It was 5:45 pm on a Wednesday in April and we were driving home in rush hour traffic from Jack and Charlie’s psychiatrist appointment, normally a 45 minute drive. We had been in the car for an hour and were not yet home. This ride pushed Jack’s limits of acceptable car behavior. His moaning and thrashing increased. Charlie darted out of Jack’s angry clutches several times. I drove as fast as I could.
“Sit down, Jack.”
“Buckle your seatbelt, Jack.”
“We’re almost home, guys.”
“Jack! Sit nicely!”
But when we were still 20 minutes from home, Jack leapt from the back row of the van and started choking Charlie. I pulled over and turned on my flashers. Jack got in the front seat and lunged at me, biting, scratching, and yanking my hair. It was the same kind of assault that happened in December, when our already precarious life went into lockdown. Jack’s behaviors, always a big factor in how things are done at this house, now control everything.
I called Dutch.
“I can’t stop him from attacking me, and when he’s not attacking me, he’s hurting Charlie. I don’t know what to do!”
“What should I do? Do you want me to come?” he asked.
“I can’t wait 20 minutes. He’s all over me—” Jack knocked the phone from my hand and yanked my hair down, trying to bite my face. He then unlocked the door, opened it, and started to bolt.
I screamed and swore and lunged out to pull him back inside, my left hand fumbling for the button to lock the doors.
“God, I need help!” I yelled. “Help me!”
Jack clawed at me, partially scratching off a mole from below my collarbone. His fingernails were bloody. So was my chest.
Charlie cried from the backseat.
“I don’t know what to do,” I thought, while pushing my son away from me again and again. “This isn’t working. I’m not bigger or stronger than Jack anymore. I don’t know what to do.”
Suddenly a dark sedan with tinted windows pulled behind me, red and blue lights flashing in my mirrors. Hot relief swam through my bloodstream. I exhaled. Jack yanked at my hair and bit my forearm.
A tall blond plainclothes detective who looked a little like Thor approached Jack’s side of the car, saw him assaulting me, and ran around to the driver’s side and opened the door.
“My son has special needs. He’s attacking me. I can’t make him stop.”
He put his hands out, his eyes wide, and asked, “What should I do?”
Jack stopped his assault momentarily and sat sullenly, glancing sideways at the detective.
“Can you wait with me while my husband comes to help me?”
“I can wait with you,” he nodded.
I called Dutch. Jack climbed in the back of the van and I followed to stop him from hurting Charlie or opening the door and running into traffic. For the next twenty minutes, Detective Thor sat halfway in the driver’s seat, facing us, his long legs outside the car. He talked to Charlie and asked us questions. Jack scratched and bit me several times, pulling at my hair repeatedly. Each time, I told Jack that Dad was coming and everything was going to be okay.
“I am really shaking, Mom,” Charlie said.
“I know, buddy. That was really scary, but you were so brave.” I ruffled his hair.
As twenty minute increments go, this one was right up with waiting for an epidural to start working during labor after they’ve jammed needles into your spine and injected medicine.
The detective and I talked about anti-psychotic meds and how they don’t necessarily always work, about Charlie’s Avenger’s shirt, and about the fact that he (Thor) normally doesn’t stop to assist people in traffic because his job as a detective is to investigate things.
I called Dutch again. “Where are you?”
He was muscling his way through backed up traffic and onto the shoulder where we were.
Dutch arrived and everything was okay. Jack got calmly into the other car. I shook Detective Thor’s hand and thanked him.
“I don’t know where you were going tonight or how much we messed up your plans, but I am so glad you stopped.” I said.
He looked at me with kindness and a furrowed brow and nodded, “You’re welcome.” We all climbed in our separate cars and drove away.
At home, we gave Jack meds and dinner and put him to bed. I walked into my bedroom and looked at my disheveled hair and bloodied chest. Now I couldn’t stop shaking.
I have felt for some time that we are riding a tidal wave toward catastrophe. Something bad is coming. It feels inevitable and I’m powerless to stop it.
Somewhere between the winter that almost killed me and the spring that tried to finish me off, I’d come to understand, in a moment of grace, that it is very likely that things may never be great for us with Jack. I’d had this confirmation that it really could stay this difficult, maybe even for the rest of our lives. Or it might even go up in smoke, but that if it did, it would all ultimately be okay.
Because of Jesus.
I don’t have to fix it.
I can’t fix it.
Only God can, eventually.
Because of Jesus.
This revelatory moment happened weeks before the red and blue bulbs on Detective Thor’s unmarked cruiser flashed in my rear view mirror as my son assaulted me on the side of a busy road. And it helped.
Everything still hurt.
But it helped.