The story continues ... I sat waiting in the parking lot for Mike's arrival for nearly forty-five minutes after the time he told me I would need to wait. During that time I took care of a couple of errands so it was not completely wasted time. At the forty-five minute mark, though, I could wait no longer. I had to be at Wilson's elementary school to pick up items he had sold for a school fundraiser, so I left the parking lot outside the building Mike had entered.
I picked up the cookie dough (fundraiser items), met Wilson at home and then he and I set out to deliver the goods. We had just begun the process when I received a call on my iPhone identified as "blocked." If you've read my previous posts, you know that "blocked" to me equates with the law enforcement center, because all of Mike's calls for the past few weeks have come from there and carried that designation. I answered the call and braced myself for the disclosure that he had violated parole and was back "in" again.
"You think you can pick me up?"
"Where are you?" I asked a bit befuddled.
"At the place you dropped me off. I'm done."
"Mike, that was two hours ago."
"Yeah, I know, but they had a lot of people who had to do the 'pee' [UA] test, so it took a long time."
"Umm. Sure, I'll be there in about a half hour. I'm doing something with Wilson I need to finish first."
I must admit I am surprised that Mike is doing this well. He has not only organic brain issues to deal with, but he has such an engrained pattern of behavior developed over the past few years in regard to opposition to authority and the law enforcement process that I can hardly believe he's still doing OK.
While I was waiting for Mike earlier I had stopped by a local grocery store to purchase some gauze, medical tape and antibacterial ointment so that he could care for his lacerated fingers, so as he hopped in the car I handed him the Halloween-orange plastic bag. He inspected the contents and grunted appreciation of some sort.
I asked, "So is Officer C....r happy with how you're doing on parole?"
"Umm. I don't know. I guess so."
We drove a few minutes in silence.
"So," my nineteen-year-old son who sometimes functions emotionally at about the age of ten queries, "are you happy to know I'm passing my pee tests?"
"Well, actually, I am happy about that, Mike. That's great. Aren't you happy about it?"
He looks at me, a frightened fawn caught in headlights, momentarily considering a response. He utters it moments later. "Yeah, I guess."
"So are you hungry for dinner?" he asks. It is four in the afternoon. I have eaten breakfast at 6:00 AM, lunch at 12:00 PM and need to return home to prepare dinner for the others in my family. "Well, I need to get home and make dinner for everyone else now."
"Oh, yeah. Think you could give me five bucks so I could get something to eat?"
I try not to give Mike cash. If there is something he needs that I consider appropriate I buy it directly and hand it to him. And today I do not have any cash in my pocket.
"I don't have any money, Mike."
I know he is hungry. He doesn't recognize that the reason I don't have any cash in my pocket is because I have spent most of my discretionary money for the last part of the month in his direction over the past week to buy him a few clothes, a warm hoodie to wear and some shoes. But he's not thinking of that. He's not being manipulative or selfish; he's just not thinking of that at all.
He doesn't ask, so I offer.
"Well, I don't have time to eat with you, but I can swing through the Taco John's drive through. How would that be?"
"Umm. That'd be great. Thanks."
It goes against my grain, really. I have always believed that food is meant to be shared with others, and preferably in a home around a table with those you love. Food to me represents family, friends, warmth, togetherness, attachment, joy. But to Mike, separated so long from those who love him by behaviors that cannot continue in our home, food is simply sustenance. And so I content myself knowing that even if Mike cannot eat with his family these days, at least his family can offer him some food in Jesus' name.
I drive through, purchase the food, hand it to Mike, and he says, "Thanks."
In two minutes we are at the location where he is currently staying. On the way I remind him that if he gives me his clothes that need to be washed the next time we meet up I can do that for him. I pull the car into the driveway, glance in his direction and say, "See you later, Mike. I love you."
"Yeah. You too."
And maybe, in that split second of time, we both mean it.