Counting down to no-med days…

A quick inventory of the Risperdal bottle, and a cautious reading of its label has confirmed that J’s last dose of med is on Saturday, December the 12th at some time around 9 a.m.  Based on previous experiences, and on extremely intricate calculations that I cannot divulge because they involve very convoluted logic, J will have a crappy Second, Third, Fourth, and possibly Fifth Day of Christmas.  By the time he goes on Holiday Break, his teachers, aides and classmates will have earned a much deserved break from J’s angst and moodiness.  (Memo to me: make the gift cards slightly nicer this year…call it “appreciation” but really mean “atonement.”)

It’s not that I don’t have faith in our ability to navigate this transition.  It’s not that I’m not sure J is pretty much ready for this.  It’s more that I’m always wary of the sudden (yet gradual) shift in the brain’s chemistry when an outside element (that has been there in greater and then sporadically reduced quantities) over the course of nearly six years.  There’s always that iffy moment when J’s anxiety peaks because his body is looking for something that is no longer there.  Those three or four days can be grueling for him.

In preparation for this, we are trying to keep things organized, and we are hoping to create a solid routine for J with plenty of opportunities for escape if he is inclined to be on his own and away from us.  Insufficient attention from TGG continues to be a problem, but we cannot do any more about that than we already have done.  Last Wednesday TGG took J to the movies, and J ended up paying for the pleasure of his brother’s company; he bought the movie tickets and the popcorn and soda.  Of course, J was over the moon with joy because his brother was finally paying attention to him, but…

Dada is up to his neck with work.  The project he’s been engaged in since he got hired at the hospital is supposed to be done by the first of the year, but between the regular work each team member has to do and the tasks involved in completing this process, things have not been going as smoothly as they should.  Long days, traveling, stress…it is shaping up to be quite a lulu of a holiday season.

The Thanksgiving break is a few days away, and we’re mostly ready for the holiday.  TGG has to work when the store opens at six, and Dada will forgo the traditional Friday day off to go in to get things done for his project, but that’s something we can deal with.  I will probably engage J on decorating wrapping paper for Christmas.  I am planning on a little forest of Christmas trees (made with paper mache cone shapes and tissue paper) for the living room, and J loves doing those things so we’ll work on that, too.

I am trying to keep things low-key because I have not been feeling well.  It’s nothing serious, but I’ve been less enthused, energetic, and sprightly than usual, and I think I need to take things down a notch until I’m feeling up to my usual.  The Christmas shopping is 85% done (it’s always the little things that jumble me up,) and we have our menus clearly planned for all upcoming holidays.  I’m skipping Christmas cards, and I’m going to focus on making our Christmas a nice quiet one that will be conducive to J adjusting to life after Risperdal.

There WAS life before Risperdal, and parts of it weren’t so nice, but I think its time is up.  Let’s face it, if we compare J to a car, he’s been driving around on fumes of gas rather than a full tank for a while now.  I’m sure that there will be not-so-nice parts to life after Risperdal, but that can be said about everything in life.  My job in all this is to try my best to help J face yet another transition in life.  That I am taking it slowly, calmly, and trying to not overexert myself should not be construed as being unprepared or being cavalier about it…

We are still wearing a ton of bandaids, but we now choose to go out without taking our brace with us.  We have even gone out for excursions without the band-aids. I don’t foresee (especially with the anxiety that overtakes him when the med is reduced) that the band-aids will go the way of the boxing gloves, but I do foresee that J will make entirely personal decisions regarding certain things he carries, wears, clings to, and so on and so forth.

If there is one thing I’ve learned about J it is that he is a lot more malleable than we sometimes give him credit for, and I am glad that he has become increasingly comfortable with being stubborn, and with negotiating.  Does that make sense?  I am glad that my son can now stick to his guns without being aggressive, and I am glad that he can negotiate without feeling defeated.  Whether it’s about band-aids (negotiating longer and longer periods without them,) or a pair of pants that he was adamant about not wearing, or accepting that he either has his two slices of pepperoni and one slice of cheese OR his cookie OR his two squares of chocolate, J has become an easier person to live with over the past four years.

Furthermore, the change effected in his relationship with food over the past two years can only  be categorized as astonishing.  The same kid who would only eat Ramen noodles, mac and cheese and pizza now happily picks the scallions out of the Pad Thai and eats them first.  I have placed a ramekin with broccoli, cauliflower and carrots in front of him, and J has consumed them with a very modest amount of Ranch dressing.  That he loves fish, eats legumes without complaining and drinks apple juice (something that used to cause melodramatic bouts of gagging and near hurling in previous years) is cause for rejoicing.

We’re in good shape.  Anticipation, but the good kind, is in the air…

We’ll see what happens next…….

Vexations and tribulations…

Ladies and gentlemen, Growling J has made a comeback.  Yes, that particular cause for parental consternation has returned, and not just at home.  It is a source of teacher consternation, too.

HOW did this happen?  I have a name for you, and you might think (but don’t judge me harshly, please) that I hyperbolize: TGG.

If we backtrack to a recent post, your memory will be refreshed: TGG is in love, has been lax in his studies, blah, blah, blah.  Yes, I remember he’s 24, but I will also remind you -if you’ll kindly allow me to- that ours is the abode in which he currently sleeps five nights out of seven, ours are the refrigerator and pantry that provide the bulk of his meals, ours are the funds that paid for his classes and books, and ours the utilities that he freely partakes of on a regular basis.  These things, of course, are not something we are obligated to provide since he is 24 and flies the flag of independence and autonomy at his convenience.

My father, in his most colorful and blunt way, often said “we each make a whistle of our asshole” to indicate that we can each view our situations and make our decisions as we choose.  TGG may be hearing whistling…we are smelling otherwise.

Bear with me…I know you think I’m overreacting, and maybe (I will grant you that much) I am tapping into the deepest overbearing mother tradition to which I am connected by my status as a Hispanic woman.  This is the thing: this past week, J saw TGG on Thursday night and didn’t see him again until Monday afternoon.  Isolated incident you say?  How about this is happening every weekend???  With nary a word, nary an explanation, nary an acknowledgement, TGG waltzes out, does his thing all weekend, and then returns Sunday night.  On this particular Sunday, TGG didn’t get home until eleven and J was in bed and asleep.

I will tell you the same thing I told TGG yesterday: it’s not “don’t live your life,” but rather “don’t completely blow off your brother in the course of living your life.”  For some reason (love????,) TGG has completely forgotten that his brother is a part of his life, and has been a part of his life for nearly 21 years.

Yes, my friends, we all do it.  We fall in love and the yearning for the other person’s company is overwhelming.  Why do homework when one can pine?  Why clean the bathroom when one can ponder?  Why sleep at home when one can potentially traumatize toddlers that don’t know if you’re daddy, a prowler, or some dude that mommy is sleeping with?  (It is now clear to you all that I don’t understand my son’s generation.)

I don’t want TGG to take over the care and maintenance of the emotional machine that is his brother.  I am responsible for J; Dada is responsible for J.  As the legal guardians of J, we simply hope his older (and supposedly adult and mature) brother will understand that the acquisition of new affections doesn’t render null and void the ones previously existent.  You also don’t disappear for a whole weekend (we don’t know where this girl lives, and he turns his cell phone off while he is there…rendering himself unreachable in case of an emergency, and us clueless in case the emergency is on his side,) and then come home and act totally excited about steak, pasta and vegetables for dinner.

After a moderate growling and SIB incident on Sunday evening (which had been building up since Friday evening when J hadn’t heard a word or caught a glimpse of his brother since the previous night,) I sat TGG down yesterday morning.  I asked what the deal is, and when he is moving out.

Why did I ask that?  Well, TGG has said that he and his girlfriend are looking for a bigger place to share with her children and her brother.  TGG’s twin-size bed will be repurposed for the brother.  The bookcases, oh, they will fit in with the pre-existing decor.  Commuting won’t be an issue.  Blah blah blah…  Yesterday’s answer to my question?  “I might have misunderstood what she was saying before.”  I had been attempting “coolness,” and it turned into this:


In the wise words of my female ancestors, I told TGG to either comb his hair or put it in pin curls.  This (o te peinas o te haces papelillos) is a familiar saying in Puerto Rico.  It means “make up your mind.”  I said it in Spanish.  TGG knew I meant what I was saying.  He interjected with “well, we’ve only been dating a month.”  That tidbit prompted this:


And then I went into full-blown this:


I explained to my 24 year-old that having sex isn’t dating.  I explained to him that commitment doesn’t hinge on whether your stuff matches the decor.  I explained that making a life with someone is not as easy as it looks in movies, and that our family life is being deeply shaken by his  lackadaisical approach to “acting like a grown-up.”

I explained that, no, J doesn’t need him around 24/7, but that not having done a thing with him in weeks shows a lack of understanding for his brother’s emotional needs.  I reminded him that he has a son he hasn’t seen in a month, and NO, it’s not everyone else’s fault that he chooses to do things in such a self-centered way.  He tried to blame it on work.  He tried to blame it on school.  He tried to blame it on his previous employers.  He would’ve blamed it on Lee Harvey Oswald but the timelines didn’t match.

I reminded TGG that one of his complaints regarding his biological father is that he simply left.  He forgot about his kids while still trying to keep a stranglehold on their affection, a guarantee of loyalty and identity in their minds.  I explained that, to a lesser degree, he is repeating this pattern; when he’s here and he has a moment for J, he expects J to be responsive and grateful of the attention, but the rest of the time, he doesn’t give his brother’s feelings much thought.

J doesn’t want to be forgotten, or ignored.  J doesn’t want to be treated like he doesn’t understand.  J is very present, and he feels upset when things are not explained to him because his ability to process them is underestimated.

I don’t know how much of this sank in, but yesterday TGG came home from school directly, spent time with his brother, read him a story, and this morning he made a point of saying “good morning” and kissing him before he left for work.  Maybe he understood me, or maybe it’s just that his girlfriend told him that since her brother and her mother will be living with her, there won’t be room at the inn for him.  We’ll see…I am still skeptical about “coming to Jesus” and consulting us for everything during a 12-hour span.

I know TGG has to have a life of his own, but I wish he would opt for a certain quality of life, emotions, relationships, aspirations.  I don’t mean I want him to own a McMansion with all the bells and whistles, or even marry Jennifer Lawrence (which would be nice…J would like that,) but that he sees a future that doesn’t involve patching up a lifeboat and throwing a tarp over it to say “at least it floats???  For now????”

And I want J to face all his transitions with as much grace as possible.  And for those who are near and dear to him to be as kind and understanding as we can be of his needs and anxieties.  Isn’t that what every mom wants????