Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Therapist at Work

I've mentioned that it's been a rough week. It's still raw, but if I wait to summarize it will lack the true grit that I highly esteem.

We're crawling out from under a train wreck of hormones, medication changes, and burgeoning angst. It came to a head last Monday afternoon; Day 8 of what we will now call "the wrong medicine" blew up in all of our faces. Poor Reid landed off the bus in a sobbing pile on our living room loveseat. My heart broke as all he could choke out was, "mommy...i missed the bus...."

That was only the start of the terrible, horrible, no good very bad day. I could tell the whole eight hours must have been coursing through his mind. What just happened?...How did i get here?...What have I done?...I am so glad to be home... I can't do this anymore...all coming out in rare tears from this indefatiguable, exuberant boy with stamina, courage and joy that knows know bounds. He couldn't win over the chemical warfare in his already out of sync body.

I knew most of what had transpired, thanks to a call from school--uncharacteristic aggression, a restraint, a frustrated bus aide yelling reprimands in a German accent--but of course I wasn't there. Push had come to shove at a school where they don't dance around lines in the sand once they're drawn. I'd only witnessed the beginning at 7:07 that morning:

A substitute driver stuck strictly to his time chart and drove away from our open garage door. In my pajamas and Kat's Beetle (mine in the shop), we chased him down to the next pick up in Del Mar. I can't say for sure if he saw my frizzy bedhead as I stood waving frantically in my bright orange paisley flannel bottoms, no bra and a t-shirt, but I felt hard to miss. He drove off AGAIN as Reid zipped up his backpack with one foot on the running board.

Appalled, I joked through the surging adrenaline, "OMG! I can't believe this guy. The nerve. HA! We are gonna catch that bus!" In good spirits taking it in stride, Reid said, "Mom at Austin's house I am going to get out the fast way! My backpack is ready. I'm right on target." At the off ramp of the 56 in Carmel Valley now (still closer than driving to school which is 30 minutes away), I pulled up next to the bus and motioned in an angry charade that he better wait this time. The guy was close to comatose which gave me that sickening feeling of negligence that I even put my kid in his charge. How did we get here?

Back in the brokenhearted moment I cried with Reid, "Oh baby, it's not our fault. It's the wrong medicine. We know that now. I am SO sorry. No more of it. You can stay home tomorrow. We will figure this out." I am so sorry, so very sorry. How can I make it right. The tears are still right here. How can I spare him this? Confusion. Remorse. Out of control. Haywire.

By 4:30 as I glanced out the back window from my piano lesson to see him throwing sand at the hedge, it seemed like improvement. A minor offense at this point and maybe an effective way to vent the stress of the day. I called to him as usual, "your turn with Angela now, Reid."

No reply. Did I see him come in? Check upstairs. Oscar's can? One more loop. "Jim, Reid's gone." In quick reply, all five of us--Kat, Allie, and Angela in heels, fanned out calling "Reid, say 'here i am' Reeeid!

Allie and Kat to the neighbors who have Apple TV. Not there.

Jim up the street on a bike to ones who own Sound of Music.

Finally over the back fence we heard him answer my plea, "here i am" A second reply several minutes later enabled Jim to zero in on him in the cul de sac
below our back enbankment.

Long story short, we urged his distraught body home having averted any trespassing violation. He was crying again in his lower bunk, aware that dad was angry. Now poor Angela, the music therapist cum piano teacher cum friend of the family cum fellow sojourner in the way, would have to pick up the pieces and salvage the remainder of their session. (Had she been a stickler for time, it would have been over.)

She had already earned her keep with Allie in the foyer empathizing over sibling memories of her brother with Angelman syndrome. She has been there! And is there for each of us in unique ways. She's comfortable enough in our house and was going to have better luck at this point than any of us. So, without words, she went into his room to work her therapeutic magic. The rest of us just listened and learned through the walls.

"Reid, Kingsmen is tonight. the band needs you. you're such an important part of the band. we need to practice that new song. do you think i could sing you part of it to you?" She began to sing the Beatles song they're preparing, leaving out key words which he filled in. Then suggesting that maybe it would sound better with the piano downstairs, they rallied to the bench. Order restored for the time being.

Crouched in the living room praying in a private language for peace, wisdom, some end to this... I realized they'd switched gears and were singing Sara Groves' "He's Always Been Faithful."

He has always been faithful. As I tuned in, I realized we were both getting the therapy. Angela has an intuitive way of picking songs that scratch the itch and allow the Spirit to move through the music without agenda but with definite purpose.

Last week, she'd blessed me in a different way with a VIP ticket to the American Music Therapy Association conference. It was a thrill to be close enough to touch Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, The Soloist, hear him perform, and meet his sister the next morning. Steve Lopez spoke on the panel also (more to come on this experience). He recapped Mr. Ayer's progress since the time that the book and movie came out saying that he is still not on any medicine that would fix it or clear it all away. Lopez has learned to think in terms of recovery rather than cure. Recovery defined as learning about the condition and functioning with purpose.

Then the profound clincher that compelled me to borrow a pencil from my neighbor, "I like to think that the music is the medicine. The Walt Disney Hall is the hospital. And the musicians are the doctors."

Amen brother! That has been my experience too.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 1We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Brothers, pray for us. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-25

Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.
1 Samuel 16:22-23


  1. Andrea, you need to take a central Minnesota winter vacation and come see Sara Groves at our church next week. I am just sure of it!


  2. First of all, you are a wonderful mom. You are the parent I aspire to become.

    Second, you are an excellent writer. These are real stories. Those were real tears.

    Third. I love you. :*

    Fourth, I'm struck by how you've woven so many threads/vectors into this story and in the process turned the tables upside down... when I take this story, your post and segue over to Steve Lopez and Nathaniel Ayers I'm left wondering... "who is sheparding whom?"

  3. Amen, my friend. As she says in the song, "This is my anthem, this is my song ... He's always been faithful to me."
    We've been through some medication nightmares also - it's such a difficult time. Cling to Jesus and one another.

    And I love your surfer dude's comment. ;)