I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes, and then I met a man who had no feet."
We were new to the area, having only been here for a month when my oldest son met his best friend. They were in the same class at Hill High. Being typical teens, beyond the idolization of the female anatomy, the biggest commonality they had was the fact that they both hated school and didn't see the point in going.
They were emblematic teens, wearing droopy drawers, strange haircuts, earrings that no one else would even consider wearing. Everything about them shouted "Look at me. I am somebody and I want you to notice."
Everybody noticed Tim. There was no way not to. At 16, he was 6'2" browned skinned, husky and was carrying a brick on his shoulder that just dared you to knock it off. Trust me when I say, my family noticed him a bit more than most.
Tim came to stay with us one weekend back in 1992. The boys had a great time getting into the type of trouble that was more amusing than punishable; torturing Dominick's little brother; taunting his older sister; devouring freshly baked cookies that scorched the roves of their mouths due to lack of patience and always hungry bellies.
Saturday afternoon, the boys were helping me carry the laundry up to our apartment and half way up the stairs, I heard peals of laughter coming from Tim as Dominick requested my assistance. I turned and could not help but snicker myself. With arms full of basket, his pants had slithered slowly down and were now in a pool around his ankles.
They talked about all the girls they were drooling over; which car they wanted to refurbish and how they wanted to start their own rock band, although neither of them could play an instrument nor carry a tune. Apparently however if they were musicians, they could have all the girls they wanted. When Sunday evening came, we were all a bit sad to see the good times end, even if only temporarily.
I drove Tim home and the boys milked their weekend to the very end, laughing the whole way. When we pulled up in front of Tim's family's house, the windows were dark. There were no cars parked in the driveway; no sign of anything. Tim told me to go home, that he had a key. Being an old fashioned mom, I told him I would wait until I saw him safely inside. As he entered the house and flipped the light switch on, we all saw through the window, the horror that waited this already troubled teenager.
Tim's family had taken what should have been an excellent weekend and turned it into something that would haunt him forever. While he was having a grand time visiting with us, his parents had moved, lock, stock and barrel. Nothing was left behind. No note, no instructions to meet them somewhere else; no hint that they had ever existed. With that single act of abandonment, they left behind more than an empty house. They left behind an empty life, an empty soul and now an empty heart.
He stood in the living room that was once filled with his sisters, his mom and dad, furniture, even a dog. His shoulder slumped,but not a tear was shed. He was a man now, whether he wanted to be or not. A man alone. He turned and left the house, not bothering to close the door behind him. He walked back to the car where Dominick and I now stood in dismay of what had been done to him.
Tim very bravely came to us and asked, "Can I stay with you for a few days until I find someplace to live?"
"You can stay with us for as long as you'd like sweetie." I knew a hug would be meaningless to him, but I touched his arm, letting him know someone cared.
His voice cracked, but he still withheld tears. "Thanks Mom." It was the first time he called me that and although I knew I hadn't yet earned the title, my mothers heart broke for him just the same.
Over the last 17 years, I have taken in many young men and women whose family lives have been destroyed one way or another. Most of them were street kids whose lives had been torn apart by violence, abandonment or other such tragedy and had no place else to go. Some came because to stay home would be unsafe. Some parents gave them willingly, because they couldn't understand their children or couldn't handle the teenage years. All of them were at first weary of the crazy lady that everybody calls mom. Eventually they would settle in and call me the same endearing name.
I have been Tim's "mom" for 17 years now. He is married with a 3 year old son who calls me Grandma. That brick on his shoulder is still there,but I think some of it chipped off with the birth of his son. I hope that as his son grows and he become the father he was meant to be, the brick will erode enough for the pieces to fall one by one, and be gone permanently. Until then, although I don't see him too often anymore, this "Mom" is still here for him.
Tim went on a business trip to Texas once. He was to take his family with him. When he asked me if I would object to taking care of his dog, his wife asked what if I minded. Tim didn't bat an eyelash, but gave me a big Teddy bear hug and said...
"Don't worry. Mom's been taking in strays for years. I was her first one."