By Bill Miller
I grew up in a racist home—no BS.
The problem was/is none of those teachings were of any use out in the actual world. A redneck kid from a redneck town, and now I am being asked to bring in a Mexican kid into my home. The difference is I’m not that redneck kid anymore.
But this story starts with a vacation.
We had made plans for this months in advance—a trip to Alaska to see my mother-in-law. The only ripple in our plans was that our oldest son was not doing well in English, so instead of making the trip with us he would be re-taking that subject in summer school.
So there we were in Kenai after a non stop flight that went 8 1/2 hours from Atlanta.
Then, two days later we get a call from our son, “Hey remember that guy that is my best friend at school? Yeah, well he came home and his stuff was on the lawn, can he come stay with us for a couple of months?”
As soon as I hit the world away from home, I found that help came in many forms. Like that summer working at the park service and a dude named Ziggy. He turned me onto Parliament Funkadelic, my music world was turned completely on its ear. Yes, the very people I was warned about when I was growing up were suddenly helpful and different and not haters.
I could tell many stories, but those are another time.
So we spend our 10 days, having a good time, but now we are back home. Suddenly the reality of having another human being at our home has arrived. The house is, well let’s say “lived in” by two guys under the age of 25. Need I say more?
The two months are gone in a hurry, and I ask my wife “Hey the months are done, so when is this kid leaving?” She says we can’t just kick him out, and I say I know that but the deal was two months so what’s up?
I mean this kid walks around the house with no shirt on, he always leaves half empty cans of Dr. Peppers everywhere and he stutters. I was picking all the worst things to key on.
And then I saw the scar on his back.
I asked him about it and he derailed the conversation. Later I asked my wife, Anne about that and she said it’s the place where his step dad had hit him. So now I know I was seeing all the wrong things. While I felt pity for him, that is not what anyone is asking for.
I began slowly to see him, grudgingly giving over and accepting him—not because of the scar but with Anne’s help I began to put myself in his place. I too bear scars. We are kindred, in that regard.
Many stories and time pass. Soon my oldest child has graduated, and is moving on to the Navy. By now our intergalactic hitchhiker has been assimilated; if you see us you see him with us. He now has assumed the role of the older brother. Our two younger biological children have spent lots of time with him and we just carry on.
And then the first week of senior year, he has a friend we are speculative about, and when these two are together well, something is not right.
So I head up to the school for a looksee and I am looking for his friend’s car. Suprisngly, the car is not to be found in the lot. So off to the office for a pass. No dude….that night after work we are having supper, so I ask each of the three seated how was school that day. My younger two give me pat answers, telling me it was good.
So when the time came I asked dude, and he was starting to stutter and hem and haw,
And he says well yeah it was good.
SoI tell him that’s funny because when I went to his school neither he nor his friend or his car were anywhere to be seen. His whole demeanor changed instantly,because I had in effect called him on his shit.
Dinner was quiet after that. And then he and I had the talk that I think was the cement in our relationship. I said, “You like living here, correct?” He told me his did, and then I said I liked having him there but to live in our home there were rules, and the biggest is staying in school.
He started muttering about his dad, and I told him if that was all good he would still be there, but unfortunately it’s not. I asked him if he was planning to stay in school, because if not he would have to make other arrangements. He then looked at me to see if I was messing around and he saw that I was not.
Yes, very tough love, and yes it was harsh. I did not relish saying it.
But I think it was a lack of expectation in his life—that and a lack of caring.
When children grow up in a home that lacks expectation or caring, we bring into the world adults that are unprepared to care for others, People with lack of compassion, and sadly a lack inside themselves—so much that we look for something that assuages the hurt of not being recognised.
What was really hurtful for me to watch was the way his biological father always said he was coming to his events, but sadly never showed. Or the only things he got from his dad were monetary help, but not his time. I could feel his disappointments.
Yes this is a feel good story, but we need more of them. There are countless stories I am sure that are not being told. He lived with us for over two years instead of two months, but I think I learned as much from him as he did from me.
He has a beautiful wife and now they are expecting their second child soon. He is successful in his work. I may have helped him, but he has taken that help and has turned out to be a fine man.
He is definitely part of our family—him and his wife and children are just like we are blood.
Bill Miller is a Floater in the Universe, he spent many years being carried and didn’t realize it. He is a father, a son, a brother and a friend to many. A tad introverted a tad extroverted, but willing to see where the day goes. Sometimes wasting time as if it were free.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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