Genea has been with us for six years now. Having arrived at the age of 4, she'd spent those years split evenly between an orphanage and a different family.
Lots of issues from those early days have held on. One thing I doubt will ever go away is her distaste for change. I've often said, Genea has the rest of her life scheduled to be exactly the same as yesterday. She relies on a rigid adherence to time. If she sees me reading near lunchtime, she begins to show anxiety. She'll make a show of getting up to check the time. Lots stomping loudly and sighing with voice. As 11:50 approaches, we eat at noon, she'll start to ask me if I want to know the time. No thank you, I'll say, I know the time. A few minutes later she'll start to discuss the time with herself. Oh good, she'll say, it's almost noon. If that fails to raise my attention, she starts to comment on her hunger level in relation to the time. MMm, I can't wait for lunch, she tells the air in the room. I'm so happy lunch is coming soon. Panic starts to set in and she comments to herself that her stomach hurts. Must be because I'm hungry, she says.
Usually by now I'll start to laugh a little. Not to be mean, but because it's kind of cute now that she's able to handle herself better. My sitting and reading does not fit in her cycle of expectations and is a change. That makes it bad. She knows lunch is coming, she knows she has never missed a meal in this house. Not once. Never. But she still needs to reassure herself that if things do not appear in the anticipated way, that indeed I'm not messing things up, about to skip the very first meal in approximately 2,190 successive occasions.
So when our little cat Bailey died, we knew that she would be devastated that something so important had happened without any of her control. She was devastated but okay. Somehow, maybe all these years of counseling, she dealt with it as well as could be expected. In fact it was Teena who went off her rocker and skyrocketed into the WTF Zone.
About a week later, The Husband took a brief trip to Ohio to help his grandmother move.
Somehow then, I failed miserably and fantastically, to consider that her father going away would set off her triggers and alarms and leave her fighting in the dust scrambling to regain her traction using all of her old ways to communicate. None of which involved words.
I took the three of us to visit my parents for the weekend. Share the responsibility a little. Genea lost almost every skill she has learned. Unable for even a minute to distract herself from what her psychiatrist calls her woodpecker behavior. If there was a way to get my attention on her, good/ bad/ indifferent was irrelevant. She came at me like a starving mosquito. When that failed, she went after Teena. Following that she started going after my parents dogs. Determined.
Because I am dense like that sometimes, I was still chalking it up to missing Bailey. I noticed though, we were sitting at my moms counter next to each other on the stools eating some fruit, her pupils were dilated way more than there was a need for. I knew then, that something else was going on and asked her.
"I'm worried about Daddy", she told me.
Oh geez. With everything else going on I never even considered she was worried about her Dad. But HELLO her cat just died and now her dad disappeared. Sheesh.
"What are you worried might happen?"
"I'm worried he might not come back. Or he might die. Or I'll never see him again".
In my defense, it's been SIX YEARS. Genea is 10 now. And yet, when something confusing happened, an unexpected change, and her control was swiped away, she immediately fell back into an intense fear of abandonment. An almost primal fear state I had failed to even consider might come around after all this time. Yet it did. With bells on.
Well, bells, a torch and a grenade.