Lessons Learned in Philadelphia 4

Learning to Trust

April 27, 2016

Robert had to leave.  He shouted, “Car, car” , during the beginning of the presentation.  I put my finger on my mouth and whispered, “Shshshsh” .  Robert put his finger on his lips and whispered ,”SHSHSHSHSH”  then… he shouted again. He had to leave.  Except, he didn’t want to.  He didn’t want to stay but he didn’t want to leave either. I don’t know why.  Did he want to share his pain of not knowing where our car was with such a large  audience?  Or was he in the clutches of his obsessive compulsive disorder that  forced him to remain until the end of the presentation despite the fact that he really wanted to be somewhere else searching for our car.

I got up first hoping that Robert would follow. He didn’t.  Then Jan got up, but Robert tried to pull him down to sit. Nonetheless,  Jan began to leave and this time Robert stood up too. He still hesitated.  There were three other people in our group.  We, the parents,  wanted them to stay and listen to the short introduction, but Robert believed that they should do what we did.  We were supposed to stay together. Nonetheless, we left without Margaret, Jack, and Cynthia.  We sat on the bench next to the door, trying to regroup our thoughts and decide what to do next.  (I have to say, I was shaken.  This has never happened before.  Still, I wasn’t surprised. ) As Jan and I discussed what to do, Margaret, Jack, and Cynthia joined us.  I felt guilty for spoiling their visit, but Robert was clearly relived.

Soon, we joined the other visitors leaving the lecture, We walked toward the Independence Hall.  We passed through the building quickly.  Just to make one picture for Robert to contemplate it later.  We waited outside a few minutes for other members of OUR group and started moving back toward the hotel.

We walked slowly talking to each other about the city, history, and …the car.  Robert kept asking but not as often as before and not as dramatically and loudly as he did during the lecture.  He walked with his father, a few steps behind me.  Then he moved quickly to the front. I got ready to take his hand when  I noticed that Robert was already holding Cynthia’s hand.  Not mine, not his dad’s but Cynthia’s, the person he just met not even two hours before. He was calmer.  Much calmer.  The missing car was still on Robert’s mind but the frequency and the amplitude of the repetitive waves of his demands seemed to approach null.

I walked next to Cynthia and Robert watching him holding her hand, letting her hand go when other people were passing them and then searching for it again.

I tried to understand  Robert’s emotions.  Was he holding Cynthia’s hand because she was the one who knew Philadelphia best and her knowledge of the city translated  into assurance that everything would be fine?  Was he trusting our group for the simple reason that all members stayed with him in his moment of weakness?  I know  that Robert doesn’t like to scream or misbehave in public and although he cannot help himself at the given moment, when the crisis pass,  he feels sort of ashamed.  Maybe he was relieved that in this company he didn’t need to feel ashamed as everybody half understood and half felt the reasons for his actions. Did he sense the empathy surrounding him?  As I kept asking myself those questions, Robert kept holding Cynthia’s hand. 

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