Thursday, August 27, 2009

Not my Kid

Many of you know that my work involves seeing a lot of sad things and hearing a lot of sad stories. While this has become the norm at the workplace, there are still cases that hit too close to home or really touch a nerve. I think today the case just hit my some of my deepest fears.

He's 22 and his parents just dropped him off here. They came in to meet me quickly and had the intention of staying, but left when he said, "They don't have to be here, do they?" They obviously love their son but don't know where to turn next. Years of possession/drug felonies, rehab, court dates, probation and treatment programs. He began stealing from them to feed the habit. They saw the scars on the his arms and found out he shoots up every day.That was the last straw.

How must it feel to walk into a day shelter and drop off your son? They will go to bed tonight hoping he made it to the shelter. I'm sure they will toss and turn all night wondering if he is OK, who he met, what he is doing. It's so much easier to keep them with you and end up enabling them, but so hard to let go and let him learn the hard way.

I guess I've always thought this will never be "my child" because my family is not in poverty. We don't have a history of substance abuse or mental illness, we are well to do, we live in the suburbs, we LOVE our son and would do anything for him. Not my kid!

But these downtrodden parents walk into my office, not knowing what else to do. They are dressed nicely and obviously have money. They have funded his treatment thus far. The mother placed her hand on her sons head and told him she loves him as she walked out. I can't imagine the kind of stress that it takes to allow your child to become homeless. You can't change someone if they aren't ready. When do you cut the apron strings? 18? 21? 30? Do you ever?

He's not ready to change. No one has forced him. He has to learn the hard way. He's homeless now.

Not my kid!

I suppose I expect I will raise my child and he will go to school, excel in AP classes, get a scholarship to a great university and become a respected professional. He'll give me grandbabies, drive a nice car, buy a nice house and live a good life. I'm setting the foundation for him now. I don't imagine the possibilities of drugs, unwanted pregnancies, negative peer influences, mental health issues.

Not my kid!

Sometimes the best intentions and efforts fail and parents end up with the child that was every other parent's worst nightmare. But they still love him as much, more, than the day he was born. Do we prepare ourselves for the worst or expect the best? Am I setting the bar too high for my own?

Whoever thought that being a parent was an easy job? A good job? It's the hardest and most risky job out there. When it comes down it it, I need to remember that ultimately we are not in control. God has plans for us and for our children. All I can do is pray that my son will follow God's path for him.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My Memphis!

We sit on the couch, watching a movie. Our Sunday night routine before another work week begins. Our 3 cats sprawl out with us and settle in.

"Where's Memphis?" My favorite cat, our protector, who sleeps between us every night and we pretend it's annoying, although he's a great to cuddle with in the middle of the night.

We figure he must of gotten locked in the spare bedroom or one of our closets. After sweeping every nook and cranny of the house several times, it sinks it that Memphis is not in the house. Our cats are not allowed to go outside, are declawed and have all never even tried to leave the yard should they sneak out.

"Do you remember seeing him today?" We both sit in silence as the guilt creeps in that we haven't noticed his absence all day Sunday. We come to the conclusion that he must of gotten out Saturday night when we had some friends over and were in and out of the house grilling. I then recall that Stella, one of my other cats, was acting strangely Sunday morning. She was trying to tell me something. What if he was trying to get in? What if he pawed at the door all morning and just gave up?

We search for him for hours that night. Up and down the streets of Southfork Subdivision calling his names and sweeping the bushes with flashlight. "He's never left the yard...where would he go....I'm not ready to lose another cat." We go to bed disappointed and scared for our defenseless pet. We leave the window open in our room, in case we can hear him. Stella and Raleigh man the window, looking for their friend to come home. We put tuna and a cat bed on the back porch and open the gates to the fence. Reed goes as far to put a baby monitor out there to since we might hear him meowing or pawing at the door. It doesn't feel quite the same with all that room in the bed, without Memphis lying right there to "protect" us.

We are even more disheartened the next morning when he hasn't found his way home. "Maybe someone took him", we thought. Memphis is so friendly he would come up to anyone. In fact, that's how he became part of our family. I was walking home from class at Harding one fall night and encountered Memphis strolling down the sidewalk. I befriended him with just a little coaxing and decided to bring him into our apartment "just to feed him." We already had one cat in an apartment that didn't even allow pets.
Of course, I immediatley feel in love with him (although my other cat, Jersey, never did.) Reed wasn't home at the time. When he did come home, I rushed to the door.

"What did you do?"
"I found something outside! Want to see it?"

Reed was fully against rescuing another cat. We didn't have the money, the apartment complex didn't "allow pets" blah blah blah. My tears finally convinced him that he could be ours. So we put up signs to make sure he didn't already have an owner and when there was no response, welcomed him into the family. Memphis pretty much ignored us for the first year. He didn't trust us but he ate our food and obeyed the rules. He slowly began to come around as he realized we wanted him there and eventually became the cuddler he is today. He is "top cat" in our house and rules over his subordiantes, but in a loving and protective way, as a parent does with their children.

Reed came home from work and posted signs with Memphis' picture and description. By the end of the day everyone in our small neighboorhood must have seen them. I saw people looking at them. Two walkers came and told me they were looking for him. However, we were running out of hope. He had never even been out overnight before. How far had he gone? What if another animal hurt him? We sat outside for a long time just watching for him. Does he know what home looks like? We go to bed without him again and just hope he is safe and someone will return him.

Fast forward to 5 am this morning. Reese is once again ready to get up at the ungodly hour and I decide to make him chill in his room, that getting up at 5am is just not acceptable. Finally, at 6, when he is still whining, I let him out of his room. I look into the dining room and see Stella pacing by the back door. I see a flash of cat go by and run over, excited. "Memphis, Memphis!" I'm so excited I struggle to open the child locked doorknob. He runs inside, dirty and wet, but otherwise unmaimed. Reed comes out and scoops him up. Reese pats him and shouts, "Mem Mem!" I've never seen a cat more tired and thirsty. It's just good to have him home. It's amazing how pets become part of our family.