We've been in California for a few days and have received some beautiful ministry, but R2 is really struggling during the hours that no one is praying for him, and we are wearing ourselves out trying to anticipate his needs and entertain him, to keep the panic and the anger at bay. By the time lunchtime rolled around today, the MOG and I were a little punch-drunk. All of our songs and animal noises were falling on very angry little ears, and we knew leaving was inevitable and it did not appear that R2 was going to get any more open to the idea. So we put him in the car and drove to a restaurant, giddy at the thought of being outside our rooms and enjoying some highly-rated Mexican food.
We piled into the booth and got him settled with a pillow, talking in careful code about how we were going to manage getting him to eat something, since he's been living on a diet of yogurt and Ensure for like 3 days now. All was calm and bright for a little while. I ordered refried beans but he was getting wound up, and we could tell his frustration was on the verge of boiling over.
There's this one second where you know the screaming is coming and the whole world slows down and zooms in and you just can't get there in time. And the screaming these days is from down deep, it's a horrible bloodcurdling scream that shatters the peace like a hammer. We're not rookies to having an abnormal child, but we're new to this immobility stuff, to having to lift him and move him speedily without any cooperation from him. So we were panicking, covering his mouth, trying to calm him and talk to him and stop the scene, but he was done. For whatever reason, pain or hunger or sheer frustration at being unable to communicate, he was done. After what felt like a year but was probably a minute, R1 had wrestled him from the booth and out of the restaurant, shrieking, and I sat alone with a table full of food and a room full of customers who didn't know where to look.
There's a tendency to fight continual guilt and failure when you have a special needs kid. I feel like I should have been smarter, should have predicted it, should have gone to a drive through, should have had the tools to stop him. Should have had the tools to fix him, to fix the broken places. If I were right, he would be right, it seems. It's not true or logical, but it's real.
So he and his daddy leaned against the car in the parking lot, emotionally and physically spent, while I tried to gather the humiliation and the deep sadness of losing a child piece by piece. The waiter came to me, put his hand on my shoulder and offered in broken English, "It's okay," he said. "You no worry." A moment later he brought the check and touched my shoulder again. "You no worry," he offers gently, "Love your son. I have one of these." And with that, I wasn't sick and embarrassed and alone in a room of strangers anymore, because I was offered mercy by a comrade-in-arms. "Thank you," I stuttered, unable to articulate the relief.
With the gift of his empathy, I walked to the car with new grace. This is hard, it is a valley, but I am continually reminded that we are not alone.