There is always a backstory.
This back-story was horrific. It spanned continents and cultures. It could read like a case study of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or depression.
This is a story without an ending. It is a story about living, in the dark. It is a story about new beginnings, but never a fresh start.
We always want things simple. We long for a hero. We insist upon a villain. A story with a protagonist and antagonist.
It would be so much easier if we could just label the good guys and bad guys. If we could just assign everyone we could live comfortably in middle earth.
But there is much grey in life and occasional defining moment.
This is a story about a boy. Yes he is fifteen. Yes he looks more man than boy but when one has their childhood snatched from them through trauma they must catch up or quit trying. To quit trying is to live dying.
This boy lived many sad chapters. Too big for one lifetime chapters. The world his mirror. He understood all his losses to be a reflection of his worthlessness. The world quit him in multiples. It landed him in a land/country where he did not speak the language or the culture. The world quit him when he lost the chance to hear his mother’s heartbeat in his ear as he rested his boy head to her chest. In its very efforts to save him it tried to form him and thus abandoned him. Sometimes his insides got too big and instead of imploding would explode. Scared of himself really scared for his host he got angry and pushed his foster families away. Disillusioned and spent they packed him up. Mystical thinking, maybe he will do better in the next home. They once again were the mirrors he created to his lack of value. His rationale “I will quit before it quits me.”
At fourteen he moved yet again to another foster home…foster home number? No fresh start he was followed by the shadow of his clinical depression, the agencies case file and that forever mirror of nothing intact. He was clothed in negative perceptions from forever.
We long for a fairy tale ending. We want the story filed in the glossy pages of Readers Digest. We do not like the churning. We do not want to see headlines of terrorist living among us. Instead of looking for those hidden cells of loss and sorrow we become the blind. What we do not see will not hurt us. But how do we change course, how do we digress from this scripted story, broken boy, broken system, unfixable.
This boy man has glowy skin, hidden eyes that avert when you speak with him. He must only see the tarnished mirror, fearing what he sees in your eyes is scarier than what is in his own burnished view. As you look at him he seems to be willing himself small. Almost imperceptibly he can becomes small, a two year old with a binky in a safe corner all curled up. In his new home, just like always he took to the bed, took to the dark, took haven from the world in his own darkness.
A dance began. A dance the boy knew well. He was always righteous in the dance. He had been validated in his belief again and again and again. “Worthless” This new foster dad, stubborn, persistent, but still the boy had the power of dark to make this foster dad dance.
“You can’t stay in bed, you must go to school…” A familiar refrain to the boy. He has had this message always…bend…Foster dad…carries on with a refrain. Boy has turned to silence. “ You must go take any step to the light.” Louder, more resolute, a cacophony that boy knew to be the soundtrack to his mirror.
This foster dad was highly regarded by the community and the placement agency. He had been the keynote speaker at their yearly banquets. People Magazine had had requested an interview with this dad, who had singularly parented 12 young men. He was to be the cover feature with his United Nation household with children from Iraq, Sudan, Burma, Sudan, Somalia, and the US. He would be saint of the week. Foster dad says “No.”
He is a dad. Not a hero. He does not want his boys lives coopted for some feel good Nano second in the grocery store line. Or an Andy Warhol hero. Fifteen minutes of fame world stays stagnant.
But this boy, well no publication is going to come about for this dervish story of spiraling depression. No feel good photo op here.
Dad and boy dance the ever-familiar dance. The boy’s despair so deep that dad becomes Orpheus descending to a dark underworld. This place may envelop both.
There are others in this home. Young men, incrementally, boldly stepping into adulthood. They just keep doing the next right thing, with dad’s stewardship till it adds up to grownup. Brush you teeth, go to school, take care of your responsibilities, and get a little job…. Until that day when dad and boy man exhale and know flight is more than a notion. A village of men one behavior one boy at a time.
But this boy stymies dad. He upends the house. His behaviors begin to put the household in a position of vulnerability.
The boy has been diagnosed with a depressive disorder. A brain chemistry disorder that can be brought on in children by trauma alone. Experts have ascertained a severe clinical depression in this boy. Depression is a land minimalized and misunderstood by people who have not stood at her precipice and lived with the abyss ready to eat them up from the inside out. Debilitating. A place so dark that those who love folks who dwell in this realm are left with a taint of grey on their own persona.
Months in this dad have danced too much. He is spent. This boy must leave. The sanctity and ultimately the safety of the household must be preserved. Dad to prepare the household for the ending tells one of the foster brothers He is leaving. This foster/heart brother whose own mountains of loss were so great only one who has climbed the summits in Tibet could know the arduousness of his journey speaks on his foster brothers behalf. Dad, Dad…Give him one more chance. One more chance. (When do we use up our chances?)
So instead of dancing, foster dad planted his feet and stood his ground and gave one more chance. Like Orpheus with his music but this was more like a metronome of conscious with no room for navigation in pulsating tempo. “ You will go to school. You rise from that dark womb. I will stand next to you, like a one would with a little fellow who doesn’t yet know not to touch the stove, I will handed you your pill and watch you swallow it. You will stay. I will not cease. I will not give up on you. “
And so like those yellow cards on a Monopoly board the chance turned into more than a chance. It altered the outcome of the game. it took some time before the chance kicked in but with the strategy in place it slowly took hold. Boy went to school more. He swallows the pill; maybe he swallows some pride. He tells dad that he has messed up and when the snows came and dad worked late, he stood under the glow of the street light and cleared a path for dad after a day at work. Dad exhales. His breath has been bated forever with hope.
He says to this young man one morning when handing him his meds, trying to frame for him how he got from the in jail corner to the “Go” that taking these prescribed meds were helpful. “See how this pill helped you” The boy does not avert his eyes now. He seizes hold of “dad’s “ with an incredulous look. “It’s not the pills.”
Dad ceases to breath, think this is the music by which a new dance will begin. Perhaps he is loosing boy to the underworld.
Boy holds dad’s gaze. “It was you dad.” You did not give up on me. You kept loving me.
So People Magazine just print this.
Hero’s are any and all folks who are bold enough to love unabashedly, bold enough to stand in the dark lighting matches, giving glimmers of light to those who dwell n the dark. .