Thursday, March 8, 2012

Houseguest from Hell

That title deserves a heavy metal background. Provide your own.

The Matron has refrained, thus far, from blogging about a particular miniseries in her life -- out of respect and consideration for the person at the center of the storm.

Oh well.

A couple of months ago, the Matron and her family took in a 21 year old house guest. Let's call him Joe. Eyes wide open, she knew this theater friend of Scarlett's had no place to live for a reason: he had more than his fair share of hard-luck, including no money, a nominal job, and minimal life-management skills.

Still. A good soul. So the Matron and her husband gave this young man a month in their home. Two weeks in, she realized the circumstances that left him roofless were not being transformed. Yes -- he was successfully enrolled in college but conquering that corner of life was the extent of his capabilities. Doing college AND earning a livable wage in a stable unit he paid for was genuinely beyond his reach.

Joe had no car. The trek to his six-to-ten-hour a week retail job required an hour bus slog each way, frequently meaning he had to rise at 4 am for a 6 am start.

Someone has to stock those shelves. And he would be Joe.

As far as the Matron could see, he was making no attempt to: A) find an apartment B) find a closer job C) Find a job that would give him more than ten hours a week and a sustainable income D) Locate any resources or people who might help him E) Find a roommate or dorm

Matron to Joe: "If you're going to move out in two weeks, you have to start laying that groundwork now . . . looking at ads, talking to people, getting a better job."

Joe: "I KNOW! I am just so busy!"

The Matron knows busy. Joe wasn't.

Matron: "You only get about 6 to maybe 10 hours at your job. Maybe you should get a job where you can earn enough to rent an apartment?"

Joe: "I KNOW. I'm just so busy, it's hard to even look."

Joe quickly dissembled every rule of decorum that the Matron had outlined the day he moved in. Middling and annoying -- just a steady stream of being late with the borrowed van, disappearing overnight without notice, not lending a friendly household hand and, not infrequently, laying in the middle of the family room floor or a hallway so people had to step over him while he slept.

After a surge of anger, she realized that she got in Joe what she hadn't experienced in her own teenagers -- simply staggering maturity and untapped life skills. Except he was 21. So the Matron softened, understanding that he really was about 14 and learning how to manage his life in fundamental ways.

The stay was extended another two weeks.

Although not unhappy about his eventual departure, the Matron didn't really mind Joe and his haphazard ways. Just another big kid in the house. Kid indeed -- he would spend hours hanging with Scarlett and her friends, happy to chat with 8th grade girls. Big happy family scenes with the Matron, her husband and other children in and out of the family room, but Joe a fixture, chatting and laughing with the girls whenever they were around.

Are you getting those warning signals? The Matron thought it ODD that he had no adult friends or interests.

She didn't leave him alone with her children or anyone else's. But she forgot -- she who blogs and teaches online - FORGOT ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA.

Another person's story (someone she actually care quite a bit about) starts here so she's going to omit every Pertinent Detail, all sort. But Joe? Well. There's another story --and where his story meets hers: fair game.

Let's just say that Joe-- acting stupidly, without malice, in his strange "14-year old 21-year old" way - managed to shred all semblance of acceptable (and perhaps legal) behavior through inappropriate (and possibly illegal) relationships, online.

Relationships that originated when the parties involved met . . . . . you guessed it . . . at the Matron's house.

Reader. If you can imagine the cellular constitution of self-recrimination, rage, self-blame, remorse, horror, and shame you may begin to APPROACH where the Matron sat for three long days. She had forgotten what it was like to be physically ill with emotion but got an unplanned for refresher course. Which wasn't free.

Complicating matters, Joe really didn't see what was wrong. Sure, he understood how the online conversations looked from the outside -- but it was all done with friendly, innocent intentions. Joe fundamentally could not grasp the moral repugnance of his behavior and its far-ranging consequences.

Neither could Joe grasp the gracious 'out' that the Matron offered him when she 'suggested' rather than demand his immediate departure. Stupidly, when he moved in she promised she would never just kick him out.

The day he moved in, Joe said: "These things always ends badly."

Matron: "Not this time, I promise."

Silly, silly Matron. She ignored that little voice lapping: maybe there's a reason it ends always ends badly.

The night the crisis cracked, she remembered the child inside the man so she offered that perhaps instead of staying for two more weeks, Joe should take a day or two and secure another option. No need to rush out the door, but well - the door sooner rather than later.

She was relieved when he didn't return for a night, assuming he was working on Plan B. He wasn't. The next day it became apparent that Plan B was, well, staying.

Matron: "Do you see that staying here has only negative consequences for us and positive for you, but leaving has only negative consequences for you."

He did see. He stayed.

But the next day, the Matron had her own Plan B which involved car keys.

Matron: "Joe, I am going to drive you to X's house. Right now."

Joe: "Okay."

And just like that -- twenty minutes of packing -- and he was gone.

That's not the end of the story, she's certain. The people involved are still around and disaster doesn't end abruptly -- it yawns and stretches its arms, taking up space for a while. The Matron initially didn't blog about the miniseries because she fully anticipates the Worst Can Happen and Joe will find this blog. Or someone who knows him.

She's still afraid of hurting someone's feelings!

But her mental stability -- such as it is -- required her to take that risk and shake some air into her psyche.

Don't turn off that heavy metal anthem, just yet. Because the guilt and self-recrimination still stare at her in the mirror every morning. And fear -- about what might have been.


Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Oh, Matron. I get you completely. In what luckily turned out well, but, in retrospect, might have ended badly. I talked the police out of taking a neighbor's son to a mental facility and let him stay with us. I would not do that again, even though it turned out fine. It's not MY job to save everyone, and sometimes it's not fair to my family for me to try.

I have a nephew who is 15-year old 19-year old and I cannot have him in my life until he matures--though I'm sorry for the hard knocks life has given him it is the way it has to be.

Suburban Correspondent said...

Speechless. Just speechless. But there really are some people you just cannot help. If only we could tell who they are in advance...

Anonymous said...

Some of the folks in my church class look me as if I'm crazy when I say that one of the tragedies of life is that one can do something good for good reasons and still end up causing harm. It is an important part of life to contemplate and anyone who is paying attention has had this happen to them.

Anonymous said...

We took a family member in for 9 months with the best intentions. Lets just say after several court appointments, a lot of anguish and hell I thought it was over. It actually took another 1 1/2 to 2 years to get over the depression, and anxiety and almost the price of a great marriage. My rosy view of the world was damaged and I know I'll never get that back.

Anonymous said...

Oh, bless you for TRYING. But sometimes people cannot be helped. I have a sister who is much like Joe. I keep her at arm's length for so many reasons...

SUEB0B said...

I think most people have ignored that voice at some point or another. In my case, it was allowing a young woman to move in when she had nowhere else to go. The reason I eventually discovered that she had nowhere to go is that she had burned every bridge by being manipulative, lazy and irresponsible...sigh.

I feel for Joe in a way. He is obviously poorly socialized and may never get that way. I hope he finds some way to get through life.

Deb said...

Kudos to you for at least trying. What if you were (or are) the person that changed his life. Maybe not now, but in the future? He has seen what life could be? Here I go, being probably overly optimistic.

I still admire your opening the door. Sort of like students, we can't save them all. They have to want to help themselves.

Marie said...

With him mentally being about the same age as them he might not really get what the problem is as scary of a thought as that is. No telling what the kid has been through in his life that he has no set boundaries. He might have never really been around people his own age growing up due to his own home environment. Like the poster said above though he might now have seen how things can be and eventually strive for that in life. I think sometimes people with bad childhoods instead of doing everything they can to get out and grow up spend more years stuck at a younger age mentally than others because it takes them longer to hit normal milestones. It takes them longer to figure it out....especially with the boys it seems.

Mama Ava said...

Good for you. We took in a former student of my husband's for 6 months and dealt with an instant high-maintenance teenager AND her crazy mother AND worked full-time until I delivered my 3rd child. She left under very unpleasant circumstances and it hurt--but after a year, she was reunited with her mother and on a better track, one that she has managed to sustain. It didn't go the way I planned, but that time with us gave them the distance they needed to sort themselves out. What you did may have been very very hard, but it may be something that the young man remembers as a bright spot of family and kindness that obviously hasn't been in his life.

Patty said...

Sometimes people need a soft place to land -- but their life skills don't match the opportunity they're given.. so they don't successfully fly again.

Joe's choices were his own, granted they were influenced by a whole host of other circumstances -- but, he made a choice to act badly and he would have done so in any situation. Likewise, the other party made choices as well, although from the implications in your post they were not mature enough to fully understand the consequences.