“Compassion has a price. It does not come without a cost, the least of which is the pain that pierces our own hearts as we accompany one who is suffering.” Joyce Rupp, The Cup of Our Lives: A Guide for Spiritual Growth.
Saturday morning. Dappled sunshine, clouds scudding across the sky at a good clip, temperatures in the 60’s.
I jump into Wally’s sporty little BMW and zoom out of Cloudland’s driveway, heading for Safe Haven Farms. The drive is gorgeous, even on dreary days. On a day like today, with the top down and crisp, fall air blowing through my hair, it is beyond gorgeous. It is heavenly. I can’t stop smiling as I careen around curves, speed up hills, and downshift for stop signs.
I’m so looking forward to seeing Joel. It’s been difficult, not having him home for weekends as we had planned. It’s too hard for him, transitioning back and forth from his old home to his new home. He had two or three excellent weeks before cycling back into a difficult time with high anxiety. I’m a little apprehensive about our visit today, but mostly I just can’t wait to give him a hug and a kiss.
His face is dirty and he’s dressed in shorts which aren’t warm enough for a ride in the convertible. We get him changed, and then I help him into his jacket, which I remind myself needs washing. Oh yeah, that’s not my job any more. I’ll have to remind the staff to wash it.
Joel climbs into the car, an impassive look on his face. I thought he’d be excited about a ride in Dad’s car. I rev up the engine, trying to elicit a smile. Nothing. We get going down the road, and I gun it, getting it up to 60 mph in a matter of seconds. Still, no smile. I point out horses, ponds with fountains, cows, the clouds. He stares straight ahead, refusing to look either right or left.
“Frisch’s or Bob Evans?” I ask as we near our destination. The first smile of the morning fleetingly crosses my son’s face. “Frisch’s!” he whispers.
I talk non-stop during lunch, catching him up on the family news (his brother Justin and sister-in-law are moving to Montana, Mom and Dad are spending a lot of time at Cloudland, Aunt Julie, Grandma and Sam just left for Wisconsin, we’ll be having a birthday party for Justin on Thursday and everyone wants Joel to come…). I get out my new phone and take a picture of him. “Smile!” I say. “Make a funny face!” A hint of a smile only. We text the picture to Joel’s friend, Sarah, then try to call her, receiving a voice message.
Lunch over, we climb back in the car and make our way back to Safe Haven. I would like to stay for awhile and walk around the farm with him, but I’m already wondering how he will do with the transition as I leave. I remind myself to stay calm so that he doesn’t pick up on my anxiety.
Things are fine until we pull into the drive of the farm. “Want to go home,” he cries. “Home! Starfire! Dance party! Want to go to the zoo! Time to go home!”
All of his favorite things. All that we have pulled him away from for this new life on the farm.
By the time we pull up to the front of his house he is trying to pull the shift knob out of gear. Thankfully, one of the male staff greets us as we get out of the car. I say a hasty goodbye, giving Joel a hug and letting him know we’ll be back on Monday for a picnic, and that his brother Matt will be there, too.
I do not smile on the ride back to Cloudland. I can’t find it in me to smile the rest of the day. A cloud hangs, heavy and dark over my head.
My heart is breaking.