“Bring me his sweatshirt, mom. Please.”
“Of course, sweetie. Of course I will.”
My daughter was limited in the personal items she was allowed to have during her mental health hold. Hoodies – the staple of teen fashion – were okay, but drawstrings had to be removed. Favorite (imitation) Converse shoes? Fine, but no shoestrings allowed. The safety pins my daughter loved to use as fashion statements were absolutely forbidden. I was forced to look at clothing, and much of life, in a whole new way.
But the thing my daughter wanted most was “his sweatshirt”, and there was no reason to deny her request.
When my husband had died almost two years earlier, I’d invited all three of his adult kids to go through his clothes, to pick out some favorite items they might want to keep for themselves or their own children.
I tried to also give them each special items, perhaps tokens of affection they or their children had given their dad that would now make their way back to the original gift givers. Or maybe an item that they had seen growing up in their childhood home that held special memories for them. It seemed only fitting to do this.
(Admittedly, there were a few things it took me time to be able to part with. Thankfully, my step kids are gracious and patient.)
I had also asked my own three adolescent children what they would like to have of their stepdad’s as special mementos. My older daughter had chosen an old sweatshirt that my husband used to wear often. He was great at coming home from a day of work and changing into comfy clothes, a signal that work was left behind and he was now present and available at home.
But this particular sweatshirt was one he often threw on early on a Saturday morning as he brewed coffee, read the paper, and prepared his favorite bagel for breakfast. It was a treasure on many levels and had become something of a security blanket to my daughter
(Photo Source: Google Images)
In both the best and worst of times she slept nightly with the worn shirt close by. So often she had cried to me after his death about missing him and wanting him back. I understood at a deep level how she felt (and then some), and was not at all surprised that she wanted “his sweatshirt” now that she had been placed on a psychiatric hold for suicidal ideations.
It made perfect sense to me. To a frightened and unstable fifteen-year-old it was portable comfort, raveled and worn, in a place where comfort was difficult to find. I was happy to grant her request.
Visiting hours included Tuesdays, so I was returning less than 24 hours after I’d followed the ambulance across town and had her admitted. I took some approved clothes, the needed sweatshirt, my younger daughter, and an anxious heart, and drove us all through afternoon traffic for our first visit.
To call it uncomfortable would be an understatement. And incomplete. How else might I describe it? It was bewildering, sad, strange, surreal, terrifying, and with a few tendrils of hope that I tried to believe weren’t just taunting me.
There was one room where all visits took place simultaneously. All of the adolescents hospitalized there and all of the visitors who had come to see them were confined to this one very plain not-terribly-large space. Each group had their little gathering of chairs as segregated as possible from the others, with some people having to share their seat with another.
(Photo Source: Google Images)
Some groups sat close together, speaking in hushed tones. Some seemed less eager to sit closely, or to even talk with one another. Some were loud and frustrated, others subdued and resigned.
I tried to (or not to?) catch glimpses of the others in the room while simultaneously trying to figure out how our family had ended up here, how my daughter was faring in the psych ward, and just exactly what the next step might be.
Add “disconcerting” to the list of adjectives.