Conor greeted me on the unit today with a question.
“MOM, why do you need to be patient?” He means why does he have to be patient; he’s not so good with the pronouns yet. He says my name in a really loud voice.
“Because being patient makes you happier, and sometimes you have to wait for things,” I replied, kind of stumbling around the answer and taking his hand. Sometimes talking with Conor makes me aware of how hard it can be to explain even the simplest things. (Especially when, I have to admit, I’m not the most patient person myself.)
We strolled hand-in-hand down the unit with Sharon, his Clinical Assistant, following closely. We put the sheet on the table and he got his lunch tray. (They use sheets on the unit for tablecloths; it’s just easier.)
Then he proceeded to make my heart ache with his questions.
“MOM, what day does Conor have a going away party?” he asked, staring me right in the eyes. Man, it’s startling how good his eye contact can be when he wants something.
“I don’t know, sweetie,” I replied. Suddenly, it dawned on me. He had asked Polly, his behaviorist, when he was going home and she must have told him to be patient. Two patients were discharged today. He knows.
I’m so sorry, sweetie, I thought to myself, but you need to stay a little longer.
“MOM, why does Conor have to stay in the hospital so long?” he continued. He puts his head in his hand. Damn, he’s not dropping it. And his language is coming so easily today.
I’m not mad, it’s just so sad. I want to scoop him up and take him home right then, but we have to make sure the treatment holds. School staff needs to be trained. I need more training. I need more time. He needs more time.
“Because we want to make sure you’re all better,” I explained. Seems like a half-assed explanation to me, but I’m really trying hard to keep it simple, so he understands.
“MOM, when will Conor have a going away party?” He swivels his head to stare at me, still resting it in his hand.
“I’m not talking about it again until October 15th,” I replied firmly, rubbing his back with one hand and my eyes with my other. I don’t know why I picked that date. It’s close enough to the real discharge date of October 27th, so I guess by then I’ll feel comfortable that we’re on schedule or not.
“MOM, on October 1st…” Conor trails off. Stares at his food. He’s trying to negotiate the date of the diplomatic conference I just brokered with him.
“October 15th, Conor,” I firmly say. “October 15th. Now, let’s eat your lunch.”
“I don’t want to eat the meat,” he says. I know, sweetie, I know. Eat your lunch.