He lived in a group home, one of those places that the rest of us like to think about as often as we think about diarrhea and cancer. Kids whose parents gave up on them, gave their offspring over to the state, and let them be somebody elses problem.
If it were that easy everybody would do it.
Kids are kids, lots of them assimilate into society's rigorous roles, and do their homework, and join the teams and dance companies, have a smoke or two when they hit thirteen, maybe even raid the liquor cabinet, then put their rebelliousness behind them and get on with things.
Then, there are those who do a little more. They smoke, and drink, and sneak out of the house, and stay out all night, and steal cars, and drive those stolen cars fast, and find different and better drugs, and run away. Those are the kids who need parents, not group homes.
Yet that is exactly where we find Paul.
He's a pain, that much has been established by the dozen or so times we have been called to haul his testosterone charged ass to the local ER for psychiatric evaluations. He argues, and fights, and makes a general nuisance of himself, and the police have to be called to restrain him. Most of us know when we are dispatched that a fight waits at our destination.
Not much of a fighter, I have finally figured out how to avoid the confrontation and drama that normally happens.
The cops are already there when we arrive, and they are lecturing him, acting their part, being the tough guys. The people who work at the group home are doing their thing, the understanding yet firm people who need to follow the rules and keep their charge from escaping and acting like an idiot. His so called friends are egging him on, ramping things up until they are told to go away.
It's up to me to get things under control.
By giving up control. By being completely non threatening. By letting Paul know that I have absolutely no idea what he is going through, don't have a clue what its like to be enraged by the unfairness of life, that rage fueled by alcohol and who knows what else, don't understand his plight, never did and never will.
I let him know that I am a dork, a geek from the suburbs who hasn't lived, hasn't felt, hasn't experienced alcohol or marijuana or who knows what else.
As soon as he knew that I was without a clue he decided that I was okay. I was not in a cool competition with him. He was out of my league- a head above me in the street smarts category. I acted fascinated by his story, and how crazy his life was compared to my mundane existence.
He talked all the way to the ER, didn't have time to fight he was so busy talking about himself.
And while he talked, I saw a familiar person in those fifteen year old eyes, a person who had a chance to smarten up and get on with things because he had parents who did their best with a difficult teenager.
Thanks Mom. Thanks Dad.