life on the funny farm

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Broken Child

With the help of my other sons, we righted the table.
Rolling fruit was gathered and washed.
Jagged ceramic lay in pieces on the floor.
The dish, a gift, looked broken beyond repair.
I gathered the fragments together and began placing them in a sack to be discarded.

The dish wasn't the only broken thing here.
My son, full of teen angst and layers of past traumas, had flipped this table over in a moment of rage.
Not a rage over the losses in his life or the hurts he's endured, but over the latest insurmountable injustice. He didn't get the seat he wanted when it came time to watch a movie, and this insignificant precipitator had escalated and swollen till its enormity could not be controlled.

Sweeping up the broken bits too small to be gathered by hand, I wondered,
Could I fix my child?

Such arrogance to pose that question.

Logical Me knew well enough that you can't undo the hurt caused by years of neglect, drug use, lead paint, institutionalization, and abuse physical, mental and emotional simply by gifting a child a room of his own, nice clothes, a pool, and a family vacation down the shore.

But Melodramatic Me fantasized that by showering him with our unconditional love and support (and a good dose of professional therapy), maybe, just maybe, he could turn whole again. That if the light of our love could seek out and illuminate the darkest recesses of his hurt, it would be enough to negate all that happened in his past.

Could love, support, and Stuff eradicate a person's traumatic past?

Listening to the muted rumble of him trashing his room upstairs, it was looking as if the answer was no.

Still, I had to believe that all this drama is part of the healing process he must go through to recalibrate. He was functioning just fine in his old life until I came along and opened up his wounds. He barely gave a thought to his scars, his lack of a family. A pack of rowdy boys roaming the streets and doing the things unsupervised boys do served fine as a family. And scars were just that, scars. They had long ago healed and were nothing more than part of his physical terrain. He gave them no more thought than he would one of his freckles.

A person could walk along through life impaled by a staff. Perhaps once in a while, if he weren't careful, it might become a problem, it might hurt if he got it caught on something. But if it spared organs and arteries, a person could function, certainly. Remove that staff, and now you've got exposed, raw, painful flesh. That wound will ache. It will heal, but it will take time and it will hurt like the dickens for a good long while. And without proper care, the gash could become worse before it gets better. Could become inflamed, infected.

Of course this is Melodramatic Me at my finest here, but I'm trusting that's what we're dealing with. A case of old wounds opened up and aggravated. Every instance of loss of control becomes like a cattle prod in the bared gash. On a good day he can bite the bullet as he controls himself and the pain subsides. On a bad day he becomes a wounded, cornered, wild animal acting out in self preservation.

I cut my finger on a piece of the shattered ceramic. I watched the blood trickle down my hand and drop to the floor, mingling with the dust of the broken dish and my tears, which had been raining down steadily. I stood and moved to the sink, and washed the blood from my negligible nick. Probably wouldn't even need a Band Aid.

In a moment, my son appeared, standing at my shoulder.
Through his own tears, and barely able to look at me, he murmered his apologies, then walked outside. I completed my task, then went outside to talk to him, Big Lectures beginning to form in my mind. But as I closed the kitchen door and walked into the night, I turned and found my son leaning against the deck railing, looking out over the pond and illuminated by the light of the moon. He was crying. Sobbing.
The lecture could wait. I stood beside him and reached up to put my arm around his shoulders. And we stood together like that for some time, quietly crying together.

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