Susan's Blog

Saturday, May 14, 2011

All I’ve Got

We have a video of Benj, from the time that he was born through 11 months.  We would just pick up the camera, shoot for a little bit, and then put it down, catching bits of Benj, Max, and Nat over the course of 1998.

One of the segments is a quiet moment in the diningroom, our old house, the yellow one, before this one.  The diningroom there was beautiful.  It had gray walls with cream trim, and there were french doors that opened out onto a tiny garden.    The camera zooms in on eight-year-old Nat, standing before the stereo in there, while Raffi sings, Thanks a lot; Thanks for all I’ve got. It’s just Nat in the room, and I am holding the camera on him.  I say, “What are you listening to, Sweetheart?”

And Nat turns around, and his eyes look like a hunted deer’s.  He has big buck teeth, and he is holding his hands out, with his fingers splayed, as if he’s in pain.  “Fanks A Yot,” he replies, and he thrusts his fingers from both hands into his mouth.  I continue filming him, and he says, “One-two-free, go!”  which was his way of telling me to finish filming and leave him alone.  I can hear myself giggle behind the camera because he is so clear in how he doesn’t want me there, and so cute. “Okay, Sweetheart,” and the camera shuts off.

Tonight Ned referred, laughingly, to “Fanks.”  I laughed, too, but then I also remembered Nat’s wild, haunted look back then.  Suddenly it was like I was there, seeing him like that, but out of my current eyes.  He was so stressed out, I could really feel it now.  But I also remembered how I felt then, with such a tenuous hold on Nat.  Back then he was beginning to be aggressive with us, and certainly withdrawn.  His fingers were often splayed but also crossing each other.  A picture of discomfort.

Back then I was so concerned with controlling him.  I was so scared of him, so scared for us.  Where was it all going?  What was he going to turn into?  He was already kind of wild.  Feral, with those teeth and eyes.  So alone, snarling in the corner.  And all I could think back then was, “Make it stop.”  I was in pain, too, because my family felt so defective.  We were falling apart, it felt like.  I had this new baby, but I couldn’t provide him with a safe, secure family.  And my Maxie was already learning to be careful, so careful.  I just needed all the bad to stop.

I wish I could have done a better job, better than damage control.  I wish I wasn’t just maintaining, staying afloat, only finding tiny moments of pleasure behind the camera, filming him but not helping him.

I don’t think I ever thought, “Oh, Natty, come here, sit down with me” the way I would now.  I had no idea I could talk to him that way.  But maybe back then I couldn’t.  Maybe he and I have both grown up and changed.  He doesn’t get that wild look anymore.  He doesn’t splay his fingers, he just walks faster and talks it through to himself.His eyes now are rich blue, always, and they are opened out to the world, to me.  He sees us.  He notices things.

How did he get to this point?  How did he shift from being so scared and bitey, to this capable young man?  Was it a slow evolution, tiny milliseconds of progress undetected by the human eye, or sudden jumps, moments of flashing revelation?  I guess it was both.   Fits and starts, periods of pain, followed by the joy of relief.

And now he’s gone, living in the school residence.  This was not a Home weekend, so I haven’t seen him since Sunday.  I still worry that he’s not happy, stressed-out by unknown forces.  But I have no real reason to believe that.  He has a lot to do there, both fun and productive things.  They went into Cambridge today, a bunch of them from the House.  He didn’t call tonight, and I miss him.

I don’t know if I’ve thought, “Make it stop,” for years.   I guess tonight I feel like, “Make it come back.”


I am overwhelmed by this, so overwhelmed that I am sobbing in front of my PC monitor. I know this only too well – “Feral, with those teeth and eyes. So alone, snarling in the corner.” – because this is our reality today. I so miss the easy times I had with my son in the past. I miss the connection I had with him. I pray that this test becomes our period of growth, that after this difficult time,we can move forward to a place of peace and love again. Thank you for giving me hope.

— added by Kittymama on Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 10:44 pm

Susan..I love so much when you post about when Nat was younger…I really sit up and take notice, as D is turning 7 in July. When you talk about things you may have done differently, or at least attempted, looking back, I make a mental note to myself to see if those are things I might want to try with D. Most importantly, I get reminded to savor each moment with my sweet little man, as he is right now, and not worry so much about the future all the time. We had a moment like that last night, he was in his bed getting ready to sleep and I was lying next to him. No school tomorrow, he was saying over and over. Nobody’s gonna take my letters away, again over and over. My reassurances never seem to help. So last night, I just decided to kiss his sweet little cheek. Then when he turned the other side, I kissed his cheek and neck. He kept turning away and finally started laughing.This went on for a few minutes, as he got a break from his worries and I soaked in his sweet smell and softness, before he fell into a peaceful sleep.

— added by Eileen from Florida on Sunday, May 15, 2011 at 7:17 am