Thomas has been in the residential school now for just over 3 years. I was thinking back to when he was living at home. He was only able to live at home for about 3 and a half years between the first residential school (from ages 8-12) and the second (ages 12-16). It was nice having him home for that time. His meds were stable, Thomas himself was stable. We were able to do things like a “normal’ family. Even go on vacation and/or to the beach.
At the beach Thomas loved to look for shells, he did not like the water at all. In fact at one outing to a beach in NJ with my best friend and her daughters I actually lost Thomas. He took off without me looking for sea shells and when I looked around for him he was no where to be found. I felt the panic rising up. My best friend helped me look but all we saw was a sea of beach goers and not a sign of Thomas. I knew he didn’t go in the water but where the hell was he? Every story I ever heard of people hurting those with special needs ran through my head. And I felt sick. I wanted to throw up. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to tell my husband that I lost our son. I figured I couldn’t go home and I would camp out at the beach until I found him. Eventually I grabbed hold of a life guard and explained the situation. They radioed down the beach and it just so happened another lifeguard had happened upon Thomas thinking he was lost. The lifeguards radioed to each other I was told to walk down the beach to a certain station and they had Thomas. As I was walking/running down the beach I saw Thomas walking with a very attractive and fit female lifeguard. His face lit up when he saw me, it was all I could do not to cry. I took custody of him and as we started waking back to where our things were, I teased him saying he wanted to hang out with the “pretty lifeguard” he smiled and then said, “Mooooom! You left me!” I laughed and told him I didn’t leave him; he left us by looking for shells. It really didn’t matter at that point, I was just glad to have him back.
With Thomas the way he is now I don’t see us going to the beach without extra help meaning one person just for him to watch him and keep him occupied. That is if we could even get him to the beach. Towards the end of Thomas living at home vacations with him were not fun. After changing meds because of a sharp decrease in his white blood cells, Thomas was not as stable as he was in the past. His behavior had changed and he became very stubborn. Even refusing to get out of the car when we arrived at the beach. When we did manage to get him out of the car he refused to even look for sea shells and he refused to leave the beach chair with umbrella bought especially for him.
I miss walking on the beach with Thomas. Trying to bribe him with a dollar or two or five to get his feet wet. The answer was always, “No” but with a smile. He has a great smile.