Why I’ve been distracted
Why I’ve been distracted
This is pretty long. I’m going to take a break on posting for about a week. The names have been changed (except Shirley’s). But this is why–
You may have noticed that I’ve not published as many posts as I did at first. My original goal was to post twice a week. Mondays and Thursdays. I can write these ahead of time, schedule them in advance, and then they just pop up on their date. All is good to go.
But last spring, we did something, My Guy and me, that was totally out of the norm from anything we’d ever done before. Well, actually, My Guy had done something similar, but on a small scale. I’d never done such a thing.
We invited a homeless kid to live with us.
We first met him through an organization in town called Renew Our Community, the ROC. It’s a good thing. They are organized, professional, and kind. They try to teach their members how to get their lives on track and be self-sufficient, productive members of society. They help them get food stamps, or their GED, or open checking accounts, whatever they need. One of their goals is to help them become employable and find a job. Their members may be the victims of domestic violence, or previous addicts or inmates who need a hand in getting their life together. The ROC accepts charitable donations–money, clothes, food, appliances, etc. Some of their folks have nothing.
My Guy and I called them and hired them to do some spring yard work. We have lots of oak trees so we have tons of leaves fall. The ROC sent two men. Good workers. We’re happy.
One was an older man, Jack, and the other was a young kid, Joe. Jack is smart, knows yard work, and is a good worker. Joe knew nothing. He spoke in such a soft whisper, you couldn’t hear him.
I fixed hamburgers and deviled eggs for their lunch. Joe had never seen a deviled egg. He’d never seen Dijon mustard.
Long story short, My Guy and I decided we wanted to help Joe. But it would have to be in a way that gave him more than a meal or a new shirt. I talked to the leaders at the ROC. I spoke with the police. I spoke with the Clerk of Court about an arrest on his record. She remembered both him and his mother, who’d filed the charges. She said she was a nut case. The kid didn’t have a chance. I spoke with some of the members of the ROC who were getting help just like Joe, about what kind of kid was he. Nothing anyone said caused undue alarm for us.
He had a crappy family. A junkie, alcoholic mother who turned tricks for drugs. A father that was mean and had left Joe’s family and started another family. Grandparents too old to help. It appeared he was alone. He’d been on the streets five years. He is now twenty. He said Social Services put him in foster care, but that was worse than being at home.
I gave him Dr. Seuss’ book, Oh the Places You’ll Go. He read it to me. He could read.
We wrote up a contract of our family rules. Joe must bathe and brush his teeth every day. He must go to school and get his GED. He must work. My guy gave him a job. He must continue to go to church with his mentor from the ROC. He must clean his room & bathroom. He must always be reading a book in addition to school work. And so on.
For all of us, these rules were pretty average, simple rules of a normal life, living in a normal family. We all signed the contract.
Joe moved in last May 18th.
We took him to the beach. He’d never been. We took him to Carowinds. He’d never been. We took him to our daughter’s wedding. He’d never been to a wedding. I cooked pork chops one night. He held his spoon as though to stab the chop. I showed him how to hold a knife and fork. We bought him clothes. He had two pair of underwear and one pair of shoes when he moved in. He slept in our son’s old room. With Penny and Sam. We bought him a fish. He asked for a coloring book. I bought him books and crayons.
My Guy and our friend, who’s an ex-Microsoft guy and knows tons about computers, got him a personal computer to have in his room for school work. I set him up on our Netflix account. My Guy and his partner got him a cell phone. We gave him a key to our home.
Another family rule was that we control his money. He spent money foolishly. Joe suggested $5 a day. That would be enough to buy him a pack of cigarettes. We were providing everything else he needed. We agreed that was a good start.
I took him to the free health clinic. He checked out fine, but they wanted him to quit smoking. I told him if he did, he have more money to spend on other things with that $5.
We found we had to treat him like a 20-year-old, but care for him like an 8-year-old. We don’t think he is mentally retarded as he did well on his school work. He was behind–he was ignorant and uneducated, but not stupid.
He literally didn’t know how to dig a hole when we were working in the yard. Never mind manners, we were teaching him how to hold a fork, open a door for someone else, speak up and look at us when you talk. He approached everything tentatively–as though he was afraid of being hit. I showed him how to form letters and numbers. How to hold a pencil. Remember those little rubber globs you pushed onto a pencil so kindergarteners could hold it in their fingers correctly? I found one of those. It helped.
Our dentist cleaned his teeth, made xrays, and filled his cavities for half price.
Duke, at the Hanebrink gym, wanted to teach him Jiu-Jitsu for practically nothing. That’s Duke on the left below.
The man who owned the bike shop on Oakland Ave. repaired a bike we gave him and said, “If he needs anything, just tell him to come see me.”
My friend, Shirley, bought him clothes.
August came and he asked for more money. He spent $66 in one week. And had nothing to show for it. The next Friday, he wanted his entire paycheck–$207–in cash. Nothing to put in the bank.
My Guy said, “That’s a stupid idea, Joe. You can’t seem to manage money and if you don’t learn how, you’ll never have anything. That’s important in life. And we’re trying to teach you how to live responsibly.”
“Then,” My Guy said, “You’ve got to make it last. You won’t get anymore for three weeks. If you run out tomorrow, you’re going to become a non-smoker the next day. Do you understand?”
Joe swore he understood.
He was broke in 8 days.
One Saturday, the first of September, My Guy told him they needed him to mow grass at this house. He took Joe over, his partner was there and said wait until tomorrow when he’d bring over a riding lawn mower. Instead they needed to load up these logs from two trees he’d cut down onto the trailer and haul them out of there.
Joe said he didn’t feel like bending over and sat in the truck while My Guy and his partner loaded the woods.
Needless to say, My Guy was livid. He fired Joe before they returned home.
The next day, My Guy called him in to talk to him. Told him how mad he was, but really, how terribly disappointed in him he was. He even offered him a second chance. He told him everyone he has worked with thinks of him as the boss’ son and are hesitant to say anything, but they all say he’s lazy. He doesn’t pull his share of the work. He’ll disappear and be found sitting around. Joe said he’d rather work for the ROC instead of for them. It was a long conversation.
So Joe began working at the ROC. But they found out he’s lazy and couldn’t send him out on jobs.
Last week I went to see Betty & Tom. Betty turned 84!
I left $40 with My Guy for Joe’s daily spending money. I gave him $10 this past Monday. He came to me at 4:30 pm Monday afternoon wanting his money. All of his money in the bank. He wanted to go live in the men’s shelter again and take all of his money. I refused. He wanted me to drive him to school. I told him it wasn’t raining, windy, or cold and only six blocks down the street. He could ride his bicycle like he’d been doing.
He became quite angry and called me “an evil fucking bitch.” Not once, but five times.
I told him to calm down, go to school, and we’d discuss his money with My Guy later. He did leave. I picked up the phone to call 911, but saw him through the window walk down the driveway. So I locked all of the doors and called My Guy.
Unfortunately, he was over an hour away from the house. I wasn’t afraid anymore, just wanted his advice. He said call the ROC and get the outside key we hide, which Joe knew about.
Joe’s mentor, Ben, came over and we talked. He had given Joe a paycheck from the ROC on Friday for $90. We had given him $50 over the same five days. He’d spent $140 between Thursday to Monday and was broke by 4 pm Monday.
Ben went down to the school. He talked to Joe, asked him where he wanted to live. He got our house key and cell from Joe and returned to our house.
He told me Joe didn’t want to live here anymore. I said, “He really doesn’t have a choice, he can’t live here now. I will not be afraid in my own house.” We went upstairs to pack his things. I filled an huge, old suitcase we had. There was a pile of dirty clothes I didn’t have the heart to send and told Ben I run them through the washer and drop them off at the ROC the next morning.
Ben returned to the school and got Joe out of class. He became so angry, Ben asked the receptionist to call the police.
Ben took Joe with him and called the shelter. They had a bed, but wouldn’t let Joe return because of his angry behavior last winter there. Ben got him a room in a cheap motel for Monday.
I took the clean clothes up to the ROC on Tuesday. Jack (the other man who’d come with Joe to rake leaves that first time last spring) said he was sorry Joe had treated me as he had and we’d done the right thing.
I said he’d seem to change in early August. He quit trying. Became testy about everything. Refused to eat with us. And slept all the time. Refused to work. He’d been living with us four and a half months and was no better today than he was back in May.
Jack said, “As ex-junkies, (referring to himself and another friend of his at the ROC) we suspected the signs, but when we confronted him, he swore he was not, and we couldn’t prove it. But now we see him hanging around with this guy that’s a bad influence on him. And he won’t listen to us try to help him. He had the best of anyone here at the ROC and he blew it. You two did your best and he just doesn’t want anyone to help him.”
We all think it’s pot and pills–uppers, downers, antidepressants, Adderall.
Wednesday, Ben said Joe slept in the park the night before. Joe had slept in a queen bed on Sunday. He slept on a park bench Tuesday.
My Guy and I are tired. We’re going to vegge out this weekend.
Last May, the police asked me when we were checking into Joe’s past this question:
Are you strong enough to make him leave if he doesn’t want to live by your rules and get better?
But we’ve also reset our home security system and there’s a loaded 12-gauge by our bed.
We’re not stupid.