise her.  I knew I wouldn’t feel alone on my birthday because I had Sophie and Peter.  Despite growing concern for our son, I still reveled daily in the bounty of our good fortunes and felt content and fulfilled with our children by my side.  But it seems Pat and Patty had conspired to make sure the kids and I had company for the weekend.  I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

My sister Patty, a/k/a "Queenie" (Blowing Rock, July 2005)

“What should we do?” Patty asked, once the hoopla settled.  “I mean, after we go to Albany . . .”  So Pat had told her.  Thank goodness.  Within the hour I needed to be in the car, heading to Albany for our appointment with a pediatric infectious disease specialist named Dr. Martha Lepow.  Peter’s pediatrician had called three days ago to inform us that an x-ray taken of his chest showed a lesion on his lung, an indication of active tuberculosis that could not be ignored.  His preschool was not thrilled though the director took the news fairly well.  Although we agreed Peter should stay home, she would wait until she heard from us to inform the other parents.  We had called Dr. Aronson about the x-ray findings and she urged us to stay calm and wait for the specialist’s opinion.  “In all my years of practice,” she said, “I’ve never seen an active case of TB in any of my kids.”

When Dr. Lepow walked in the examining room, a short, commanding woman with a gray pixie and tortoise-rimmed glasses, she took one look at Peter and proclaimed that he didn’t have TB.  “So you’ve looked at the x-ray?” I asked.  “No, not yet,” she admitted.  “I can tell just by looking at him.  He’s got other problems – we’ll talk about those, but let’s get this TB thing over with.”

Sure enough, she examined the films and confirmed that Peter didn’t have active TB.  The “lesion” on the x-ray was his arm.  I was so relieved I couldn’t even get angry with the idiot radiologist who read the x-ray locally.  But even I could pick out the outline of the tiny elbow once Dr. Lepow showed my sister and me the film.  Clearly he had moved during the procedure.  I’m sure Peter wasn’t the first 3-year old to squirm during an x-ray either.  Still, he was okay, and that’s what mattered.  There would be no mass hysteria at the preschool and we wouldn’t have to embark on some awful, long ordeal that may or may not have restored his health.

It’s amazing how much a word like tuberculosis can hang over your head, clouding your thoughts and feeding your very worst fears.  Our perplexing son was physically healthy, at least relatively, and I felt free to enjoy Patty’s company and my impending 40th birthday with an unburdened mind.  Like other doctors who had met our son, Dr. Lepow was worried about what she saw, and perhaps more to the point, what she didn’t see, but I naively downplayed her observations.  After all, he didn’t have TB, and wasn’t that the take home message?

But she did point out a few things that I dutifully committed to memory.  His range of motion was abnormal, for instance, there were prominent and dark circles under his eyes, and despite his being much sturdier than Sophie, Dr. Lepow said he needed to gain weight.  She suggested we supplement his diet with Pediasure and keep a close eye on his growth.  If his height didn’t make the chart in three months, she suggested we take him to a pediatric endocrinologist.

“He’s not catching up like you’d expect,” she said.  “It doesn’t mean he won’t, he may just need a jumpstart.  His gait’s off too – this little fellow’s got low muscle tone.”

Peter (April 2005)

Patty and I discussed the doctor’s concerns on the way home and by the time we’d driven the 60 miles back to Marbletown we agreed that Peter’s odd behaviors were of greater concern than his unimpressive growth rate.  My sister hadn’t seen Peter since January and she felt his strange affect and behaviors were every bit as peculiar as they’d been last winter and maybe even more pronounced.  She also gently pointed out that Sophie, who was a year younger, was speaking much better than Peter.  I assured her that I’d speak with Pat when he returned from Florida about getting some assessments done.

Thanks to the eradication of the TB scare, the rest of the weekend was remarkable in that it was unremarkable.  That is, until Sunday rolled around, which was my birthday.  I don’t remember what we did that morning but when we came back home after lunch, Patty insisted we go shopping even though her plane was leaving later that afternoon.  She said she wanted to see the new outdoor adventure store at the mall, which I did think was an unusual request (my sister’s not really a mall person), but I was happy to oblige.  I was just glad she was there.  So we left again and walked around the big retail space, complete with camping equipment, kayaks, fishing poles and hunting gear.  Stuffed bear, deer and bobcat heads hung from the walls, and we quickly made for the exit sign once Peter noticed the taxidermy displays and began screaming inconsolably.   On the way home we stopped for milkshakes at Stewarts and laughed at the sight of Peter and Sophie trying in vain to suck the thick contents through their flimsy straws and into their mouths.

By the time we got home the kids’ clothes were covered in milkshake and the four of us were hot and sticky and smelled like melted ice cream.  When I walked in the door I was instantly bombarded with SURPRISE and the sight of Pat’s smiling face.  He and my sister had fooled me, and fooled me well.  Our living room was stuffed with family and friends, many of whom had driven from the city to celebrate.  I had no idea how Pat arranged to come back from Florida early or how he managed to throw the party together in the short time we’d been away from the house that day.  But somehow he managed it and so I kissed him, my face turning flush as the guests cheered.

It would have been a great party, too.  As it turned out though, I never even got the chance to say hello to anyone.  In fact, I was still standing in the doorway when Sophie came barreling around the kitchen island, tripped over a bar stool and suddenly became airborne.  I saw the coming catastrophe clearly in the split second it took before she landed face first onto the corner of the island and then bounced toward the floor where Scout, our child-loathing dog, stood waiting.  I lunged to catch her but it was too late.  Sophie landed on top of Scout and the only thing I remember after that was a horrible yelping, screaming noise.  I pulled Sophie one-armed from the snarling mayhem and held her to my chest as I quickly dashed around the corner into the mudroom, which was unoccupied.  I held her tightly for a moment and then gently lifted her quivering chin to assess the damage.  I could hear Pat gasp “Oh my God!” behind me.  Sophie’s face and my shirt were covered in blood.  “Get a towel,” I yelled.  My voice shook with fear and my body began trembling.  “I’ll be in the car.”

Pat drove like Robin Williams on speed to the hospital while I sat in the back seat and cradled Sophie, whose screams by then had dwindled to the occasional muffled sob.  By the time we got to the Emergency Room, she’d stopped crying altogether.  The gash responsible for the copious outpouring of blood was less than a half-inch long and ran perpendicular to the ride side of her upper lip.  We tried to keep her still in the waiting room but it was nearly impossible.  Holding the towel to her face, she played peek-a-boo with a young man who was also waiting to be seen.  “Koo-Koo,” she smiled, wincing in pain.

A Truce, Of Sorts (Poet's Walk, Red Hook, Spring 2006)

A Truce, Of Sorts (Poet's Walk, Red Hook, NY, Spring 2006)

The only blessing that came out of the whole ordeal was that the emergency room doctors adamantly confirmed that Sophie’s injury was not a result of a dog bite.  Scout caught her lip with her toenail, which is not good, but the news was a relief because it meant we didn’t have to consider finding another home for our beloved old dog.  If she didn’t bite Sophie in that kind of situation we felt confident she never would.  There was no plastic surgeon available but after waiting over two hours, an ENT finally showed up to stitch the wound.  The ER doctors felt an ENT was the next best thing to a plastic surgeon because they do so much facial work.  Because of Sophie’s age, they had to sedate her, which was no fun, but I was allowed to hold her the entire time, even while the surgeon sewed her bruised and broken lip.

As we were leaving the ER, a nurse approached us with a wonderful ink drawing the young man in the waiting room drew for Sophie.  He too was obviously struck by our daughter’s amazing resiliency and charisma.  By the time we got home the party was over.  Pat’s cousins, who stayed to watch Peter, were cleaning up.

Sophie's ER Souvenir (May 15, 2005)

My sister’s plane had left two hours earlier.  The cake was eaten, the food and drinks were decimated, and the couch was littered with unopened presents and cards.  Pat had periodically called home to check on Peter and our guests, so everyone knew that despite the horrific amount of blood, Sophie’s injuries were minor.  It seems our guests were so relieved that Sophie was not seriously hurt that they decided to celebrate in earnest.  We later heard that Pat threw the best party he never attended.

Because Sophie still clung to many of her orphanage ways, she insisted on wobbling up the stairs from the garage into the house on her own drunken volition.  Her lip was twice the size of Tammy Faye Baker’s and the right side of her face and eye, where she bounced off the corner of the kitchen island, was grotesquely swollen and purple.  “Where the peoples?” she asked, in the most pitifully small voice.  “I want cake.”

We quickly explained that cake would have to wait and shuffled her upstairs, where I took off her blood-soaked clothes and changed her into pajamas.  She was asleep midway through the process and I fought back tears as I tucked her in and lightly kissed what I prayed was only her temporarily misshapen face.  After changing my own clothes and throwing the entire bloody pile in the garbage, I sat on the floor next to Sophie’s bed and watched her sleep.  The rhythmic sound of her breathing beckoned me toward a calmer mindset and after a while, I too relaxed.

While Sophie healed over the course of the next week, I forgot all about the Big 4-Oh.  After all, any trauma I might have been willing to entertain regarding my 40th birthday had been snuffed out instantly in the wake of our daughter’s accident.  However, once it became clear that Sophie would not be permanently disfigured, and that we wouldn’t even need a plastic surgeon to improve the scar, our worries slowly migrated back to our son and his unshakeable troubling traits.

As we grew to understand Sophie’s moods, including some new twists because she was cranky and sore in a way we hadn’t yet experienced, the continuing sense of not knowing our son was horribly disturbing and more than just a little eerie.  Pat and I could ramble on about Sophie, her likes and dislikes, her funny and perplexing habits – as amiably and confidently as any other set of parents.  But Peter was an enigma, and as his behaviors began escalating, he seemed more like an explosive device waiting for the last tick-tock before detonation than a cuddly toddler.

Blowing Rock, NC (July 2005)

The floodgates opened just as we began taking some proactive steps, making appointments for various evaluations despite our pediatrician urging us to wait.  Peter began rubbing feces on himself and his belongs again, peeing everywhere and on everything, ripping wallpaper, raging, hurting Sophie, biting, spitting, refusing to eat, vomiting at the table, bolting from us in crowded places, and destroying his toys.  It was as though he had been in a trance and all of a sudden he went into some frenzied overdrive.  Looking back, it seems one minute we had an oddly robotic child who was nonetheless generally compliant and then we blinked and found ourselves staring at a feral child who could neither be consoled nor contained.

As we waited for the appointment dates to arrive, and the written reports of the evaluations that followed, Pat and I did our best to support each other.  Leaving the kids with a babysitter simply was not an option.  How do we explain to a teenage girl or grandmotherly woman about Peter’s behaviors?  That she needs to wrap duct tape snugly around our son’s diaper at bedtime so that he doesn’t pull it off and cover himself and his bedroom with unspeakable mess?  Or to not pay any attention if he vomits his meal at the dinner table – just clean it up and offer him another plate of food! I just could never play out these conversations in my mind.  So we stayed home, always.

But at least we had our evenings, thanks to our rigidly imposed 7:00 pm bedtime for all those under the age of 30, and on weekends we’d take the kids hiking, do our best to wear them out, and then take a long, leisurely drive afterward.  On the days when all went according to plan, the kids would nod off from exhaustion and boredom and Pat and I would escape into our own private revelry as we cruised the back roads in search of a yet-undiscovered treasure.  Every once in a while we’d come upon a fantastic barn or homemade road sign – even an interestingly posed cow, and I’d swat at Pat’s arm to pull over so I could take a picture.

Also, our virtually symbiotic ability to read each other’s signals, to jump to the rescue with a silly joke or a supportive squeeze or maybe even something as small as knowing smile, is what keeps us afloat, as parents, partners and individuals.  I suppose we’ve always had this kind of relationship, we certainly had our share of hardship as a couple before adopting the kids, but combating and coping with Peter’s problems made us consciously aware of it.  I’m not sure I possess the strength or resolve to parent our son without Pat by my side, I shudder to think what’d it be like, and so I pray each night that our health remains intact for at least a year or two beyond Peter’s undoubtedly prolonged adolescence.  We are one of the few couples I know where adversities, sometimes the size of land mines, have failed to corrode the seams of our marriage.  I truly look forward to that time when Pat and I can go out to dinner again, maybe even catch a late night movie, or take an exotic trip.  So what if he’s 81 and I’m 64?

Happily Abroad, Pre-Adoptions! (Avebury, England, Sept. 2001)

I was engaged in just this sort of day-dream, renting a house for a year in Ireland, to be exact, when Pat walked in with the mail, which turned out to contain the key to unlocking Peter’s access to special education and preschool intervention services.  Peter’s speech and language evaluation indicated significant delays in both receptive and expressive language skills, as well as profound difficulty processing auditory information.  In light of his normal hearing test, these results more than supported the need for preschool-based speech/language intervention.  The occupational therapy evaluation was no different.  Peter was significantly delayed in both gross and fine motor skills and demonstrated great difficulty with motor planning and oral manipulation.

Within a few weeks the county had arranged for therapists to work with Peter twice a week at home.  Having professionals in our living room, their bags of therapy toys in tow, felt wonderfully productive.  Peter’s new therapists were confident and knowledgeable about child development and their respective disciplines.  Within no time, they had him blowing bubbles, crawling through nylon tunnels, stringing beads, working on single step directions, pronouncing the letters of the alphabet and matching pictures to their corresponding words.  We were assigned a case manager who’s job was to oversee Peter’s therapies, assess his overall improvement, and make any changes or recommendations to services based upon observed progress or newly identified need.

Overall, we couldn’t have been more pleased.  After months of waiting and hoping for Peter to turn the corner, it felt good to be taking action.  In my heart I’d always known something was askew with Peter and the escalating turmoil our family endured over the last several weeks solidified my resolve to seek help.  When I confessed to our new case manager, a can-do woman with curly red hair who was also an adoptive mother, that I thought we were struggling with attachment issues, she immediately wrote down the name and number of Sue D’Aversa.  “Contact her,” she said.  “You won’t be disappointed.  People up there,” she laughed warmly, “they call her the Adoption Whisperer.”

“Up there” turned out to be Albany, which is the Capitol of New York and over 60 miles from our home, but I didn’t care.  After what seemed like months of Pat dragging his feet when it came to facing Peter’s problems, it was a relief to hear him agree so readily to yet another intervention.  Although I’ve since lost a good deal of my naivete, there was a time when I greeted each newly identified specialist, therapist or intervention with great anticipation, as if wellbeing and normalcy for our son was only a single appointment, drive, or office door away.

So on that cool, sunny morning in June when Pat and I discussed making the appointment as we pushed the kids on the swings of their newly installed jungle gym, I felt hopeful.  Sophie was thriving, growing stronger, wittier and sharper every day, Peter finally was getting help, and I was certain the social worker named Sue was about to throw Pat and me a priceless lifeline.

By the time our appointment rolled around, the children looked healthier than we ever imagined possible.  They no longer had translucent-colored complexions, their skin now radiated health thanks to nutritious food and plenty of warm sunshine.  Their hair had thickened up and grown shiny too, though Sophie still didn’t have enough for pigtails and had to settle instead for a Pebbles bow on the top of her head.  Although Peter’s growth would not skyrocket for a few more months, Sophie was growing by leaps and bounds.  By that summer she was still tiny for her age but had outgrown four sizes of clothes and just as many if not more shoe sizes.

We went together as a family the first time we drove to Albany to meet Sue, who apparently had a true gift for healing adopted children.  She shared office space with other counselors on the floor and there was a large cabinet in the waiting room that Sophie soon discovered was filled with books, toys and puzzles.  For whatever reason I felt the need to dress the children as though they were attending some sort of socialite tea party, and I felt a little self-conscious about this as they plunged into the heap of grubby toys in their brand new, overly dressy outfits.

Within a few minutes Sue opened her door and beckoned us inside.  She introduced herself and I liked her immediately.  It was clear she was a no-thrills, middle-aged woman with an open face and an interesting, hopefully insightful, perspective.  I would also soon learn that she possesses a great sense of humor and loves to laugh as much as I do.  Her office was arranged like a comfortable living room, with a sofa on one side and two chairs with a table on the other.  Multiple toy boxes were placed against the walls and Kleenex boxes were conveniently available on every table.  Either someone had bad allergies or there were a lot of tears shed in that room.  Still conflicted and confused about my feelings for Peter, I hoped and prayed she had an unusually allergic clientele.

As soon as we sat down and she spent a few minutes talking to the kids, she asked us the inevitable question.  “So, tell me why you’re here?”  Pat and I just stared at each other, dumbfounded.  We were at a loss when it came to discussing our feelings toward our son.  We could barely express our complicated feelings to one another much less to a stranger we’d met only five minutes earlier.  When it became clear we needed to be walked through this initial process, she instead suggested we tell her about our adoption story, how Sophie and Peter came into our lives, and what our initial impressions were of each.  That we could handle, barely.

We gulped, almost in unison, as we wordlessly determined who would speak first.  Our year of intensive attachment therapy had begun.

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook

Advertisements

7 Comments »

  1. Oh, this is getting good.

    Would love to know what was being understood by “intensive attachment therapy” in 2007-08.

    Suzie was probably a “no frills” woman.

    Comment by Adelaide Dupont — April 8, 2010 @ 10:27 pm | Reply

  2. Fascinating, heart-wrenching, courageous and too short! I got to the end and was like…”NO, there must be more…”
    Keeping you all in my thoughts and prayers.
    M

    Comment by Meg Coldwells — April 9, 2010 @ 3:29 am | Reply

  3. “Although I’ve since lost a good deal of my naivete, there was a time when I greeted each newly identified specialist, therapist or intervention with great anticipation, as if wellbeing and normalcy for our son was only a single appointment, drive, or office door away.”

    Oh yes, I so understand! I still have some of that niavete myself, which I desperately need to keep or I’ll give up altogether.

    I still can’t read you without crying, but that’s ok. Maybe you finding me was exactly what I needed to be able to start to grieve for my own son and learn how to move on so I can really be the mother he needs and deserves.

    Comment by Kristine — April 9, 2010 @ 11:28 am | Reply

  4. Bless you all….. Reading your story, brings me back to so much of our own story. Our children are older now. We did not have some of the issues that you have had, but it still brings me back in time. Thank you so very much for sharing your story of your precious family. You are truly a gift to your children and to us.
    Thank you.

    Comment by Candy Lynch — April 10, 2010 @ 7:32 pm | Reply

  5. Thank you again for your wonderful honest writing and sharing of your story.
    I’ve been reading about the recent ” scandal” about the 7yr old russian boy and thinking how little the general public knows about this. The whole “love conquers all” sentiment is prevalent in the coverage of this story. Pls keep writing!
    Xoxo tireegal 🙂

    Comment by Claire — April 11, 2010 @ 7:10 pm | Reply

  6. It is one thing to read about this and think you understand. Not until you have lived it do you truly understand. My heart goes out to you…I can feel your pain.

    Comment by Danette — May 13, 2010 @ 10:09 pm | Reply

  7. Hello! I just found your blog!

    Can you help us spread the word about Rett Syndrome and Girl Power 2 Cure? My daughter has Rett Syndrome and I am helping Girl Power 2 Cure raise awareness. GP2C is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness and funds for treatments and a cure for Rett Syndrome, a devastating neurological disorder that almost exclusively affects girls.

    They are born “normal” only to be robbed of the ability to speak, walk or even use their hands by the age of 2 or 3.

    I am committed to helping make Rett Syndrome the first reversible neurological disorder by harnessing the spirit of women and girls worldwide!

    I want to share their Public Service Announcement with you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJTtSBZjy9U Please take a moment to learn about Rett Syndrome, the “monster syndrome” that is robbing another little girl of her skills every 90 minutes across the world. There are close to half a million girls and women suffering.

    If you have questions or would like to learn more about Rett Syndrome or Girl Power 2 Cure please visit http://www.girlpower2cure.org

    Sincerely,

    Angie (Mom to Megan)

    Comment by Angie Staner — May 25, 2011 @ 9:53 pm | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: