A few weeks ago my wonderful husband and I took a weekend trip to the Oregon Coast. While there we visited Cape Meares Lighthouse and read about the local common murres that nest in the adjacent cliffs. In the few weeks from hatching to leaving the rocky surface that qualifies as ‘nest’ both parents feed and protect the hatchlings. These young are incapable of flight, but glide with their tiny wings outstretched, as they are driven to leap into the sea far below where the father maintains the feeding and protecting of those that survive (averaging about 1500 ft from ledge to sea) for another three weeks; the mother apparently stays at the nest-sight for two weeks after the chicks hurdle themselves over the cliff. After much searching I couldn’t come up with a specific mortality rate for these young chicks that do not qualify as fledglings due to their lack of flight ability, but I will continue to research and hope to find a number to ground that thought.
Having stood by as my teenage son leapt from precipitous heights into the crashing sea of life last November when he was obviously lacking skills and abilities to survive, it occurred to me that I might have to imitate the mother common murres and stay out of the picture while he learns to live on his own.
Nearly a week ago, to my great surprise – ok, shock – my son called me to let me know he had been released from jail. This is six months after he was incarcerated and six weeks after he was released from the state mental hospital in half the time expected. His attorney didn’t call me to ask me to attend, which had happened for each of the previous court appearances and my understanding was that mid-September would be the next time he had court. I was caught unprepared and found myself providing transportation, basic toiletries and clothing. After a couple of hours I grounded myself and refused to provide him with shelter. Our balmy summer nights would not hurt him, so I left him to find himself a place to sleep. He told me he convinced the doctors at the hospital that he was no longer in need of meds or counseling, he was no longer bipolar or mentally ill and that is why he left the hospital early. Somehow eight days isn’t enough to ‘know’ if someone with a history of mental illness (multiple doctors and MH professionals concurring) is ‘cured’, but the role of the hospital in this case was to determine competence, not to health. If he believes himself healthy, I in turn believe there is no reason he cannot find himself shelter, a job and provide for his own needs. Right?
Thinking about the murre babies and their launching into space unprepared to fly, I have to believe that more survive than perish in order to stand firm and cheer him on but not enable him as he finds his way past the jagged ledges as he plummets before surfacing again to live for another day.
There is no father to nurture and protect this young man as he finds his way, but I am hopeful humans are as compassionate as murres and there are those that will help him learn the life lessons he needs to thrive; without ‘enabling’ him in the process.