Each day I drove 30 minutes to Huntington Hospital and, after my visit with Gabriela, 30 minutes back home.
During the drive to the hospital I always felt nervous anticipation. This had been even more stressful during the first week of Gabriela’s hold because every day I was unsure of what changes I might see in her.
I spent my time on these drives reviewing the previous day’s visit to make sure I had made mental notes of Gabriela’s condition so I could make a comparison with the current days condition. I poured over the prior day, replaying it over and over to ensure that I had covered every detail: her appearance, walking, talking, sitting, sleeping, interacting, eating, drinking, medications, what the client assistant had told me, as well as what the doctor, the social worker, other patients, and other parents had said.
Each day I brought things for Gabriela that I felt might help her in some way, even if it was just to comfort to her, such as snack foods, bottled water, books, card games, shampoo, body wash, and messages of encouragement from people she knew.
The drive had become routine for me now and it had become my time to get ready; after all, I would be “on” for the next couple of hours. I needed to be mentally ready and I had to be upbeat. I was Gabriela’s connection to the outside world and her way back.
By the end of the first week the drive had become so automatic I didn’t have to think about lane changes, freeway changes, or exits. I just put the car on cruise control and went through my daily pre-visit prep.
After visiting with Gabriela, the drive home began with an update phone call to Cody, Gabriela’s father and my ex-. This was something that had quickly deteriorated into a form of torture for me. Cody had not visited Gabriela during the first hold at Henry Mayo and had still had not visited his daughter at Huntington either.
During one conversation with Cody I recall him telling me that he was going to be “very involved” in Gabriela’s life and that we needed to put our differences aside for “the kid”.
I listened and then asked him, “So, can you be more specific. Can you tell me what that will look like? I want to make sure I fully understand what you mean you when you say ‘involved’”.
I continued, “I don’t mean to sound bitchy but you haven’t been involved in her life for so long I just want to make sure that I don’t have a different set of expectations”.
Cody explained that he would be adding Gabriela to his health insurance plan as soon as he could, probably in December and that he would be visiting her on a regular basis. He claimed that his commitment was lifelong; “I only have one kid ya know”.
Okay, I was fine with that theory but the proof of the pudding would be in the eating.
After speaking with Cody, I’d call Claire, Cody’s last ex-wife who had been Gabriela’s step-mother for nearly ten years. Where Gabriela was concerned, Claire got it. Those conversations had much more significance and were much more interactive and genuine. Claire would ask pertinent questions and she had a wealth of information to contribute to my growing knowledge of mental illness. Those conversations were like getting plugged into a battery charger.
Once my calls were finished I allowed myself some down time. While I was safely in the bubble of my car I had ten to fifteen minutes to just be exhausted, to cry, to yell, to get mad as hell, or to just ask God to help Gabriela through this.
Less frequently I tried to keep my parents up to speed on Gabriela and how she was doing. During one of these conversation my mother said that she and my stepfather would like to visit Gabriela. I explained that the visiting schedule was evenings only during the week. This didn’t work for my mother because driving at night was too difficult for her so I told her that on weekends she could visit during the day.
“That won’t work” she snapped, “We have plans.”
I’ve never been shocked by my mother’s reactions to events in my life or those closest to me. I’ve often said that I would much rather be a friend of my mother’s than her daughter. I have seen how selflessly she has treated her close friends; for example, if one of them is sick, she’ll make a pot of homemade soup and deliver it. But if Gabriela or I are sick she’ll caution us to stay away, with a terse comment such as “We don’t need your germs.”
My mother and I have had a relationship that seems like trying to mix oil and water. She has spent most of my life ringing her hands and waiting for my misstep or misfortune apparently for the pure satisfaction of being able to replay it over and over again.
I could just imagine her conversations with my sisters and brothers … “Gabriela is mentally ill you know!”
I offered to discuss my parents’ special requirements with Dr. Duncan and said I would let her know what his decision was.
A day or so later I got back to my mother to let them know the doctor had approved their request for an early afternoon mid-week visit. I asked that she let me know which day they intended to visit so the doctor could reserve the conference room for them. This was great news for Gabriela because she adores her Grandparents, particularly her Grandpa.
I had invited both my mother and stepfather into the delivery room when Gabriela was born I was trying to build a relationship between Gabriela and her grandparents that was better than the one they had with me. It had worked and while there had been a few bumps along the road, Gabriela had established. a wonderful relationship with her grandpa. As for grandma, well, there were some difficulties but there’s no question that Gabriela enjoyed a more comfortable relationship with my mother than I did.
The day that her grandparents visited they stayed for just about 20 minutes. They brought Gabriela several books and had a nice, light conversation and Gabriela told me how nice it was to see them. It was no surprise to me that they never called to tell me about their visit.