Friday, September 22, 2006

Another Box of Wonders and my wonder continues to confound

More love arrived at my door yesterday, a big box with several books and loads of snacks and even beads – a care package for My Kids. Books meticulously chosen for their craft and content, goodies for their taste as well, doo-dads for anarchic potential, lovingly packed and mailed for the simple grace of giving love.

The generosity of the friends I’ve made through this little blog is astounding. As I mentioned a couple posts ago, Vicki from Outside In sent a box full of goodies for my kids, again, an act of grace with power far beyond the things in the box and the act of sending it. It should go without saying that the package for My Kids came from the goddess Mamacita, she of infinite grace and goodness. She did not send it for this feint praise or to endear herself to me but for the simple fact that My Kids could use the power of the gift. Given and done not out of obligation or heavenly reward or as a tick on a line on a tax form but because the giving is more than enough reward and done without thought of that reward.

Yes, my kids need to feel that power, to experience it, to understand it. Some are well on their way – they’ve come to know it in the months they have been at the center, working through their “trust levels.” Others are experiencing it anew, the loving gestures of many hands and hearts as foreign to them as breakfast in Paris. For most of them, as they finish their program and either reintegrate back into families or the foster system or emancipate into the adult world, they will have had the lessons of compassion and giving to guide them; they will have learned the value of simple, loving acts that call all of us to something larger than ourselves. Hopefully, a few will step out of the cycle of destruction forever and will return what they have learned to mend some broken part within their spheres.

Unfortunately, not everyone can be touched and among My Kids are those who are lost, damaged to the point that no amount of love and attention and prayer will redeem them. Although no one throws up their hands with these kids and we certainly do not start with them thinking that they are “lost”, eventually we have to acknowledge that the welfare of the other kids is more important than continuing to spin our wheels with a child who cannot or will not move beyond the bondage of self to learn the virtue of loving without condition.

My latest problem child is oppositional and unlikable, offensive to his peers and even the staff working with him. His Zyprexa causes GI disturbance and he can reek with his gas but it’s also his sudden turns of paranoia, confused rage, irrational conclusions. With most of My Kids you get a sense of the child after a day but no so with this one. This one stays in the dark, snarling and snapping, shivering, consumed with fear and hunger.

Tonight he shared some of his “poetry” with me. Meandering monologues spelled out phonetically in the clipped dialect of eastern Nevada, fears presented in sparse clumps of words scattered across an improbable landscape. His imagery was all void and loss with the standard abstraction of salvation tacked on at the end in that characteristically adolescent way. But where other kids allow Salvation to swoop in Deus Ex Machina and serve as a ladder, his angels were just bits of undefined matter stirred up in a dust devil, spiraling and ascendant far outside the void.

It was like trying to understand an alien with only emotion and gestures giving a sense of what’s being said. Exaggerations as semiotic signposts, this is pain, this is frightened, this is not understanding or never understanding, was there ever really any understanding or even toy cars and rocket-ships and stories and a soft bed and a night-light? No sense that there was seven-years old once, not even that there was any child at all but only confusion, empty movements, expressions screaming for coherence and understanding.

His case history helped me sort through his words, to interpret the gist that there was only a cold, crimson taking away. The inevitable logic of his language, everything defined tautologically, circling in on three brief moments all occurring within an hour. Screaming and yelling and anger followed by gunshots, blood sprayed everywhere as daddy fell silent onto the carpet; screaming and crying and confusion, soaked from holding the unspeaking head, wishing; the police arriving and the taking away.

In his void, the only lights are flashes from those three moments, bang, bang, bang, followed by shadows, menacing and indecipherable. To flee the shadows is to forsake the lights, to forsake the lights to flee back into the shadows. Nothing makes sense except the inescapable logic of staying there and staying scared forever.

He had an issue with his roommates, threatened them, his twisted logic leading him to threats such that we decided it was best he was moved out of his room to sleep in the common area. Yes, his roommates had provoked him, teased him, pushed him to the threshold of his mental illness to the point he’d react – teenage boys do that. Especially boys with Conduct Disorder, they’ll light a firecracker anytime, anywhere just to see it explode but mostly to see how it pisses off the most people possible. The Zyprexa farts are unbearable and so I can see why the roommates conspired to set sparks flying.

My Kid admitted his part, confessed that yes, he said he’d kill him and his family, with the same pencil. For his part, I think he was glad to be away from them and just wanted some peace. Zyprexa also makes one very sleepy.

I watched him as he curled himself up on the couch, still and serene, safe. His blanket was twisted up around him as he pulled at it in his sleep. Suddenly he was alive to me, real, not shrouded by his fear. Just a boy sleeping, his energy spent.

Among all the boys, he’ll be the one most dismissive of Mamacita’s gifts, the one with the most sense of entitlement, and the one most likely to be cheated out of things by the other boys. Among all the boys, he’s the one who would benefit the most from the power of that gift. If he has any chance of escaping the void it is by taking hold of the spirit of that gift and allowing it to carry him to the light. However (and I hope I’m wrong), I don’t think any power or spirit will save him from his endless terror.

Not all is lost. Mamacita, you touched eleven other boys and that power and spirit will touch them in a way that will continue them on their path to being loving adults, big hearts entering into a world where heart is diminishing faster than oil reserves. The love and goodness shared by Mamacita will expand exponentially in those hearts, a gift given in infinite kindness to be manifest in infinite results. As usual, Mamacita, your love is felt far beyond the horizon.


landismom said...

Wow, Jim, that is a great story. I'm happy that you were able to see him sleeping, just a kid, despite all the bad that happened to him or because of him. Great piece of writing.

Miss Cow is a Cow said...

As I told you earlier, I commend you for your work with these kids. I am not sure I'm a strong enough person to do it.

Mamacita said...

You are exactly what these boys have needed all their lives. YOU. Not even someone like you. YOU. I don't think anyone else could have the depth and heighth of understanding that you possess, in regards to how thoroughly you understand what is in their minds. Is there an echo in this room? I seem to hear the word "cool" over and over again.

Lisa W. said...

I'm taking an elective for my degree right now called Emotional and Behavioural Disorders. It's very interesting but I don't think I could do it full time. I can handle the medical NO PROBLEM, but the behaviour/emotional stuff breaks my heart. You're a good man.

MizMell said...

Seek to understand... It's a toughie. Wonder how our world would be different if we all just took the time?

And another thing, that old joke about requiring a license to conceive, may not be such a funny thing after all.

~d (tilde) said...

Christ. I didnt feel like crying. I have 2 boys. And I see the emotional turmoil. I see it, I feel it. Oh god.

Teri said...

(stands up and applaudes mamcita)

Carrie said...

Jim, you and mamacita rawk!

I loved the post and I loved how thoughtful she was.