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  • Writer's pictureWellington Lambert

Platty


Platty

I watched Jason being sedated. Panicking as they put the mask on his face, his hands shaking. The medical team put him to sleep so he won’t move while they scan his brain. I could feel my heart being ripped out as he slowly closed his eyes, dying, just a little.

I left the Imaging room, pushed my winter coat to my face and wailed so hard I could taste the darkness.

I was approached by Jasons social worker. She comforted me with a sympathetic stare and then informed me that our request for more support is a failure of parenting on our part. Technically, they are the parent, but in truth, they are the financial gatekeepers of his mental health. Theirs is the bottom line, money, and every bottom line has a basement, less money.


Gunter wanted four boys. He told me he had a dream that he would end up adopting four orphaned boys. I laughed; I knew this would never happen. I knew I was safe. Two men, four boys, it was an equation met with raised brows. No one would approve. But I underestimated the need for parenting and the changing tide of my selfishness.

I met Gunter late in life. We were cautious and curious. Exploring each others world with muted expectations. Holding onto our passports for a quick return. Then, when enough time expired, we chose love over loneliness.

As the years passed, our union hungered for expansion. We could only love each other so much and the excess was too precious to be wasted.

Jason woke up in the recovery room, puked, and then went back to sleep while clutching his stuffy. His face was a mask of confusion as he reached up to touch my face with his fat fingers. I tried to imagine his scrambled thoughts. His sense of betrayal. How could I do this to him. His world just became a little less safe, but he would soon forget and return to the safety of toys and stuffed animals.

I could see the nurses smile at him, quickly adjusting to the surprise they encounter when a toddler’s voice emerges from his large teenage body.

These curious looks increased as he approached a height of 6’2”. Of all our kids, he was the one I wanted to stay small, stay quiet, stay unnoticeable, stay safe. But he is big and loud and full of more love than he could hold inside. He doesn’t care, because he doesn’t know the world as it really is, and I hope he never will.

Deep down I knew this MRI would prove pointless. It became clear over the years that there were no answers. Pills replace people. The Psychiatrists ups the dose, the therapist talks and talks, the doctors scan and probe. It is obvious, this is more of an art than a science.


Jason gets up without puking. I put on his shoes and tie them. He stands up and starts to cry while clutching his platypus stuffy. He puts the bill of the platypus in his mouth and chews on it, creating a wet mushy fabric that has changed the colour from gold to yellow. His oral fixation is a way for him to become part of the objects he sucks and chews on. Objects can be controlled. His stuffy will not hurt him, or leave him, it listens and will not judge. He can squeeze it tight, and it will not die. Jason’s relationship with this stuffy helps mend a terrified, broken soul.

We stop for ice cream. Jason devours it with the urgency of a starving dog. Each taste of the sweetness pulls him back to the safety of his stomach. The black and white of hunger and fullness. His appetite for this clarity is endless. Obesity is on the ugly horizon. I am determined to make sure it is not another reason for people to stare. I monitor his intake and make sure his stomach isn’t the only thing that can feel love.


Jasons stuffy was bought at a garage sale years ago and has become an extension of his world. Platty is safety, Platty is calm, Platty is comfort. Platty is also who he blames when he does anything wrong. “Platty told me to do it.” He says, “It’s Plattys’ fault.” I find it odd how quickly he throws Platty under the bus. But it appears Platty does not hold a grudge, and can take one for the team, over and over. This deflecting is part of Jasons survival. It provides him with a scapegoat to take the pressure off in a world the grows without him.

He has created an extension to absorb the burden of his own timelessness. A stuffy anthropomorphized by his brain to handle emotions too complicated for his own personality to digest.


I pull over at the next exit. Jason opens the door and pukes, then cries and puts his head on my shoulder. This is his usual need for contact with me when he feels unsafe. I’m suddenly worried that we left the hospital too early and consider driving back. His vomit breath moves in my direction as I straighten him up and prepare to drive.

“Plattys scared, she doesn’t like hospitals,” He says.

“I know,” I respond, “we’re almost home.”

He falls back to sleep.


Jason was a sibling adoption with his two brothers Johnathan and Jacob. Johnathan had a stroke at three and suffered a loss of function to his right side, plus an inability to access his brains higher levels of reasoning. Jacob, who is the youngest, has the unfortunate accomplishment of being the youngest person to undergo surgery to remove neuroblastoma cancer behind his stomach at 14 months old. They entered the foster system with a history of physical issues that would overwhelm any parent. To make them more “adoptable” while in Care, the system considered separating them for individual adoption. They viewed Johnathan as the reason no one would take them as a package, but as we soon learned, the real star of this trio is Jason.


We arrive at our home, and I wake Jason up.

“I’m hungry,” He says while undoing his seat belt.

“Your always hungry,” I answer, stating the obvious.

“I want noodles,” He says.

“Ok.”

We go into our house and his brothers greet him like a soldier missing in action.

“Are you ok?” says Johnathan.

“I’m hungry,” Answers Jason, “Platty’s hungry.”

Jacob springs into action, boiling some water and grabbing a package of Sapporo Ichiban.

“I’ll do that,” I tell Jacob, “Go talk to your brother.”


Jacobs need to parent will haunt him for the rest of his life. His instinct to protect his brothers was triggered at the age of five when the three of them were taken directly from school to their first foster home. Smooth transitions for removal of children in the system are as rare as good foster homes. Jacob found himself in a strange home with two older brothers who were unable to understand what was happening. They had just entered a world that was as cold as it was incompetent.


Later I talk to the kids about an MRI, what it is and what they are looking for.

“A magnet?” Johnathan looks at me with understandable confusion.

“It looks inside you.” Jacob hijacks my explanation.

In Jacobs mind, this is his job. All adults are part of a world that can’t be trusted. We have earned his trust over the years and have managed to help him relinquish some of his parenting of Jason and Johnathan, but his need to protect is survival based.

The three of them were born into a family absorbed by a system originally created to protect them. Unfortunately, as these entities grow, their purpose mutates into protecting themselves. Defending their need to feed on funding. All criticism is met with a well practiced routine of wagon circling, and a targeted sacrificing of those with no power. Whether intentional or unintentional, the damage created by this system is permanent.


Jason falls asleep quickly after eating his noodle soup and taking his pills. Pills that offer a brief pause for him to think before he acts. Pills that help his brain tuck and roll when the world moves too fast. Pills that help him speak his own language.

I lay awake at night. Waiting for Jason to come in crying, but after so many hours I know he is tucked away for a full night. Gunter is snoring. I take my pillow, grab a blanket, and go into the living room. I listen to the winter wind howl against the window. I love it. The wind, the cold, the movement of weather. I turn the gas fireplace on and lay down, staring at the shape of the flame and digging into the heat of my memories.

Don’t pull the gay card on us.”

I am in a memory of our first emergency meeting with the agency. We had been called in after the boys had been with us off and on for a month. “Red Flags” they called them, the reason they called us in. I was not worried, but curious. The boys were settling in well on their visits. They listed a few “Red flag” issues such as being told that we refused to take their trash bags of personal stuff with us. This was not true, but I did hesitate when asked to relocate their huge aquarium to our place, so maybe something was lost in translation. I’m not sure where the gay card comment came in, but we are used to homophobic comments wrapped in moral packaging and politically correct camouflage, so I simply told her that we do not receive cards.

As the discussion came to a close, it became clear to us, this was a flex. A way to show us we are not in charge, they are. The constant meetings, the continuous documentation, the endless emails. They are all ways to create a structure that protects them from the people they need the most but are valued the least.

We have earned the title of care givers who know how to advocate for the vulnerable and won’t stop. The opposite of what they want.

Gunter is a fierce advocate and always gets results. The complicated condition of Jasons’ mental state was going to be addressed by us and paid by them. The need for wrap around mental health services for all the kids became evident right away. These services are not cheap. Removing these kids from their home is necessary but creates damage upon damage. The budget should reflect the need. Foster parents are encouraged to ignore problems till adoption, or until the child eventually ages out of the system. Then the cost belongs to someone else. Adoption gets the child off their books, fostering doesn’t, and we were entering fostering territory, a land filled with well intentioned and some not so well-intentioned guardians. A land where little to no qualifications are needed, because, quite simply, no one wants to do it. A world where those who are trusted to protect either burn out or harden to the reality of working in an inflexible system. Small gains can be made, if the heart ache doesn’t kill you first.


The next morning our oldest, Kyle, gets in the shuttle with Jason and goes to school. They travel to a special school that offers one on one services with counselling and continuous care and monitoring. We are reminded frequently by the agencies how expensive this school is and once again, the failure of our parenting. Good parenting for them is linked to low cost and silence. Shut up and age out.

I walk Johnathan to the end of the road to catch his bus, then come back and drive Jacob to school. We are called now and then to the school to deal with issues of other kids harassing Jacob for having two fathers. He has, in a short amount of time, suffered more gay bashing then I ever did. From comments in school to videos sent to him online. One time he received a video from two school kids rapping about how they were going to kill Jacobs’ faggot fathers. I feel sorry for Jacob, but I know he will be fine. He is a fighter like Gunter, and I know he is taking notes. He has never been protected from the world till now, but convincing him we will fight for him is a fight in itself.

When I get back home Gunter is busy, plugged back into his normal work routine. I reset the house into some degree of normalcy. The smallest deviation from our usual schedule requires a certain type of muscle to reset. I deal with the constant care of the land, the waterfront, and the house, on a surface level. The deeper operations are completed by the two of us with a healthy amount of German accuracy and yelling. Eventually I travel off the island to retrieve Jason and Kyle. I get home and manufacture enough distractions to keep Jason occupied till dinner. I manage to squeeze precious bits of time here and there to create my creations. My writing, my art, it all fits.

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day; Jason will have to stay home.

The sound of the bagpipes creates a world of sadness for him. He will start to weep for days and days. When asked why he is crying he will say “I don’t know” between sobs. This also happens with certain pop songs. Jacob will frantically signal to me in the car when a triggering song comes on. I will turn the song off but even the first few notes will trigger a crying session that feels as much mysterious as it does tragic. His life has a soundtrack that attacks him, and I will never know why.

Eventually the crying stops, and we continue with the art of living.



















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2件のコメント


sadyr
2023年4月22日

Incredibly well written! Definitely was a gripping story. Definitely connected with all my emotions! I hope you continue to write about this part of your life. You are an incredibly talented writer and left me wanting more. Thank you🙂

いいね!
Wellington Lambert
Wellington Lambert
2023年5月05日
返信先

Thanks will be continuing with the series. Subscribe so I don't miss you. Take care.

いいね!
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