Paul’s journey, part 5

Despite not having the best (or even good) grades, Paul went off to college after high school. He went because a friend was going and it seemed like a cool thing to do.

Once he got to college, something strange happened to Paul. He became popular. People liked him. He had a lot of friends. He somehow managed to escape the stigma of childhood and started a new life for himself far away from home. He joined a fraternity, participated in hazing, and became part of the wildlife on campus.

Here are few rescue squad stories…

1) There was a wild party at the frat house one night. The house was jam packed with people everywhere. Paul decided to sneak out the back door to run to the bathroom. When he came back, the room was empty and the phone was ringing. He felt like he was in the twilight zone. He answered the phone to find out it was 911 calling about a shooting. What shooting? Apparently there was a man in the front yard with a hole in his cheek from a botched suicide attempt. After the rescue squad arrived, Paul headed down to his room. He found hundreds of under age party goers squeezed into every nook and cranny who thought the party was getting busted.

2) One night a group of college students thought it would be a great idea to take an old canoe sledding down a hill in the icy snow. It was fun at first. Kids piled in and went at break neck speed down the hill. The last group (for obvious reasons) hit a tree on the way down. They flew out of the canoe. One girl had a broken pelvis, another needed plastic surgery on her face. The night ended with another call to the rescue squad.

 

Hanging out with friends and partying meant the world to Paul during his college years.

There was a dark side to this lifestyle…(besides the previously mentioned harebrained ideas).

His first long term girlfriend broke up with him.

His best friend at home became a quadriplegic.¬†Paul wasn’t there that night the rescue squad was called. His friend Dwayne was camping and partying with friends. Now Dwayne would do anything for a dare, especially if he was drinking. Someone dared him to dive off a dock into shallow water. He broke his neck and almost died that night. There was a long grueling recovery. He never walked again and died young.

He flunked out of college. Paul was forced to take a semester off. People thought he was stupid again. He went back home and worked at the cheese factory on the production line with his mother. It was an awful experience, but it proved to be the spark that he needed to get his life back in order and buckle down.

 

 

 

Judged

I always thought that I was a really good judge of character. Don’t we all? I have heard people admit that they are selfish, lazy, unorganized, vain, but I don’t recall anyone ever saying to me that they are a bad judge of character. Why is that?  Do we want to see the best (or worst) in people despite contrary evidence? I have been struggling with this concept lately. I think most people are embarrassed to admit that they were wrong about someone’s character when their hearts were broken or money was stolen.

I met Jake a couple of years back when he still was a boy. The first time I saw him, he was walking his dog by our house. At the time, I thought maybe he would be a good friend for my son. One day I just happened to be looking out the window when Jake walked by. I just let my dog out and was looking towards the road when I saw Jake’s dog drag him over the meet my dog. In the process, Jake got clotheslined on our mailbox. The dog further dragged him into the ditch. Jake laid wounded on the grass with blood coming out of his neck. I freaked out. I sent my oldest daughter out to get him while I panicked. Eventually I bandaged up some of his wounds and gave him a warm washcloth to put on his scraped and bloody neck. I tracked down his muddy mutt and loaded them into my car to give them a ride home. Welcome to the neighborhood!

A few days later, Jake’s mom sent me a note thanking me for taking care of her son. I still have it which is remarkable because I throw everything out. Over the years, Jake and my son became very good friends. I always liked Jake. He was courteous, quiet, happy, friendly, and kind. He always thanked me when I gave him a ride to school. He was the kind of kid that I wanted my son to hang out with.

Then this summer, things changed. Jake grew into a troubled teen. He was no longer happy. He stopped thanking me for rides. He went to the gas station and stole a pack of cigarettes. His parents made him return them and apologize to the owners. He was grounded for over a month from everything. Then one cool rainy night, he ran away which I blogged about previously. He vanished for almost 48 hours, then went back to school like none of it ever happened. He was present, but not quite there.

A few days after Jake went back to school, his mom texted me with concern. She said that a teacher asked the students to draw a picture of what they were doing for the weekend. Jake drew a picture of himself alone in the corner of his room with his knees folded and his head down in despair.

Then a few weeks later, a note came home from school stating that a student talked about bringing a gun to school. Apparently, a boy had created a hit list with 6 names on it and stated that he was going to bring 7 bullets to school. It was Jake. Jake said that he didn’t mean it, but he was sent away for a couple of weeks for treatment.

Last week I saw Jake walking his dog when I went on a long run. I asked him how he was doing. He smiled and replied that he was doing good. I just have to wonder if his smile was sinister or sincere. I always liked Jake and thought he was a good person. I still want to believe that despite all of the contrary evidence. How could I be so wrong?? In my mind, he is still the sweet and caring boy that I first met years ago. Not the troubled teen that he has become. I have been having a really hard time with this. I feel unsettled, I want to trust him again but can’t. I feel thankful that the troubles with my teens are trivial in comparison. I worry about his family. I pray that Jake can find the friendly and happy boy he once was.

Truly scary

Sometimes the scariest stories are the true ones. This story happened many years ago when I still lived in my parents house. It happened this time of year. It happened in the middle of a dark night like most scary stories do. I awoke to the flashing lights of police cars. We lived in a rural area outside of an unincorporated town, our closest neighbor a half mile away. I was afraid and woke up my dad. I remember my dad telling me that the last time he saw this many police cars near town that the bank had been robbed. 

Sadly, a bank robbery in the middle of the night would have been preferable to what really happened. What really happened?? A car full of partying teens, young and full of life, had been out drinking recklessly abandoning their seat selts and good sense. The driver thought it would be fun to drive fast, really fast. He hit a patch of black ice, rolled the car multiple times, and flipped the car into a ditch ejecting the passengers. The driver walked away with a few bumps and bruises. Two of the passengers mangled bodies were taken to the morgue that night. The field was a graveyard of broken bodies, broken glass, shattered lives, and a damaged car. It was my uncle’s job to take his wrecker and remove the car remains from the field. 

The next morning it was as if the night before never happened. Well, not exactly. It didn’t turn out like that. My mom was taking a walk near the scene of the accident. She saw something so mortifying that she called the police. She was really shook up on the phone. She exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, someone needs to come out here right now, they forgot the face”. “I took anatomy and physiology in college and I know what a face looks like”. “Please come it’s an emergency!”  “I don’t want children to see the faces that you left behind”. The police came back that morning. My mom showed them the faces that she found half covered in snow. But they were only masks. The accident victims decorated the inside of their car with car accident Halloween masks. Gory, mutilated, mangled masks mocking the shattered lives left behind that night in the cold unforgiving snow. 

Running away

I thought that after how hectic last week was that this week would be a breeze. Boy was I wrong! This week has been just as stressful if not more so. I left off with recent events telling about my brother’s wedding, coming back home and getting a cold, and ended Monday with the news that a best friend of my son’s ran away from home. Things would’ve probably ended up fine if he would have came home later the night he left, but he did not. 

My son and his friend Logan were the last ones to see Jake. Jake bragged on the bus ride home Monday night that he was going to run away from home. His friends didn’t believe him because he said that before several times and never did until Monday. Monday night our summer days reached an end. A cold front brought the wind and rain. Logan saw Jake walking down the road in the pouring rain with a backpack on. Logan called my son and they attempted to stop Jake from running away. He had a backpack full of clothing, water, food, and a couple knives. He told the boys he was going to catch a train out of town. The boys tried to stop him, but he ran off into a corn field. 

At this point, the boys went over to Jake’s house to alert his mother. Jake was born to teen parents who ended up marrying other people and having other children. He was having a lot of conflict with his stepdad. His father lives out of the state. I thought Jake would come home that night. 

Tuesday morning arrived, but Jake had not. His dad flew in to help try to find him. The neighborhood was scoured. Abandoned buildings, deer stands, unlocked sheds, farms, the railroad tracks, the park, fields, and woods were searched with no signs of Jake’s whereabouts. After school, my son and a group of boys looked for him in their secret hiding spots. I offered to search the corn field where he was last seen. All I found was a battery and an empty sleeping pill wrapper on the ground. The corn was over my head and I was searching after dusk. I heard noises out in the field and was convinced there was a bear coming for me. It was scary. When it got dark, we all met back by the road. A night bird cried out. Jake’s mother mournfully responded by shouting out Jake’s name. He was not there. 

We went back to Jake’s house where the boys were questioned some more. Jake’s stepdad was pouring over Google maps and also was looking over the railroad track locations. Jake’s grandmother cried. No one had slept the night before, no one had eaten. There were tears, anxiety, and anger. It was heart wrenching to see the family’s pain. They were so desperate trying everything with no answers. We decided to search outside of a trailer of a friend of the boys that recently moved out that had a broken window. Jake’s dad cried out his name in anguish receiving nothing but empty silence. After this, I took the boys home. It was going to be a cold night, near the freezing point with a boy who ran away a day ago into the pouring rain. We feared hypothermia. We feared death. 

Last night Facebook got flooded with missing person posters. Jake was spotted near a highway about 30 miles away. This morning brought relief that up until last night, Jake was alive! A couple of hours later, Jake was found. 

All of this brought back memories of the times that my autistic brother Matt ran away from home as a child. Multiple times he ran away. At times we had a search for him in the woods near our house. We feared for his safety. He couldn’t take care of himself. It brought back brief moments of the terror we went through searching for a lost child. 

Lately I have seen a lot of banter going back and forth about who has the hardest job as a parent. I want to offer my opinion. Parenting is hard! It doesn’t matter if you are a biological parent, a step parent, a foster parent, a parent of one or ten, or a parent of the disabled. If you want to be a good parent, it is difficult. It takes everything that you have. I think that parents who have both disabled and “normal” kids probably have one of the toughest roads to walk. We need to work together to bring our lost children back home. I am not sure what will happen with Jake now, but I feel a lot of relief that he made it home safe.