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Stranger In The Night

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Monday night we were soundly sleeping when, as if in a dream, we heard a frantic voice coming from outside our room. It took us both several minutes to realize someone was knocking on our bedroom door trying to alert us that our 24 year old, mentally ill,  homeless, son was on the front steps outside of our house.

Fighting fogginess we found clothes and fumbled up the stairs to the front porch. It had been months since I had seen him, years since his father had. He sat slumped forward, his head down, his sun kissed face was covered with an unkempt beard, and dark brown curls fell over eyes filled with tears.

He was looking at his hands, hands that appeared not to have been washed in months. His father, shocked at the appearance of the child once so playful and inquisitive, broke down sobbing at the sight of what was before him, our broken son, one that never leaves out thoughts but is rarely in our presence.

Before us sat an adult, with the mind of a child, that has chosen life in the maze of tent cities downtown. For years we've tried, to the detriment of our other children at times, to help him find his way. Mental illness has him tightly gripped in its talons. It's not a sight any parent should have to behold. Our son did not choose the life he now leads.

With each passing year he seems to worsen, the demons pull him further into their clutches from which there appears no escape. I've immersed myself into the world of social workers, hospitals, clinics, all seemingly in vain.

We brought him inside gave him towels for a shower and looked for clothes that he could wear. As he was cleaning himself of the grime of the city streets we prepared a place for him to sleep and heated up leftovers from that night's dinner. It was most likely the first "real" food he had eaten since he was last here.

It's more than impossible to help a person that is so transient. As soon as we get a plan of action he fades into the endless, interchangeable, faces that fill the nooks and crannies of so many pockets in the Portland area. Last night I was able to find a contact number of a case worker I met last year that had been working with us to help our son.

Through endless phone calls, a trip to the ED where surgery was preformed on an abscess deep within his neck, more connections were made. Ones that will hopefully lead to being able to gain guardianship, a road to housing and a more stable life, and a safer environment for the child placed in our family as a fragile newborn.

I watched as people judged him by his appearance. I saw them judge me because I am his mother. I saw them look at my clothing, my jewelry, my handbag, and I watched as they appeared to be wondering how could I allow him to end up this way? "Why can't you take him home?" I saw them thinking. The ignorance is appalling. We fought for years to help our son. His illness is severe and the potential for great harm to us cannot be overlooked. It's a fine line a parent must walk to help a child like ours while staying safe ourselves.

People judge but they do not know our plight, the story behind the faces. One nurse must have sensed my bewilderment at the attitude of others and took me aside and kindly told me there are not many in my son's position that have parents that care enough to try as we have, to fight the endless fight. She had been looking through his records and had seen how often we had been there fighting unable to make much progress. 

When I looked in on him after surgery I didn't see a homeless man, but rather my son soundly sleeping, safely, within the confines of a hospital room. I saw the child that kept us on our toes, the boy that played his guitar and sang endlessly. I saw the one that graduated culinary school. I saw his smiling face and twinkling eyes of days long gone. I saw the heart now being held captive by an illness that has put him into a reality not of this world.

I pulled the blankets up, tucked in my son, kissed him on the forehead, and fighting tears, left him in the care of strangers for the night.


♡Molly♡ July 12, 2017 at 11:55 AM  

Your story made me cry! I get that you can't help people, who can't help themselves. But to see that you have never given up on him speaks volumes! He may not live in the best situation. But at least he has his parents to help him when he so desperately needs it! You truly are an amazing mother. I'm sure when you haven't seen him or heard from him for awhile, he is never far from your thoughts. And like you said you want to help him, but you also have to keep the rest of the family safe too! I really hope that when he gets back on his feet that he will let you help him in making a better life for himself. You are all in my prayers! One more thing do you think some stranger sending him card telling him they care and are praying for him will help at all? Or will it make him angry? Because I'd love to help in anyway I can! Hugs❤️

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