Gregory’s Goodbye

Featured Image -- 293 He left us yesterday.  My twelve-year-old son’s best friend.  It was not unexpected, yet we were not really ready to say goodbye as we stood in his driveway that balmy September afternoon.

He was to attend a therapeutic boarding school in the rocky mountains of Colorado, for the next two years.  A school that specialized in the emotional as well as the intellectual needs of boys who were struggling.  He had battled anxiety and ADHD for as long as we knew him but lately a more sinister villain called depression was taking over.  Public school was not working for him and his daily trips to the counselor left him dejected and angry.  He hated school, he told us again and again.

He took refuge in nature. Whenever upset, he would flee to the solace of the woods, headlamp in place along with a survival kit he had purchased on the internet. Gregory loved the forest which seemed to hold for him, its own therapeutic powers.  As a going away gift we gave him a lithograph night-light with a forest of trees etched within, the golden hue soothing and calm.

He is a beautiful boy with deep red hair, fine features and porcelain skin.  His face reflects an impishness that is infectious. He is highly intelligent and intuitive.  My son and he became fast friends three years ago and enjoy a special bond as best friends do. We both knew this path was the best thing for Gregory but it did not make his leaving any easier as he had become a fixture in both our lives and home.

All contact at his new school was to be via letter, no social media of any sort, so I made it a point that we would write to him, at least once a month.  I have a book of postcards, each one a different flower fairy illustrated by the brilliant Cicely Mary Barker, an English artist known for her life-like depictions of fairies in nature.  I chose for Gregory a red-headed mischievous faced boy fairy and penned in the margin “this reminded us of you!” I then enclosed a second self-addressed card already stamped for him to return to us.

The next card we sent to him contained a dried wishbone from our previous night’s roast chicken. Growing up my father would always save the wishbone for me and my sisters. I thought it was just the type of ritual Gregory would enjoy.  “Find someone you like at your new school and break the wishbone!” I scrawled.  “We miss you.”  But then, a week later thinking again about the wishbone, I was filled with dread.  What if gets the long end and his wish is to come home? What had I done? In trying to comfort him I could possibly have made him feel worse.

One afternoon several weeks later, I paused at my son’s bedroom door after hearing him talking on the phone to what sounded like Gregory.  He was clearly upset, distraught and his words a hurried jumble of emotion.  “I want to come home.  I hate it here. I miss you so much!”  He had sneaked his mother’s phone while she was visiting to make the call. After several moments, my son replied in a calm voice “You have to push through…”  I had never before heard the expression nor my son use it. When I asked him what he meant by “push through,” he explained that his middle school track coach always told the boys to push through the pain no matter how hard and they may just find they were stronger than they thought.

I worried about how he felt losing his best friend “Do you miss Gregory?”  His response was always the same. “It’s fine mom.”  And then I realized, perhaps the strain of seeing his friend in so much pain was harder than letting him go.

The last thing we sent him was a care package right before Halloween. It contained fake fangs, a calendar book with different photos of forest scenes, two packages of his favorite gummy bears and a small stuffed owl that had strangely beckoned to me from high on a store shelf. I imagined the little owl sitting on his night table. I also included a pre-stamped fairy card he could send back to us with ease.  When I called his mother to review what I was sending, she paused when I had mentioned the stuffed owl.  “He asked me if he could have a real one last week for a pet!”

Several weeks later, we received the fairy card by return mail.  Gregory’s familiar hurried scrawl contained the following sentiments:   “I loved the red-headed fairy card — I am learning to play the banjo! — Thank you for the owl, I keep him in my backpack.”  But it was the last line that remains with me.  “I still don’t like it here” he confided, “but I am going to push through…”  And those simple words were all I needed.

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18 thoughts on “Gregory’s Goodbye

  1. What a wonderful telling of a special young boy’s relationship to you and your son. Isn’t it interesting that the forest could provide so much comfort — sometimes I think trees are really spiritual beings.
    The gifts you sent are caring and thoughtful, sending messages in themselves as well as in the sending. And your son’s sensitivity to Gregory’s needs seems well beyond most boy’s sensitivity at this age. I suspect you and your son have many fun times and meaningful times together. Thank you for sharing this story.
    lillian

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How ironic you read this just recently as Gregory was just at our home yesterday for dinner! Home for one week from his Colorado therapeutic boarding school. Though he is just the same, I am afraid to say. He tells us how much he hates it there though his mother assures me it is a wonderful place…Thank you for reading.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! just returned for a 3 day visit from his school in Colorado and enjoyed a lovely visit with my son 🙂 I too agree about special friendships. I had one close friend who died suddenly a year and a half ago who I will never replace (you can read about on my blog (link below). I am most lucky to have my sisters (I am one of four girls) who are my best friends! Enjoy your day! https://nynkblog.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/amazing-grace-2/

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  2. It is really hard to say goodbye to a friend. My son was upset but trying to be cool in his 6yrs of age showing maturity and say goodbye to all his school mates and best friends as we moved to another Country. At least your son friend can still visit 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This simply brought me to tears. I loved how in such a short post you were able to express the emotions of all involved really well. I suffer from mental illnesses and have since my early years of development. It is nice to see that you did not teach your child to shy away from those who may be struggling with this we may not know or understand. It is truly how we should all be raising our kids these days. Prayers for Gregory to continue to push on and blessings to you and your family. Thanks for sharing such a precious story! You just got yourself a new follower! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Annette, can’t tell you how much this means to me. I loved this story but did not get very much response and so happy you appreciated and re-blogged on your site which I intend to visit and enjoy when I get a moment. I love that my son has always tended to embrace those who may be a little different and in my opinion, who are much more interesting and shine brighter than the average person. I work in a Psych hospital and every day meet the most fantastically creative and bright people who make my day! Thank you for such a lovely response to my story. Happy to report Gregory is doing well and has taken up fly fishing which brings him calmness. He loves the outdoors! All the best to you in life Annette. You sound like a special person.

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  4. Reblogged this on Annette's place and commented:
    I bumped into this blog when looking at entries from the daily prompts I do. I was directed to one post and it hit a “yes” botton for me so I stayed a little longer here and found this heart touching story of friendship and family. It deals with a taboo subject “Mental inllnesses” and I can’t say enough about the message it spreads. Hope you can take a few moments and read this and comment to the lovely blog owner and writer. Enjoy!

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  5. hi KS! I had the chance to read comments too – so I know the update and G is fly fishing! nice.
    I enjoyed this post for a few reasons – like the others have said here – you depicted a triad of views with universal application – and the “push through” line is just awesome
    something we need to be reminded of again and again!
    okay – so here is the real serendipitous part-
    last spring I bought a wooden wishbone from TJMaxx.
    I bought it in honor of my dad because the anniversary of his passing was coming and this 4 inch wooden wishbone painted in gold reminded me of when my sweet dad would have dried wishbones in his window sill – waiting for us when we would visit!

    the golden wishbone is kinda ugly – even in gold and it might make a nice paperweight in my office next year / but I put it away not sure if I liked it out right now.

    anyhow – this part made me smile – that other people have dad’s that did this and that maybe folks still do it – and I know what you mean about it potentially being a source of small stress if he got the short part – sometimes when things are so frail and low we want more sure edifying things.
    and you know – I wonder if the wishbone is a generation thing ….like some people I know but all their food prepped and never get whole chickens – hmmm

    anyhow – glad this older post was accessible this week – such a beautiful read and makes me grateful for some things.
    hm
    💙💙💙

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I cannot express what this means to me. I have focused on the photo challenges and less on my writing. I love when someone discovers an old or not so old tale and it touches them in some way. Ah yes, memories of the wishbone in my childhood home. My dad always kept for us. He was whimsical and enjoyed the ritual. I try to keep it alive in my home. Thank you for your special comment. I love your story about the gold wishbone. Ironically, I too found a symbol in TJ Max after a close friend of mine died suddenly – a perfume bottle bearing her name “Grace.” I wrote about her death in my short story “Amazing Grace” if you ever have time to read. https://nynkblog.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/amazing-grace-2/

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would love to check it out (the post) and for a while we did keep the wishbone tradition going – and might do it again….

        the symbol sounds really nice for your friend

        and regarding the photo challenges and your own writing – it might really work to your advantage to do both because it could help you integrate more – and I guess what I mean by that is I have seen authors who only do their stuff – and many do it well – but some forget to maybe mix it up or forget to mingle – and so some of the authors that I see who do a mix of challenges and sharing their own stuff – well I actually end up reading them more – I dunno – I guess I think both can have value.

        be back later to read amazing grace post.

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