My daughter and husband are cuddled together in her room. She is telling him about the last 2 and 1/2 weeks. She won 7 gold medals at a world competition and spent a week at a beach resort, teaching and performing. She came back relaxed, her endless arms and legs wrapped around us gratefully. She repeated, “I’m so glad to be home.”
Two walls and a bathroom separate me from them. The dog is asleep under her bed. Yesterday’s unread New York Times is spread across the couch downstairs. In the kitchen there are fruit flies from the lone peach I meant to take with me in the car on Saturday but left to rot on the counter instead. This house is plenty full — of laundry, kicked off shoes, souvenirs, squeaky toys, climate controlled air, pool toys, sandals, crackers, sleepy people and love.
But my Milo isn’t here.
On Saturday we dropped him off at a 10 day wilderness course for kids with emotional and behavioral problems. He’ll rock climb, trek with llamas and whitewater raft. The camp is run by experts. It has a long, widely respected history. I believe in green therapy and I believe in Milo. Last week we shopped for his gear, we went over the packing list, the schedule, the plan, his goals, his expectations and his worries. We were both as prepared as we could be.
Milo was chill at drop off. He was intrigued by the little cabin where he would spend the first night before heading into the woods to sleep in a tent. He was anxious to play games and meet his “group” and he bonded quickly with the course director. He gave us each a hug, went toward the other kids and we drove off. About three trees down the road I lost my shit and started screaming at my husband that we had just left our crazy kid with strangers. I sobbed and sobbed. He is crazy. And those people are strangers. Trained, experienced, professional strangers.
“What if they hate him and he can tell?”
“What if he thinks I’ve abandoned him?”
“What if he can’t sleep or won’t eat or if he needs help and no one will help him because he can be so difficult and impossible and even hateful?”
We kept driving down the mountain. We spent two nights with amazingly compassionate and generous friends who live near the base camp. We ate. We danced. We hiked through the rain.
The phone rang. Milo is having fun, he’s not having fun. He tried to walk home. He came back. He told another kid about his Bipolar and the kid laughed at him so he beat a tree with a stick and swore a blue streak. He wants to come home. He’s waiting to come home. He doesn’t want to have any fun because he can’t take a break from his I-want-to-go-home vigil.
The phone rang again. Milo is having fun. Milo is upset that we’re food shopping at WalMart, Milo doesn’t like WalMart’s politics. Milo is having fun. Milo is upset. Milo doesn’t think his counselor’s argument for time travel is valid. Milo thinks his counselor lied to him. Milo thinks this other kid is out to get him. Milo tried to walk home. Milo came back. Milo wants to go home.
Oh My Milo. I am so sorry that this is so hard. I am so sorry that you are in pain. But you are so often in pain. And hiking to a waterfall and swimming behind its magic curtain may distract you. Helping to set up the tent, build the fire, design your group flag, it may be the opposite of distress. It may be liberating. It may feel like success.
Oh my Milo, your room is a mess. The legos, the books, the chewed up bits of paper, the broken magnets, the dirty clothes, the baseball trophy, the cds and slippers and wooden spoons and recipe cards are where you left them. Your bed is unmade. Your lamp is askew. Your blinds are still broken. your room is empty.
I am here without you, trying NOT to think about you, trying to forget you, forget your watery heart and your self loathing and your panic and your pain. I am trying, trying, trying to surrender you and your crazyness to the moonlit sky, the sound of a wild creek and wind in the ancient pines.
I didn’t just send you away. I drove you and pushed you out. I delivered you. True, I supplied you, did my research and due diligence, but yes, I put your ass out. It was time. Time for you to do something, anything, without me and to do it well enough to feel good about yourself and having done it. It was time for me to make that possible. So stop, stop being everywhere I look. Stop stealing my breath when I come up the stairs, stop being the goldfish cracker I crush with my heel in the hallway. Stop singing that damn Michael Jackson song to me while I do the dishes.
Oh my Milo, go away. Go away my Milo, go the fuck away and leave me alone.