Starting on the 29th, we noticed some ‘precursor behaviors’–the kinds of behaviors that serve as an early warning that our girl is going to a not-so-good place. None of it was ramped up enough to require a lot of response–mainly, we had to find ways to redirect her and that strategy worked. By the 31st, though, my own ‘early warning system’ had kicked in; it’s a small but distinct tightening of my muscles and hyper-vigilance. Again, though, it wasn’t so bad that either Sherod or I felt we had to have a powwow to review how things were going. Maria has been sleeping until 9 or 10 most mornings so yesterday, when she woke up at about 6:30, I became even more attentive. By 7:45, she was sitting on the sofa in our den looking like the darkest, most ominous cloud imaginable. At first, she sat there in stony silence. Then she started trying to start a fight and about half-way into that, when we wouldn’t bite, she said, “Fine! I don’t care. I want to go to Tallahassee today”.
Out in the country on the morning of January 1st, you don’t mess around. Within half an hour of that conversation, we were loading her and her gear into the car and heading down the road to Tallahassee. In the meantime, she had moved to a very different place emotionally. As I packed her things and she got dressed, she stopped and looked at me, apologized because she didn’t want to hurt my feelings and asked for the reassurance that she was doing the right thing. It was easy to reassure her. It took steely resolve on my part not to weep. There is enormous progress in her ability to hit a wall and not lose control and become either physically or verbally abusive with us. We were able to have her with us for two whole weeks–the longest we’ve had since we placed her at BARC in Ft. Lauderdale back in June of 2012.
A little less than four hours later, as we were turning into TDC, Maria said, “home, sweet home.” Before we left, she was insistent that we come to her room because she had forgotten her Christmas presents for us–a funny Christmas mug for Sherod, a set of Christmas-themed potholders and dishtowels for me. As soon as she had given us those gifts, she was ready for us to leave. Usually, one or the other of us makes the trek to Tallahassee and back. All my resolve sustained me until Sherod and I walked out of House 4, where Maria lives. And then, I could only thank God that both of us had made the trip, that Sherod was there to lean against because I basically fell apart.
Along with resolve, these years have built up our resilience so it didn’t take me long to pull myself back together, climb in the car and not play the game of looking back as we pulled out of the driveway at TDC and headed home. The drive gave us time to talk. The irony that the new year found us back in Florida and then headed right back out, was hard to miss. There was precious little traffic on the road so it was an easy drive in both directions and we got home in time to be able to catch the Alabama-Ohio State game. We make the drive so regularly now that we know the sights well. Yesterday, it was particularly redemptive and graceful to get to groan at this sign. It never fails to amuse me.