I just got a text from a buddy of mine. He is kind of a champion, this guy. He is the kind of guy who does everything better than everyone else and still makes it look easy. And you can’t hate him for it because he is so darn likeable. And kind. And today, a little heartbroken.
My buddy had to call CPS today. A girl in his class needs help. He tried to help, my friend. But as he said, “What happens when they leave?”
I wished I could buy my buddy a beer and just tell him, “I feel you.” Because nothing hurts worse than knowing we cannot protect the children in our classes. We can love them. We can laugh at their jokes and laud their achievements and listen. Even cry with them sometimes. We can call the people who might be able to help. But we are not their parents. And no matter how hard we try, some holes in their lives we cannot fill.
Today, I felt for my buddy especially, because of what happened to my boy, T, last week.
Last week was graduation. If there is a more hopeful and beautiful day in the year than graduation day, I don’t know what it is. I wake up smiling and fall asleep smiling. I may even smile in my sleep. Cuz my jaw sure hurts by the end of it all.
Except for when graduation hurts. Like when there is a kid in my class like T. T is exceptional. He is not just bright and articulate. He is not just mature and kind. He does not just strive super hard for perfection. He takes responsibility. He communicates with us like a colleague. Sometimes, I have had to remind myself he is just a kid.
I have always known T was gay. To me, it is an aspect of him which is intrinsic, like his height or his talent with the written word.
I guess his parents felt differently. When he told them this winter, they told him they were done with him. They told him, as soon as he graduated, he was out of their house. They stopped parenting him. They became strangers in his house. The house he had a few months left to live in with them.
T is resilient. He got a job. Then he got another job. He talked to the right people about going to college, about doing it on his own. He found a place to live. He paid his car insurance and passed his classes. He even did some community service with me, you know, when I needed someone I could really count on.
And when graduation day loomed, we talked about his parents. Would they come? Would he want them to come at all?
I could not say, “Sure, let them come. I would LOVE to talk with them.” I could not clench my fists and spit on the ground.
I had to just wait and see.
On the day which should have been the greatest day of his life, I asked him, “Are they coming?”
“I don’t know,” he said, voice level. “I put two tickets on the shelf where my mom keeps her purse. We’ll see.”
In my job I am fortunate enough to get to say the names of some of the graduates every year. When I said T’s name, I just also said, “I love you,” in case no one else did that day.
Then, as I was walking out of the auditorium, into the flashes of a thousand pictures, into the balloons and flowers, into the proud throng, a woman stopped me.
Her hand on my arm, she said, “I am T’s mom. I just wanted to thank you for being such a motivation to my son.”
Be classy, Ms. S.
“Well, I love your son.”
“I love my son, too,” she said. And then she started to sob and fled.
A little later I saw T and we took a selfy. I hugged him as hard as I could. “I am so proud of you!” I told him. I meant it. More than anything. Then I asked, “Did you see your mom?”
“No,” he shook his head. “Was she here?”
So much hope can still break me.
So I told him, “You mom was here. She loves you.”
There are so many tears in this world. They are endless.
I know my buddy feels terrible right now because the girl in his class has a rough time with her dad and he cannot fix it. I know how he feels because I feel that way, too.
It is never, ever enough.
I just hope they know. I hope they know we would fix it all. If we could.