Sunday, August 19, 2007

You Gotta Know It's Not a Good Sign ...

when your eighteen-year-old son's landlord comes knocking at the door at 9:00 PM on a Sunday night.

Three weeks ago we arranged with one of our community's landlords to allow Mike to live in one of her apartments on a trial basis, in exchange for his working for her as needed. Her expectation is that Mike would get a job, follow her rules and eventually become responsible for his living arrangement.

It is not working out very well. One of her explicit rules is that Mike can have no one in his apartment (other than his parents) at any time. Tonight is the third time he has done so; he has been confronted by her on each of the three occasions and warned that if he does not follow her rules he will be evicted. He is not currently seeking a job, and he is often unavailable when she tries to find him to work for her. She has been very gracious and has sought to give him the benefit of the doubt time and time again. She has been patient, she seeks to understand more of his diagnosis (FASD) so that she can be fair and just. Her biggest concern at this time is that the people he has been inviting into his apartment are young teenagers (13- and 14-year-olds) whose parents are trying to find them. She does not want the reputation of being a landlord where minors can hide out from their parents.

What is apparent to me is that Mike is spending time with people this age because this is really his developmental level as well. He is chronologically eighteen, but developmentally more like a fourteen-year-old. It does not seem strange to him to be with kids this age because this is how he functions. He is not ready for adult responsibilities, but in the eyes of the law he is an adult and will be held accountable as any other person over eighteen. He is not ready to live on his own, hold a job and assume mature responsibility, but his options are limited. He cannot live with us because of his criminal record and the negative sway he has on our other kids. He qualifies for no assistance or social services programs because his diagnosis is not deemed by professionals to be debilitating enough (if only they really knew and understood).

While I talked with the landlord in her vehicle, Mike came into the house to get some food to eat (we could see him eating at our kitchen table). Even in the midst of her frustration, she was kind enough to offer him the time to eat. She is really a compassionate person, which is why it bothers me that she is in this situation with our son. It is a helpless situation because while I want to advocate for Mike's best interests, I want to respect the ways in which she has already gone above and beyond to reach out to Mike. I hold out little hope that he is going to change, but do I want him to be homeless and on the streets again?

In the final analysis she will have to decide what she must do, and whatever her decision is Claudia and I will respect it and thank her for offering Mike this opportunity. I wish I had some hope that things would turn around, but the conversation I had with Mike when I came back into the house offers me little hope:

Me: Mike, do you understand that you cannot have anyone at your apartment at any time?
Mike: Yeah, but it was pouring rain outside. I didn't want them to get all wet.
Me: But Mike, you know [her] rule. You can't have anyone there. Ever.
Mike: It's not that big of a deal.
Me: I guess you will have to decide whether it's a big enough deal or not. If you want to have a place to live, you cannot have anyone there. Ever.
Mike: [Exasperated sigh]. So do I have a place to go to for tonight?
Me: You'll have to ask her. She's waiting outside to talk to you.
Mike: What am I supposed to do? Just get in her vehicle and expect that I'm going back to the apartment?
Me: Yes, you need to get into the vehicle and she will tell you what she has decided.
Mike: Oh, OK.

See what I mean? He doesn't even have the social awareness to know how to handle a situation like this, in which his "home" is on the line and "all" he needs to do is make sure none of his friends are ever in his apartment. He doesn't know what to do in the confrontation cycle to resolve things. He is simply clueless. But society doesn't cut a break for someone who has organic brain damage caused by his drinking birth mother, because thinking society doesn't understand how someone his age could be so delayed. He must, after all, be a liar or dishonest or something, because surely he understands what the rules are.

I'm not so sure. But it's not a good sign, and it doesn't bode well for Mike's future.


Mike said...

Hmm... this doesn't sound like a good thing. What happens if he gets kicked out?

Mike B

Bart said...

Sadly it means that he is back to where he started ... staying with friends or on the street. He "knows" that is the consequence, but based on experience I am not sure how that translates into his thought process.