I was driving with Bethany in the convertible today, holding her shoulder with my right hand and trying to drive with the left. She seemed intent on slamming her head through the passenger side window and to be honest, I was silently hoping that she’d succeed. In the depths of my frustration I was secretly hoping she’d just get it over with; a simple injury delivered to just the right part of the brain, and a quiet end to her constant self-abuse.
That may seem callous of me, perhaps even uncaring and sinister and it’s the type of thinking that evil monsters who harm children think. But frankly, its what went through my mind. I start out with a compassionate redirect and end up screaming on the inside and occasionally on the outside as well. I’ve tried outsmarting her by rolling the window down or pulling her closer to me, even tried hold both hands while driving – all to no avail. If I roll the window down, she tries to rip the side view mirror off. If I pull her closer, she tries to rip the gearshift out of the housing or jerks my arm while driving. And if I do manage to get a hold on both of her hands she head-buts the window again. Right back where we started.
That’s how it goes – you’ll have one day where she’s happy and delightful and then for the next month it’s anyone’s guess. This cycle has been going on for so long that we don’t seem to be able to recover anymore and all the sound advice from “good parents” is so thin, so meager and useless. It has the affect of a “handy-wipe” on an oil spill – the magnitude of the problem is no match for the proposed solution. I haven’t the heart to explain anymore “you don’t understand, I can’t just fix this like that.” Bethany was described by a neurologist as “industrial strength” and “Hints from Heloise” just won’t cut it.
I recall when I spent four months walking across the eastern half of the United States – the idea was that if you really were tired of the journey, take a few days – hole up in a motel and see if you missed the walking. If you did, then you’d pick up where you left off and continue. If you had no desire to continue, then it was time to quit. On the rare occasion that we get some time off, we find ourselves missing her but find it nearly impossible to disentangle exactly what it is that we’re missing but that’s fine, quitting isn’t really an option anyway.
Today, one of our dear friends took her for a few hours so we could go to church together. The day seemed to be good for her and the photos we later saw brought tears to my eyes. She’s so beautiful, so happy, and delightful in both personality and presence. My heart was elated and yet 40 minutes later, I’m thinking the worst. Am I the monster I spoke of earlier or is it simply a deep exhaustion? 14 years is a long time and each year with its peculiar twist makes this current year ever more effaced than the last. I can see the wear on Sherry as well, her love for Bethany is far deeper than I can even realize. Sherry is her advocate, her provider, defender and champion and in return, she’s become Bethany’s main target. Target for anger, target for obsession, target for attention. 14 years has taken its toll and the emotional strain has twisted her laugh into more of a desperate cry.
To see the photos of the day, you’d believe me insane to harbor such a thought in my mind but then again, what is insanity but a different view of a situation? I find myself thinking "I love you, but I don't like you very much today".
I pray that tomorrow is better and that God forgives me of the emotional failures of this day.