Friday, October 13, 2006

Carl's Story Part 10: Living with him

The problem with trying to write about Carl's years living with us from memory alone, is that I don't have a lot of the everyday stuff. The various meals he prepared, some of which were good and some which were inedible. How much the boys loved him.

I have a picture of the three of them in Maine. Carl is reading to them. Six-year-old Brian is practically in his lap. Ten-year-old Andrew is sitting on the arm of the sofa so that he can look over Carl's shoulder at the page.

Carl had had some limited sexual experience before he move in, but it had been of the adolescent groping variety. He had his first real boyfriend when he lived with me. I saw him develop a giant crush on a nice boy who was four years older than he, and I watched that young man break Carl's heart as gently as possible.

I was there when his mother's ashes were released from the medical school to which she donated her body. I helped him decide what to put in the grave and I wrote a letter to her for him to put in for me.

There were little moments that are difficult to turn into stories but which were so important. Like the time we took him out to eat at a Bagel Shop and he said, "I was here once before. This is where my first foster family took me to eat before taking me to visit my mother once. That was the day they told me that my social worker would pick me up at the end of the weekend and take me somewhere else. I never saw them again."

There were strugles with homework.

The was the problem born of having rich friends who always had money to go out to eat and not having to work. Carl did not have endless supplies of money and keeping up with his pals was a challenge

There was the periodic cutting of school, refusing to write him excuses and making him go to detention or Saturday school.

He wouldn't even look for a job for a long time. His social worker offered quite a few different incentives, but none of them worked. I learned that I could pressure him into applying for jobs by refusing to drive him anywhere on the weekend, and that would result in a job offer fairly soon, but nothing could make him keep them.

I remember being frustrated with his counselor for under-cutting every rule. Apparently Carl expressed anxiety about what horrible things would happen if he broke the rules. So, for instance, we would agree that he would sweep the kitchen after dinner and the counselor would say, "But you won't be upset if he forgets. You will remind him right?" or regarding curfew, "But you don't mind if he is just a few minutes late, right?"

Ugg. I finally got mad at the counselor. Part of doing chores is remember to do them. I cannot be responsible for every one's respsonsibilities. Carl was 17; it was not unreasonable to expect him to remember to sweep the floor. And the curfew has be at some time or other. If we start playing this game where it is okay for him to be 10 minutes late then if he is 20 minutes late that will mean that he was just 10 minutes past when he really had to be home. I assured the counselor that terrible things would not happpen if he forgot to sweep one night, or came home a few minutes late but that having failed to remember or get home on time would be a violation of the rule.

I think the counselor finally got it.

Or maybe not. During his second summer I was no longer on his side about the job. They year before it seemed like it was okay for him to relax and pretend to be eleven, now though he really did need to look. I made him leave the house every day, which he did. After two weeks I told him that I was tired of him telling me that he was applying for jobs when all he did was go to his friend's and hang out. He looked surprised that I knew (I guessed) and he told me he was sorry. Still, in the middle of the summer we scheduled a "big meeting" at the end of summer to talk about Carl's goals. The counselor told Carl that he really had better have a job by then, which Carl turned into "he didn't have to have a job until then" and so he did not need to look until a week or so before the big meeting.

My mother came to visit me the second summer. She did not like Carl. He tried to work his magic on her, but it failed. My mother grew up on a dairy farm. She values hard work. Carl did not have a job and Carl did not jump up and volunteer to help when we were engaged in some sort of project. So she did not like him. She was not mean, but she just did not say much to him. Carl was disappointed. He wanted for her to act like she was his grandmother too, as hubby's parents had done. That did not happen. It never occured to me to try to make my mother behave differently. She wasn't rude to him; she just didn't have anything to say. Once he realized that she didn't like him he started trying to please her. He started offering to help. It was too late though. My mother could see that he was doing it in order to impress. Her judgment of his character did not change: he was lazy.

We had a visit with the counselor after she left. Carl said something about my mom not liking him and the counselor looked to so that I could deny it or explain it away. I didn't. I said that my mother looked at him and saw a six foot young man who had no job and didn't seem to care about finding one. My mother never got past that.

I feel right about having been honest with him. What happened is as much about my mother, and her attitudes towards work, and towards men. She didn't like Carl.

This was the pattern of life for us for a long time. Of course emancipation panic came later.

Part 11

1 comment:

  1. Hello from a new reader, and a couple of comments.

    I was meant to get on with my housework about two hours ago but
    haven't been able to tear myself away from your archives ;o)

    I'm English and am not familiar with some of the therapy / counselling terms you use. Can you explain (if you don't mind) what "co-dependency" and "enabling" mean, please?


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