In two days it will be September…and we’re still in America.
I wrote a blog post last May entitled “Into the Great Wide Open” when Mike, Braden, and I left Bangkok, not knowing if we would ever return. I have to be honest with you. I really did think we would be back. I mean, how could we not return to our home, to our friends, to our jobs? The worry was there that we wouldn’t make it back, but come on, we would definitely return, right?
We couldn’t have predicted what the summer would bring…
Bringing Braden to America was definitely the right choice. We needed him to reset and change his mindset from stuck in
our home in Bangkok to being in beautiful Sunriver. We picked up Madi in Los Angeles and brought her home as well. Braden was delighted that we were all together again. Madi kept us entertained with her guitar, and she and Braden had singalongs, which definitely elevated all our moods.
In the evenings, Mike and I taught our students back in Bangkok, while Madi took Braden on bike rides and drives in the car. Things were going okay…until they weren’t.
Something clicked in Braden a few weeks in, and he suddenly was back to where he was when we left Bangkok. He became angry and aggressive, which was heartbreaking for us all.
Meanwhile, Mike and I started talking with people from our county’s Intellectual Developmental Disability Services department. We got set up with a case manager. We met with multiple specialists for assessments (all by Zoom due to COVID).
And then…Mike’s mom, who is in a memory care home, fell. They called us to tell us they were taking her to the hospital, and they suspected she had a broken bone. She did. She broke her clavicle. During the x-ray, they spotted something else; lung cancer…stage 4. Mike now takes her to all her appointments, but there is not much they can do, and since it’s the time of COVID, he is unable to visit her or help in any other way. It all seems so wrong.
Soon we got news from our school that it seemed impossible for us to go back to Thailand anytime soon. The quarantine regulations were strict. They would not allow people to go through it anywhere but in a hotel room. Quarantine lasts for 15 nights…in a hotel room. Can you imagine that? We couldn’t even begin to wrap our heads around that thought, as we knew that Braden would not make it.
The school was great. They told Mike not to worry; that he still had a job. School started three weeks ago. Mike teaches two classes and is a technology coach for the rest of the time. He teaches anywhere between 5:00 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. He gets up in the morning and does the coaching part of his job. That’s manageable…until you throw severe autism into the mix.
To put it bluntly, Braden is a full-time job. Before, we had the support of STEPS, his vocational training program, and the “army” of people we built to surround and support him with workouts, etc. Suddenly, there was no STEPS and no army. We were alone and “on” 24/7.
I work mornings. My job can be done remotely, so that works out very well. When Braden wakes up, Mike works with him. In the evenings, I take Braden while Mike works. Unfortunately, the evenings are when Braden is the angriest and most aggressive. So Mike is trying to teach his students, while stressing about the yelling, screaming, and pounding as Braden melts down. I try to take him out for drives or exercise, but many nights he refuses, so we just have to watch him rage and steer clear from aggression. The toll this has taken on Mike is beyond imaginable. He is physically exhausted from the late nights of teaching and mentally exhausted from the stress and worry. Meanwhile, I feel helpless as I can’t even manage my own son during these times, which adds to Mike’s stress levels.
I should say that Madi was a fantastic source of strength during all of this. She helped whenever she could. She went through the ups and downs of Braden’s moods, and she felt the pain with us. We already knew this, but our daughter has matured into a loving, supportive, and strong adult woman.
And that adult woman just got a job! She moved to Los Angeles yesterday to start her life in the film industry. We are beyond proud. And of course, we miss her presence here so much. It’s as if the air was sucked from the room, and we are
all just trying to take in what we can without feeling too much of the emptiness. We miss her, yes, but we do know she is meant to be living her dream, and hopefully some of that day-to-day stress she felt while helping us out will be gone, so she can focus on who she was meant to be.
We recently got word from IDD services that we are entitled to Personal Support Worker (PSW) hours. This means that we can hire people to work with Braden during the day. The number of hours surprised us in a good way. They told us the number is high as Braden can never be out of our sight or hearing distance.
We had never thought of it in that manner, and I have to say, it was validating to be told this. I guess you could compare it to having an infant/toddler who you can never leave to their own devices. Reminder: Braden is 20.
Of course, COVID…so hiring these support people is difficult at this time. We got lucky and found people we already knew, to take Braden on two afternoons a week. This last week, we had 8 hours where we were not “on.” I have napped more in the past week than I have in my whole life. I guess I’m playing catch-up. Mike has used his time to do more work, as usual.
And that brings me back to Mike.
It’s too hard. And he can’t continue the pace. Knowing he can’t go back to Thailand without us, he had to make a hard choice. He talked with our school the other day and told him he didn’t feel he could continue to teach. He loves his job, but how can he focus on his students when he is so worried about us? He doesn’t believe it’s what’s best for his students. Our school, always supportive of our family, agreed and is posting Mike’s job this week.
So what does this mean for the Bolls?
It’s almost September, and we’re still in America.
We are “home.”
And we are grieving.
And we are hopeful.
More to come…
PS. Our wonderful dog, Chappy, remains in Bangkok. He is eleven and too old to travel the distance to America. We are looking for a family who wants a calm, quiet, loyal pal. We do not think at his age he would be good with young children. However, he is truly the best dog a loving family could own. Please let me know if you’re interested.