I came home for lunch today and finishing a bit early decided to do some organizing in our bedroom before leaving again. I had not been so engaged very long when I heard a rapping at our front door. Thinking it might be the washer repair guy (long story ... short version: our washer has not worked correctly since early August, and we have been waiting since then for a final resolution) I eagerly headed toward the door.
It was no washer repair guy. It was a felon. It was our eighteen-year-old son who had appeared in court earlier today for sentencing on two felony charges of receiving stolen property and auto theft (a separate auto theft than the one occurring this past weekend). I stood for a moment at the door, surprised that (a) he was out of jail and (b) that he was standing at our door, looking as if nothing had transpired over the past week.
"What do you need?" I asked.
"I suppose you know everything that's happened with the car and stuff."
"Yeah. I know what happened with the car."
"So, where is the car?"
"Rand has it at school."
"Think you could drive me there?"
"My friend left some stuff in the car, and I want to get it back for him."
"Well, Mike, I looked through the car and didn't find anything that belonged to you. Except for the pot."
"There was pot in the car?"
"Yes, Mike. We've taken it to the police."
"Oh. Well it wasn't mine."
"So what happened in court this morning, Mike?"
"I've got five years of probation."
"That's it? You don't have any time to serve?"
"Well not yet. But maybe I will now. Why did the police release the car to me anyway? I don't even have a license."
"That's true. And I'm not sure myself why they would release the car to you, but you know if you had brought the car back here in the first place we would not be having this discussion."
Another awkward silence.
"So, do you think you can give me a ride to [the school he was enrolled it last year] or someplace?"
"Well, I'm just on my way to get Tony for an appointment, so I can drop you off on the way, yes."
"Think I could put some deodorant on first?"
"Mike, you don't have any deodorant here. You haven't lived here since February."
"Yeah, I do. It's in the basement."
"Can I trust you not to steal anything from the basement while you're down there?"
Irritated release of breath ... "Well, you can follow me around if you want to."
"Nah. Make it quick."
Returning up the stairs a few seconds later, "Think I could get something to eat quick?"
I offered Mike some of the leftover lunch I had made a few minutes earlier and he ate hungrily as we got into our car and headed toward his drop off point. There were few words exchanged between us, and as I pulled up to the curb to let him out he said, "Well, I'll talk to you guys later."
"OK, Mike. Later."
It's always a haunting experience to talk with Mike, even if in a limited encounter like the one we had today. There are moments when he seems so vulnerable, so lost, so obviously unaware of what's happening in his life. After all these years of involvement in his life I still feel a catch in my heart for him. I have to guard myself against succumbing to the irrational, illogical emotions of parental concern.
When I find myself emotionally torn I take a trip to the court house, look up the latest criminal records for the son in question, and then feel a little more justified in maintaining a necessary distance from him. Today's research shows that on his two felony charges Mike is expected to pay $1500 in fines, attend a cognitive process group, remain drug and chemical free, maintain a law-abiding status, and serve community service. He will remain on probation for 5 years, and during that time his 365 days of jail time will be waived (I believe the legal term is "stayed") if he complies with the requirements of the court for two years. Realistically, this seems like an impossibility.
But for tonight Mike finds himself free, able to knock on the doors of any who will receive him. In a short period of time, I fear, the door he will be peering through is not our door, but the door of his jail cell.