Calm Before the Storm by Sharon O’Donnell
The last post I made was right after our relaxing vacation to the coast of Maine and Boston. When I got back, I was all set for 1. getting my 8th grader back into his year-round school routine and tackling that Algebra 2. taking my oldest son to the University of Virginia for the beginning of accounting grad school, 3. getting my middle son moved into his house with his friends, ready to start his junior year and 4. then finally getting back to spending some time on my writing. Things seemed to be settling down, back to a routine. My siblings and I had been taking care of my dad at night at my parents’ house since he fell and broke his shoulder in May. Now he was much better, and we were not spending the night over there any more. Yes, things were settling down.
Of course, nothing goes as planned, does it? As I’ve said before, whenever I feel that I can take a breath, something happens. We returned on a Tuesday, and on that Wednesday, my husband flew to Austin, Texas on business. It was that night while holding our beloved long-haired dachshund, Fenway, that I discovered a raised, red, yucky-looking sore on him. It looked bad. I took him to the vet the next morning, and by the following morning — Friday — Fenway was having surgery to remove it and have it biopsied. I had not told my husband because he and Fenway are — how shall I put this — best buds — two peas in a pod — each others’ shadow . They are close. I didn’t want to tell him about Fenway before the surgery when all he could do was to get upset and worry. It was stressful, but thankfully, the surgery went well and it was NOT cancer but benign. We all felt very relieved and thankful.
A day or so later, I notice that my middle son — who has suffered from severe anxiety in the past in high school — was a little uptight about the start of his junior year. But just a little. Then we all heard the awful news about Robin Williams and his suicide. My middle son’s anxiety had a lot to do with existential thoughts and OCD thoughts about the meaning of life, so immediately a red flag went up in my mind — and in my heart. I was a Robin Williams fan, but I tried not to talk about his death very much to keep my son’s exposure to it at a minimum. Of course, the news about it was everywhere. My son rarely posts anything on Facebook, but I saw in my news feed that he posted his thoughts about Williams’ death, how nobody knows what someone else is going through, how sometimes people desperately need to see light at the end of the tunnel, how we should always be nice to everyone because we don’t know their struggles. Insightful, compassionate thoughts, but I felt my heart drop. I knew his thoughts about such things easily become obsessive. The next day he told me his anxiety was flaring again. It’d been two years since he had a bad anxiety attack; he’d even weaned himself from his prescribed anti-anxiety med a year or so earlier (though he continued to see a doctor). Things had been going so well for him — and suddenly the anxiety was back. And so was that burning in my stomach. We had a rough couple of weeks, but he got back on his meds and is doing much better. What a wonderful, compassionate, caring young man he is. It’s scary how much I love him and hurt with him when he hurts. I appreciate those moments of calm, but even in the storm, we will be okay.