I’m calling this post “Untitled” because I simply don’t know what else to call it. I’ve been trying to think up a few witty or sagacious words that would sum it up, but nothing has come to mind. Perhaps as you read further, you’ll see why I can’t put a name to this one–or maybe you can help me out and give me some ideas. I’m open to change. That’s good, because things, they are a’changin’ mighty fast.
Where to begin? Let’s start a few weeks ago, on a weekend. My daughter, who shall henceforth be known as Bringer of Chaos or BOC for short, apparently came down to Pueblo to visit her mother-in-law with boyfriend and the baby–and GS2. I don’t know if I mentioned that the boys’ uncle and cousins have moved just down the street from us. Yes, they have, and it’s a good thing. I like Uncle a lot, and I think it’s good for them to have familiar folks in the neighborhood. Anyway, BOC drops GS2 off at Uncle’s house and goes on with her visit. It’s interesting that the boys are almost never included in any of these things–just as they were never included in most her back-and-forth visits to Denver while she and this current BF were “courting.” But I digress and I am trying hard not to be judgmental. Not my life. Not my life. Not my life.
Of course, during the weekend with Uncle, GS2 comes over to visit and chat. He is quite the chatty one, AND he loves to embellish. This could be a problem later, if not checked–hard–but again, not my life. Anyway, when no GS1 appeared we asked where he was.
“Oh, he’s at Auntie Tiff’s.” Auntie Tiff is a friend of BOC who lives in Colorado Springs. She has numerous health problems, and 2 small children. I couldn’t see the charm for a 13 year-old to visit.
“Is he there for the weekend?”
“Oh, no, he’s living there now. He had to go there ’cause he had a a bad attitude at home.”
G and I are now looking at each other over GS2’s head, trying not to explode, trying to stay calm, trying not to bombard this little boy with our grandmotherly angst. So, we just chatted. Apparently GS1 couldn’t get along with boyfriend, was yelling at his mom, was smoking pot, slashing tires, breaking into their room, stealing food, etc. with some other guy in their neighborhood up in Denver. I had met this boy when I went up to bring GS1 down for spring break. He seemed nice enough, but what do you know in 15 minutes? I guess things had deteriorated since then. However, he was making straight A’s in school, so at least there was an up side.
By then, he had to run back out and play with his cousins. G and I sat stunned on the couch, not quite knowing what to make of it all. For G, the foster child, of course, this brought up EVERYTHING that she has been trying to deal with her entire life. She and her siblings were taken away from their mom when she was 14. It turned out to be a (mostly) good thing, but at the time, you can imagine it was quite traumatic, especially since back in those days, there wasn’t much thought for the mental well-being of the kids. Grown ups stepped in and acted, and kids just sucked it up and went along.
Of course, that weekend, I never saw BOC. She rarely comes by when she’s down here. Honestly, it doesn’t bother me, but G gets all bent out of shape that she’s “disrespecting” me. I’m just like, that’s the way she is, trust me, when she shows up under the guise of a family visit, it’ll really be because she wants something from me. So, no, I’m not bothered when she doesn’t come over when she’s in Pueblo.
However, we both wanted more info about GS1. I vaguely remember Tiff as a friend of hers, and I remembered that BOC was very worried about her last year during the Waldo Canyon Fire in Springs, as she lived fairly close to the danger zone. Now there were more fires burning up there, and we all wondered where they were in relation to those. Of course, we couldn’t get a phone number, couldn’t get an email, nothing. I tried to call BOC but her phone was off. I texted, because sometimes she can get texts if the phone is off. Nothing. Then I broke down and sent her a message on FB (we are not friends) and heard back almost immediately–she can access WiFi when the phone is off.
Yeah, yeah, she would get me a number for Tiff (she never did), GS1 was running wild, she couldn’t “handle” it, boyfriend worked so hard to connect with him, blah, blah, blah. I did my best not to engage. I’ve learned the hard lesson over the years, that engaging with her always makes things worse. This includes asking simple question in a neutral voice. The goes on the defensive at the drop of a hat, starts hollering, or weeping, throwing the F-bomb and blaming everyone else. So, I have learned to nod, smile and say, “okay” or “all right” or “isn’t that interesting” and let things go along until the blow up–because they always blow up. That’s why she is the Bringer of Chaos, because she thrives on it. For her, life is too boring otherwise. And I think perhaps I just nailed why we will never be able to get along for longer than a few hours at a time. I abhor chaos, at least that kind of chaos. I can deal with it in situations that you can escape from, like work chaos, or long-distance family chaos, or chaos that you know is temporary. But when YOU are the chaos or constantly creating the chaos via your interactions with others, how do you escape that? But that’s a subject for another post.
Time went on. All quiet for the most part. GS2 was looking forward to his visit for his birthday week. I made arrangements to pick him up on a Monday when G had a VA appointment in Denver, swapping a work day in order to do it, killing two birds with one stone.
Then, the Black Forest Fire broke out in Colorado Springs. Once again, everything around here kind of stopped. We in Pueblo are not in danger of forest fires. We’re too far out on the prairie, and our terrain is flat. Grass fires, yes, but those burn slower and are much easier to contain. But we always watch in horror and dread as neighborhoods go up in flames and businesses are destroyed.
AND we had no idea where in the city GS1 was. And I could get NO information from BOC, despite repeated requests for a phone number to call him, email, whatever. “My phone is off and I’ll get that to you when it’s back on.” I know enough about cell phones that you can access your contact list even when you’ve run out of minutes. If you can get on the WiFi, you can send me an email. But again, not engaging.
A couple of days into the fire, G was on FB and suddenly saw GS1 on there. She typed him a message and he typed back. I got on and asked how he was doing, of course, got the standard answer, “Good.” I asked him if he was on a computer or a phone. A phone. I asked him to call my cell phone so I would have the number then. More than one way to get around a stubborn ass daughter, eh? He did and we chatted a while. He seemed okay. He liked Tiff and her husband Jeromy. He didn’t want to go back home because he was always being called a liar, etc.
Now here’s the deal. I am perfectly willing to believe that he had been acting out–ALL kids act out in some way at home, AND he is 13, so that’s kind of natural. But this other behavior, this screaming, and stealing and slashing tires–THIS was totally out of character. This is a kid who I could count on one hand the tantrums he’s ever thrown. This is a kid that from the moment he walked into school, every teacher he ever had adored him–even when there were personality conflicts. He’s not mouthy or disrespectful. He’s never appeared to have the least interest in sneaking out to smoke (GS2 did at like 7), or trying drugs, etc. I acknowledge that he might have reached the end of his rope, and so behaviors got more aggressive at home. I want to give BOC the benefit of the doubt, but what I think happened is this…the conflict was between boyfriend and son, and boyfriend won and son was out of the house. Brilliant, right? I came this … close to calling foster care on my daughter when she was that age, when she was running away from home, and refusing to do any school work, and hanging around with known felons and drug dealers (even though she swears she never used, and I believe that) and I didn’t. Now I wish to hell I had. Maybe it would have knocked some sense into her. Oh, dear hindsight, how I love you.
After that brief conversation with GS1 we felt better and worse. We had a phone number, but still didn’t know where he was. He apparently didn’t either, as far as being able to give an address. What IS is with people today who don’t teach their kids WHERE THEY LIVE AND WHAT THEIR ADDRESS IS??? I guess they think cell phone GPS will save them. Who knows. Anyway, it didn’t matter because about an hour later, I got the weeping call. Apparently, Tiff and her family had made the decision (probably in the works for a while) to re-locate to Arizona where she had more family support. Oh, she’s pregnant with her 3rd child, also has cervical cancer and baby #2 has a feeding tube. Sounds like the PERFECT circumstances to add another baby to, right? But, hey, NOT my life. They are willing to take GS1 to AZ with them but, 1) He doesn’t want to go (understandable), 2) BOC won’t give any kind of legal permission, but she also won’t let him come back because of his behavior (read, the boyfriend doesn’t want to deal with it–and probably neither does she). So, here we are. I’m on the phone with weeping grandson, and ask to talk to Tiff. She actually sounds like she has a little sense. She’s crying too, it’s clear that she really cares for GS1 and really WOULD take him to AZ with her, but at least she’s smart enough to know she needs some kind of legal permission to do so.
In the meantime, I’m about to have my own sort of schizophrenic break. I don’t want to raise a kid again. I really don’t. But part of me knows this has to happen. GS1 is my heart, plan and simple. I don’t want to feel like I’m giving G an ultimatum, either, because this is her house and her life, too. I become completely speechless, mentally paralyzed. I simply don’t know what to do. I’m not in a position to make demands–if she says absolutely no, I can’t really go against that, and I haven’t the means at the moment to move elsewhere and do it. I’m numb and dumb, sitting on the bed, trying to figure out one word to say that might offer some kind of comfort or hope. Nothing is coming.
Finally G comes in the room (she had stepped out for my privacy), and I explained what was going on. We looked at each other and I knew. GS1 had to come here. Period. We could sort out the sordid details later, but there was a dangerous situation where he was (fires) and his fragile support system was crumbling and there wasn’t anything else to do. Neither one of us was willing to force him to go back to a place where he was utterly miserable and unappreciated. I got myself together and asked Tiff when they thought they were leaving for AZ. Friday, 2 days away.
“Bring him here,” I said. “You’ll pass right by our house on the way south.”
I had expected huge knots to form in my gut when I said that, but instead, there was the greatest feeling of relief, of rightness. He needed to be here. I don’t know if we need to have him here, but we do need to quit worrying about him, and this is the one place that has been consistent throughout his life where he’s been safe, well-fed, loved and happy. Home is the place where, when you go there, they have to take you in, right?
I got him back on the phone and told him what was going to happen. I told him to make sure he packed whatever he had, that we’d get him here and then we would work out the details later, told him I loved him, and to be good. Then I hung up and G and I went into overdrive.
We wouldn’t change plans on GS2’s visit because that was for his birthday, and that needed to happen, but it was pretty obvious we needed separate spaces for them. We got one of our trusty blow-up beds and put it down in the basement, rearranged the wall screen we bought years ago for its art value around my office to give more privacy, arranged a chair for him, cleared out shelves in our built-in cabinets that would fit laundry baskets uses as dresser drawers. There’s still a lot of stuff to go through and I am soul searching to see if I can give up my meditation room so he can use it as a “real” bedroom since it has a door. I’ll be taking measurements to see if I can downsize to the pantry that we were planning on converting to a 2nd bathroom. Life happens and plans change.
On Friday he showed up looking happy, sheepish, and more than a little dejected. Everything he has was in a duffel bag and three trash bags. His mother had packed everything up and taken it to Tiff. It was very clear that even giving him back to gramma was tough for her. She was leaking tears, and telling me she just couldn’t understand the whole situation with BOC/boyfriend. Said he had helped her with the kids, done chores, worked with her husband, whatever, never raised his voice or acted out. That sounded like the GS1 that I know. We talked with Tiff and Jeromy for a few minutes, but they were running late and wanted to be in Albuquerque by dark. GS1 said his goodbyes and we said we’d check in on Facebook.
And now he’s here. He liked the idea of his space in the basement. He got his clothes unpacked and in the cabinets. He’s been hanging out with his cousin down the street. He’s helping G a little bit. He’s not as gung-ho on that front as GS2–I know he’d really rather be on the computer or reading but we have emphasized to him all along that LIVING here is different from visiting, and if he’s going to be a member of the household then he has to pitch in and help with all that entails. No pouting. No raised voices. No “attitude”.
I talked one of the attorneys I used to work for and she said the best thing would be a POA that my daughter could sign, allowing us to act as her agents. G and I agreed it was the only way he would be able to stay, as otherwise we would be powerless to do anything re: school, medical care, etc. She agreed to do it, and yesterday she got the package I sent. It has to be notarized, so I put some cash in for that and a postage-paid return envelope. There’s no excuse for her not to do it. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, hoping I won’t have to take another set up there and drag her to a notary and stand over here while she signs it. But I will if I have to. I am so blessed to have this job with weekdays off, and to work right here.
GS2 had his birthday week, and we surprised him with a trip to Alamosa to an indoor water park/hotel and we all had a really good time. G introduced all of us to Duck Dynasty which was a hoot. We fished in a reservoir where we found all kinds of critters (except fish) and then GS1 wanted to fish in the Rio Grande which runs thru town, so they did that for a while. It was good visit, GS2 didn’t get snarky (much) and when I left to take him back home, they managed a couple of brotherly hugs with noogies.
Now reality is setting in, but I think we are all fairly optimistic. I talked to him yesterday about the “honeymoon” period and how life was going on and he might get bored living with two old ladies, but this was our life, and he was welcome to be a part of it if he thought he could pitch in. Told him he was welcome to say what he was feeling, to offer suggestions or alternatives to plans. Told him we needed names and phone number of friends AND parents. Told him we would not hold the threat of “sending him back” over his head for behavior, but that we, G and I, WOULD deal with him, and he might wish he were back with his mom. He grinned a little at that.
I won’t lie. It’s daunting. But it’s different. I don’t feel “parent-ly” if that’s the word. I still feel like gramma. Whether he stays for six months or until he’s of age, I hope that’s what I’ll always be to him.