When Rain Hurts by Mary Evelyn Greene

September 19, 2012

September 19, 2012

September 15, 2012

September 19, 2012.  I find anger easier than sadness.  We externalize anger, we tell ourselves but for that other person or event, we’d feel more rational, calm, emotionally even.  Anger can be destructive, it can leave victims scattered far and wide, but it’s also readily dispersed.  I used to be so angry with Peter – for the harm his disabilities did to our family, our marriage, my career, my sense of who I was, and who I wanted to become.  At times, this anger gave me energy that I channeled, using it to wage war against enemies perceived and imagined, anyone who got in the way of reaching our son, of stopping the madness.  I also used it like a shield, protecting myself against the searing pain of self-reproach, allowing it to wedge distance between who I felt I was and that less certain place where doubts and regrets find harbor.  But then it went away.  The anger just went away.  Peter’s and my perilous but ultimately successful journey to intimacy snuffed it out.  With the anger gone, I was left alone to examine my role in our family’s course, good and bad, alone to ponder how to move in my life without this compass forged from ire.  There was space where none had been before.  I’ve been learning to live in that space – to even revel in it, but now a kind of sadness is taking hold.  I find it’s draping my view, the landscape of possibility, choice, and consequence, like heavy, velvet curtains.  For so long I tried to keep my son at arm’s length, the anger helping to protect me against emotions too difficult to absorb.  But I wasn’t successful, obviously, and for that I’m very grateful.  I’ll never be afraid to love my son again.  Peter and I are now as emotionally connected as conjoined twins.  It’s a thing to celebrate and I mustn’t malign what I realize is a soaring accomplishment.  But this lifeline between us is also what’s causing my sorrow.  Peter’s melancholy of late is more contagious for me than the flu.  I ache at night hearing the hurt and loneliness in his voice, a depression growing alongside his mind and body.  He’s becoming more aware of his disabilities.  He’s beginning to visualize the perimeter of his capacities.  For instance, he now confides in me that he’s terrified of the bathroom, of the hallucinations that bombard him when he’s alone.  Sometimes, especially in public restrooms, he emerges ashen, the fear evident on his features.  The other day I took the kids to Subway and I could tell he was upset when he exited the bathroom.  “Those teenage girls were making fun of me,” he explains, his head bowed and shoulders limp.  I saw the interaction – they stared at him, probably because he looked like he’d just seen a ghost, but they didn’t laugh or point or heckle.  They just took notice.  But Peter’s emerging self-awareness is also turning into self-deprecation; he’s not always happy with what he sees.  He doesn’t want the baggage he carries and is growing increasingly sad that he can’t shed the weight.  He’s starting to understand that he’s at Green Chimneys not because he learns differently – as we so carefully preach, but because his brain, complements of alcohol, isn’t assembled correctly, and this causes misfirings mostly beyond his control.  We kept him home Monday even though he had school because Pat and I realize that he’s struggling and needs our support.  My every instinct is to pull him to me, to keep him close, to lessen his pain.  This awakening – both sword and shield – is not something an 11-year old boy should be made to navigate alone, at a residential school, with no one there to hold him through this period of uncertainty and grief.  He needs us to lend perspective, encouragement, acceptance, and understanding.  It’s impossible to do over the telephone, and this too makes me profoundly sad.  Later in the day, knowing that in a few hours Pat would drive him back to school, he waits until Sophie is elsewhere and says that he’s going to miss me.  There’s no yelling or screaming or throwing of objects, just quiet tears accompanying a quiet fact.  When I go to him, when he then asks why he can’t be home with us every day, I do my best to explain that Green Chimneys is helping his brain, that what he’s learning there will help him as he gets older, as he grows up and becomes a man.  I tell him it won’t be forever.  It’s a flimsy overture and one he sees right through.  “But I don’t care when I’m grown up,” he wails, tears soaking my t-shirt as I rock his 86 lb frame.  “I want to be just a boy at home with my mommy, right now!”  He holds me so tight I feel his heartbeat rise in rhythm to his staccato cries.  “I want you with me, too,” I whisper, unable, incapable of lying any further.  We stay locked together until our emotions quell and we regain some hold on optimism and better spirits.  There is no doubt that anger is more manageable than sadness.  After dinner, I help Peter gather his things, long pants and shirts, his new spy glasses, and his weighted blanket, which he now wants in the dorm.  I kiss him goodbye and hold him tight.  I realize that both of us prepared in advance for this moment, we are braced against the flood of emotion that swept through only hours before.  What I let slip earlier is still true.  I want Peter home.  Pat later tells me that Peter draped his weighted blanket over his shoulders for the walk back to his dorm.  It’s an all too-fitting image.  The pain of separation is becoming greater than the turmoil his presence exacts.  Whether we can find the supports to have him home fulltime.  Whether we have the reserves to weather, daily, the inevitable storms.  Whether Peter now has the skills to manage less regimented family life.  Whether we can inoculate against the possibility of another horrifying psychiatric hospitalization.  These are questions I can’t answer now but that deserve real consideration.  Before he leaves the house, I whisper in my son’s ear that he’s doing everything right.  He’s quick to retort, my blossoming son, not in anger or defiance, but with quiet admission.  “It doesn’t feel that way, Mommy.”  My heart lurches.  I know what he means.  Peter and I, we’re in that space right now from where sadness comes.



  1. Powerful, sweet, loving, and gut wrenching. Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by Rebecca — September 19, 2012 @ 1:41 pm | Reply

  2. Thank you for sharing. My heart goes out to you. I could relate to a lot of what you wrote. We brought my son recently after a year of residential treatment. He is also from Russia. I am praying for you, Peter, Pat and Sophie.

    Comment by Bridget — September 19, 2012 @ 3:25 pm | Reply

    • Bridget – thanks so much for writing. I’d very much like to hear how you’re son is doing and how the experience of bringing him home after a year of residential school has gone. Feel free to email me at whenrainhurts@gmail.com if you’d like.

      Comment by whenrainhurts — September 19, 2012 @ 8:51 pm | Reply

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your posts. You are helping me, a mother of an eight year old little girl, to better prepare for our future. We adopted her from Russia when she was almost one and found out what FAS is when she was a toddler. Your sharing is so appreciated. Lisa Smith

    Comment by Lisa — September 20, 2012 @ 3:50 am | Reply

  4. Mary, Your story inspires me in our journey with Anna! Thank you!!

    Comment by Amanda Alexander — September 20, 2012 @ 4:54 am | Reply

  5. Hey Little Love, thinking of you and your family.

    Comment by Janet Torrey — September 21, 2012 @ 10:12 pm | Reply

  6. How very powerful and compelling this writing continues to be. Mary, your transparency, your bigger than life heart, your facility with the pen and the word give us a glimpse into life, pain and grace. I wept when I read this and sensed the bravery that is so evident in Peter, you, Pat and Sophie. God Bless You on this journey —in both the walk and telling the story so boldly. Mary Ann Bowman Beil

    Comment by Mary Ann Bowman Beil — September 23, 2012 @ 10:14 am | Reply

  7. Mary,
    I am new to your blog and adopted a yr and a half ago. I am also a psych nurse. We see children exposed to alcohol but never have diagnosis of FAS. Doctors in US are still not real familiar with it.
    Not to get off subject here. When I read Peter was scared of being alone. i see that in a lot of the kids at the hospital. These are 14 and 15 yr old kids. I also see it in my adopted daughter.age 6. Thanks for sharing such an inspiring story.

    Comment by Pam — September 26, 2012 @ 9:41 am | Reply

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