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My parents have never been the type to baby me and hide the real world from my viewing. They have guided me through many situations teaching me how to be the captain of my own ship. Being raised this way has taught me many important life lessons; one of which is courage.
He has been tossed around from home to home then back to his mother just to be taken away again. It’s a lonely life this young boy has been born into. He has nothing sustainable to hold onto except for the clothes on his back. Bitter emotions are beginning to pile up at such a young age; it won’t be long until they began to show. Not something expected from such an adorable little boy with olive skin and the brightest smile with dimples to compliment it.
After many months of classes, my parents had officially become approved foster and adoptive parents. Their search hadn’t lasted long before stumbling upon Joshua’s photo; it was like love at first sight. They made up their minds that this was the child they wanted to welcome into their family and from that moment on they did whatever they could for him. In September of 2004 my Mother, Father and I were introduced to Joshua (Josh), and that was the day our lives changed forever.
It began with day visits; we would spend a day here and a day there with him. Next came the weekend visits, Josh would arrive at our house on Friday and depart Sunday night. I looked forward to his visit all week and hated to say goodbye when Sunday came around. However, before we knew it, Josh was moving in. The day was very special everyone was so excited and my parents even went to all of the effort to hang a “Welcome Home” sign over the garage for when he arrived.
I pictured our new family so happy; just like a fairy tale. The little All-American family welcomes a young boy with no one to lean on, into their home. Sounds like a picture perfect story. It seemed to be going that way and then the fights began. I remember lying in bed listening to the screams back and forth from the room next to mine, wishing only that they would stop.
One day, my teacher pulled me out of class to let me know that my parents were on their way to pick me up; I would be leaving a little early today. When I arrived at home my parents sat me down and told me that Josh was not going to live with us anymore. My mind flashed back to the previous night. The screams had been louder and had gone on far past their usual time. Then my mind came back to reality and my heart began to rip in half. The worst part had to be over now.
Shortly after leaving, Josh realized he had walked away from many opportunities without giving it a fair chance. My parents and Josh had many discussions and he was welcomed back into our home with open arms. Within three weeks he was on his way out again. He decided he just could not be adopted; in time we would find out his Mother had told him it would be disloyal to her if he was adopted by our family.
Third times a charm, they say. My parents sent Josh to camp to spend his days living off the wilderness in the summer of 2006. They hoped he would come back with a better outlook on the world. Upon his arrival home from camp he unpacked his things for the third time. This time my parents agreed to become his “guardians”. Quickly, the cycle began once again. That last fight I remember in great detail. It was by far the worst I had ever witnessed. Josh had gotten into a fight with my Mother, a usual occurrence, so I headed upstairs for bed. Once I was ready for bed, I noticed the fighting had not stopped. I made my presence invisible as I crept down the stairs to see what was going on. Josh felt he deserved the last word of the argument and my father was not about to allow that; he grabbed Josh’s shoulder to prevent him from storming off. He turned around and threatened to call the cops on my father for touching him; that was the last straw. I sat there on the stairs unable to control my emotions; my heart was no longer in half it had now crumbled.
Communication was completely cut off after the last goodbye. I spend many nights over the next year in tears, wondering why God would do something like this to me. Which I have now come to terms with. I would write Josh letters begging him to change. I never actually sent him one, whether it was just a lack of nerve or the fact that I knew I was asking him to do something he wasn’t capable of.
As the pattern continues a phone call from an unknown phone number marked his arrival once again. Over the next year Josh spent his time in juvenile detention centers and treatment facilities. When he finally got his act together he moved into Independent Living. His room and board would be taken care of as well as a college education as long as he followed a few simple rules. On Josh’s eighteenth birthday the state would no longer be required to provide care for him, but the Independent Living offered to provide for him until he was twenty-one, a very good opportunity.
I’m guessing you have an idea of what’s coming next. Josh didn’t like having to follow a curfew so he packed up and ran away to live with the “brothers”. His days weren’t filled with much and his nights were filled with taking shots and then hits. Until the night he found himself homeless. This shocking realization caused him to call my father for help.
My father told him he would not come in the middle of the night, but would retrieve him in the morning, from the ghetto. The one condition was that he would turn himself in to the State that morning. With no where else to go, helpless, he agreed. The following morning my father made him shower and shave and marched Josh down to the Social Rehabilitative Services Office to turn himself in. He spent the next six months in another juvenile detention center. Upon his eighteenth birthday’s arrival he was released a week early to my parents. He stayed with us for a couple days before coming with us to the lake.
I found myself face to face with my moms Ford Explorer and twelve hours of road. Perfect. The last thing I intended on doing was spending a week with Josh. The first couple of days we didn’t speak much and I tried to stay locked up in my room for as long as possible, lying that I had a lot of homework to do. I hated watching him act so kind to my parents, knowing it was all just a show. It killed me. On his birthday things had really started to boil inside of me, I could barely stand to be within his presence let alone have to sit at the table and eat with him. I had to excuse myself to go outside before I broke down at the table. I fell against the car and bawled uncontrollably. Finally I pulled myself together and tried to act as ladylike as possible for the rest of the night.
The night before Josh headed off for North Carolina; my parents sat down with him and told him that he had the ability to control his life. “If things are bad back home and there are drugs and issues that you are uncomfortable with you can always call us. We will figure things out for you back here. We want the best for you”, my parents were telling him. I was listening in to all of this and my blood pressure began to rise. When I finally couldn’t stand it anymore I stormed down stairs and started screaming at my parents for what they were saying to him. “He’s not going to change this time I don’t know why you guys are trying to tell yourselves that.” When I finally cooled down I stood there dumbfounded at what I had just done. I ran up to my room and stuck my face in my pillow never wanting to get up again. Josh came up stairs and we had a long talk. I poured everything out that had piled up over the past couple of years. I told him, “It just kills me that you do this. You have all the things you would ever need to make a life out of yourself and you don’t. Your mother obviously doesn’t care for you like we do, why can’t you just understand...” It was like a weight lifted off of my shoulders when I finally went to bed that night. As a final farewell, Josh stole $100 from my Father before he waved goodbye for what we know as ever.
Atticus Finch defended Tom Robinson because, if he wanted to or not, it was the right thing to do. He explained it to his kids by saying, “I wanted you to see what real courage is... It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyways and you see it through no matter what.” This is exactly what my parents did, Josh was our Tom. Now that I am older I understand that my parents were fighting until the end, even when the odds were against them. They always gave him another chance, trying to show him he didn’t have to continue this hideous cycle; he can be the one to end it.
I realize it’s unfortunate he didn’t take the opportunities he was given and run with them, but that is part of life. My parents and I have taught him how to live a meaningful life. We know if he wakes up one day and decides to change, he knows how and who to call.
They say God puts people in your life for a reason. I always thought we were brought into Josh’s life to help him; but I have begun to realize he was actually brought into my life. Josh has taught me more about life and decision making than anyone. I will never be the same person I was before, I now look at life with much more meaning and I thank God for that everyday.