I lost him for a little while. The boy who I suspected would forever sit in my lap, never grow too old to cuddle, always be the lovable, easy-go-lucky thoughtful kid of the bunch - he vanished very suddenly and all that was left was an angry, hateful child who screamed and threw punches and lunged and cried and cried and cried until he could not breathe where he once hugged and smiled and grabbed hold of your hand and laughed so hard he snorted while his nostrils flared.
He was gone.
For weeks - months - I tried to figure him out; this new kid who was not even recognizable as my own. I tried to comfort him. Talk to him. Reason with him. Tell him it was OK. I talked to friends. I talked to therapists. And finally, I sat beside him and cried with him; grieving for the loss of the boy I used to know, hysterical with guilt for having done this to him, sobbing desperately for the tears and tantrums to end.
What had I done?
Where had he gone?
Would I ever find him again?
Hours at a time would pass as he would grunt - not speak - demands that I couldn't possibly translate, tracing his fingernail along the linoleum spelling out his requests rather than speaking them.
"Are you sad?"
"You can tell me what's wrong."
"Is something making you mad?"
"Buddy, I'm sad too."
Eventually I just let him vent. This was his safe place to let go and while I wasn't sure how much of his 'letting go' I could take without completely breaking myself, it was all I could do; let him know I was listening, I was by his side, and I wasn't going to leave no matter what. So I cried with him.
There was no rhyme or reason to when small slivers of the boy I used to know slowly started surfacing again. He's still not the same kid and probably never will be. I don't know that I can forgive myself for that. But I will take whatever glimpses of the old him and grasp onto them and love the new him, even if he's a little less cuddly and trusting and innocent.
He and I have become pen pals recently. He's been learning to write full sentences using his sight words in school and in his typical over-achiever ways, practices extra at home by writing me letters every single night before bed and I write back, leaving him a note to wake up to in the morning. He loves waking up to these replies. But he has no idea what his notes mean to me. How much I look forward to them being delivered to my bedroom door with stifled giggles and the sounds of crinkled paper followed by running feet back to his bedroom. But more than the hilarious letters that I will cherish forever, these letters symbolize something more. It means he - the boy I used to know - is surfacing again. It means that despite his world being shaken so badly in the last year he is finally realizing that it's going to be okay. Different, but okay.
And I am finally realizing that he is going to be okay. Different, but okay.