A Bittersweet Day

January 14, 2009 at 9:19 pm | Posted in Life in the US, The Bucket, Working | 4 Comments

I’ve known of this kid for almost three years.  For the first two and a half, he would just barrel by me, head down, hands in his pockets, and his hood up.  Then he got shot in the back.  After he got out of the hospital, he got serious about completing his community service for an old charge and getting into Job Corps to move out of state. 

I’m not sure at what point I realized that he came to see us literally every day.  Maybe in the summer.  But the weeks when we didn’t see him that much, he’d come in only three times.  He’d get another hospital bill and bring it directly to me.  He’d get a phone call from the Job Corps lady and come right over.  He once told me that he would never read out loud in front of anyone because he was too embarrassed when he stumbled over words.  Then it hit me that he’d read things in front of my coworker and I with no problem. 

In the fall, he got more and more stressed out over hospital bills and not hearing from Job Corps, so there were lots of days when he’d just sit silently in my office and I started panicking that they would’t accept him.  I started calling the Job Corps lady.  One day he came in happy because she had called him to say that Maine looked good for him.  And could he please tell me to stop leaving messages for her.

He finally got the call from Maine to say that he’d been accepted and he’d leave in January.  For the next month, my coworker and I spent at least an hour with him a day.  We’d Google the campus and “bother” him with reminders to buy woolies.  I made him pinky swear that there would be no Job Corps babies but we amended that Job Corps hoes would be okay.

Monday we loaded him up with presents (practical things like phone cards, lip balm, a mini pack of Rhode Island playing cards), went over his packing list, and made sure he had his bus info.  Of course, we decided to show up at the bus station Tuesday morning with breakfast sandwiches. 

In dealing with him, I seem to be channeling my own mother, neurotically asking the same questions over and over and generally acting like a mother hen.  As we stood outside getting ready to see him off, I started in on my litany of reminders.  My coworker asked him how annoying it was that he had to deal with his own birth mother as well as us, his two adopted mommies.  He said “I only wish youz (mumble, mumble) been there my whole life.”

This comment, coupled with the general feeling of empty space after his frequent presence, made both of us burst into tears periodically through the day. 

I can’t believe that, after so much work and patience, he’s finally gotten to go.  And I hope he doesn’t get too lonely and if he does, that he manages to work through it.  And I hope that his body heals and detoxes and appreciates the wild beauty of Maine without being frightened by so much open space.  I hope that he endears himself to everyone there as he has endeared himself to us.  And that he gets as fiercely protective of new people as he had gotten of me.  And that he takes advantage of this time investing in himself and come back to a welcoming job market. 

Who knew that I’d get a taste of the sadness and joy of sending my own child off on a new adventure without me from an incredibly tall, pissed off kid whose face is transformed by his dimpled smile.  Even if that smile comes from making fun of me.

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