My mom and I drove down to visit Jonah today. Andy’s at a family reunion this weekend, so it’s a good time for us to go. Andy’s been visiting Jonah more often now that he lives about 5 minutes away. It’s pretty down there, and I guess they weren’t hit much by Irene, which is good. Who would’ve thought there’d be so much devastation so near the Capital District, so far inland? Some towns were damn near destroyed – Prattsville and East Durham, Middletown and Schoharie. Irene was almost like a tornado, the way she hit here and skipped there.
I’m working on getting estimates for my backyard fence and tree removal; last night my next door neighbor called to tell me her insurance company told her to tell me to call my insurance company, even though it’s her tree. I know I won’t get anyone this weekend so I’ll try on Tuesday.
So this morning my mom met me at the house and she’d brought along this cool low trike that’s supposed to be good for kids 8-11 labeled “for Jonah Krebs and friends”…and I brought some things for the 10th annual Gala‘s silent auction Oct 1, to benefit the school. We got down there in good time and talked a little, both of us excited to see Boo and hoping he’d be happy and good.
When we arrived and knocked on the door, the house director was the only one inside. Jonah was outside on the playground, he told us. I took a quick peek in Jonah’s room and we spoke with the director for a few minutes. My mom wanted to know what the children have to drink with dinner. “Milk or water,” he said, “and they get juice with snack”. They have a dietician and a nutritionist on staff, so the kids aren’t getting junk, which is really good to know.
Last night when I called to see how he’d done that day, the care worker who’d been with him all day told me he ate all his own dinner and half of hers. She wasn’t mad, either. She laughed; she seemed to really like Jonah.
He hadn’t had an aggression in two days. The director knows we sneak him black soda when we visit, though, and he’s okay with that.
Today’s black soda Jonah face looked like this:
We ate tuna fish sandwiches, potato chips, and yummy-grapes in the humid mugginess of noontime.
He’s growing out of the pair of jeans he was wearing, so next time I’ll bring him new ones.
He was restless, a little confused. Quiet. My mom wanted to see the pond so we convinced Jonah to walk down to it; there’s a rowboat and sometimes they take the kids fishing there:
When Jonah emptied his plastic black soda bottle, he told me all done and then requested car ride?
I looked at my mom, and she at me, and we were hot as hell anyway, so we headed back up the hill and into brown car. We cranked the A/C and drove straight so we wouldn’t get lost – past the Vanderbilt Mansion, into Hyde Park, past FDR’s birthplace, then finally turning around to head back. Jonah was good, sucking his thumb and looking out the window. Every so often my mom or me would turn to engage him, drinking him in to last us to our next visit.
When I started to pull back in to Anderson, Jonah begged: more car ride? …so I went in the other direction for a short distance before reaching a huge park where I turned in, driving slowly down the lane and into a tunnel of forest, then over a bridge where there were train tracks below. Jonah looked down the tracks and cried home?
His little brain must have seen the train tracks and triggered memories of going to see the train, every day, sometimes several times a day, back at home.
Home? he asked again, pitifully.
Later on my mom and I both admitted that, at that moment, we were hoping against hope that he meant his house at school – and I think we both knew damn well that he didn’t mean that at all. I glanced over at my mom and saw a knife in the heart look on her face; my eyes blurred, I set my jaw and fought the tears.
Then Jonah got pissed, kicking the console hard with his sneaker. We got him back to school by carefully telling him things like home later and let’s go to the playground!
We made it to the playground and Jonah let me push him on the swing for a few minutes, but then he wanted off.
Home?!! he cried-demanded, grabbing a handful of wood chips and tossing them angrily at us. The house director must have seen, because he came out to meet us. Jonah wailed and cried for a few seconds, then, as if he knew it would be fruitless, he seemed suddenly resigned. My mom and I both hugged and kissed him, (I inhaled him like I always do), and we told him we’d be back soon. Then we said goodbye, watching as Tim ushered him back inside the house.
I don’t know why today, why this time, but when my mom and I got back in the car I started crying harder. I switched to sunglasses, put on Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto #2, and drove us away. It felt awful. Things ripping inside me. My only child, crying for home...then I spoke aloud, as though to myself. “We have to be grateful. We have to stay grateful. Thank God it isn’t 1950 or 1590. Thank God Andy lives so close to him.”
There is a bridge we have to go over to get back on the Thruway.
The bridge railing is low and the view of the Hudson River on either side is beautiful. There are these little green signs posted at two or three places on each side, reminding everyone that LIFE IS WORTH LIVING. There is a message and a phone number at the bottom.
I thought about how it really would be a perfect suicide spot… so easy, so pretty, just let yourself fall — and how somebody somewhere thought they should put up the little green signs reminding people that LIFE IS WORTH LIVING.
I wondered how many people had suicided off that bridge, and who they were, and how old, and why they did it.
And then I wondered how many people had seen the little green signs and read the message that LIFE IS WORTH LIVING and called the number and spoke to some caring person, probably a volunteer, who listened. Just listened.
And how many of those people who were heard ended up changing their mind, and lived because of it.
Sometimes I think suicide is a little bit like quitting smoking. There are these terrible times you don’t think you can stand, and if you let yourself, you won’t be able to stand. You’ll go buy the cigarettes. You’ll jump off the bridge.
But then if you can just hang on, push through, keep it together, with whatever means you’ve got, it will be okay again. Okay enough, anyway. Okay enough to get you to the next breath, the next day, the next smile.
Okay enough to make you realize, with no doubt, that LIFE IS WORTH LIVING.
(Cigarettes, on the other hand, are a different story).