Attentive Eyes and a Dispassionate Heart
In frustration I grabbed her by the wrists and dragged her partway off the sofa. She weighs fully over a hundred pounds so I could only get her so far and I needed to stop for breath. To be honest, I’m at the point in life where I was more worried about throwing my back out than I was for her safety and welfare. “She’s young, she’ll heal” was my thought.
She clearly didn’t feel well and had no intention of leaving the respite house. I felt like I needed to get her out as I was way over that allotted time generously given me by the State of Michigan and the local community health organization. I waited till the last minute to get her and now felt the need to make a hasty departure.
She began the seizure just before I arrived – in fact it was the first time I’d ever come to pick her up here and found her to not to be in some sort of manic phase – kicking doors, screaming, punching, ripping knapsacks from the hands of the staff.
The staff always looks like a tired sparring partner; they roll from one “client” to the next, and giving of their soul and body in the hope that something makes a difference in someone’s life. They take the beating and grow from it in their own private ways.
Bethany refused to comply, refused (or was unable) to stand and walk out on her own so I resorted to the drag. It reminded me of the images of non-violent resistance during the protests of the 60’s; stiff-armed kids being dragged off to the paddy wagon just prior to arrest. As I dragged her out the door and trough the parking lot, I was thankful that there were few cars going by. Most people think of the typical behavior in this place, as “freakish” and this spectacle would likely confirm their suspicions. I dragged her and did my best to maintain dignity.
Once I got her to the car the next problem surfaces how do I get her in? No way to lift her as she intentionally resisted, rolled, folded and twisted. Finally, I braced myself, grabbed her by the belt and by the collar of her hooded sweatshirt and dragged her up onto the back seat. It’s a small VW so there’s not much room and I got her in up to the belt, her legs dangling down across the parking lot. I grabbed her calves and lifted them up, folding her at the waist and effectively “halving” her so that I could get her into the car. I slammed the door on her butt, ensuring that it was locked; I casually looked at the staff and asked, “did you need paperwork signed”? as if this was an everyday action. She looked at me and said, “uh, no…I think its ok…”
On the drive home, she decided that the paper clip, fold job I’d done was uncomfortable and with her feet flat on the passenger window she began to kick. On the third kick I thought she was going through the glass – those German engineers must have anticipated small Koran girls kicking on glass because the window held till I could safely reach in the back and drag her across the seat. Her breathing relaxed a bit and she quick kicking.
We pulled in to the driveway at home and I rolled the car up to the house, turned it off and sat quietly listening to the radio. Rich Mullins singing a song about Jesus:
“Do you who live in radiance, hear the prayers of those of us
who live on earth…did you forget about us after you’d flown away?”
I just shook my head. I sat there for an awfully long time…Bethany just whined. I got out and tried to get her into the house as it was getting cold and dark but she’d have none of it. I brought all of her school materials into the house and got myself a drink of water while looking out the window at the car. The back door was swung wide open but there was no movement. I finished the water, cursed under my breath and headed out the door.
I dragged her into the house the same way that I’d dragged her to the car. I dumped her in the door, lifted her feet to shut the back door, locked it, chained it and headed to the bathroom for a long, hot shower. It’s a calculated risk, doing anything with Bethany unattended but I figured with the door locked and chained, the refrigerator chained and all the kitchen cupboard doors locked – I was relatively safe. I needed the hot shower for the simple reason that no one sees you cry there.
Somehow, little by little, you make it through the rest of the evening. Through the medications, through the post-seizure, manic phase, through the final joust with toothbrushes and up the stairs for the final “kiss-and-punch-in-the-face” of the night. I made it through all of it with an emotional numbness brought by on by a combination of the Holy Spirit and the Absolut vodka martini that he’d supplied me with. She was quiet by 10:30pm and I soon followed.
Today at work, it’s quiet and introspective. Lives go on around me; everyone has their own “Bethany” story that they drag along with them everyday but today, for me…I listen to them with fixed and attentive eyes but a dispassionate and hardened heart.