Monday, August 31, 2009

A Happy Story

If you have a few moments and a cool summer drink to savor, and want a happy story, I've got one today.

Once upon a time, we moved to So Cal for DH's new job. That job is old history now, but we have stayed here, and come February, we will have been in California for 16 years. During that time we’ve finished raising our kids (at least in that hands-on, homework impregnated, chauffeur to soccer practice, curfew-enforcing sense). We learned a lot, experienced a lot, and we’ve met and known some wonderful people.

One of them will always be “the best son I never had!” (His teasing words but I wholeheartedly agree!)

(a very old school photo....see why he always got picked to play Jesus at Christmas?)

He (S) came to be a part of our family about five years ago. We had known him since we first moved here, as he was the son of our minister, and he and DD1 were the same age/grade at the church high school. They weren’t very well acquainted, but they each knew who the other was. Though DD2 was two grades behind him, he and DD2 were good friends and got into a lot of mischief together……yes, I'm masterfully understating things!

One of our first real memories of S was the night we found him and DD2 sitting in her bedroom talking at about 4 a.m. He had climbed up a little hill on the side yard, leaped to the roof of the garage, scrambled up to her window, and crawled in……It was during the beginning of the turbulent years with DD2 and I was working downstairs that early morning, but kept hearing a young man’s voice laughing and talking, and went to investigate…..there they were just jabbering away, innocently enough, in her room. I remember my husband literally chasing him out the door into the darkness and bellowing something about not ever coming back…..

well, it WAS 4 a.m.!!

and well, maybe not so innocently. He's the one that turned her onto pot. She's the one that later turned him on to speed. Then he watched, horrified as she started mixing in the heroin. They took care of each other, in a sense, but things just got worse for both of them.

Fast forward a few years…….the years continued to wreak havoc upon our hearts and we all managed to get through them….. although DD2 was not with us for several of those years. She was learning some things The Hard Way and and we were learning The Hard Way that there was nothing we could do except wait. And pray.

S’s family was going through much the same thing. He, just like DD2, got into a significant amount of trouble, often committing crimes to enable more drug use.

At one point, DD2 came back home. We were hoping her first couple of jail stays would result in her working a bit harder at her sobriety. For a long time, she did pretty well. She worked, bought a car from us, paid back creditors, and stayed clean. Most importantly, stayed clean!

After she had been here only a few months, she found out that S was getting released from jail and needed a place to stay. His parents had moved from this area to pastor a new church out of state, while he was “inside”. He needed to stay in this area for Probation and he needed a place to call home. He had friends he could crash with, but DD2 figured he’d be loaded inside of 24 hours if he did that!

DD2 asked if S could stay with us, and we opened the door to the house, and just that quickly, the door to our hearts.

(My husband, surprisingly, was 100% behind this. I remember him laughing at one point when we discussed it, saying, "we already have everything locked up in this house, because of our own little ex-felon, might as well let Pastor's ex-felon stay here too!" This man confuses me, more each day!)

I’m so GLAD he came to stay with us. He immediately won over the biggest hurtle - Max the Wuss Magnificent.....(our 120 pound biggest rescued mutt who had issues with men and tends to bite them, due to a former life that included extreme abuse)… even Max sensed his good heart and after snapping at him for a few days, decided he was okay and regularly begged to be patted!!

He stayed with us about two months, was working, going to meetings, and then an old warrant surfaced. He went in to see his probation officer about it, and didn't come back. He was in prison for about two months, doing what he called a "turnaround".
He got out, took the money they spring you with, and took the long bus ride from upstate, right back to us! S immediately set about getting another job, growing out his buzzed prison haircut back to its original long hippie locks, and seeing parole, etc.

DD2 meanwhile, went to Ikea and with her tips, she got a metal bunk bed set and claimed the bottom bunk…..with creative arrangement, the tiny room that had seemed too crowded for just her, became big enough for both of them, as long as they were very careful moving around!The irony was not lost on him, I am sure, as he lived with DD2 in the same room my husband had once chased him from!!

Birthdays came around, and came around again! S's and DD2's birthdays are one day apart!

(buzz cut!!)

(my hippie "son" has his trademark hair back!)

Over the next two years and several months, he roomed first with DD2, then with DD1. This was because, after about a year, DD2 decided she wanted her space back….and S said something about “well, I guess I need to look for a new place to live….”

DD1 piped up with “why don’t you just move next door?” and so he did…..the bunk beds traded rooms with the single bed…..DD2 got her space back, and DD1 and S embarked on the creative arranging that was necessary to enable them to share an equally tiny room that had also seemed crowded with only one person in it….

And again, it worked really well! I likened it to them being on a space shuttle, or in a very small co-ed dormitory. Throughout those years, they slept in their clothes and learned to lock doors while changing. They learned how to coexist in a very small place. They worked out transportation issues, sharing the bathroom and budgeting. They grew close in ways only siblings can. S was a stabilizing presence in our home. He quickly became a big brother to them both. They call him their “brotha-from-anotha-motha”.

He helped DD2 see reason sometimes when she was frustrated and we couldn’t seem to explain things. He encouraged her, and carried her outside once, kicking and screaming, when a manic spell made reasoning impossible. He talked her down and they came back inside for dinner. She encouraged him in the rebuilding of his life, too.

He once helped DD1 get a second job with the restaurant he managed and helped her get scheduling at that job that worked with her various studying crunches or thesis writing. That helped make THIS day possible:

(S, DD1 and DD2-graduation day)

He registered his opinions about the events in their lives…..and likewise, they checked out his girlfriends and teased him mercilessly about anything they could! They made him an honorary girl at the late night giggle sessions around the island in the kitchen. He gamely tasted DD2’s tofu creations and DD1's Henry's Market finds, and survived my cooking. He earned the title Master of Our Grill.

He had a niece living nearby who went through her own addiction issues, and S is kind of a “big brother/uncle” to her too, encouraging her and being helpful to her.

She relapsed recently and once again, he’s reaching out to her with his combination of tough love/good heart, trying to persuade her to choose life, and choose to be a mom to her twin babies!!

He was helpful, cheerfully so, around our house. There was nothing I asked of him, that he did not willingly do, and do well. Everyone had chores here, and my floors were cleaned weekly by S. They had not looked that good before, and have not, since!

Life with us included some really strange adventures for S…Some adventures took brawn (helping load my Nana's upright piano to travel to its new home!)......some of the adventures required brains.....He has built several computers from parts for us (two were for women who worked for me).

I loved having a live-in computer technician. I’ve restored or replaced my work computer at least three times during the time he was with us and each time, he helped me link my dictation computer (six phone lines going into it) to my work computer (which served as a platform to grab the dictation and fling it up on my website). We’re getting really good at that whole process at this point!

(He now has a great job working with computers!)

He built shelving units in the garage.

He repeatedly and more importantly, patiently corrected our errors in programming and got our electronic equipment and TV to work in the den…..

He helped me pick up a van load of plants from my friends Deborah and Joe one time….right before they moved. He demonstrated once again his sense of humor during the ride back home. Initially neither of us was really crazy about the fact that we were carting gorgeous plants, and likely a bucketload of creepy crawlies home with us….and at one point, I looked over at him, as we drove on the 91E in rush hour traffic and said, “so far, so good – nothing has crawled up here and gotten us!”

He glanced over at me and said, “yeah, I’m glad” and then let his glance slide behind me briefly. His eyes got big as he focused on something right behind me, and he gasped “Oh My God!” which of course caused me to grip the steering wheel, telling myself not to panic while going 75 mph in five lanes of traffic in our old VW van, as I screeched “WHAT??WHAT?? WHAT IS IT???!!!”

I envisioned a tarantula, at a bare minimum, crawling up my seat towards me….

Immediately contrite, he said “that wasn’t fair, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that while you were driving – I was just trying to scare you!”

And believe it or not, I was so relieved, I let him live….

Snicker! I always thought I would get even with him by dragging the hose around to the little window over the shower on a winter morning and firing it down into the shower while he was in it….but I never got around to it.

I LOVED having S be a part of our family. He has a sense of humor that is quick, and made me smile! He took on responsibility and thrived. He worked hard, he got to work on time, and he became indispensable to his employer. He advanced in job responsibilities and salary. (He also brought home fantastic tacos and salads on occasion! )

But somewhere along the way, the very reason he came to live us became a completed reality. He had needed a place to call home while he gathered himself and his finances for launching himself again as an independent young man.

And although I knew it was time…….I’m so sorry that time came. (and very proud!)

He got an apartment that he shared with two or three other young men. He did great!

A year later, he fell in love, hook, line and whole heart, for DD1’s best girlfriend – I love how my world is getting smaller! They now share a home and he is step-daddy to her son.

He’s off doing well, making his way in the world, making us proud …..

And our house is just Not The Same.

I miss my S!!

This is why I hope. I have seen what love, prayers, and a program and determination on the part of the addict can accomplish. This can happen for my daughter one day! This is the type of outcome I hope and pray for, for all of us!


  1. What a great post, it shows that this is always hope, something I am struggling with at the moment.
    Your family sound beautiful, caring people. He's a very lucky man to have had all the help and support he did from you.

  2. Thanks! I hope it wasn't too long! I tend to write too much!! I had initially posted a very very abbreviated and pleasant entry about this on my "happy" blog that our family members see.... a long time ago.... they only knew that Pastor's kid stayed with us a while after his folks moved away....

    But it occurred to me that this story in its truthful entirety, might be encouraging to more than just me... He's such a positive reminder that it can be done!!!!

  3. Oh my, I am trying not to sit here and cry tears of joy at work. What a lovely story, thank you so very much for sharing this story of hope with all of us. How lucky to have been able to watch as this young man grew and become an independent person free of active addiction. lucky he is to have you all as a surrogate family. Very touching:)

  4. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story of hope and recovery. I want them all to come live with me! I can see why you would be sad to see him go. I hope they don't live far and he can still be a positive influence on your daughter.

  5. Nice story. I will say a prayer for your daughter. If you reap what you sow, God owes you one for being so nice to this young man.

  6. This is so awesome! You guys are great! How neat to see how you all were a blessing to each other! Love it.

  7. I can see why S was such a joy for you to have around. I am glad he's still part of your life, even if not under your roof. Thanks for sharing a happy story!!!

    We are neighbors (relatively speaking in the blogosphere). I live in So. Orange County. I hope the fires are nowhere near you!

  8. Great story about a young man who made a turn around in his life. I think that is due in no small part to the love that your family showed him.

  9. Sounds like it was meant to be! Your family was there for him, and he was there for your family. Thanks for sharing an uplifting story.