Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Sweetest Thing

T. just called me on the telephone and chatted for twenty minutes! This is the kid who is supposedly so withdrawn. Well, he was quite chatty and effusive on the phone! I was going to write my blog post today about the report we got from DCFS about how he came into the system - which is a harrowing and prolonged tale of abuse, neglect and confusion. But T. picking up the phone at 10:00 at night to call and tell me about his successes this week is the big event!

He is so cute - he begins quite formally, with his excellent manners, inquiring of my well-being. I said, well, I'm very well thank you, and I got an email today that you finished the online driver's test I registered you for just last weekend! He was so happy - he interrupted with enthusiasm to say yes, he got 87% on the test. And we went through the next steps together and the list of things we need to go to the DMV. He told me he talked to his social worker and she told him he may qualify to get his permit for a reduced fee. I said, oh don't worry about that. I am quite happy to pay it. It's an important step toward your adulthood. (It's $28 we're talking about! This is not a kid who takes advantage of anything ever.)

Then we talked about when we might go to the DMV, which I thought I might be able to swing on an upcoming half day his school has scheduled in a couple weeks. "It's November now, right?" he said. I said, "Nope, it's September right now." He said "Oh! That's why I don't see my half day! I was looking at November!" I said, "If it were November, it would be Thanksgiving, and we'd be talking about our vacation." And he laughed happily.

Then he said, "Guess what I got on my geometry test this week?" I said, "An A?" And he said, "Yes! An A-plus!" Then he told me he got a "grade check" and thus far he's getting a 3.0 GPA this semester. And he wanted to tell me how he's getting a B+/A- so far in world history, which is his favorite class. And he told me that in his old school last year, he got a 3.5 GPA. I remembered that he told me a couple weeks ago he got a failing grade in algebra last year and I asked him about that. He explained that he was getting a 3.5 all year last year, until they moved him to a new foster home in a new district part way into the second semester, and the new school was several chapters ahead of his old school in algebra - they were on algebra 1a, while he's been studying algebra 1b and he couldn't catch up so he got a bad grade. Now who's fault is that?!

I said, "Well this is just great. You are very smart and I'm happy to hear it's showing." Then he said, "Yeah. The other kids don't realize how smart I am because I'm so funny. So they just think I'm funny." And I said, "Yes, you're quiet too. So you're the sneaky kind of smart - the kind of guy that people suddenly notice and think, where did this intelligent guy come from?" He laughed about that, and we chatted about a college prep program that has an orientation coming up in our area that I thought he might enjoy attending.

I asked him too how his world history class report went this week. He said, "It's due tomorrow!" I said, "Is it done?" And he said, "Yes! I did it all myself even though it was supposed to be a group report. The other girl just bought the poster board, but I did all the work." I said, "I thought that was going to happen! You told me last week that you were doing the research and I could see how that was going to turn out." He said, "Yeah, sometimes you got to do it yourself so it gets done right." I said, "Yes, it's a burden when you're the smart one! You can't help that you're so smart - you were born with that!" He said, "Yeah!" in a hearty way. He was born with so much talent and potential, and so much of the focus has been on what he was born without, because he ended up in the foster system that reminds him all the time of his misfortunes. I think for that reason he loved the idea that he arrived in this world with something good to his name.

I also told him a little bit about our parenting class tonight - that we did some group work, and Tim and I had to give a lot of the answers - an imperfect balance, just like his world history project. He told me that the adoption worker came to visit him this week, and we talked about her upcoming trip to Hawaii and the fact that she's starting our home study when she gets back. Then we chatted about the weekend: UCLA game on Saturday, a kayaking trip to an island off the coast on Sunday. I explained the long boat ride we'll be taking, having in mind that he's never been outside of Los Angeles before. We talked about how to fill the time we had set aside for his driver's education training, now complete and I suggested we take him back to the farmer's market where we had a terrible meal together on our first weekend visit at our house, and try to rectify that by trying the catfish stand instead of the taco place we originally took him to. I told him of this catfish stand last weekend, and he ribbed me "You knew about that catfish? And you took me for those terrible tacos instead?" I thought about it later and realized that none of his social workers would believe me if I said that he jokes and teases me, this kid they thought was so withdrawn and serious. I said we'd vote later about what to do together with the rest of our time, using our recently-devised "rock/paper" three-way democratic decision-making, saying "After all, we're a democracy!" to which he replied "Like Obama!"

We hung up after I offered that I'd come a little early on Saturday so we could get his foster guardian to sign his DMV application. "You can sign it?" he suggested hopefully. I explained that she is his legal guardian right now so we're going to need her signature, but that I'll make sure to leave him with the fee, the paperwork and all the information he needs to take the test.

Wow. It was the sweetest thing ever. It's mind-boggling to negotiate an adoption with a near-adult like this. I wonder if he has ever had people that he shared this kind of good news with, who cared only about him. Sometimes I am filled with awe at all the sweetness inside him - like during the tough times, he took all of his gifts and tucked them away in some kind of internal deep freeze and just saved them for later, and now he's laid them out to thaw right in front of us, pure and intact. Amazing.

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