Love has asked a lot of me lately.
For two years and 10 months, I had been an advocate appointed by the family court for a boy whose parents were on drugs and whose dad had abused him in several ways. Though a warrant was out, Dad could not be located. Good! I followed this boy through four foster-care settings, two schools (he’d been in at least five before we met), and now residential treatment in an institution.
Somehow, he was overmedicated and ended up in a hospital for four days. His social worker felt that he should leave a facility that would make such a dangerous error. Through various networks available to the social services system and another agency founded by Dave Thomas of Wendy’s fame, the entire state of Kentucky was canvassed twice, searching for another home for this boy, now an 11-year-old.
But he was indeed an 11-year-old, had many behavioral issues, found transitions difficult, and had been removed from several homes already. No one in the entire state responded to this cry for help, this cry for love, this cry for security.
A Big Decision
A social work supervisor, whom I don’t remember ever meeting, suggested at an emergency meeting that I might want to take this boy. I knew him; I knew his history; he seemed to care for me. I am practically eligible for great-grandparenting, not fostering a troubled child. I have a peaceful life. I can write, I can garden, I can have a rather casual no-alarm-clock-needed schedule.
I also have a wonderful husband, so I couldn’t possibly make such a life-altering decision without his full support and engagement. I was sure he would remind me of all the reasons this would be an unworkable, impossible, and absolutely insane decision. When I choked out this startling invitation, Larry just said, quite simply, “Yes!”
I cried, I called, he came. He came with history and with troubles. He is as tall as my husband and me and has a cute nose and beautiful blue eyes. He is underweight (unlike us). He came with two pieces of well-used luggage and lots of boxes containing Legos, clothes, stuffed animals, dolls, and toys—but lacking something he needed.
Do we have it? We hope so. We reworked our staid guest room into a Batman cave. Its generous walk-in closet is intended as a cooling-off space. My husband put in a punching bag. Generous friends gave us a beanbag chair and lots of moral support.
Love in Action
It hasn’t been long. I have been notified by our newest resident that I’m an “old lady.” I have been told I am strict by an 11-year-old and “soft” by my husband. I’ve been “mean.” I’ve been “rude.” I’ve gotten hugs but am not allowed to touch him first. He growls, frowns. He sings in the shower—when he’s willing to take one. He has said the water hurts him and makes his skin wrinkle. We’ve compromised on every-other-day hygienic showers, pending a sniff test. But my nose can’t get too close.
But my heart has gotten really, really close. When we say, “I love you,” he says it back. His favorite song is “Mom,” by Meghan Trainor. It’s not about me. For him, it’s about a woman who has no rights over him anymore. She is on parole, I think, but she left him with strangers and allowed terrible things to happen for nearly nine years until pesky things like law enforcement, a judge, several social workers, and I became involved. She didn’t make her court appearances. She’s in the wind.
We are in love.