Death Visits Us All
I had a best friend in high school. Let's call him B1. Actually he was my best friend from about 4th grade until graduation. He obviously was a major influence on my life at a very formative time for me.
He had an older brother that was three years older than us. Let's call him B2. He remains to this day one of my closest friends. He is an extreme victim of his own intelligence. He is vastly more intelligent than I am, I can say that without even hesitating. He graduated at the top of his class (rightfully so)...but he should never have been given the microphone at his commencement address. He delivered a valedictory address in about 1983 that is remembered to this day. Oooh. He talked about the president having his finger on the button, and how that was going to doom us all, etc. He embarassed his family, and (if he had only been able to understand at the time) he embarassed himself.
In later years, I kept in touch with both of these gentlemen. In August of 1991, B1, B2, myself and one other mutual friend went on a trip together. Many things happened on that trip, but suffice it to say that B2 embarassed us all.
Both B1 and B2 went to the Minneapolis area, as did I. I stayed in touch. They did not. Very difficult situation. But in the fullness of time, I came to the realization that B1 simply had made a clean break with his past (except for his family), which unfortunately included me. Too bad so sad, right? Except that I am not used to losing my friends. I had not yet given up on him then, and I have not yet given up on him now.
B2 is a more interesting story. He lost himself in drugs first, then in alcohol, though he'd never admit it. At one point, I'm pretty sure I was instrumental in getting him to go back to school. The guy was a valedictorian back when it actually MEANT something after all.
I say all this to say that their father died on Monday, and B1 called me for the first time in (I think) 20 years to invite me to the memorial service. I went today. It was...interesting.
First of all, they're Methodists. The Methodist style never appealed to me. Let's all get as dressed up as we can, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us, so that God will be happy. Somehow I don't think God cares so much what we're wearing.
But I did have a chance to visit my hometown, and also visit these people and their family, all of whom had such an influence on who I am today.
You have to understand that the man who died was a judge. He was an outstanding person, besides. He was also an insufferable man, a man who caused no end of consternation among his fellow citizens...but also a man whose passing caused a lot of pain, reflection, and self-examination among those who knew him well and those who knew him at all.
Such a man is to be revered. He is to be remembered. His words are to be, if not "followed", at least to be taken to heart. The program informed me that his political persuasion runs directly against me own. This does not surprise me. It actually makes me sing with joy.
Because if this man is politically against me and yet still loves me as he so clearly did, then I am still free to believe as I do and all is not lost.
God bless this man. God bless his family, as they struggle to learn what it is to be a group without his leadership. And God please let this be a vehicle for B1 and I to become closer. I am willing. Is he?
Only God knows.
"Jake" is an interesting person. I found the following story written longhand in our kitchen. I don't know if he wrote it or copied it, but either way (grammar corrected because it drives me crazy)...
MY LIFE STORY
There was a little boy, a man, and a mule walking. After a while people noticed the man riding the mule, and said "look at that horrible man let the poor boy walk." So the man let the boy ride. After a while the people said "look at that nasty boy make the old man walk." So they both got on the mule. After a while the people said "look at those nasty people torture that mule." So they both got off and walked alongside the mule. After awhile the people said "look at those foolish people waste a perfectly good mule."
No matter which way you do it, it's wrong.
This kid does some thinking, and does have ways of expressing it.
Cabbage Patch or Cop Shop? Meh. Same-Same.
Saturday we went to my company holiday party to collect a nice free dinner and a door prize. As the prize-giving was winding down, we got a call about an emergency placement. We are apparently the only baby-ready foster home they could find on short notice anywhere in the area.
Needless to say, we stopped off at the cop shop on our way home and picked up a brand spanking new foster daughter, 7 months old. She and Amanda have already hit it off, and I'm pretty sure they've agreed to be in each others' wedding parties by now. Women bond quickly, you know. Especially when they're sharing tummy time and stuff. They'd be going to the bathroom together if they could...maybe The Wife and I should be changing their diapers next to each other at the same time to foster a lifelong friendship.
This little girl is in trouble, though. Bad, bad, BAD situation with the mom. Not sure about the dad, but it doesn't sound good. Based just on getting to know the little girl and examine her, it's not good. She's WAY overweight, with no detectable muscle tone. Her legs could just be so much spaghetti, and her favorite thing to chew on is her foot. When we took her into our laps and started playing with her, it was like she had no idea what we thought we were doing (but it did look kind of fun).
Our impression has been that mom hasn't done much besides sit her in the corner in her carrier or crib and prop a bottle once in awhile. This was reinforced in my own head when The Wife told me she had fed her at night and she downed an entire bottle pretty much without even waking up. She seems starved for affection and attention, and isn't really sure what to do with it when she gets it.
On the other front, we've been having trouble getting Amanda to eat. Since the new child is on a different formula, we thought it would be a good time to begin switching Amanda, so we started that on Saturday. The change has been instantaneous and miraculous. This child who acted so hungry and then stopped eating and started crying almost immediately now starts eating and then takes the whole bottle nearly in one breath. She's probably eating close to twice what she was eating. I have a feeling she'll be putting on quite a few pounds over the next couple of months. Fingers crossed.
In the meantime, we're enjoying the interaction of these two. At 5 and 7 months, they have no idea about race or differences between them. Amanda has not the slightest worry that this girl is overweight, and what being seen with her will do to her image. They only know "hey, there's another little person in this land of giants. Maybe she wants to play!"
Ah, to be an infant again. No, scratch that. I had a hard enough time figuring out the whole toilet thing the first time around. And I'd REALLY rather not go through the whole kindergarten thing again if I don't have to. My kindergarten teacher taught me what it was to have the little hairs on the back of your neck jerked when you misbehaved.
Today, that would likely get her crucified by the ACLU, but in the early 70s it was a very effective and widely used technique to get early control of the troublemakers and thin their numbers (I was more or less a thinnee I guess)...and MUCH more effective than "time out", no matter WHAT the "child experts" say. Holy crap, but that woman was effective. I'm still scared of her a little bit, and I think she died several years ago.
Labels: Amanda, Babies
The Greatest Joy
It is with a spinning mind and an immense joy in my heart that I hereby announce to anybody who cares that I just got The Call from The Wife. The judge has approved our adoption, and in a couple of weeks we will officially be Amanda's mommy and daddy.
I'm in shock. I've become so conditioned to the idea that nice guys finish last, and the court usually makes the decision I would rather they didn't, and the law was more often used to cause mischief than to deliver justice. That we should be granted this gift finally, after all the shock, grief, wrangling, rage, muttering, cursing, pleading, and who knows what all else over these last months...well, it's a kind of gratification I don't recall ever feeling. I MAYBE felt something akin to this when I studied and worked my last quarter in college to earn 26 credits, and, for the first time in my entire scholastic life, received straight A's on all 26 credits' worth. And then, if I hadn't been so tired of school I just didn't want to deal with it, I could have participated in commencement exercises for two different schools within a few days of each other. Instead, I just fled to the lake cabin and spent a week or so sitting on the dock, tanning, fishing and recuperating.
I don't need recuperation this time, though, except maybe emotionally. And I have a wonderful wife and beautiful little girl to help with that, thank God.
I...I don't have any more to say right now. I have to work the rest of the day anyway...I may have more to say on the subject tonight. Or maybe I'll just sit and hug my little girl awhile and think about how good God can be when He has a mind to.
Labels: Adoption, Amanda
A Delightful Phone Call
I just got a call from one of my former foster sisters that I haven't seen for many years, though I do get news of her through Mom from time to time. It tickled me pink to hear from her, not least because she was calling to thank me for our Christmas card. Her father is suddenly dying of acute Leukemia, and it sounds like it has her rattled...her mother died 5 years ago, and the rest of her family are...well, let's just say there's a reason she was in foster care as a teen. But the letter I wrote and sent with the card got to her at a low point, and went a long way toward cheering her up. That alone made the whole Christmas-card-sending hassle worthwhile.
I remember her dearly as one of my favorite foster siblings of all time. She would sit with me and watch All Star Wresting, and when it was done we would whale the tar out of each other with body slams, flying elbow smashes, "The Claw", "The Sleeper", and every other goofy wrestling stunt we had just seen. I enjoyed this because it was SO much fun...but also because she was a few years older than me and I was right about smack dab in the geographic center of puberty. She was blond. She was hot.
Pubescent boy gets the chance to wrestle with an older hot blond girl. Yowza. Sign me up.
But she just had this really-good-friend-who-I-could-trust feel to her, and we always had a special friendship when we still saw each other. We could cry on each other's shoulder. There's not enough of that in the world.
She's had a pretty tough life, and not all of it has been self-inflicted. Probably not even most of it...and she actually managed to foster herself with some success for awhile, though she's had her problems as well.
It sounds like she's in a pretty good place these days, though. I've been meaning to get on my motorcycle and go back and spend a day visiting old ghosts in my hometown where she still lives...maybe I'll drop in on her and see how she is. Life is too short not to do something like that every great once in awhile, don't you think?
For Your Reading Pleasure
If you have extra blog-reading time to waste, going forward I have decided to set up another blog at http://undiscoveredcolumnist.blogspot.com.
I am committing myself to two articles per week on that blog to start, and may increase that if inspiration seems to strike often enough to support it. My idea is to try to build up a body of more polished work that I can shop around to newspapers and what have you in an effort to land at least a part-time professional writing gig. I don't really care much about the money...long-time readers here will know that this is just something I've wanted to do for a long time. The novel isn't bursting out of my chest like an alien, but random jottings certainly seem to with some regularity. Time to see if I can craft those into something someone will pay me to write.
Constructive criticism on writing style, content, etc. will always be welcome over there. I'll be in thick skin mode when writing that one, and I'm especially interested in any criticism by anybody who happens to be any kind of writer, editor or publisher. And I'm REALLY interested in any contact from somebody who wants to send me bucketfuls of cash (used, nonsequential, unmarked bills are preferable) to write that type of thing for their publication.
"Jake" does have a defect that is becoming apparent...he's kind of a jerk to some of the other kids at school. I don't mean a normal jerk...but it sounds like he's something extra special at times.
There is one girl who is also a foster kid that goes to that school. We have done respite for her a couple of times, and aside from the fact that even death will not shut that girl up, she was pretty pleasant to have around. "Jake" told her that she would never get a date because she was ugly. He told her this twice. When confronted by school staff, he claimed freedom of speech and said he wouldn't have said it if it wasn't true.
Chivalry is not dead, but it's on life support and I'm looking for the defibrillator.
We are to apply some sort of consequences at home to go with the in-school suspension he earned himself. Problem is, there isn't much he really wants to do, so we can't prevent him from doing it. As a first step, we've banned him from watching TV in the basement for the amount of time he's in ISS, and limited his use of his game console. He'll probably have to help me finish the tiling in the basement tomorrow.
Next step will be to eliminate the game console entirely. Next after that...heck if I know. Maybe make him make supper every day 'til he's out of ISS. He actually cooks pretty well...but he also seems to enjoy it usually. How do you "punish" a kid who's either apathetic toward or appreciative of your punishments?
I can honestly say I've not run across this problem before.
The Wife received a call from "Tammy". Apparently, "Tammy" had been in touch briefly with "Celeste" via instant messaging at some point recently.
According to "Tammy", "Celeste" claimed to have run away, and was now living in the Twin Cities. She seems to appreciate the fact that now she can have all the drugs and sex she wants, with nobody to tell her what to do.
"Celeste" has yet to reach 15. I have a bad feeling she won't make it to 18.
If you are not a foster parent but are considering it, you should bear this type of situation in mind. If you do this for any length of time, it WILL happen to one of your kids. My folks had one girl whose ultimate dream job was to be a hooker in Minneapolis.
It wouldn't be very strange--if you did it for a long time--if one of your kids died while you still knew them. And there's always the (smaller) chance that they could die while in your care, through no fault of your own.
But you'd have to live with that, just the same. It behooves you to at least consider whether you or your family could deal with such things before you find out the hard way.
Labels: "Celeste", "Tammy"
"Jake" impresses me more and more as I get to know him. He has to be asked to help out with a house project only once, and rarely skips out before the project is done. He clears the snow off the decks after being asked once. We have not had a single argument with him. He gives The Wife a little lip, but nearly always with this curious little half-smile that I've come to know means that he is kidding.
He's kind to the animals, and has been solidly adopted and duly worshiped by Zach. The cats love him. Suki has fit into a houseful of cats and dogs as if she had been here all along, with not a single accident outside her litter box.
"Jake" also wants to join the military...I've been told he wouldn't have a great chance at getting in, but I'm not sure why aside from the fact that he takes meds. If he could drop the meds at some point, I think they'd take him based on what I've seen, but I guess there could be things I don't know about. His former foster parents for whatever reason tried to discourage him from joining by reminding him that people get killed in the military.
D'oh! Being willing to give your life for your country (if necessary) is the whole point. Nice side benefits are gaining discipline, self-confidence and a sense of mission about your life. I tried to join during the run-up to the first Gulf War (disqualified because of some medical issues...damn). I have no doubt I'd be a better person today if I'd made it in. And I've only ever personally known two vets who stated that they would rather they had never joined, and they both had to kill a lot of people in Vietnam. I've probably known a hundred vets (including Dad), all of whom benefitted in various ways from their service as much as the country did.
But anyway, this kid seems normal in almost every way, which is amazing given the few things I've learned about his family situation. Absolutely amazing.
And incidentally the reimbursement for this one is the highest of any kid we've ever had. I will NEVER understand how they assign those values. It seems like the reimbursement has an exact inverse relationship with the difficulty of taking care of the kid.
Anyway...went to see "Marley & Me" last night for my birthday. Excellent show for a dog-lover who loves to write. It gave me an itch to start writing more again. Maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree trying to get started on a novel. Maybe I should be looking for a gig as a columnist. That would be like blogging, only with deadlines and stuff. That could be seriously fun.
Labels: "Jake", Suki, Writing