When Rain Hurts by Mary Evelyn Greene

November 17, 2011

November 11, 2011

Filed under: FAS,fetal alcohol syndrome,Green Chimney — whenrainhurts @ 3:57 pm
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The Rail Trail, Millbrook, NY (Nov. 13, 2011)

November 11, 2011.  Peter comes home for the weekend this afternoon and I can’t wait to see him.  When he was with us for Halloween, he admitted that Green Chimneys was helping his brain.  “I know its good for me, Mom,” he smiled shyly.  When he’s with us he doesn’t want to do much.  I watch as he drinks in the familiar surroundings, the scents and sights of home that he surely loves but can’t always handle.  He’s content to play with his toys or snuggle with me in front of the television with a blazing fire to keep us company.  Sophie senses that Peter and I are very close and at peace in these moments and it unsettles her.  She’s not used to Peter and I sharing that kind of intimacy and she feels threatened.  I understand, of course.  Our youngest has been terrified that Pat and I are going to send her away, too.  I try reassuring her by explaining that Peter has a problem in his brain that requires 24/7 attention, and that Green Chimneys can help him in a way that we just can’t.  It’s a hard pill to swallow.  Parents are supposed to be able to fix all their children’s problems.  Sophie deserves to be able to believe this, especially given her own traumatic past, but I’ve been put in the unenvious position of dissuading her of such notions, at least of late.  The child who constantly stated she hated her brother now waits impatiently by the window for his arrival on an every other weekend basis.  At least Green Chimneys has taught Sophie that she does indeed love Peter, an unintended consequence for which I’m grateful.  Sophie knows we’ll have a quiet weekend because we’re beginning to understand that Peter just can’t handle the noisily thronged outside world, preferring instead the newfound quiet of home.  Everybody, including educators, therapists, counselors, and us, has finally stopped trying to force, coax and cajole Peter into living a neuro-typical life despite his very obvious neuro-differences.  At night, after the children are asleep, the phone rings.  It’s Peter’s psychiatrist from Green Chimneys.  She wants to discuss Peter’s hallucinations, specifically the Grinch that he sees, hears and feels on an eerily regular basis.   I’m a little annoyed at first, it’s Friday night after all, and I was just settling into the luxurious feel of knowing that everyone I love is safe and sound and under one roof.  But she’s a busy woman, I realize that, and so I shake off the intrusive vibe and listen closely to what she says.  She’s been talking with Peter lately, as well as his teachers, aide, and dorm staff, and she’s come to the conclusion that our son is suffering from separation anxiety.  She thinks the Grinch materializes when he’s away from me.  Yes, me!  I can hardly believe my ears.  The psychiatrist explains, “He says ‘Mommy makes him go away.’” Dumbfounded, I make her repeat her theory, as well as any supportive evidence.  Could it possibly be that the boy who spit and hissed at me for our first years together is now counting on me to keep his demons away?  Could it be that I have actually become the person in the world he most trusts to keep him safe?  My heart beats so loudly I can barely hear her speaking.  I do my best to convey maternal concern but I can’t shake free of the sensation that I’ve just won the lottery.  I’m sorry that Peter struggles with these experiences, I know they scare him witless, but this worrisome news cloaks a brilliant nugget of gold.  After we hang up, my mind reaches back to that late summer day, many years past, when Peter first confided in me, telling me in a near whisper as we trudged across a puddled parking lot that the rain hurt him.  Though I knew it was a breakthrough – to our knowledge Peter had never shared even a snippet of his interior life with another human soul, I couldn’t imagine that such a tiny crack in his armor would lead to this nearly perfect moment.  After we hang up, the salty taste of my own tears takes me by surprise and I swipe at my face as I pad down the hall to kiss Sophie and then Peter one more time.  I realize with bittersweet surrender that we have reached the end of our journey to create a mother-son bond.  My quest to make Peter understand that he is loved, unconditionally and forever, has been a success.  I hate that he’s feeling, hearing, and seeing things but my heart nearly cartwheels knowing that he believes I can  stop these scary episodes.  The rub, of course, and the reason for the tears, comes in appreciating that this epiphany might never have occurred had Peter not gone into a residential school.  The dogged diligence required to keep him and the rest of us safe and at least somewhat functional was clouding the path.  It seems in our case distance between mother and child has actually bridged, rather than widened, the gap between us and perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised.  FAS is a cunning disability, and early neglect, abuse, and deprivation only serve to exasperate an already faulty mindset.  But despite the irony, the sense of loss that envelopes even the most prized epiphanies, I’m more optimistic than ever about my son’s heart, and our futures together.  Whether rain or Grinch, Peter has empowered me to shield him from the ravages of his past as well as the obstacles in his future.  There’s so much ahead, challenges I don’t even want to fathom, but for now I’m content.  I’ve given him my love, and in return, he’s shown me his trust.  I fall asleep feeling luminous and light.  Having reached for the unreachable, I now know that some dreams really do come true.



  1. My eyes are cloudy with tears. I am so happy for you.

    Comment by Jo — November 17, 2011 @ 4:09 pm | Reply

  2. What peace. What contentment. What reason to celebrate a joyous Thanksgiving. This is not just “good” news, it’s beautiful news. Blessings on all of you.

    Comment by Kathleen — November 17, 2011 @ 5:14 pm | Reply

  3. There’s not much anyone, not even I, can say. Lovely. I believe neither you nor Peter ever lost faith this would happen.

    Comment by Christopher Duncan — November 17, 2011 @ 5:50 pm | Reply

  4. So wonderful to read!

    Comment by Cynthia Kirtland — November 17, 2011 @ 7:03 pm | Reply

  5. A time for real thanksgiving Mary.
    Love to all

    Comment by Maggie — November 18, 2011 @ 7:11 am | Reply

  6. Wow Mary, I’m speechless as this beautiful breakthrough for you and Peter…thank you for sharing these experiences so honestly and exquisitely. Such poignant moments in your lives together, growing, bonding and loving…a family so special.

    Comment by Norine Nakao-Peyton — November 18, 2011 @ 8:08 am | Reply

  7. I love your story…. Ours is similar except we dodged the residential care “bullet” by the skin of our teeth. We found a wonderful psychiatrist and psychologist that stabilized our daughter by correcting her medication overload/toxicity and putting a behavioral level system in place. She will always be the “most loved” little girl in the world. unfortunately she will always struggle with lots of medical and neuro -atypical “issues”. At the moment, and by the grace of God, she is functioning pretty darn well!!

    Comment by Karen jacobsen — December 27, 2011 @ 11:41 pm | Reply

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