One of my high school friends left her husband and their three children a number or years ago to marry a felon in the correctional facility where she worked as a guard. I could not believe it at the time. To leave a faithful, supportive, spiritually aware man and three children to commit to a known felon was beyond belief. It's the stuff that sensationalistic journalists thrive upon, and in that case it was all, sadly, true. How could anyone love a criminal?
I still wonder about that some days, but I have to admit that I have a son who is a criminal and that I do love him. Surely it is a different situation, because I would never choose him and his criminal ways over my loving and committed wife nor over my other law-abiding, trying-to-do-the-best-they-can children. Even on their worst days my other children have not committed multiple crimes, nor been charged with adult felony offenses within three months of their eighteenth birthday. And it's not exactly the same situation because he entered our lives when he was nearly nine, with many years of neglect and abuse as his history and an organic brain impairment as the result of his birth mother's chemical usage. But I have invested years of concern in his life, have always done the best I could to be a good parent to him, and have tried to hang on to hope even when there hasn't been much.
Less than a month ago my wife and I exchanged several blog entries concerning whether or not to get on the "hope train" with Mike, the son I mention above. While I was never fully invested in the idea that there was a great deal of hope in the new arrangement (we asked one of our community landlords if she would allow him to live in one of her apartments in exchange for his working for her), but I figured we had to do it. We had to do it, if for no other reason than to quell the questions of others who intimated that we had at least a parental obligation to get him off the streets, where he had been living for the better part of four months. And so we tried that. And the experiment was a miserable failure, which I think both Claudia and I knew from the beginning. In a change from the usual way things work, in that situation I was probably more hopeful than she (usually she's the eternal optimist). I guess I have a deep need to be the martyr of lost causes or something.
Tonight we received a telephone call that suggests perhaps Mike has been involved in the manufacture and distribution of illegal substances from the apartment he lived in for eighteen days. It would explain the numerous knocks at his door (all of which were prohibited by the terms of his rental agreement, which he had been reminded of numerous times by his landlord as well as myself), the coming and going of others and the general disregard he has had for anyone's "interference" in his life. The police were in and out of the now vacant apartment today, gathering numerous pieces of evidence and preparing to have them analyzed in the crime lab. It doesn't sound good. But with Mike it never does.
And now we have more of his aftermath to bear. I am embarrassed that we put our friend, his former landlord, in this situation. Now she has to face the scrutiny of law enforcement (and she's one of the most caring landlords in our city), her other tenants have been impacted by Mike's presence (he had an upstairs apartment above a law-abiding, contented young couple), and our family's reputation will once again take another strike because of Mike's unlawful activities.
After all this I still love our son, but it is a love borne not out of hope for change as much as it is a love maintained due to the stubborn nature of my commitment. When we chose to adopt Mike we agreed to be his parents for life, and we will be. But what that means for us has to be interpreted in a much different way in his situation than for the rest of our children. What it means for us is that we have to do our best to limit his contact with our family, our home and those we know and love. His presence is deliterious at best and horrendous at worse. There is little right now that socially redeemable in his life. I will wonder, but not too long for it doesn't serve any good purpose, if it mattered that we ever adopted him. I'm not so sure the outcome would have been any different for him, and I wonder sometimes if the trauma he has caused for the rest of us has really had any good purpose.
Loving a criminal is not the best way to put it, I suppose, because it's not his criminality that I love. It is the memory of a nine-year-old, red-headed, freckle-faced hyperactive, oppositional, inquisitive child in need of a forever family that causes me to maintain a stubborn sense of love, hopeful that one day if he finally figures this all out he will know that there has been at least one constant in his life, a family that has loved him in spite of himself.