Saturday, November 10, 2007

Not Holding My Breath Any Longer

It has been six days since Mike has resurfaced in our life, and I have been waiting to see what will eventuate. It wasn't that many hours ago that I blogged about Mike being respectful and doing what he is supposed to do, but tonight's episode leads me to change my tune. I am no longer holding my breath because it has been used to rebuke him in no uncertain terms.

We have been planning for several days to take the family to see "The Martian Child," a recently released movie with adoption themes. Tonight was the night. We loaded up our three vehicles with our kids plus a friend's teenager from the community we previously lived in. Dominyk, Mike and Ricardo were in my vehicle, Mike quietly seething in the back for some reason (I think it was because we told him he couldn't take Ricardo's clothes and wear them, even if Ricardo said "yes"). We arrived at the theater, Dominyk and I walking together and Mike and Ricardo moving at a fast forward pace.

By the time we got to the theater (which is in the mall) Mike and Ricardo were nowhere to be seen, so we waited and scouted for a couple of brief minutes before purchasing our tickets and going to movie. We know that Mike is impulsive, but Ricardo is not, and when he chooses to do something is doing it with full consciousness.

The movie ended. We departed to the lobby. No Mike. No Ricardo. I looked around the mall. No sight of them. Based on experience my irritation and concern level began to rise. I am no longer concerned for Mike -- after all he has lived "on his own" for many months now -- but I am concerned for our other children being pulled down by Mike's influence.

Since we could not find them, we departed to eat dinner together (fast food for the group was $60 ... groan). As we ordered our food I received a call on my cell from Mike. "Hey, dad, where are you guys?" I launched into a mini-tirade asking where they had been, where they were presently located. "I went to [sporting goods store] to buy some shoes. And then we went to a movie." "What movie, Mike?" He told me the title. "Was it an R movie, Mike?" "Ummm. I don't know. Yeah, I guess so. Probably." "Mike, Ricardo is 13. He can't see R-rated movies. What are you thinking?!"

After excoriating him a little longer, I agreed to pick them up at the mall after we were done eating.

I pulled up to the mall. They got in the car. It was quiet. Unlike my typical self, I launched into a verbal tirade, first directed at Mike and then at Ricardo.

"Ricardo, do you want Mike to be able to stay in our house or do you want me to kick his sorry [butt] out tonight?!"

Silence. "Me comprendes?" I asked in cursory Spanish, for effect if nothing else. "Yes."

"Well ... do you want Mike to be able to live in our house?"


"Then don't follow him around like a puppy. Don't let him talk you into anything. Don't do it!"

Turning my attention to Mike, who was becoming defensive and only a bit verbally combative, I said, "Mike, you begin to get abusive with me, and I call the cops, lodge a complaint and you're gone." He quieted immediately, a mark of maturity that he has not shown in years past.

(To my own credit, I must say that I am a very patient man, and very seldom speak in such direct and anger-ridden words. I have always tried to treat my children with respect and care, but there are times that call for drastic measures).

And by then my parental wrath was unleashed. "Mike, you listen to me and you listen to me good. Mom and I love you, but we are not going to let you take any more of our children down your negative path. A few years ago it was John. Last summer it was Salinda. It's not going to be Ricardo. You are not going to have one more of my children to pull down with you. Do you understand me?"

He said nothing, nodding silently.

"I have busted my [butt] to see to it that you can sleep in our home for the last few days. I have had to convince Mom that this is a good idea, she and I have had to convince the [state from which our newest boys have come] and [our adoption agency] that there will not be any kind of threat with you staying in our home. And then you go do something like this? I'm not going to have it."

"So, do you want me to just leave and stay with friends or something?" he asked, not disrespectfully.

"No, Mike, this is not a kick-out speech. This is a wake up and get your life together speech. You are inches away from two years in prison, and I don't want that for you. I want you to be in a safe environment where you can make good choices and get your life together. But it cannot be at the cost of your younger siblings. I will not let it happen one more time."

He said nothing, so I asked, "Do you understand what I am saying?"

"Yes. Can I ask one thing?"

"Not yet. Let me conclude what I have to say and then you can ask. What this means, Mike, is that I do not want you going into other people's rooms, I do not want to be visiting with them alone, I want you to stay away from them! Focus on what you need to do, and leave the others alone. OK. That's all. Now what did you want to ask?"

"So, did you buy Ricardo's ticket to the movie or did I?"

A question only someone who has organic brain damage could ask at a moment such as this. If it were not so ludicrous it would be funny. In fact, I had to smile just a moment to myself, but once again it proves how necessary parents are in Mike's life, even at the age of 18. If he cannot figure out that asking a question like that after his father has lambasted him with ferocity, there are many other things in life he cannot figure out, either. (And, parenthetically, how the Social Security Administration and state agencies cannot recognize FASD as the kind of disability that impairs thinking as much as or more than psychotic or suicidal ideations is beyond me).

"Well, Mike, it appears that you did. The tickets I bought tonight were for the movie 'Martian Child.'"


And so it goes. But at least I'm not holding my breath any longer.

1 comment:

Don said...

Wow, Bart. Your "Martian Child" episode could very well be a picture from my future. I'm a single dad with an adopted teenage son. I totally admire how you handled this situation, and wish you and your family well.

God bless.