Thursday, November 17, 2016
The child I watched come into this world, the one that was a puzzle to raise, had grown physically into a bewildered young man. He's a young man that was dealt a hand most people would fold. Yet my son, homeless, mentally ill, and confused, carries on in the hardened face of adversity.
My mind went to the moment the pastor removed the tiny baby from his fifteen year old birth mother's arms and placed him into mine. We had no way of knowing at the time that child would face the difficulties he's had to face.
It took seven years for him to be diagnosed with autism, a very long, very challenging, seven years. I remember when the team told me the diagnosis I felt as if I had been kicked in the gut. I remember one of my other four sons asking, "Mom why isn't he like us?" I remember dreading the moment he woke up. I remember crying the entire night, and into the morning, when he decided to move to the streets.
He was only eighteen when he left home for the concrete jungle, the maze of shelters, soup kitchens, and drug addicts. He's now twenty three and more mental illnesses have emerged. There was a time, when he was still at home, that I gave up. I couldn't handle him. His rages were too intense, his brothers and sisters too tired of the constant turmoil, but he was still my son, my baby, my child.
Today, as I watched him, I thought of those difficult times. Tears began to fall from my eyes, down my cheeks, and onto my shirt. We began a process that hopefully will help him in his journey through life. I'm all he has, and I will fight for him until the end. His seven brothers and sisters have erased him from their lives. He and I are a team, most of the time, when he's not in an unmanageable state. Even when he is he's never out of my thoughts, my heart. I sit and I wait as each day passes for a call.
When he's home for a few days it's nice. He's his sweet, amiable, funny self. I always start to think he will be ok, the illnesses will be gone. Then the day comes when they surface in ugly ways and he retreats to the cold, wet, streets.
During those times I drive through downtown searching for him just to get a glimpse, to make sure he is alive. I lie awake at night wondering if he's cold, if he's hungry, if he's safe.
I love the twinkle in his eyes when he laughs, he has a beautiful smile, and a heart larger than the State of Texas. He also faces the ugliness of mental illness, the stigma, the delusions, and he feels shame and embarrassment. He feels abandoned by his brothers and sisters as well as by his father.
He and I had a wonderful day today. We made some decisions about his future and set the plan in motion. I took him to dinner, just the two of us, and we were free for a time, enjoying being together, our bond strengthening with each passing tick of the clock. We ate, we laughed, we smiled, and we were free from the judgements of others.
As tiring as it was, I wish I could whisk him back to the days when he had to be tightly wrapped, and placed in a backpack for me to carry throughout the day. Those days he didn't feel unwanted and scared. It was more difficult for us as a family, but for him, for him he was free from stigma, dangerous situations, and abandonment. He was my baby with the soft, brown, curls that kept me moving and frustrated, but for him he had no challenges to face, no worries of where to sleep, or where his next meal would come from. He was safe. He was home.
I will continue to do for him as I did for all of my children, I will fight. I will fight even when I am tired. I know I will make mistakes, but I will try. I will stand by him in his darkest of hours. I will make sure he never feels alone and unwanted. He's my son, the beautiful baby I brought home so many years ago, and he always will be.