Scholarship

I knew that Mike’s friends started a memorial scholarship at his former high school in his name. The $500/year scholarship will be awarded each year to a student interested in the theatre. (Mike was in several plays in high school, and continued acting in college on scholarship.)

A year ago, one of Mike’s friends called me to get my reaction to establishing the scholarship as part of the 20th class reunion. “Sounds fine,” I said. Since then, another friend sent me an announcement of the scholarship from the high school newsletter. I put the announcement away with other memorabilia from Mike’s life for Ethan and Lauren.

But today on Facebook, several of Mike’s friends from high school have posted/reposted a note about the scholarship and how it was established in his name by the school – and his parents – with a solicitation for donations to the fund.

WTF?

I’ve mentioned before that my kids aren’t in need of anything. I’m very fortunate that Mike and I had the foresight to have ample assets for the kids. But, come on… his parents haven’t contacted the kids in any meaningful way in more than a year.

I’m pissed that they’re going to give money, attention, and who knows what else, to a scholarship to strangers instead of thinking about their grandkids. Their ONLY grandkids.

(Again, my kids don’t NEED anything, but to get a random package from Grandma and Grandpa with some baseball cards or a princess book – or to know that there were contributions to a college fund for them – would go a LONG way to making my kids feel loved by those assholes.)

Mom knows best

After last night’s session with Ethan’s new therapist (D), I feel even more sure that Ethan’s problems in school are very heavily grief-based.

She started by asking really basic questions to get him more comfortable. (Where do you go to school? What grade are you in? What’s your favorite school subject? What do you like to do for fun?)

Then she moved to word association. Mom, she said.

“Pretty good,” Ethan said. “Nice, but I get mad when she won’t let me play my 3DS.”

D looked at me. I could see her smile through her eyes. Grandma, she said next.

“Good,” said Ethan.

Dad.

Ethan’s body tensed. He covered his face with his hands. He started to get very fidgety. His fists balled up. He arched his back.

“It’s okay,” D said. “How do you feel about your dad?”

“I don’t have a dad,” Ethan said.

“Yes you do,” D said. “He’s just not here with you. How do you feel about your dad?”

Ethan started punching the ball he was holding. “Mad,” he said. “I told him to stop drinking beer. I threw some of his beer away once. I got in really bad trouble.”

“What happened?” D asked softly.

Ethan continued hitting the ball. He turned his back to us and punched at the ball.

“Daddy yelled – LOUD. Then I got send to my room. He should have stopped drinking.”

“It’s okay to punch that ball,” D said. Ethan continued his physical outburst for another minute or so.

D looked at me and whispered,” Did you see those physical changes? There’s a lot going on there.”

I nodded.

The rest of the session went well. It was hard for Ethan to focus after talking about his dad. The three of us played a game involving placing stones on Ethan’s body to encourage him to lay still. Then we played a board game called Stop, Relax & Think, which got him opening up a bit about his feelings and start thinking through possible ways to relax and deal with stressful situations or things that make him angry.

At one point in the Stop, Relax & Think game, I had to sing a song until D told me to stop. Ethan apparently was not amused with my singing and told me to stop a few times. I kept going until D told me to quit, per the rules. D turned to Ethan and explained that it was never the job of the child to tell his parent to “stop.” Instead it is the job of the parent to correct the child. I liked D even more after that.

We go back to D in a week. She’s going to do good things with Ethan.

I’m relieved.

One year

Today is one year. As I write this, it’s one year to the exact minute that I received the call from Mike’s mom.

I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal, just another day. I thought I was okay.

It’s hard.

I woke up with a throbbing headache at 4:30. Lauren was crying out for me at 5 a.m., and she and I cuddled for a half hour. I showered, got dressed, packed my lunch. If I didn’t have to interview a job candidate this afternoon, I would have stayed in bed.

It snowed last night. Not much, but a slick snowy coat covered the roads as I took Ethan to school.

I thought about cancelling my oil change appointment, but I was already WAY overdue. Of course, I was ridiculously early for the appointment, so I went through a drive thru – maybe caffeine would help my headache, I thought. (It didn’t.)

Then I drove around. I wanted to find an empty parking lot and just sit, maybe sneak in a 10-minute nap. But the snow… nearly every lot was being plowed, and those that weren’t plowed REALLY needed it.

After driving around for 20 minutes, I found an acceptable lot, parked and sat. I couldn’t move. I just stared at a discount dry cleaners, a hair cut place and sandwich restaurant. I watched the reflection of the cars from the road behind me. As the reflections moved along the plate-glass windows, their shape changed – short to long, thin to fat, tall to short. It was like watching a fun house mirror.

I was very conscious of my breathing. In, out. Deep breaths.

I felt like I couldn’t move anything other than my eyes, watching those cars in the reflection. Several times, I thought, “It’s time. I need to get to the car dealer.” But I couldn’t seem to lift my head, let alone my arms or legs to physically drive the car.

My email dinged. New message. It was about tomorrow’s alumni board meeting at my alma mater. There’s no way, I thought. It took everything in me to pull my head off the back of the car seat. I emailed back: “I thought I was fine. I’m not. Won’t be there tomorrow.”

I glanced at the time. Just enough time to get to the dealer.

Pulled into the garage, checked in, walked to the waiting room.

I emailed a few people at work (someone from IT was coming to check my laptop and a student wanted to talk about internships) – I’m going to be late, I wrote, blaming it on the weather and road conditions.

Of course, as soon as I walked into my building, the IT guy and the student were waiting for me in the hall outside my office. I rushed through both meetings, sent them on their ways, and shut my door.

I walked over to my window and looked out at the snow-covered quad. Without warning, the tears just came.

Finding help – I hope

I met with the new therapist last night. (Man, it was a cold night with -25 degree wind chills… If this wasn’t for Ethan’s benefit, I would have stayed home in my sweat pants under a down blanket!)

New therapist (D) is awesome.

Her office was filled with kid stuff, toys and books and games. It was very different from Ethan’s previous therapist’s office, which was cold and not kid-friendly with its diplomas on the wall and mismatched dorm-like furniture. I was also relieved to see two other kids coming out of another office – the boy was about Ethan’s age and the girl was maybe a year younger. Proof that this place GETS kids and knows how to work with them. (Never really saw kids at the old therapy place – no one under teen years.)

We sat down and she asked me to go over the timeline of events starting with Mike’s death last year.

“Actually, I think it started before that,” I said.

I recounted for her what’s happened in two years – Lauren’s birth (Ethan was no longer the only child), finding out Mike was drinking and lying and hiding it (lots of tension and arguing in the house), my dad’s death (Ethan let out a piercing, heart breaking howl when the Marine presented my mom with the American flag), neglect when Ethan was left alone with Mike (Mike drank until he passed out and forgot to feed or care for Ethan), my mom moving in with us, more tension at home as Mike was dropped from the outpatient rehab center, the loss of my job and the drinking ultimatum I gave to Mike, going to court, Mike being taken to the hospital and moving in with his parents a few states away, relocating the family to another state, Ethan starting a new school, Mike dying.

I explained to the therapist that Ethan’s behavior is very different at home and school. There’s no anger at home. There isn’t impulsive behavior or inappropriate outbursts when he’s with me or my mom. I talked to her about my belief that Ethan is processing his grief and losses, and he’s worried when he’s not around me or his grandma. I told her others want to diagnose him as ADD/ADHD, but that I wanted to hold off until I thought Ethan could process and deal with the grief issues. She nodded, she understood my theories.

D listened to everything, taking notes, asking occasional questions. She asked about his previous therapy experience and what was discussed. I told her that the former therapist never broached the subject of death or grief. Instead he concentrated on helping Ethan get along with his peers – necessary yes, but not helping the underlying problem. D was mortified.

“This kid’s been through a lot,” she said. “Grief and loss are major parts of his life. We’ll work on it.”

Ethan has his first appointment with her in one week. Fingers crossed.

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On a related note, it’s been a tough week for Ethan. He’s been in trouble at school for outbursts and anger and arguing with teachers.

Last night, I was on my way to pick him up from the after school program when the director called. Ethan was having a panic attack, she told me. He was yelled at for pushing a kid while playing tag and he lost it. They couldn’t calm him down.

Luckily, I was minutes away from the school. When I got there, Ethan was in a quiet, dark room across the hall from the rest of the kids. He had his head down and was sobbing. One of the program leaders was talking to him, rubbing his hair.

I asked him what was going on, what happened. He lifted his head and said that it’s almost the time when his daddy died last year.

We sat in the dark room and cried together for a few minutes. I gathered his things in the other room, and we left.

Right or wrong, I’m not going to lecture or yell at him for misbehaving this week. He has enough on his seven-year old mind this week.

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Late last night, I got an email from one of my mom friends. This mom knows the anniversary is coming up. Her daughter is in Ethan’s class:

During prayers tonight, I asked the girls if there was anything special they wanted to pray for and KL said, “I would like to pray for Ethan.” I said that was a great idea but asked if she had any reason and she said, “He just looks like he needs a friend, mom.” So I told her maybe she should try to be a better friend if it looks like he needs a friend.

I fear that Ethan’s anger and outbursts will alienate kids (and their parents), leaving him without friends or a support system. I only hope the other moms and kids in the class show this kind of compassion as we continue to move through these tough times.

It’s a good reminder not to judge others: you just don’t know what they’re going through.

Parenting is hard.

Wondering

Warning: rambling posts to follow. Blog posts this week may not be coherent.

It’ll be one week on Friday since Mike died. And it’s more emotional than I thought it would be.

We were separated, but we were still friends (when he was sober).

We were divorcing, but he was still the person I called when something good – or bad – happened to me.

We weren’t living together, but he was still involved in making decisions for the kids (when he was sober).

Some days it seems surreal, like this is a dream. That he’s not really gone. Sometimes I wonder if his death was somehow faked, an elaborate hoax. That he’ll some day reappear, sober and with the personality of the “old” Mikey.

I often think about the long-term effects his death will have on the kids.

I wonder if I’ll find love, companionship, friendship, passion again.

I wonder how we will get through this week… How Ethan will manage… If Lauren will even realize… If I will get the motivation to actually DO anything this week…