When Rain Hurts by Mary Evelyn Greene

September 6, 2010

September 6, 2010

Long Island Sound (Guilford, CT, Sept. 2, 2010)

September 6, 2010.  I haven’t been completely honest with myself, writing recently about all the beautiful moments with Peter.  The truth, the whole truth, is that there have been a number of alarming incidents sprinkled among our more encouraging moments, moments I cling to as evidence that there’s real hope for Peter’s future.  I suppose I’m both reluctant and afraid to consider how these disturbances lessen the benefit of the positive experiences to which I so greedily cling.  Peter is complicated, his moods and reactions sometimes vacillating on the turn of a dime.   On the way to the Jersey Shore, for instance, he lay down on the seat and began kicking the rear window with all his considerable, adrenalin-laced might.  The reason?  Sophie wouldn’t share one of her DS games.  I had to pull the car over on the middle of the interstate to wrestle him back to stability.  We all could have been killed.  With little room and a steep drop on the shoulder, even a slight sideswipe would have sent us tumbling down the ravine.  But I had no choice.  Peter had turned violent and could have punched out the window, opened the car door, or even worse, turned his temporary but psychotic attention to Sophie.  There have been at least three other incidents more or less like this in the last few weeks.  They are part and parcel of what living with and loving Peter entails on a daily basis.  There are times when our son is his own worst enemy and requires someone else, usually me, to pull him from his dangerously disorganized cogitations.  What this holds for his future, I don’t know.  His tendency to disassociate, to so easily break with reality and escape into what can only be described as psychotic thought, scares the hell out of me.  When these episodes are through, and thanks to lithium they’re much shorter in duration than they used to be, he’s always remorseful, sometimes even reflective.  But the remorse doesn’t translate, at least not yet, into ability to prevent or abort the next episode, and that’s the real tragedy.  Peter doesn’t, and possibly may never, learn from his mistakes, a crucial, fundamental ability the rest of us take for granted but one that is always, it seems, just beyond his reach.  Saturday we went to Mudge Pond, one of our favorite watering holes, to fish, picnic, swim and enjoy the day.  Autumn arrives early in this part of the country, often in spits and spurts, and so even though the temperature was in the 90s most of last week, yesterday the high struggled to reach 70.  Considerable wind and low clouds rolling across the horizon further conspired to strip us of one of our official last days of summer, but we didn’t mind.  With fresh prosciutto and rolls packed for picnicking, and the kids busy with catching minnows and frogs, we had the park mostly to ourselves, relishing the brief snatches of sunshine as they appeared.  Two parallel floating docks jut into the lake and form the sides of the designated swimming area.  For a while, I teetered on one of them, intent on catching a fish for the kids despite not knowing what I was doing and feeling like the wind was about to launch me into the choppy water.  At one point, a youngish man in khakis and a blue shirt walked out on the dock directly across from me and made a call from his cell phone.  I didn’t think much of it but as we packed up to leave, Pat’s mother pointed to a pile of clothes on a bench.  Earlier, she had watched the man in khakis strip to his bathing suit and dive into the lake.  Apparently, he hadn’t come back, and by then we were the only people foolhardy enough not to leave because of what had become questionable weather.  His clothes neatly draped across the bench, we puzzled over what to do, searching the expanse of empty lake for signs of human activity.  Pat tromped to the parking lot and reported that one other car besides ours was still there, with a rear-facing car seat in the back.  I checked the clothes at one point for a wallet, I’m not sure why, but there was nothing but a few dollars and his cellphone, which we dared not use.  Eventually another woman in Levi’s appeared next to me as I continued to scan the lake and companionably asked whether there were many swimmers today.  “Not many,” I replied.  “But there’s still one out there.”  After telling what we knew, she explained that she often swims across the lake and back, and that it can take half an hour in good weather and considerably longer under rough conditions.  “I wouldn’t chance it today, though,” she added, concern rising in her voice.  “I’m going to run home and get my kayak and look for him.  Give me 15 minutes.”  Her presence and knowledge both relieved and worried us.  It was possible our mystery man could still be exercising but here was an experienced lake swimmer telling us she wouldn’t risk it in that kind of weather.  Was he merely taking a foolish chance or had he drowned?  We didn’t know.  With Grandma wrapped in a few beach towels for warmth, we huddled near the picnic tables waiting for the woman with the kayak to return.  She was gone longer than 15 minutes, which turned out to be a blessing.  “I see him!” Pat shouted excitedly.  “He’s coming in.”  And sure enough, he was.  I could just make out his bobbing form a hundred yards or so from the shoreline.  I’m not sure why, but I met him on the dock with his towel like a scolding mother, and told him in a cheerful voice that he had given the LoBrutto family and another woman in Levi’s a real scare!  Luckily, he was a jovial guy and we all had a good laugh about the experience, though the woman with the kayak was not pleased when she eventually returned.  “I guess I shouldn’t have done that,” he said, an impish smile crossing his face as he toweled off in the quickly chilling air.  “Well, at least it’ll make a funny story to tell your wife,” I offered.  “I, uhm, think maybe I better keep this one to myself,” he replied.  “She might not think it’s so funny!”  We all said our goodbyes and he volunteered that he would never again take off, alone, across a lake in bad weather.  It was an afternoon destined to become part of our family’s lore, especially because there was such a benign resolution.  Driving home that evening, my thoughts, as usual, drifted back toward Peter.  Our mysteriously missing swimmer, a young father with a cell phone and a few dollars in his pockets, did something a little foolish and caused a few well-meaning strangers, us, a bit of anxiety in the process.  My bet is that he, whom Pat and I have dubbed “the almost dead guy”, won’t do it again.  He’s learned from the experience and will adjust his future decision-making accordingly.  What grips me with sudden, unyielding anxiety, whether in bed, driving the car, or working in the garden, is the realization that the wiring in our brains that allows us to make such adjustments, to learn from our mistakes, is either missing or irreparably damaged in Peter.  Our son’s brain lacks the protective checks and balances so necessary to survival.  He’s destined to live, thanks to his birth mother, in a permanent state of intoxication.  If compelled to do so, by desire, impulse or stubborn drive, he would swim across that lake and back, no matter what the danger, again and again, until one day he finally vanished, for good.



  1. It is a marvel to me that you are so profoundly adept at transporting us into your mind, seeing events with your eyes, thinking your thoughts–that think about your thoughts. 🙂 Thank you, Mary, for allowing us this intimacy with your experiences, both the dark and the light.

    Comment by Kathleen — September 6, 2010 @ 11:31 am | Reply

  2. Mary,
    I know how you feel about Peter’s seeming inability to learn from what you are calling psychotic experiences.

    We reached the point with Katie where Katie could tell you, or the therapist, what made sense to do in certain situations if they came up, and could tell you what would have been better to do in situations that happened where she just lost it and got in “dangerous waters.” However, she applied none of this in the “real world.” In short, she could not keep herself safe and would could not keep herself safe, either. She has been at her residential-therapeutic school for over a year and I would expect will be there for at least three and perhaps five years longer. Maybe through this experience she will be able to keep herself safe and be a productive citizen living independently.
    Time, Katie, and the staff at the school, will tell.


    Comment by Christopher Duncan — September 6, 2010 @ 11:40 am | Reply

  3. when you used the word “elfin” for the swimmer i thought hmmmmm, maybe his judgement was impaired by his mom’s drinking too. elfin facial features are a classic descriptor of the “face” of fasd. medical folk used to use FLK as actual nomenclature for “funny looking kid” as in ‘don’t know what is different abt that kid but he is sure diff and one FLK’.

    as for Peter, i do not call it living intoxicated because i do not want people who have relatives, neighbors, friends, students with fasds to seemingly “sensationalize” alcohol exposure more than they do since so many in childbearing years do not even know what fasd is. just my take on it.

    when or if you have to pull over PLEASE USE YOUR FLASHERS, EVEN A CONE IF FEASIBLE AND PULL FAR OFF THE SHOULDER AS POSSIBLE. put up hood etc. that way police can provide better warning for fast travelers U R there. may quell peter too.

    as well – there are in-door child locks for cars now and that way children cannot exit cars until they are allowed out. i know there were window questions but there are safety mechanisms i am sure even i have never heard of. others will know. OR AT CERTAIN STAGES – THESE TRIPS CANNOT BE TAKEN. the risk is not worth the fun. its a low key example but my kids did not see or go inside stores much between 2-4yo. also in traveling ti Il for xmas etc for years jess and i had to go down by flight and back on train or up by car ride with family member after greyhound down from MN to IL. jesse could not tolerate the 2nd time of travel in the same modality. it was like his nerves were shot and he went to point of intolerance at start of return trip that he had reached at end of trip TO our destination. if their nerves cannot handle it – it may not be wise to choose those outings at that stretch in time. just thinkin’ outloud. lindalee

    Comment by lindalee soderstrom — September 6, 2010 @ 1:13 pm | Reply

  4. This reminds me so much of last year with my son. All the very best to you and your family.

    Comment by Christine — September 6, 2010 @ 1:57 pm | Reply

  5. This reminds me so much of last year with my son. Previous years as well, but last year was just so chock-full of these types of incidents. All the very best to you and your family as you journey through together.


    Comment by Christine — September 6, 2010 @ 2:00 pm | Reply

  6. (I’ve tried posting this twice before and nothing’s shown, so I’m hoping there won’t suddenly be three posts from me!)

    This entry reminds me so much of last year with my son. All the very best to you and your family as you journey together.


    Comment by Christine — September 6, 2010 @ 3:38 pm | Reply

  7. I am not sure if it is something that you have considered, but there are special harnesses that zip up the back made to restrain children in cars to keep them and other passengers safe. I know it sounds horrible, but when your concern for your daughters safety made you have to pull over and put all of you in danger it made me think that maybe it would be something that you could try.

    Please forgive me if I offend anyone with this suggestion. I have had to use this on several occasions with special needs children in vehicles. I have been trained in child passenger safety and sometimes there are no other options to keep everyone safe.


    Comment by Karen Green — September 7, 2010 @ 8:06 am | Reply

    • I am sorry I forgot to mention that I do not intedn this to replace the need for you to pull over and help him calm down, but it would buy you time to get to a safe location.


      Comment by Karen Green — September 7, 2010 @ 8:07 am | Reply

  8. Mary,

    This is serious stuff. Glad I checked Facebook today. There is a doctor here in Dallas. Her name is Dr. Barbara Rila. I was first referred to her by our agency director out of Chicago when we first brought Anna home. I hate to admit this, but when Anna was two, and first in the states, for the first six months…well…the question was whether we had a future ‘ax murderer’ lol for lack of better terminology. Today, a whole different little angel. Really. So, you want the doctor’s number? Her specialty are kids who are well…showing Peter’s behaviors…it can be contained. Really. This doctor is known nationwide. Yes, you can find her on Google. Please make the call. It’s getting unsafe, or has been, or either way. Peter is a good kid. Good heart. Just doesn’t know what he’s doing. It’s that simple, and that complex. Please make the call.


    Comment by Lori — September 7, 2010 @ 8:54 pm | Reply

    • Thanks Lori – sorry its taken a while to respond – we’ve been up to our eyeballs in STUFF! Anyway, its okay – we have a handle on things. We just have to be ready when this kind of problem arises, which thankfully, is less and less often. Its just those darn impulses – he processes so slowly that by the time his judgment kicks in, the deed’s already done . . .

      Comment by whenrainhurts — September 13, 2010 @ 4:08 pm | Reply

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