Saturday, March 16, 2013

SLICE #16- In which I struggle with an unexpected surprise

Thursday night.
I am at an appointment with my younger son
when my purse begins to vibrate..
My phone is ringing.
It rings.
And rings.
And rings.
And rings.
I don't usually get that many calls and definitely not right in a row.
I wonder who is calling.
I wonder if everything is ok with my Arizona baby.
I reach into my purse.
Steal a quick glance at the number.
A 719 area code.
Not my son. That would be 623.
719 is Colorado. 
I wonder if my mom is ok.
The appointment is almost over. I flip the phone off
and slip it back into my purse.
When we get outside, I call the number.
A voice I have not heard in almost a year.

The boys' sister.

R, my boys, and an older brother (now incarcerated)
were in foster care together.
R attended the school where I worked, then went on to middle school.
When I adopted the boys, I offered to take her too.
The social worker thought R had been a "mom" too long
and needed a break.
So she put the two older kids in one home
and the boys came to me.

Every Wednesday and every Saturday
we picked R up
and she spent the day with us
attended her brothers' sporting events
carved jack-o-lanterns and dyed Easter eggs
shared meals with her brothers.

When she was 16
I got a phone call.
R was living with an older brother.
Things were not working out.
Could she come and live with us?
I am not one to turn away a child.
And so she came.
We decorated her room. 
Enrolled her in school.
Got her a cell phone
and a lab mix puppy
out of the back of a truck at the grocery store.

After  about six months
R decided that my rules--
school and some kind of physical activity every day
homework every night
limited screen time during the week
were too much
she called her social worker
said she was being abused
and was yanked out of our home

My boys were furious
not with R 
but with me. 

Not quite a year later
R calls
Wants to apologize
"you treated me better than anyone ever had
and I lied," she says.
She is graduating from high school
wants us to attend.
Of course we go.

Two years later.
R is attending college downtown
working at Coors Field
living in a transitional studio apartment
provided by Denver Human Services
the boys are in high school
busy with sports and girls and friends
but they maintain contact with their sister
we see R
but not as often
as before.

One day, in early August,
days before I am supposed to start a new job
teaching fourth grade
after 15 years as a literacy coach
R comes over to the house
tells me she hates her apartment
because the tenants,
all kids like R,
in the process of being emancipated
from the foster care system,
"don't know how to act"
She wants to move in with us.

We have moved closer to town
are living in a much smaller house
do not even have an extra bedroom.
R says she will sleep on the couch in the family room
We spend the afternoon converting my office
a tiny basement room
not wide enough for a double bed
no closet
into a bedroom
and R moves in the next day.

This time
we last a year.
R is older
more independent
she attends classes downtown
works at a department store
learns to drive
buys a car.

But there is still conflict
 I am a single mom
struggling with the demands
of parenting teenage boys
with a lot of baggage
R loves her brothers
was their "mom" for 9 years
doesn't always agree with my parenting decisions
feels compelled to let me know
when she disagrees

after 11 months
she leaves
will not speak to me
as she carries her boxes to the car
does not leave a forwarding address
does not come to say goodbye to Son #1
when he leaves for college
or see him when he is home at Christmas.

My boys are furious
not with R 
but with me.

And now, 8 months later, she is calling
"Did you check your Facebook page?" she asks.
"I sent you a message."
I tell her  I have not been home since early morning
we are not allowed to check Facebook at school.

"I was wondering…"
she says, then pauses.
"The people I'm living with are moving out of their apartment
I don't have any place to go.
I was wondering if you would let me move in for a few days."

I take a deep breath.
I feel like I have been
living in a war zone.
For the past three years.
I am exhausted
I do not think I can stand one more source of conflict.
And now R wants to move back in.

I say.
"When will you come?"

R's bedroom
has once again become
my office
the dresser drawers are filled with file folders and pens and notebooks
Two huge boxes of books
are sitting in the middle of the floor
waiting to be re-shelfed
after a presentation two weeks ago
My half-finished taxes are spread
all over the family room.
She could sleep in Son #1's room
but Son #2 has been using it as a music studio.
and there are no sheets on the bed
I am not even sure there is a set of clean double bed sheets
in the linen closet.

I head home to try and make a space.

R calls about 11
has decided not to come that night
will come the next day
she arrives while I'm at dinner
with a friend
I come home
to a living room filled with boxes
and three huge garbage bags of laundry.

And so now we are three again.
And I am struggling
to have my attitude
and my words
and my actions
match the Father's

to try again
to love unconditionally
when truthfully
I would really
rather not love
at all.


Lori said...

You have an amazing ability to love. Bless you!

Karen said...

Words fail me as I think about the love you have for children and especially your boys. These upheavals sound so difficult and yet you embrace them because you care.

And though words fail me, I hope that writing the words in this beautifully crafted, yet poignant post, gives you some comfort.

Hugs, Karen

Beverley Baird said...

Carol I can't imagine all that you have gone through and will go through again.
So much pain all around - and yours is the much more challenging to deal with.
You will continue to be in my prayers.
God bless.

Chris said...

Carol, you are strong to take her in again. It's so hard to be the one to get all the grief when you're giving the best. May this time be easier. Maybe R can be less opinionated and more appreciative.

Hannah said...

What a tough situation. This post says so much despite using few words. You'll be in my thoughts.

elsie said...

You have a giving heart. I hope R and your boys realize they have been lucky to be a part of your life. Without you, their life would have been so different, with you they have a chance for a life.

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

Three very lucky young people to have had you in their lives. But, you need to take care of yourself, too, Carol - you big and generous heart, your embracing and compassionate spirit needs taking care of,too. I admire you....and I worry for you.

Unknown said...

Wow. You have a lot of love to give to take in this family. This is can't be an easy decision, but one that I'm sure you make because it is the right one, even if pain will come from it. Thank you for being there for this girl. You are teaching her stability, and will guide her to a better life.

Linda B said...

I think you are brave to take this on, Carol & hope that she has grown up a little more & is willing to be more flexible in order to help the family itself grow. Every time she leaves, some of all your hearts break, I imagine. Best wishes & I suspect all of us will support you again & again to stick to your rules in your home, no matter what.

Melanie Meehan said...

Carol, you are an amazing person and this is an amazing post. I am so glad that I read it. Some day your boys will look back and be angry, not with you but with R., and you will help them forgive. What lucky children to have you enter and stay in their lives.

Michelle said...

Wow, Carol. How much more? How much more can you give? How much more can R take? How much more is there to your story? How much more can it be complicated?

As Lori said, you have such an amazing ability to love and give and give and give. But as Tara mentioned, I worry for you too.

I truly hope your boys and R understand your unconditionally love and support. I pray that this time R is in a good place. I'm praying for you too Carol.

LibraryDragon/Storykeeper said...

1541 cacculfYour words say eloquently about the pain, the love and the grief. The conflict between your heart and your mind.

You have given so much.

Have you ever read the Writing Diet by Julia Cameron? Her morning pages have been a powerful exercise for me.

BK said...

What a ride Carol! You have taken us so far and deep with the power of poetic word economy. It's eye-opening and you have given these kids your love and compassion unconditionally.
Thanks so much for sharing your mothering passion with us.

BK said...

What a ride! You have shared your courage and passion with us. A committed mom, your kids are very lucky to have you, a know it!

Cathy said...

Whenever I read writing advice from writers such as Graves, Fletcher, or Lamott, they always remind write with heart. EVERY time I stop by your blog I think, "Carol writes with such heart and voice." It seems to me that is because you live with such heart. I am always amazed.

I must confess I read your blog last night and couldn't find the right words - couldn't find any words - to leave behind as I think you have a challenging situation ahead. I agree with Melanie that some day the boys will look back and be angry with R. and not with you. Maybe, howeever -and this seems more likely - they will look back and be grateful for all you have done. As teens and early twenty-somethings not many of us are not appropriately grateful for all that is done for us.

Last night. I left the window from your post open to come back and at least leave wishes strength in these difficult days. I started my rounds on Facebook where a friend left this Irish blessing and I want to share it with you (I mean it is St. Patrick's Day). And it is perfect....

May God give you,
For every storm, a rainbow.
For every tear, a smile.
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every proble life sends,
A faithful friend to share.
For every sigh a.sweet song,
And a answer to each prayer.


Looking for the Write Words said...


You are a model of unconditional love. I am thinking this must have been a difficult piece to write and then share. Hopefully, it was somewhat healing and therapeutic for you. Please remember to take care of yourself too. We all need balance to be all that we want to be for the ones we love. A piece of advice that I remember coming my way during the early days of parenting adolescents and teenagers will stick with me forever - when kids are their most unloveable they need our love the most. It sounds to me like you are a model of this. Take care.
~ Theresa

Penny Jansen said...

This is worthy of publication...beautiful..hang in there...

Nanc said...

I will pray that our Father's love will invade her spirit also. This is a very long saga and I totally get the frustration because of the back and forth of our Kelly in those years after emancipation. This is the population that Jeff is working with in Denver...not lots of success stories...but they need people like you and like Dave and me to walk beside them...but that damage that has been done seems so great sometimes. xo I'll be prayin'

Ramona said...

Carol, my heart goes out to you! Such wisdom in your words. Praying that you'll have strength and love for all the days ahead, and that you'll feel our Father's love for you.

Carol said...

Thanks so much for all of your prayers and kind words. They are hugely appreciated. One day at a time…