Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Difference $17 Makes

Here's the chronology: Eight days ago I met with our son Mike face-to-face for the first time in weeks. We went to our county social services agency who told him they had nothing to offer him as an adult (in terms of housing). Claudia and I arranged for Mike to live in an apartment where he would work in exchange for at least part of his monthly rent. Seven days ago I took Mike to purchase basic household necessities, but not groceries (telling him that he was welcome to join our family at mealtimes to eat with us). Six days ago we saw Mike at church with the film guy Mike, after which they joined us for Sunday brunch at our home. Five days ago Mike ate with us. Four days ago we did not see Mike for more than a few minutes. Three days ago I took Mike to his court appearance in a neighboring county, where he was assessed a fine of $280, to be paid within thirty days (or else more jail time). Two days ago Mike worked for his landlord, and he earned about $17. We did not hear from Mike until one day ago when he called Claudia several times asking her to pick him up so that he could get his check cashed. Since he is now using his older brother's bike (with permission), and since there was no rain, and since he has seemed to get himself to other people's houses (including our own at mealtimes) quite easily over the past week or so, she said, "No. And I think, Mike, that you should be saving that money to cover some of your fines so that you won't end up back in jail again." We have not heard from him since.

Mike is such an in-the-moment, short-term thinker that I'm sure he isn't even remembering that he has accumulated now nearly $1,000 in fines to be repaid (this before his arraignment on adult felony charges coming up in September), none of which he has even begun to repay. He has refused to find a job and has refused our help in assisting him find a job. But for Mike, as long as he wakes up today feeling free it is enough. And when he does not pay his fines, and when he finds himself back in jail, he will be once again surprised at his location. It will not be his fault. It will be the fact that he didn't have an ID so he get a job (he now has one on the way), it will be that we wouldn't help him enough, it will be that he was falsely accused of the charges that subjected him to the fines (although he admitted guilt in every charge).

My prediction is that Mike will continue to try to contact us in order to get his check cashed, that he will avoid being near us if/when he gets the money, and that he will hear from him when he is in imminent need. In the meantime, I will remind him of his upcoming appointment next week with the court services officer who will make a pre-arraignment report to the court, try to encourage him to seek employment and do my best to be non-anxious.

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