| Family Diary |

Meltdown: Chapter 10 

“It won’t happen again,” I said firmly, and turned to my schnitzel, wanting to end the whole conversation



I think it’s time to look into possible group homes for Chezky,” my husband said casually, leaning against the counter as I fried schnitzel.

I froze, my tongs in midair. “Why would we want to do that?” I asked, staring at him in shock. It was a few weeks after sheva brachos, and I’d been riding on a high from the simchah. “Chezky’s doing so much better lately. This new dosage is working well for him. He’s even slept every night now for a week. Things are going great!”

“For now,” said my husband ominously. “Until next time.”

“Why should there be a next time?” I argued. “If the issue was medication, then we’ve got it licked. I don’t see any purpose in looking into options of something we’re never going to need.”

“Covid is still going on,” my husband pointed out. “Chezky has been home all day for months now.”

“But special ed is opening again. And he’s almost well enough to go back to school.”

“Tzippi,” my husband said softly, and despite the gentleness of his voice, I shivered at the sense of steel I got behind his words, “what will we do if this happens again?”

“It won’t happen again,” I said firmly, and turned to my schnitzel, wanting to end the whole conversation.

Chezky was ours, our son, our responsibility. And while yes, I’d needed a hospital during those critical tumultuous weeks, now we were back on even ground, and it was time to go forward. I’d been feeling so positive lately, so convinced that this was all behind us. I felt like I was unthawing after a long and stormy winter. Even my sense of humor was returning — I think I’d missed that the most!

As we cautiously approached recovery mode, I made sure to spend time individually with each one of our children, taking each out of school on a special morning just with Mommy. Our home life was slowly transforming from black-and-white scenes, and was now awash with color.

And then my husband had to go and drop this on me.

He didn’t say anymore about it for a couple of weeks, but I knew what he was thinking. And I was purposely avoiding any mention of any difficulty with Chezky at any time. I felt like suddenly my biggest ally was now betraying me — like I needed to protect Chezky singlehandedly from this new danger.

Chezky managed to return to school, Covid eased, and my other kids began schooling as well. Personal Yetzias Mitzrayim! Plus, I was enjoying our newly married couple who lived nearby. Shanah Rishonah is so much fun to watch! I kvelled (and maybe did a bit of good-natured teasing) as my daughter stepped happily into this new stage of adulthood.

Yet the conversation lurked in the background.


Finally I crumbled. “You know what?” I said out of the clear blue one late evening, as we sat enjoying a shared glass of tea, “I’ll look into group home options just to show you that I’m taking things seriously. And that if we need it, we’ll know what we’re dealing with. But we won’t need it!” The last was said with force, as if by my will alone I could predict the future and know that Chezky was safe and secure with us.

In general, I am the paper pusher at home. I have a file that fills a whole drawer of all Chezky’s medical records, evaluations, school studies, and more. Now I opened a new manilla folder and paused, black marker uncapped, wondering what to write on the title tab. Group Homes? Future Options? None of these ideas were even relevant, I thought angrily. Finally, I just wrote the date on top and stuffed the few pamphlets I’d accumulated into the drawer.

But I’m a person of my word, so the next time I spoke to Becky, I inquired vaguely what the process would entail should we possibly be interested.

To my horror, she jumped on the idea with enthusiasm. “But,” she explained, “the process takes a long time. I would suggest getting moving on it now.”

Feeling actually relieved that this all sounded very hypothetical, and I wouldn’t be faced with any sort of decision soon, I also mentioned it to his social worker. And then I let things slide. We were still living in Covid Land. So I didn’t anticipate anyone inviting us to meetings or interviews anytime soon.

Sure enough, by the time social services got wind of this idea, all they offered us was a Zoom meeting to “air the topic.” But they wanted Chezky to join the meeting.

Hah! Chezky is non-computer oriented. Faces in 2D don’t mean much to him, and I couldn’t imagine him participating at all. Still, the three of us sat around the computer as various social service personnel joined the meeting. Sure enough, Chezky was lost about a minute in, as one by one the screen changed faces with everyone’s words a second or two behind their brief appearance.

We answered various questions, many of which set my teeth on edge. Why do you want to remove him from the house? Perhaps the Hebrew subtleties of the word were different from my own, but I answered hotly, “We are NOT removing him from our house. We are merely exploring possible future options.”

My husband was more focused with his participation. “If Chezky should have a schizophrenic attack while living in a group home setting,” he asked, “who would be responsible for his care?” And I detected an easing of his shoulders as the representative of the group homes reassured us that his medical care in any situation would be their responsibility. My ally was retreating, and I was left scrambling.

Finally it was Chezky’s turn to speak. Very confused, he started stammering when asked what he thought about the question.

The psychologist on the team suggested everyone mute themselves while she asked very gently, “Do you want to leave home, Chezky?

“Yes!” he said firmly.

I almost cried out in protest. He didn’t know what he was saying! He didn’t even understand the import of this conversation. Why were they asking for his input?

“Why do you want to leave home?” she asked.

He fidgeted, glancing guiltily at me and my husband, until she said, “Is there something you don’t want your parents to know?”

“Yes,” he answered.

Ouch. Could this get any more bizarre? We were Chezky’s closest confidants. The only people he actually trusted and shared with, and suddenly he had deep secrets that sounded ominously guilty to a team of professionals who were strangers to us.

“Abba and Ima, can you leave the room a minute?” suggested the psychologist.

“Sure.” My husband stood up, and I reluctantly began to do the same.

But Chekzy grabbed my sleeve before I could leave and turned to me. “Tell them! Tell them.” He paused again, and I was thrown back to the horrific scenes of months before, that perhaps Chezky was remembering me as the enemy who needed to restrain him for his own safety. Would those moments I acted for my son’s good now come to haunt me?

“Mommy,” he whispered urgently, “tell them… that I want to learn karate! And you said that there aren’t any lessons in our neighborhood!”

I expelled a deep breath. We were safe again, my son and I. And all I needed to do was to find karate lessons for him.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 847)

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