Monday, January 21, 2008

Letter to "Celeste"

It's been bad lately. How bad is it? "Celeste" has screwed up several times a day, EVERY SINGLE DAY, for what The Wife says is about a week and a half but to me seems like it must at LEAST have been 3 weeks.

We only suspected for awhile that she was purposely *trying* to get herself sent away. Now we have it from her own mouth. My answer? "That's *NEVER* going to happen." And that answer has the bonus value of even possibly being true. But I'm frustrated enough with her at the moment that it may be false, too.

There were many blowups tonight. It's the very first time I've ever seen "Celeste" in actual, uncalculated TEARS. Breakthrough? Probably only of the statistical kind. And yet...and yet...wouldn't it be nice if it really was a breakthrough? It could have been. It's hard to tell after you've been lied to so often and for so long.

We called over our best fostering buddy. This is a woman who I have written about before, but her position in our life has changed considerably since we met her. She used to be the fellow foster parent who usually hosted our Share and Support meetings. She struck me as a pretty woman, very smart, very tolerant of a rather fiery husband (long time readers will remember him as the guy who is one of my heroes, who raises horses and who does horse therapy as one of his sidelines). She is now my wife's boss, a professional psychologist, basically runs the day-treatment school and is an Absolute Authority On All Things Relating To Troubled Children.

So we called this woman over to witness a child's meltdown. The main reason was that we wanted to provide her a professional opportunity to witness dysfunction in action. It was only a side benefit that she could soothe us, calm our nerves, tell us that we in fact after all weren't the root of all evil in the world and in general keep us from running screaming from the fostering scene.

In the aftermath, I have nothing left that I want to write except the following letter. It is a private letter to "Celeste", but there are very few things in my life that I actually keep really private, so I'll let you peek in like the disgusting voyeurs that I know you all are.


You were very upset tonight. I know that. I have come to know a lot about you. I also know that that makes you very uncomfortable, and I'm sorry about that.

But girl, that's all part of the whole process.

You see, when you came to us, you had had some truly vicious things happen to you in your life. No, I don't know the particulars of everything that went on before...but I've had enough dealings with other people in your position then that I can guess more accurately than maybe you would give me credit for.

I know you're a smart girl. I know you're a pretty girl. I love you. I love fighting off the boys that chase you. Sometimes I even love your temper tantrums. Tonight is not one of those times, though.

I've told you many times that you'll never escape us, and I meant it, though maybe not in the exact sense that you thought. Oh, we'll keep you in our house as long as we reasonably can...but just as you suspected, you can ruin our lives to the point that we'll let you go if you try hard enough. You can do that until you end up in the state or federal penitentiary system, if you try that hard. Even then, you might be able to get them to ship you around from cinder block hotel to iron bar motel if you try hard enough.

The thing is, you're a smart girl. Why are you striving for these places? One of your favorite sayings, at least to spew in the faces of me and the woman I love, is "I don't care". The real question is, why don't you care? What don't you care about? I've tried many times to ask you these questions, and you just get agitated to the point where I never get a real answer and end up declining to defend myself against one false (and sometimes even true, like when I "accused" you of having tried to burn yourself) accusation or another. But you never answer the question.

And I know you are not likely to answer those kinds of questions to me. You don't consider me a legitimate authority over you, and I can live with that. I don't necessarily consider myself a legitimate authority over myself sometimes. But I've also lived a lot longer than you. Almost three times as long...and the most growing I did was in my 30s, which lie in your future...if I can convince you to hang around that long, anyway. Compared to you, I have wisdom. And I'm pleading with you to please answer those questions for yourself, girl. Whether you ever tell me or anybody else the answers, at least think about it long enough to give the answers to yourself.

I know whereof I speak on this issue. I was an unhappily married, rabidly practicing alcoholic at one point in my life. I would never wish the same situation on any human being, much less on a girl that I consider my daughter in spirit, if not in fact. But that's the kind of life you're hell bent for, if you follow your current path.

Life can be such a blessing. You know that. I've seen your eyes light up when you talk about your particularly good friends. I've seen that same light in your eyes when you've spoken of your father, though it's usually followed by immediate clouds then. I've seen the same light when you don't think I'm watching and you're drawing a picture that seems to be turning out especially good. I've seen the same light when you look at my wife sometimes. Why never at me? But that's a selfish consideration, I guess. The problem is, you don't even look at her like that anymore.

There was a time when you were welcome in our house without precondition (though there were conditions on you remaining here). You'll always be able to come here if life punches you in the gut and you need a little time to recover before you go out to fight again. The problem is, you still have 5 years or so until you even have to try, and you're already floundering, and we don't know how to help. You can't keep on mistreating us like this and expect us to ignore it.

There's a reason we've been telling you so often lately to look in the mirror when you ask us why one or another real or imagined problem is slapping you in the face. We understand that you want to be able to express yourself, but for your own good you're going to have to learn that your freedom to swing your arm freely ends immediately at the tip of the nose of the person standing next to you. The whole world is not going to be awed at your expression of yourself if you break the noses of those around you. They'll be repulsed by your presumption.

And yet...there is real beauty in you, girl. There is the soul of an artist. I don't know if you'll make a profession of it, or if you'll just use it to enrich the lives of those you come to know personally, but you'll use it well. You already do. I once aspired to be a professional actor, and you have much more talent than I ever had. But I came in my life to a point where now I spend a lot of my time, money and effort supporting young people like you who will go on to bigger things. If I can turn my own teenage rages, desires and drives to a productive direction, I know you can eventually too.

So what will it be, wild girl? I think you love me, deep down inside, though you've never said as much to my face. That would be showing "weakness" after all, right? But whether or not you love me, I'm telling you right now that your best shot in life is to trust me when I tell you that it's best you don't see this person or that. I'm telling you it's you're best shot that even if you don't agree, you just submit, or even argue mildly rather than in my face as your natural instinct seems to be.

Because I'm telling you right now that my spirit is wild, too. Just like yours. If you engage me in a heated argument, I'm likely to respond in kind, and that will harden my heart against what you want. I'm pretty stubborn, too. Just like you.

On the other hand, if you see my jaw set, and I give you a challenging glare, your best course is to soften your look. I guarantee that's the best way to win me over. Give in a little. I guarantee I'll meet you halfway, if not immediately then before very long.

I can be played like a fiddle and be left happy that you did so. All I need to know is that you are, overall, happy, healthy and progressing toward a life where you might be able to help others someday. Then you'll become the favored daughter that I know you long to be.

But right now it's nasty between us, and I KNOW I've had very little hand in that. The ball is in your court, girl. Yes, you can probably get yourself sent away from this house...for a time. But I have it on good authority that you won't go anywhere you'll have fond memories of, and you'll be back here when the bad part is over. Then you'll just have to start over, but with people who know the kind of crap you're capable of.

And then we'll continue to love you like we have all along, only we'll have lost a lot of time.

You remember the time I called you on the carpet (in the park, at the church group gathering where you made me leave my volleyball game early) last summer a few weeks after you arrived here and I gave you the ultimatum to decide whether you wanted to be here, and if you didn't then you'd better let me know right then? You said yes, you wanted to be here. I took you at your word. There's no turning back. From that moment, I loved you, though maybe you didn't think so at the time and maybe don't even now.

Even if you finally succeed in leaving here forever somehow, you'll never be able to change the love we have for you. Someday I truly hope you come to understand that completely. And I really hope that when you do, you let us know.


PS. I love you girl. I only repeat it because I know you haven't believed it any of the other times I've told you, and maybe just this one more time will drive it home.



At 11:35 AM , Blogger Julie said...

Dan- that is a GREAT letter- I hope she takes even one sentence to heart. I hope she lets the walls begin to crumble and let you and the wife in. Press on!

At 12:02 AM , Blogger JUST A MOM said...

I don't get how you can deal with the teens... I couldn't play the mind games. I was good with the babies adn that was about it, keep it up.


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