I saw Jack today for the first time in three weeks.
Jeff goes to Jack’s new town roughly once a month for work, and planned to stop in and see Jack while he was there. When he arrived, he could hear Jack, the house manager, and Jack’s housemate in the backyard. “I couldn’t see what they were doing,” he said, “But Jack was making happy sounds.”
As soon as he saw Jeff, Jack jumped in the car and they went for a drive. They Facetimed me in the car and this is what I saw:
*Jack got a haircut. Like all his haircuts, it was a little rough around the edges. He won’t hold still long enough to achieve any other look. He appears quite grown-up.
*He wouldn’t look at me for the first few minutes. He looked out the window, calmly.
*Later in the conversation, he looked directly at me for some time. I smiled and blew him kisses while I talked and he stared. Charlie and Truman said hi. My parents said hi (we were sitting in their backyard).
*Jack looked older. Maybe it’s the haircut. Maybe it’s that I haven’t been around him for a month. It felt, though, that he appeared more mature because he wasn’t lunging, pacing, thrashing, throwing, or wailing about things. He was self-possessed. It was a level of calm I haven’t seen in him before.
We ended the call and Jeff took Jack to McDonald’s. Apparently Jack was much better behaved in the car than in the days when he lived at home. After their drive, they returned to the group home, where Jack scampered inside. Jeff went in and they sat in the living room, chatting with the house manager. At one point, Jack stood up and pushed Jeff out the front door, because haha, he was done. Not one for social boundaries or constraints, Jack clearly enacts what teens everywhere wish they could do to their parents. Jeff went back inside and talked a little longer, before retrieving a new Dustbuster from the car. Jack happily unpacked it and made no attempt to leave with Jeff.
This first contact post-placement went far better than I had hoped. It’s probably better that I wasn’t there, because on the drive home from my parents’, the emotions simmering inside me this past month bubbled up and boiled over. It wasn’t as much sadness as it was realizing how much I miss Jack, with a side order of gratitude that he is well. I’m happy that he has this new home—a practically perfect setting for him.
When he walked through the kitchen, Jeff noticed a plastic chain around the refrigerator door and commented to the house manager that we had wanted to do something similar at home, but it wasn’t realistic with all our other children. Jack needs environmental boundaries to help him with impulse control and the regulation of his eating patterns. The plastic chain on the fridge door represents to me the life that Jack needs, but which we couldn’t give him anymore.
This new, custom-designed setting for change that the forces of heaven have so obviously wrought for Jack, the snatches of growth I saw briefly on my phone as Jack and I saw each other, composed a scenic postcard.
Weather is beautiful.
I DON’T wish you were here, because I’m okay.
Everything is okay.
Tell Dad thanks for the fries, the drive, and the Dustbuster.