During Micheal’s adolescence, I learned many things I never wanted to know, like throwing a bit of ceramic from a spark plug against a car window would immediately obliterate it, or an even better bit, homeowner’s insurance will cover damage caused by your minor child. Homeowner’s insurance will also cover theft by your minor child. I never learned how many incidents like this the insurance company would pay for, because the incidents were increasing and I had to make something happen again.
Problems involving police were increasing. Disruption in the household was increasing. Pressure from Chris was increasing. Pressure from juvenile court was increasing. Micheal was running out of chances everywhere. He’d already been to Henry County Juvenile Detention. Soon, there would be nothing left but Boy’s School, where I figured the lessons would focus on how to be a more successful criminal.
I was being catapulted from one catastrophe to the next, before one ended another one would begin. Nothing I did was working. I was trying to control a tornado and it was pounding my spirit and draining my resources.
Counselors didn’t help. Micheal wasn’t the least bit interested in therapy. Beyond that, there wasn’t much help to be had, that is, help that didn’t cost more money than I could dream of having at one time. So, with few choices at hand, I made a bad one.
Walt and mom had found, through a friend of a friend, a farm in Jennings County, Indiana that took in troubled boys. It was a religious organization I was told, and the boys were required to go to church and study the Bible. They also attended school and were required to do chores. The farm was in a very rural, heavily wooded area, with the Muscatatuck wildlife refuge and several parks and recreation opportunities close by. It sounded like a place Micheal would love. Except he didn’t.
He had good reasons. He hadn’t been there more than three days when he was calling me, begging for me to come get him. I wanted to. I just couldn’t, but I promised to come see him as soon as I could.
Days later, I pulled up next to an old brick farmhouse set in the middle of a wooded, hilly area. The house had been painted white at one time, but that was many years ago. There were huge swaths along the chimney and at various places where the guttering had given way and moisture had lifted all the paint from the surface, exposing the red brick underneath. The back-storm door opened onto a porch that functioned as a hallway. It was a room reduced to a hallway by the boxes filled with books and miscellaneous junk stacked head high. This walkway continued into the next room and then the next. Unfamiliar with what hoarding was, I was shocked, not the least by the intense scent of mildew that was nearly overpowering. I was comforted to know that Micheal didn’t stay there. The boys only came to the main house at mealtimes and for church. They had a bunkhouse a few yards from the main house. My hope of a better condition was quickly diminished by the discovery that what the bunkhouse lacked in mildew, it made up for in filth. The day was very warm, early fall, and the doors and windows were wide open, allowing a multitude of flies into the building. I stepped inside, my shoes crunching on the dried mud that had been deposited on the cement floor. The main room was long and narrow, maybe 15’x 30’. Along one wall was a woodstove, and next to it was a pile of wood at the ready for the cool nights and mornings that came with the change of season. Bits of bark and wood were scattered along with the clumps of dried mud on the floor. Off this room was a bathroom that had a stained toilet and a sink whose faucet had been leaking so long the ceramic was eroded underneath. The shower was a cement floored, mildewed stall that had been painted over. Specks of peeled paint littered the cement, which sloped down sharply toward a narrow drain. It was so sharp and deep a person would need to straddle the drain to take a shower. The two sets of bunkbeds in the main room were made from 2×4 and plywood, used at the time by three boys ranging in age from fifteen to eighteen, with Micheal being the youngest and newest resident. The beds were unmade with soiled sheets and pillowcases. Micheal lay on the bottom bunk of one of the beds, sick with a fever. I sat on the edge of the bed beside him. Crying, he begged me to take him home.
I could give a million excuses for why I didn’t take him home that day, beginning with there was no other place to send him; there was no other “help” available, but the truth is I wanted peace in my household more than I wanted to take care of my son, more than I wanted him to have a clean environment to live in. I wanted peace in my relationship with Chris, I wanted a home for the other three boys that wasn’t constantly disrupted and influenced by the behavior of the one boy. The truth is it was easier to bear the guilt and grief of leaving my sick child in those deplorable conditions than it was to bear the disapproval of my husband and the friction from my stepfather for bringing him home.
So, I got in my car and left.
January 12, 2019, cont.
After instructing Mac to call the police, I walk as slowly and casually as I can to the car. I want them to have plenty of time to find me and pull me over. Micheal is waiting for me in the car, knifeless. I hope he has nothing else that could be used as a weapon. I am far more afraid law enforcement will shoot him unnecessarily than I am he will attack me. My hope is they will pull me over and arrest him after I explain the situation. Strangely, the paranoid spell has all but dissolved. Micheal’s conversation and demeanor is rational and sane. It’s as if the continual movement of the car has shifted the focus of his mind. I follow the exact route I told Mac to give to the police, but I have still seen no sign of them as we reach our destination. I park in a lot a few doors from the friend’s house as Micheal instructs me to do. As soon as he gets out I call Agent Graham, his parole officer. I leave a message describing the situation, and as I hang up the phone a police car pulls up beside me. I think Micheal surely must have seen this happen and my plan is fucked. I imagine he won’t come out of the apartment.
The officer comes over to my window and asks me questions. Where is Micheal? Has he been threatening me? Has he been threatening to harm himself or anyone else? Does he have a weapon? I answer his questions, saying Micheal is at a friend’s apartment on the corner, and no, no, no, no to the others. I explain about his parole and the drugs and how his parole officer will likely violate him. As three other cruisers pull up, Agent Graham returns my call. He tells me unless Micheal has committed a crime he can’t violate his parole for his drug use. The jail is full and the system is overburdened with hundreds of other Micheals. He throws me a bone by telling me he will require Micheal to go to treatment. He will have to get help or go back to prison. I’m disheartened my plan is a bust, but at least there’s that. I hand the phone to the officer when Agent Graham asks to speak to him.
Meanwhile, the other officers have Micheal stopped in the alley between the friend’s apartment and the parking lot. I marvel that he could see several men hiding and signaling to each other outside my house, but was unable to see four police cruisers outside his friend’s apartment. The police lecture, they search his backpack, they treat Micheal and me with the usual suspicion and contempt I’ve come to expect, but in the end, they cannot arrest him. One of the officers, a woman, gives me a quick, sympathetic hug and sincerely wishes me the best. Out of earshot of the others, she tells me sincerely that all policemen aren’t like the ones she’s with. Some understand how the drug problem is for families. She knows firsthand herself, her own brother is a drug addict. I thank her sincerely.
The police leave the scene. Micheal is angry, no surprise there, and I have failed in my intentions. I drive for a while and try to explain my motivations, but he doesn’t understand. He can’t comprehend how a paranoid person with a knife would make someone nervous. I stop at a drug store to get supplies for his leg. While inside I call Mac to update him. He says I can’t bring Micheal home. I tell him I’ll drive around for a while to figure something out. Micheal says he has nowhere to go. I don’t either. I’ve been in this place before and there’s no escape.
I bring Micheal home anyway. He goes into the den where it is dark. There are two windows and a door to the outside. He can monitor the hiding men and he can escape if he needs to. It’s okay with him if I draw the blinds, so I do. I leave him sitting in the dark.
He stays in there for more than an hour before I check on him. When I do, I find him sleeping. Beside him on the end table I find a pocket knife, open, blade exposed. I leave the room with it and place it with the others we have hidden.
Mac and I have a conversation about what should happen next. We don’t want to wake him. We don’t want to go to bed and leave him there. What if he wakes up, paranoid and hallucinating again? If he hears us in the house, but can’t see us in the dark, will he think we are intruders? Will he find something to attack us with? It’s not likely we will sleep anyway, so we decide to stay up in the living room with all the lights on and the tv going. That way he will see us and know we aren’t the ones who intend him harm. We stay up all night. It isn’t hard. Mac and I are both imagining what could happen and that awful scenario is enough to keep us wide awake. As for Micheal, he doesn’t come out of the den all night. He doesn’t come out for fourteen solid hours. When he finally does emerge, he can barely walk. The leg with the tiny wound is inflamed much more than before, hot and tender from the bottom of the knee to mid-shin. It’s obvious this problem will not be solved with a little bit of peroxide and ointment.
The catapult is drawn back and I am in it, ready to be thrown into the next crisis.