Where They Are, Part 5

Friday: End Game

North is finished with their afterschool therapy program. Their last day was Friday, about a week before we expected. The confusion arose from the fact that in the last two and a half weeks, they were only attending three days a week so they could stay after school and help with costumes for the spring musical, and we were under the impression those five missed days would extend their enrollment, but they didn’t, even though previous absences had.

We didn’t know for sure when their last day would be until Tuesday, so IOP seemed to end kind of abruptly, and I think before North felt quite ready. But it’s possible that after this four-and-a-half-month journey– of hospitalization, a long wait at home to get into a partial hospitalization program, the PHP, and then the IOP– any kind of end of intensive therapy would have seemed sudden.

There are upsides. North will have more time for schoolwork or extracurriculars or whatever they want to do now that they won’t be in therapy three to five afternoons a week and Beth will be logging a lot less time in the car driving to and fro.

And North won’t be working without a net. They still have their psychiatrist (Dr. C) and their therapist (A), both of whom they’ve known since they were twelve. We are considering going into family therapy and finding North a peer support group of some kind since they found that aspect of the PHP and IOP helpful. Beth and I were thinking when IOP was over, North would go back to school full-time, but they want to stay hybrid, so that’s what we’re going to do, at least for now.

Friday was busy. It started with a neurology appointment to discuss North’s worsening migraines and ways we can address them. The doctor was optimistic and exhaustive as he explained all the different medications and devices North can try. He also had a lot of lifestyle advice about food, hydration, exercise, and sleep. It made it seem like he was really committed to fixing the problem, which is what you want from a doctor, but it isn’t always that way, is it? Anyway, the upshot is he wants to keep North on the preventative that hasn’t been working, but at a higher dose until they’ve been on that dose for six weeks, and then if it still doesn’t work, there’s a plan for other medications they can try. And because the rescue medication they’ve been taking is very effective but can only be used twice a week, he prescribed a different one so they can alternate them and have relief more days of the week. They’re also getting a patch to put on their arm that’s supposed to block headache pain signals, but we don’t have that yet. (Since the appointment North has tried the new medication twice and oddly, it helps but only very briefly, and then the headache returns.)

From the doctor’s office we took North to school, but there was only a little over an hour left in the school day, and we were a half hour from home, so Beth and I set up shop in a nearby Starbucks and worked. Then we picked North up from school and headed to Columbia.

We decided to mark the end of IOP by taking North out for pizza and frozen yogurt. I worked in the library with Beth and had one last ramble around town, mainly in Symphony Woods, where I hadn’t been in a while. I took a lot of pictures of the painted picnic tables there. This one of a heron taking flight is my favorite. Herons always remind me of North because it was their symbol in preschool. The park was the site of the Christmas light display where Beth and I took a walk the day North was accepted to the PHP program three months earlier, though of course, those lights are long gone. I couldn’t help thinking of that day, though, and how relieved we were.

A little before 6:30 we went to fetch North. They were playing Scattergories with two other teens and a staff member. They answered one last question, said some goodbyes, and we left. They had a polished rock that says “Peace” on it they picked for a memento and a certificate for the IOP, like the one they got when they finished the PHP. We walked out of the facility for the last time and went to dinner.

Eating out felt like a bold plan because it involved eating inside a restaurant, which is something we still rarely do. But eating outside wasn’t feasible because it was dark, and the day was in the low 40s and damp. And takeout didn’t seem sufficiently celebratory because we get takeout pizza a couple times a month. So, we took the plunge. The restaurant, a combination pizza/Indian place, was large and mostly empty, so maybe not such a daring choice after all.

When we got home, we watched the first half of Loving. I’d originally picked it for Black History Month, but we didn’t get around to it in February.

Friday/Saturday: Bring the Boy Back Home

The other notable thing that happened on Friday, or rather very early Saturday morning, was that Noah came home for spring break. His bus was scheduled to arrive at 11:30 p.m. in— guess what suburban Maryland town? Yes, Columbia. So, after the movie, Beth drove up there and back for the second time that day and probably for the last time in the foreseeable future, as his bus back to school departs from Bethesda. Beth got him Taco Bell because he was hungry and brought him home around 12:20 a.m. I was in bed, and I woke up when they came in but just barely, so I didn’t see him until the next morning when I debriefed him while we both ate oatmeal.

I learned about the film he’s making for his senior capstone project. He’s working with a classmate, who wrote the script. It’s a fictionalized account of the suicide of a friend of the scriptwriter. They’re going to start filming in April. They don’t have all the actors they need yet but they have some, which is better than this time last year when Noah was on the verge of dropping his cinema production class because he couldn’t find any actors.

I asked about his classes and he’s enjoying Machine Learning (apparently the professor is disappointed that Noah’s a senior and can’t take his more advanced Machine Learning class) and he showed me some CGI he made in another film class. Things seem to be going well for him academically. He’s applied for summer internships in Los Angeles, but he hasn’t heard back from anywhere yet.

Later that morning Noah and I started reading Eric, from the Discworld series—this one’s partly a parody of Faust. He and I made tortellini soup for dinner—I’d texted him about a week earlier and given him a choice of three pasta-based soups and that’s what he chose. It felt deeply right to all sit down to dinner together.

Saturday: My Favorite Year

After dinner, the four of us went to North’s school to see the spring musical, My Favorite Year. In the program, the actors and crew wrote about their own favorite years. I don’t think Beth, North, or I will be counting North’s junior year of high school as our favorite year, but it was nice for them to be involved with the show and for all of us to be able to see the play together and see the costumes they worked on worn. North found out today that a song in which the main singer wears a skirt covered in patches that they made was nominated for best song by the Cappies. If the song wins, the actors will perform it at the Kennedy Center, and presumably the skirt will be there, too. Even though North couldn’t participate in crew until the last few weeks before opening night, when t-shirts were distributed during Tech Week, they were surprised to see their name printed on the back in the list of cast and crew. I was touched by that, too. Ranvita had a small role in the play and North had brought a bouquet for her, which they gave her when the play was over. It was a fun outing.

Sunday/Monday: Springtime of Life

Noah’s been home a few days now and we’ve started season 3 of His Dark Materials and season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He folded laundry and helped North with their computer science homework this afternoon. It’s nice to have him home, and looking ahead at the rest of the spring, there’s a lot to anticipate—having a more normal schedule, North’s birthday, which is less than two weeks away, our spring break college road trip in April, Noah’s and my birthdays in May, and his college graduation. I hope you’ve got a lot to look forward to this spring, too.