Sometimes as you travel through life, you hit bumps and pot holes on the road. Then one day, an incident blows everything sky high and there you are, helpless and wondering what is the next step. So it went with George, Jr., a few days before Thanksgiving last year:
My phone rang early one morning; it was my oldest son.
“Mom,” he said in a shaky voice, “I had an episode last night and I’m at the Westchester Medical Center Behavioral Health Unit.”
“Are you hurt,” I quickly asked.
“No, but emotionally and mentally I’m not in a good place.”
The social worker spoke to me and explained George had come from the ER and would be in the Unit for a minimum of 8 days.
She told me what the visiting hours were, that he was allowed one phone call, I could bring some clothes for him and other procedures that needed to be followed. I told her I’d be there that afternoon.
I was shaken and dumbfounded and so so worried about my boy. I quickly called his brothers, aunt and uncle to let them know we were in crisis. Brother Paul who doesn’t live far from George stepped up to the plate:
“I’ll take care of feeding his cat and checking up on the apartment.” The others circled around their son, brother, nephew and cousin like the pioneer wagon train protecting one of its own. Countless phone calls and emails flooded our hurting family—thank you!
When I went to get his clothes, I knew my son was in trouble. He is super neat about himself and his apartment. The bed was unmade, there were dirty dishes in the sink, clothes thrown on the sofa, no food in the cat’s dish which was also dirty. I knew also that lately he’d slacked off playing the keyboard and bass. This was not George. I packed a bag for him and headed over to the Medical Center.
Checking in to the Behavioral Unit was an eye opener. The security guard used a wand —just like the airports—and I was assigned a locker for my handbag and coat. There were other folks like me, doing the same thing and it was so, so quiet--we were alone and yet together with our thoughts.
We were finally given the go-ahead to take the elevator up to the second floor. We had to use the phone outside the Unit to announce ourselves while a staff member unlocked the door and we quietly walked in to a great room set up with plastic tables and chairs. The door was then re-locked.
I sat down by a sunny window and waited. As my first-born turned the corner, tears started rolling down both our faces. I hugged him as hard as I could and he did the same.
“Oh, Mom, I’m so happy to see you,” he whispered.
We sat and talked for almost an hour. I told him the social worker had been in touch and was encouraged by his willingness to “put everything on the table, even going back to childhood days.” She said he was so honest and this would be helpful in getting him “back to his comfort zone.”
From that day forward, I visited him every afternoon, and his brothers were there each evening. We became friendly with a few of the other patients and parents. I was impressed with the way a few of the guys responded to George. He normally works out and is conscious of diet and exercise. One morning outside his room he started doing stretching exercises. A patient asked if he could join George who of course said “sure.” Ten minutes later, George had a group of five working out with him. His social worker and therapist said this was a very good sign. He told them he was eager to straighten out his life and be the happy, musical guy he was: to make better choices and decisions that were right for him.
One afternoon, I noticed a new patient sitting in the great room. She was young and very pretty and alone—her wrists were wrapped in gauze and she looked so sad. My heart broke for her.
Now you know somehow we can and should find some humor even in unhappy and sad occasions. My grandson, Matt, decided he wasn’t going to New Jersey for the holiday.
“I belong with you, Grandmopps, and I want to see Uncle George when you visit him on Thanksgiving.”
George was thrilled to see Matt. They hugged, talked and laughed—seeing them together and watching George happily respond was the best Thanksgiving gift of all. When we left, I realized that we hadn’t had our dinner and my fridge was empty—my voice would echo if I opened the door!
I knew of a nice diner in Thornwood—diners seem to have the best turkey dinners. We arrived and went up to the door. A sign read “We will close at 4:00 pm.” I looked at my watch: 3:40 pm. Only 20 minutes. I poked my head in and explained to the owner that we’d been at the hospital all afternoon and hadn’t had dinner.
“C’mon, c’mon in, we’ll take care of you!”
Oh, my friends, this Thanksgiving dinner will go down in the annals of our family: We sat down and our smiling server was immediately at our table with two huge plates of turkey and dressing (delicious); we asked for mashed potatoes:
“We’re out of them. I can give you french fried sweet potatoes.”
“How about vegetables?”
“Only have broccoli left.”
We ate fast and were finished by 3:55 pm. I will say the food was scrumptious and our server and the owner couldn’t have been nicer. She asked if we wanted dessert which we declined. We would have coffee and pumpkin pie at home after Matt got a roaring fire going. He went into the kitchen to cut the pie and burst out laughing:
“Hey, Grandmopps, you bought sweet potato pie, not pumpkin.” Believe me, after the last few days, it was a major accomplishment that I didn’t buy coconut custard pie! That was Thanksgiving 2018.
This year, we’ll be together again. It is such a blessing and a comfort to see George with his “George” smile, to hear his laughter and know he is well on his way back to himself—he’s once again playing the keyboard and easing back into the bass. Just the other day, he mentioned how our family has always been supportive of anyone going through a rough time.
“But this time, Mom, the love and support blew me out of the water. I will never, ever forget. It’s good to be home again.”