Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Starting Over

I'm sitting here wondering where to start - I have no idea. I want a place where I can put my thoughts, feelings, & whatever. I've seen sooo many other blogs and am currently following many of them for one reason or another. Some are Christian blogs, some are craft blogs, others are mainly decorating or cooking-based. Some I just like because of the pictures, others because of the heart of the author that shines through. Some are just plain funny, while others' authors have a way of writing that makes them so transparent - they just totally expose themselves, their souls. And not for any reason other than to share themselves to help others, and maybe even themselves in the process.

So I think I'm going to start my blog over. When I first started it, I chose a name and a background and that was it. It just sat there for a long time before I ever posted anything. I'm so afraid of saying the wrong thing, or not writing the perfect post, that I freeze. What if I mix tenses in the same sentence or paragraph? What if I misspell a word? What if my family reads it & get upset? (no, no one in my family knows of my blog, even now.)

So I guess now I need to get rid of my fears, neuroses, phobias & paranoia. But how do I cast all that aside, and still care about others' feelings? On the other hand...where has all that gotten me?

I rarely express my opinion, for fear of offending someone. No, not just because of that. Because I have opinions I don't know how to back up. Sitting here almost all by myself for 8-1/2 yrs, I seem to have lost a lot of my vocabulary. Along with a large part of my memory.

I had decided to blog about cleaning up the mess around me, but I think I'd rather get rid of the past first. Telling about the story that led up to the suicide of my son. I mentioned it in my first post, but didn't return to it. I think I need to get that out first.

I go as far as I can today, & will return to it as I can.

I have two sons; one who is now 26 yrs old, and Clint, who was 16 yrs old when he died by his own hand 8-1/2 yrs ago.

Some background first. I was working at a car wash in town, about 6 miles away from home. I loved it. Loved my boss, loved talking with the customers, solving problems, etc. I also had a lot of leeway in taking care of personal business - I could usually leave when I had to go to the school to take care of one problem or another, or maybe to go pay a bill or to go to a dr's appointment.

After the first couple of years of school, both boys began not bringing home/doing their homework. That was just the beginning. They would do it, but not turn it in. Then they stopped doing it at all. At first I would sit there with them while they did their homework, hoping to make sure they understood what they were doing. I probably confused the heck out of them more than anything else! When I'd hear of them not turning in their homework, and I knew they'd done it, I'd find it in the bottom of their backpack, all crumpled up. It wasn't that they were struggling with the work, they understood it well enough. They just didn't want to do it. I won't get into all the nitty gritty - again, most of it I don't remember, but the situation was addressed over & over, and it would change for a couple of days, then start back up again.

When the boys got into jr high and high school, they started getting into bigger trouble. My memory of those years now is just a blur, but I remember smoking, drinking, skipping school were the problems. Actually, it started in middle school for Clint. I don't even remember what grades are involved in middle school, I guess it's 5th & 6th. At any rate, in his last year there, I received a phone call from the principal (while at work) and was told that she'd been told that Clint had taken a gun to school several days earlier! My 12 yr old son! I told her that was impossible, that my husband did indeed have a pistol, but that he kept it locked up. She said that all the students were in some pre-test for a major all-school test (TAAS, for those in Texas you'll know what I'm talking about), and when they got finished with it for the day, that she'd call me so I could come over to be there when they talked to Clint. I called my husband and he verified that his pistol was locked up in it's case and it was locked up in the toolbox in the back of his truck, which was with him at work. He'd just handled it the day before, so he knew it was in the case in the toolbox.

I went to the school when the testing was done, and the principal told Clint what was going on & had he had a gun in school. He thought for about a split second then said that yes, he had. I was so unprepared for that response! They asked him about it, and he told them everything (a neighbor kid had shown it to him out of his father's bedside table drawer, and dared him to take it to school, which he later denied). Finally we went from the classroom to the office and Clint and I sat there while the principal and vice-principal went into her office. We were waiting & waiting, and finally at one point I looked up to see who else was coming in, and there was one of the local police officers. I recognized him because we gave the officers free washes at the car wash, for their patrol cars. His mother and father also rented one of my in-laws' rent houses. Talk about a small world, huh? I knew we were in big trouble when I saw him. Incredibly, I almost felt sorry for the principal & police - this is a small town, and this kind of thing had never happened there. And while I'm not making excuses for my son, this was a tiny derringer type of pistol; it fit in the palm of your hand, and the firing mechanism was broken. It just wasn't 'heard of' there; it was so totally unexpected!

Long story short, charges were filed and Clint was on probation for 1 year and had to perform 25 hours of community service. He was on trash-picking duty on the sides of the road & garden detail there at the juvenile detention center. We were treated with dignity and respect the whole way through and I can't praise the juvenile probation officers highly enough. I did however have a problem with the folks who took care of the Saturday community service stuff - I'd drop Clint off by 7am, and he might call at 1pm maybe, saying they were done for the day, and that he was getting credit for the whole 8 hours! What's that all about? Who was it for? It certainly wasn't for the benefit of the kids - what were they learning from this? (don't get me started!) One weekend, it turns out that someone had given a bunch of tickets for a college football game (in Houston) to someone at the probation center, and so the kids who had not caused any trouble were allowed to go! Nice reward, huh? (I told you not to get me started!)

I was proud of Clint, in spite of everything. When he was confronted with news of the gun, he instantly responded with the truth. I was mighty impressed with that. He didn't really stall for time to think of how to get out of this. He just flat out told the truth. And when he was taken to the basketball game, he wasn't impressed. He didn't care for basketball, even if it was getting him out of 'work'. I think he would've preferred doing the work, to be honest, rather than to sit there through what was obviously a boring couple of hours for him!

So, back to the trouble both boys got into in school. I went to court on several occasions because they'd skipped school. Yeah. If the kids skip school, the parents are brought to court. And I can understand that. But what if you drive your kids to school, and watch them go in? Whose responsibility is it then when they skip out? I'd done my part, in my mind. When I asked the judge about this, he told me that the school had enough to do, without having to guard the doors, or something along those lines. Looking back, I wish I'd just quit my job (another job by this point) and just made it a point to sit in the classroom with one or the other of them all day long, day in and day out. Actually, Clint was put on probation for another year for skipping school and had to attend a boot camp school. He was under house arrest -he could go to school, then walk across the street to his grandmother's house where he had to call the drill sergeant to let them know he was there, then he had to wait for me or his dad to pick him up when we got off work. He wasn't allowed to go anywhere other than to school & church & functions for either of them, unless he was accompanied by one of his parents. He couldn't go down the street to a friend's house; he couldn't even go to the yard next door.

One day while I was at work (again, not there close to home, but in the north part of Houston), I received a call from another kid's mom, telling me that both our kids had skipped, actually both of mine plus her son, and they were spotted by the cops who tried to stop them to ask them what they were doing - my older son stopped immediately, the other two ran. I just broke down there at work. My supervisor, a Christian woman, thank God, pulled me into an empty meeting room and talked me down and let me call my mother, a very strong Christian woman, to ask her to pray for the boys. I honestly don't remember exactly how this ended. I suppose they were tracked down, given a ticket and that's probably one of the times I had to go to court with Clint.

So, Clint had some scrapes with the law. He also ran away a couple of times. Once, while he was on his own. He stayed at a friend's house & was gone a day or two. The 2nd time, a friend of his that lived down the street, was going to run away (he was a foster kid) and Clint didn't want him to be by himself. Clint was looking out for him. I think he was younger & smaller than Clint and Clint was scared for him, so he went along to look out for him. About a week later, the foster father came down to our door after midnight & told us the police had put a trace on the boy's girlfriend's phone & tracked the boys down to a seaside town a couple of hours from here, where they were staying with the boy's natural mother.

Clint also was a master of sneaking out of the house. He could sneak into our bedroom, get my keys, steal my car (yes, that's what it was, pure and simple) and drive around town - with another kid a couple of years younger than him! - and then come back, park my car, return my keys and go to bed. I don't know how many times he did this. Actually, the neighbor was my first clue. She lived across the street from us. Called me one day to ask if I'd heard all the noise the night before. I told her no, hadn't heard a thing (and our bedroom window is at the front of the house!) She said she heard a loud grinding noise, and there was Clint, trying to drive my stick shift! He'd let it roll down out of the driveway to the side of the road. He somehow got it back up in the driveway & went back in the house for the night. I confronted him & he said yes, he'd done it. He was grounded or whatever we did back then. But he did it more than once.

We did what we could to help Clint and his brother. Clint was seeing a psychiatrist, & was on medication for ADHD. He was seeing a counselor, was in a teen 12-step group and attended those meeting 3-4X a week, and then the program had things planned in advance for Friday nights & Saturdays. We might have had movie night at the home of one of the teens on Friday night, then on Saturday, we'd go to someone else's home for a pool party. It was for the kids & their parents. It was a strict group. Each parent wrote out the rules for their house. Each time there was a rule broken, there was a consequence. Say, the first time a rule was broken, the consequence was to lose tv/stereo privileges. The second time, they'd have their cell phone taken away. The 3rd time, they lost their privacy - the door to their room came off. And if they were really rebelling, they were kicked out of their house. Seriously. But there was a catch. They were welcome to ask to be able to stay with any of the other families in the group. BUT, they had to abide by the rules of THAT household. And if they broke those rules, then they had to accept those consequences. And they didn't get a free ride at the other houses. They had to work for the roof over their heads and the food. Clint was out of the house several times, & each time the parents would tell me how polite and hard-working he was.

Okay, that's enough for today. I was going to post a couple of photos of Clint, but I forgot that I'm on a new computer, since my old one died around Christmas & had to be replaced. I haven't hooked up the printer/scanner yet. I found the instruction booklet & CD and tried, but I first have to download the correct version of Windows. Now that's going to be a problem - can't find the right box of stuff! So as soon as I get that done, I'll add some photos. I think a lot of the success behind a good blog is the photos included. I'm a bit of a slow learner. That thought just occurred to me yesterday. But at least I got it - I could still be in the dark about it! Kudos to me!