Monday, October 16, 2006

Carl's Story 18: Trying to understand

After reading Trip and Consequences, Bacchus writes

how tough that must be to put someone you care about on the street. I agree with the decisions, but will you talk about the process you went through to get to that point?

I suppose that is the real downside to not having all the emails from the time. I can just report the events but my frustration and irritation, not to mention anger, are just not there. Even the bad stories are funny. There is a real danger of reading the emails and seeing me as the experienced, calm parent that I am on the way to becoming.

Did I even tell the story of how, after he had been with me for six months, I cried in my friend's kitchen and she offered to take Andrew and Brian for the weekend? I called the social worker, still crying and said that she had to put Carl in respite that weekend. She said of course and later the family developer told me that that was when he knew we were going to make it. The ones who call after about six months to ask for help always do.

I also don't think I told you about how hard I worked on behavioral plans designed to get him to be more truthful. I had consequences for lies, rewards for the truth. I never told you about the day I collapsed and cried for an hour because I realized that it was beyond my power to change him and for a while I thought that I could not live with him if I could not trust him to tell me the truth. But I loved him and the thought of making him leave broke my heart. So I cried and decided that I was really committed to him -- lies and all. He was mine and he was staying that way.

Before I did foster care I would have told you that the one thing that I can't deal with is lying. Now I know that I can cope with lying, but that I really can't handle hyperactivity. Still, living with a practiced liar and manipulator is not easy. It means being constantly on your toes. It means constant analysis. It means deciding before you decide anything whether you are going to do something because it is what you want to do it regardless of what the truth is (like bringing Carl home this summer even if he was lying about having been sick) or going to the trouble of checking out his story.

The two years he lived with us I was in constant email contact with the youth group leader and his teachers. God, how many emails did I write that said, "Carl has told me that... Can you confirm this?"

I don't know that I was previously clear about the post-high school time with Carl. Though by the time he moved out we had decided that we might consider taking another foster kid, we were deeply committed to being Carl's parents. If after high school he had got a full-time job and was saving money he could have stayed with us for quite a long while. All he did was hang around the house. He practically spent his life curled into a fetal position hoping adulthood hadn't really found him.

With that background, let me also say that I knew that he was on the list for the temporary housing place. One of the rules for the project was that you had to show up every day in order to keep your place on the list. I knew that if he went every day he would be in in about a week. It was summer and though nights could get cold, he would not die. I knew that he could get two meals a day at the mission, so he would be hungry, but he would not starve. I knew he was going to be hungry, uncomfortable, and generally miserable, but I also knew that he would survive.

Hubby and I were also convinced that if we brought him home, even if we bought him a bus pass, he would not go to the housing place every day. He would do everything he could to stay with us. I imagined him home, sleeping on the sofa in the basement, hanging around the house all day, not finding a job, not pulling himself get the idea. The summer before we had taken him to Job Corps because we could not get him to make a plan or get a job.

I so desperately wanted for him to grow up.

And I had told him when he left for the trip that I would not rescue him. I knew it was a mistake. He was on the cusp of possible self-sufficiency, and he ran away. (It is so difficult to write about this while Evan is talking about going to Scotland. As Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer once said, "Haven't we already deja'd this vu?") When I sent him the $50 I told Hubby that I knew I had said that I would not rescue him, but that I could not cope with the idea of him being homeless 150 miles away. I wanted him to be homeless in The City, where his social worker and many of his friends were, where he could call me if he got pneumonia.

So I was frustrated with him. Angry. I wanted to shake him.

And I hoped that a week to ten days of being homeless and eating at the mission, where you have to arrive in time for the sermon or you don't get the food, would give him a figurative version of the literal beating around the head I wanted to give him.

Had that housing program had not been there I am pretty confident that Hubby and I would have said, "We'll let him suffer for one/two weeks, then we will bring him home." I don't think that would have had the same impact though. In fact I am certain it would not. Though he had a lot of help from a charitable organization, he also had the sense of satisfaction from having survived and rescued himself.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you. I knew it must have been tough. I'm glad you shared some of that.


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