I had to do it again. I had to drive my little boy to the airport and leave him as he walked onto yet another airplane. As we got close to La Guardia at 7am today he said, “The drive home is going to be sad right Mom?”

Yes Colt. It is always sad to leave you.

“Storebror” means Big Brother in Swedish. The cheeks!

In the past 3 years I’ve done it more than I could have ever imagined when you looked like this. You are only 15 but have lived so much in that time. I truly feel we are coming to the other side, that we have consolidated all the hard earned gains and you are truly integrated now, even more incredible than the young man I dreamt you would be so long ago.

I was reminded of April 2020, today, when Colt arrived in Idaho for his first Therapeutic Boarding School. COVID was upon us and I couldn’t be the one to retrieve him from his prolonged stay at Wilderness. It was the first of so many heartbreaks but I was caring for my 93 year old father at the time and we all agreed that Colt’s dad was the right person to get him from North Carolina and fly him to Boise. This was hard enough for any mother but at the apex of the pandemic it was terrifying.

Today, on my predictably sad drive home from the airport, I gave thanks that it isn’t 2020. Felt deep gratitude that this time I knew Colt was walking toward the right place at the right time.

I found this journal entry from that chapter of our lives three years ago, and like I often say it is helpful to look back and recognize that there has been profound growth in your life.

(For those who don’t know, Colt is my oldest son. He has Social Pragmatic Communicative Disorder, which is categorized as part of the Autism Spectrum. He also is extraordinarily gifted, with an IQ of 162. He has struggled with depression and anxiety since he was 8, and ultimately was admitted to Silver Hill Hospital last May after expressing suicidal ideation to me. He is now at an incredible school in North Carolina from which he will ‘graduate’ next summer. He is doing so well. I could not be prouder of him.)

At the gate this morning

April 26, 2020

Ok there’s a lot.  

I needed to swim through it before I reported any of it because it was that intense.  Colt is safely in Idaho at his new therapeutic boarding school. Well, he’s in a quarantine house at the foot of the mountain upon which the campus sits until Thursday.  But he’s there.  The eagle has landed.

Ironically one of the two staffers staying in the Q house with Colt grew up with an old friend of mine Derrick.  Small world, and it made me feel a little better about him being somewhere unknown to me.  

Colt dominating at Monopoly in the Quarantine House

I am that brand of mom who has to feel things viscerally to sign off on them. For example, I’ve taken every pill I’ve ever given him first to see what it felt like and to be sure it was ok. I walked the paths at his Wilderness program with Nikki before I could agree to bring him there. I need to feel things in my maternal bones before I consent to them.  

This time, with COVID 19, I wasn’t given that option.  I had to go on faith.  There was a straight week where I cried hourly thinking about not being the face my boy saw as he emerged from the woods. You have to remember that Colt has been in the wilderness for four months. He doesn’t know about the pandemic. There are no electronics there and they control what they call “Future Information’ tightly. It is all a tremendous effort to help the boys be present and in the moment, to dissect and understand their trauma or neurology.  I was glad that M could do that detail for the family, and I knew philosophically that it was the right thing from many angles.  

But fuck it was hard.  

Once M got Colt we FaceTimed pretty much the entire two days.  The night they spent in Atlanta we watched a movie on our video chat.  I told Colt it was his choice, and my soon to be teenager said “Ok, mom.  Moana.”  

Moana it is.

God I love him.  Don’t ever, ever change Colt.  You do you baby boy.  

We watched together, boys and dogs and I and Colt.  Well, I watched Colt.  I just drank in the sight of my firstborn almost in the flesh.  A virtual flesh that felt so intimate after 13 weeks apart.  It ended up making him feel many things, some hard.  But most were good.  He knew we missed him desperately, he knew that laughing with his brothers was still great medicine.  He knew we were with him no matter where he is.

The hardest FaceTime ever to say goodbye when his dad left him in Idaho.

I had my first Zoom with Colt and his therapist Friday.  This school is much more accessible than Wilderness, and that is by design. In fact Thursday my phone rang and I saw it was an Idaho number so I figured it was the school reaching out and IT WAS COLT!!!! Just out of the blue.  He had earned a call and we spoke for nearly 20 minutes.  And when I say spoke I mean “reciprocal Q&A relaxed flow” spoke.  That is absolutely incredible because such a thing couldn’t have happened in December.  He just couldn’t.  It was too hard for him.  This, this is a boy on his way to being his best self.  I heard it.  I saw it.  

I sent an MP3 player with M and loaded it up with whatever songs I could (this is not so easy if you have ever tried it, nothing like an iPhone etc).  I made a playlist for him to play when his dad gave it to him at graduation.  He’s been listening.  

My song for him has always been “I Love You Just The Way You Are” by Billy Joel, so fittingly the playlist begins with it.

Music has always been something Colt and I loved sharing.  His eclectic taste is incredible, and all organic.  Alexa is incredible in this regard.  Kids can explore on their own.  I used to have to steal my brother’s cassettes and hide in my closet with my walkman to listen to music.

Colt likes 70’s yacht rock, 90’s alt (!), and a lot of metal.  Add a half cup of old school hip hop and a dash of pop to round it out. Think Sabbath, Kansas, Cake, Bread, GnR, Biz Markie, and Lady Gaga.   The song he liked to fall asleep to for a while was “Poker Face.”  

Love this kid so. As soon as he can get letters from friends I will let you know how to reach him.  We will speak to him three times a week now which feels like an embarrassment of riches.  

And…….I can go see him mid-May.  I’ve started to pack already.

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