Thursday, October 12, 2006

Carl's Story 6: Summer 2000, and back to school

I am trying to remember the first summer that Carl was with us. It was 2000.

We took him to Maine, which he loved. He was sixteen, Andrew was eleven and Brian six. He played with them and got annoyed with them. He was a good, and fairly typical, big brother. There must have been issues, but I don't remember them.

We took him to the youth group for gay kids in The City. He had never gone before. Apparently both his previous FM and social worker were a little nervous about it. They had ill-defined worries about sexual predators, or orgies, or something. I confess that we were a little nervous about what a youth group specifically for gay kids would be like. Hubby took him the first time and didn't leave. When they came back he said that the group had just played Pictionary and had had a lot of fun.

He found a boyfriend through the youth group whom everyone really liked. In fact when they broke up Carl had to deal with the fact that his family was disappointed, especially Brian who was just plain mad at him.

I remember that I gave him allowance at the beginning of the summer but put the rest of what I might give him in a savings account because he was supposed to be looking for a job, except he didn't look for a job and just didn't spend any money. I don't remember a lot of details about hte summer, but I remember that he went from being a too-tall, shy boy who walked with head down, to be a tall, straight, handsome young man who looked people in the eye.

I let him pick out his own clothes and all the little-boy preppy things he had left and were replaced with contemporary stylish clothes that fit. (None of the saggy pants so many of the other boys were wearing).

And then came the make-up.

I think I have mentioned that Carl is multi-racial. His ancestors are from Europe, Central America, and Africa. People often think they are all from India. He has lovely light brown skin, dark hair that would probably grow in ringlets if he let it, and dark brown eyes.

He started wearing glitter and white lipstick.

Hubby said he would not have minded Carl wearing makeup if he had picked out colors that looked better on him. Why not some black eye liner?

I shrugged and laughed. Hubby rolled his eyes and worried some ("If the kids picked on him last year what will they do this year?") The social worker was very disturbed. She thought it was "unsafe" and inappropriate and if we did not mind she wanted to tell him so. We agreed and then attempted to enforce the "no make-up" dictate. Most of you know how impossible that is. Kids just put in their pocket and put it on at school.

But it was much ado over nothing. Carl needed to walk back into the school announcing, "I'm gay. Anyone got a problem with that?" Negotiating the social realities of high school was not something I could do for him. He had to figure that one out on his own. And he did. After a week or so he stopped.

I found out that the money he had spent on Brian's birthday present (and on something for himself) had been given to him by a office staff member at the agency as a contribution to a school trip he was saving up for. He ended up not going, and then kept telling us that he could not pay her back because he had given the money to the school and they would not return it. No matter how many different ways his social worker asked about it, he denied it. When it was September I told him I would go with him to the school office and demand they give him a refund, hoping that just maybe he would 'fess up. He said he could handle it on his own. So I wrote a check to the office worker, told him that that was his September allowance and he should let me know if ever wanted help getting his money back from the school.

I "played chess" with him over things like this all the time. He would lie to me. No matter how compelling the evidence against him he would not confess. So instead of confronting him and thwarted him. I remember thinking that it was wrong that I enjoyed it so much.

He wouldn't look for work and that made his social worker nuts.

He used to infuriate me by telling people that we would not let him carry money (when the truth was that he did not have money to carry because he refused to look for work and spent his allowance as soon as he got it).

He used his orphan status for all it was worth. He made it very difficult for me to meet certain people who were then surprised at how nice I was. I was not at all what they expected. His drama teacher called me once to let me know that the reason that Carl was so upset these days was that he just found out that a friend of his had AIDS and she thought I needed to know. She was a bit startled when I told her that that the friend had reason to think he had been exposed to the virus and was anxiously awaiting the results of the test. As far as we knew, he wasn't even HIV positive and I thought that half of what Carl was doing was genuine anxiety and half was a need to make his life dramatic and get attention. I saw her and others back away from him as they realized that he was not what he seemed; that he was lying to them.

Sometimes it was comical how much he lied. He seemed to think that the adults in his world would not talk to each other.

But at the same time he was wonderful. He was genuine in his affection for us. I have never doubted that, though I have with other kids. Brian and Andrew were and are deeply attached to him. As exasperating as he was, he was mine. I had not plans to continue fostering. For various reasons I would not be able to legally adopt him, but I had no reservations about emotionally doing so.

He was mine.

Carl's Story Part 7

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