Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Away

T and we just returned from our first real family vacation and T's first time ever leaving the country. We spend a week in Paris and it was heaven.

The week prior to our trip, he really regressed. He stopped keeping in touch, wasn't going to work, wasn't coming home. He let me know by text he was depressed. He said he felt haunted by the memory of how E passed away when the three of us were all traveling (I was on a business trip, Tim was with me, and T was living and working in another state).  He kept saying "Last time we all left, something bad happened." This is what trauma looks like in our experience - deep grief, complicated by disregulation. On the one hand, his response does have something to do with losing his brother. On the other hand, he's long had a tendency to descend into periods of chaos like this, even before he lost his brother. He has good powers of self-preservation despite it, and so we just wait it out. There are few other options anyway, and even his experiments with medication didn't seem to even him out.

Long story short, he showed up 15 minutes before we were due to leave for the airport and threw some things in a bag. Once we got on the plane, everything changed. He was excited, warm, and easy-going. The best part of vacation was eating all of our meals together - we are three busy working adults, so in any given week at home, we probably share just a few quick meals together.

Introducing him to Paris was like setting a duckling down in a pond for the first time. He was curious, adventurous, captivated by foreign ways of doing things. He'd never seen people of African descent who weren't Americans, and he was fascinated by French Africans, the way they dressed, talked, danced, the food they ate, the music they listened to. He went out every night, and sometimes took us with him, using us as a sort of safety plan, making us wait in the back of a nightclub, pretending not to know him, until he knew he'd be okay there. He met people, he fell in love with the city, and he fell a little bit in love with the world.

He's a kinesthetic learner. He has always impressed people like his high school health teacher, or his boss at his nursing job. He has emotional intelligence and incredible powers of retention once he is shown how to do something. Both of these things make for a skilled traveler.

Every night, we got to listen to him call his bestfriend back home. He spent twenty minutes telling her how the McDonald's in France serves Heineken and brings your food to the table! He talked about how funny it is to hear young French speakers sing American hiphop songs without really understanding the words. He told her how you could go out every night in Paris and dance until dawn, and how easy it was to take the Metro. He has had so few opportunities to be this person - not the kid with the tragic past, or the kid with the complicated family, or the kid with the endless court dates, but the kid with an enviable opportunity, the one who can share his good fortune with his friends and tell them something exciting about the world.

When we got home, we asked him where he thinks we should go on our next family trip. "Buenos Aires?" he said. "But then, why would we not just go back to Paris?" Bullseye!

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