Saturday, November 21, 2009

Boudu Saved From Drowning

Looks like I've been AWOL from blogging for a month. I hit another rough patch. I have been reading quite a bit, and watching a number of films when I feel as if I can focus for two hours without my mind drifting into the Seas of Despair where I've dog paddled way too often.

It was a week or two ago that I watched Boudu Saved From Drowing on DVD (Criterion). One of those films I've heard referenced forever, but have never managed to catch. I had to read the piece on Bright Lights Film to realize I had watched the American remake, Down and Out In Beverly Hills a couple of decades ago. As much as I like Paul Mazursky, Richard Dreyfuss, and Bette Midler, I don't remember liking that film very much and I think I prefer the grainy black and white melancholy of 1930's Paris.

Criterion summarizes that plot as The Lestingois family decides to take in the irrepressible bum, and he shows his gratitude by shaking the household to its foundations. It was a good week later before I realized how my life imitated art once again (and once again, I think I prefer the grainy black and white melancholy of 1930's Paris). After six months of living with us, a stay which we assumed was going to continue on through the remainder of his High School years, our nephew left our home.

This isn't the first time he left. He lived with us several years ago, and returned to his family when they moved up to Seattle. That was a a difficult end for me, although it was without the drama and cursing and anger of this one. It left me sad. There have been many other times when he has been with us for extended stays, and even earlier in the year he was here for about 5/7ths of each week working on getting caught up in school when he was failing. We have been the emergency back up his entire life. It is a job that comes with almost no respect, and zero dollars, but plenty of stress and pain.

Do not misunderstand, I love this kid. He and his older brother have been de facto sons of ours their entire lives, and this one in particular has always had that proverbial special place in my heart. I feel far more responsible for him than I ever had the right. I can't imagine what my life would be like if he hadn't been a major part of it. But I guess it is time when that little boy leaves the dragon behind for his own drifting in seas. He has bounced around different homes his entire life, so staying in one place for six months probably seems an eternity for him. Even a week before he left, he was saying that he liked living here - bragging about it in fact to his friends. But like Boudu, he doesn't do so great with rules. He also isn't used to rules being enforced, having to answer to adults, and understanding the meaning of "No".

As my counselor, who I started seeing a month ago, reminded me two hours after the nephew left our home with a "Fuck Off" tossed to me, this was his decision. He wasn't thrown out. We just set the rules which we thought were pretty minimal - go to school, do homework, let us know where you are, return phone calls on that cell phone we pay for and do a little bit of work around the house. In return you get a place to stay, allowance, family outings to things like movies and trips to Washington D.C., which I thought was a pretty good deal. He thought school was stupid, raves were all important, marjijuana and E are better than stupid books and four in the morning is a perfectly acceptable time for a 16 year old to come home.

I get that - I really do. In spite of all evidence, I too was a teenager and I still hate rules and I think marijuana is pretty cool. But, I also think kids need to learn, and also need to learn how to follow rules. You can't rebel until you know what it is you are rebelling against.

I didn't see this coming. The boys have become our entire life, for better (and there are some "betters") and for worse (and there are some "worses"). But our boys came with lots of baggage, and they came to us at a time when teenagers need to hate their parents and love their friends and try to figure out who they are. At least with the nephew, we had a number of years with him as a small child and "tweener" when he actually liked us and let us know that. Folks say that at some point in the future, he will probably return to thinking we aren't so bad. I'm holding on to those things, instead of that final "Fuck Off". Okay, I confess, my parting words weren't much better. I apologize via email and Facebook. I'm sure he didn't read either.

But I didn't feel so optimistic after he left. I felt horrible. I felt sadder than I remember feeling in a very long time. There was guilt, worry, crying, isolation, and a couple of Bloody Marys. Around the house were all of these reminders of my false certainty of being able to save this kid - comic history books, movies that will change lives, nutritious food that will curb that candy tooth. I failed. Just like that bookseller in Boudu. I've got a house full of an education just waiting to happen, and a heart that wants to do good, but I really can't tame the anarchist soul of a young man who already knows what he needs to know.