Please excuse the tone and brevity of this post, as it is written by Bob (Jenn’s husband) instead of Jenn. The truth is that putting thoughts and feelings out to the world is quite emotionally taxing, and Jenn asked me to shoulder the burden on this one…which is something I am happy to do. First things first, Alex has been at Open Sky for 2 weeks, as of yesterday July 4th. We have received two letters from him, and he sounded in great spirits in both letters. The second letter was especially good because it contained responses to our initial letter, so having the back and forth was comforting. He is learning a ton about himself and having frequent (all the time), regular (every day) peer interaction with the members of his team. He is in Team K, which stands for Kudu. I have included a picture of a Kudu below. It is a type of deer/antelope in Africa weighing in at up to 700 pounds that is strong and majestic.
Alex is enjoying the hiking and being outdoors. They sent several photos of his team playing games, and Alex was beaming in many of them and engaged in all of them. It looks like he is letting his hair down a bit and being a kid, which is something he hasn’t been able to do for the past few years as he grew up pretty quick once we pulled him out of school.
He was able to “bust” his first solo “coal”, which means he was able to single-handedly start a fire using a bow drill. This takes patience and skill; I am looking forward to him teaching me how to do it! According to his on-site therapist, Alex is getting along well and putting in the work in therapy and in the field. He was given the opportunity to lead a group yoga session, and he enjoyed this role. Alex believes he may get the chance to do this more often since it was well received by the other kids in his team.
We only correspond with Alex via written letters, one per week. This has caused me to check the parent portal 3x a day, every day hoping for a letter from him…I am going to stop putting myself through this emotionally draining daily task though now that I know we will only receive his correspondence on either Wednesdays or Thursdays. I was driving myself a bit nutty! It is difficult to put into words how it feels to get his letter and hear his voice as I read the words. On one hand, I am overjoyed simply to hear from him and the icing on the cake is to learn of his progress and what he has been doing. The other side is to read that he is a bit homesick (which is to be expected), and to know that I won’t see him still for many weeks. Of note, I have also stopped walking into his room repeatedly every day simply to be in his space and take a moment. While this does bring me a feeling of being close to him, it is f__ing painful.
As parents, this is the job…take care of your kids, and help them be prepared for life. If you are lucky and do it right, there will be some great times had during the job (using “job” not as a derogatory term, just using it cause it’s easy). I couldn’t imagine a more rewarding or more draining job…if you are a parent, you know what I mean by that. I would not trade it for anything in the world; you get the highest highs and the lowest lows…the full spectrum of emotions. And that is called life. I miss Alex dearly and I am proud of the young man he is and the work he is undertaking to further improve himself. His is not an easy road, but I can promise that his old man is right there next to him for every step.
As an aside…Jenn and I want to say thank you to all of the people who have supported our family during this time. We have had co-workers, family, friends, and strangers offer words of love and encouragement. Folks have contributed money to help pay for Alex’s therapy via paypal, gofundme, and directly; for this we are humbled and grateful. Truth be told, the entire experience associated with receiving help of any form is very awkward for both Jenn and I; our preference is always to be on the side of helper. But, we recognize that we have to be open and not self-critical about this.
In conclusion…take a look at the smiling face below! That is my boy, and I love him dearly.