My "adopted son" is coming home. The one who calls me "Ma." And I need some prayer.
My "adopted son" isn't really adopted at all. He's a kid who, sitting in a seventh grade language arts class, stole my heart. And he's never given it back.
In 1996, after four years of juggling three kids, a husband, a variety of other activities, and a full-load of college classes, I was finally finishing up my batchelor's degree in literature and preparing for a career in teaching.
My student teaching assignment was at an intermediate school in another Houston suburb, just down the road from my own. And yet, on some days it seemed as if I traveled to a different planet each morning. The second week I was there, two female students -- eighth-graders -- were found on the other side of Houston, shot in the head, execution-style. I hadn't known the girls, but a cousin of one of the girls was in one of my classes. And although I saw him every day, seeing the black, tear-stained face of a wirey fourteen-year-old speaking into a local news camera -- "They didn't deserve this . . . " -- was my family's introduction to Desmond.
Desmond had never known a father. His mother was a crack addict, and his grandmother had brought him home to her house from the hospital to raise. His freshman year of high school, I was once again his English teacher and he and I grew even closer. Granny passed away Desmond's junior year, and I watched as cousins, aunts, and uncles crowded into the church pews around him at her funeral. When the service was over and the church had emptied, Desmond was left to pretty much raise himself in his grandmother's house. An uncle or cousin or two were at the house from time to time, and other relatives were in and out, but no one really seemed to take responsibility for Des. Once, when Desmond became dangerously dehydrated after a football game, I rode in the ambulance with him while St. Michael followed in our truck, and I stayed with Des in the ER while St. Michael sat in the waiting room with his coaches. (I signed for his treatment, praying no one would ask questions.) No mama. No aunts or uncles. No cousins. Desmond came home with us for the remainder of the weekend. Later that same season, it was St. Michael and I who had the privilege of escorting him onto the field for Parent Night.
Don't get the wrong idea, this is not The Blind Side, and we are not the Tuohys. Desmond's always been pretty independent, and we've been there for some things and absent for others. In fact, at one point during his last part of his senior year of high school, he did move across Houston to stay with his mother, and he and I were actually estranged for a while. (Sometimes kids who raise themselves avoid telling the truth; it's a survival mechanism, but one that I don't abide very well, and it led to problems between us.) Still, the ties between us have never been completely severed, and just prior to his being stationed in Korea several years back, the phone calls began to come once again. He called when he could, and we E-mailed.
We prayed for his safety during his tour of Iraq, and when he finally returned to the states and was stationed in Missouri, we talked about his PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) diagnosis and the accompanying nervousness and depression. Though he had planned to make a career of the Army, he did not re-enlist when his last four years was up. I don't know all of the details, but I know he was having problems. Picked the wrong women. Married and divorced. Started finding himself in the wrong places at the wrong times. Got stabbed by an out-of-control acquaintance one night. Recovered. Spent thirty days in jail for something else I'm not quite clear on. Lost his job. Got his heart broken by the latest girlfriend . . . tough times for a young man who, seemingly, just a couple of years ago was so excited about finally finding his niche in the military.
(Gosh, I realize this has gotten long, but I thought I needed to lay some groundwork for you before I ask for your prayers.)
Late this Saturday evening, Desmond will get on a greyhound bus in Columbia, Missouri, and begin the long trip home to Texas. He'll stay with us while he gets his head together and prepares to re-enlist in the Army and get his life back on-track. He didn't ask for the room and board. I offered. And while St. Michael gave us the okay -- me and Baby Daughter (who loves Des like a brother) -- he's not really thrilled about this. He's not feeling the motherly vibes that I do. (Heck, on this one, to be honest, he's not even feeling the fatherly vibes.) Working side-by-side in ministry to those who feel disenfranchised, who spend their lives in the "system", who take advantage of and often abuse the very people who are reaching out to help them has taught us some hard lessons in the past.
It is possible to be too trusting.
It is possible to give too much.
It is possible to do everything "right," only to have it all turn out wrong.
It is possible to get hurt -- he and I both know that -- so I understand that St. Michael is simply taking on what he feels is his God-given assignment as protector. And, truth be told, I need that 'cause I tend to lead too often with my heart while totally ignoring my brain. (Sometimes that works out okay, but it can also be dangerously foolish.) So, sistas, my prayer is that I will walk so closely with the Spirit during this time that I will exercise His wisdom in every decision, experience His guidance in every action, and, at the same time, cover all things in His love, holding tightly to what needs to be held onto, and letting go when I need to do that, too.
Please join in praying this with me.
Grateful grins and blessings,