I have on my desk at home a little 2″ x 3″ picture – an adorable full length view of Chris at 2 years, 4 months, or about 1 and 1/2 months after he came to live with us. It was taken just inside the door of our dear friends, Jennifer and Harris’ condo in North Hollywood. It was Thanksgiving day, 1991, and Chris is dressed up. He is wearing adorable red and green checked pants and a bow tie in the matching fabric. He has on a yellow cardigan with shiny brass buttons, and a white button down shirt and white sneakers. Just on his right shoulder, you can see a glimpse of the same red and green plaid fabric in what must have been suspenders. His expression is classic Chris – eyes wide open, direct and impish, his mouth in a gentle smile. His left hand reaches deliberately for the door handle which is just head height, and his eyes say, “Watch me – I’m going to bolt.” Believe me, we were always watching Chris as he told us directly that he was going to bolt. He looks happy and well fed, secure in our love even after so brief a time.
I remember about that time, that he had only eleven words in his vocabulary – ball, jeep (everything vehicular was a jeep), Dad (referring to his foster parent Jim, not his adoptive dad, Jim), dog, cat, and a few other simple words. This would have been one of our earliest social engagements beyond trips to the park, and this adult Thanksgiving dinner with our friends Harris and Jennifer, was not holding Chris’ interest. He was ready to depart as this picture so exactly conveys.
Chris now lives in San Francisco, and works as a fisherman. He continues to surprise and worry and entertain us with the antics of being Chris. Back in early November, Chris told us that he had found a place to live through Craig’s list. He had advertised “Free Fish” because who doesn’t like free anything, as he had written on his Facebook account. He moved into an in-law room in a house in San Francisco with a couple of disabled roommates.
Chris has always been kind and understanding about disabilities or differences in people. He has compassion and yet a good sense of humor about things that are just not fair, right, or on the up and up. He has been pretty clear-eyed about the writer’s benefits of living in this household. He and I constantly joke that “Well, you will get a lot of material out of this episode.”
But in the past few days, he has suffered from the following things which would make anyone question his luckiness:
1) Power went out in his room. He had not lights, TV, computer use, etc.
2) He witnessed the woman of the couple in convulsions on the couch and had to call 911 while her boyfriend sat on the couch next to her eating cookies and doing nothing. She has still not come home from the hospital, leaving her unstable and agressive boyfriend in charge at the house.
3) Hearing loud fighting and shouting the other night from the upstairs kitchen area, Chris popped out onto the stairs to hear the other roommate saying, “Put the knife down.” Police were called and his male landlord ended up at the hospital for psychological examination.
4) While the roommate was gone, Chris called the psych ward at the hospital and was told that his male landlord was in the process of being discharged. Chris went to sit in his car to watch the house to try to assess his own safety, and saw a black van pull into the driveway. His landlord’s brother got out of the van and proceeded to retrieve his belongings from Chris’ downstairs room because “My brother wouldn’t let me get my stuff when he kicked me out three months ago.”
5) Later that night, the landlord returned and Chris awoke in his downstairs room just off the garage to the smell of car fumes. He went out into the garage to find him running the motor of the car in the garage with the door closed. Police were called again and the landlord was taken away again for observation.
6) Two days later, he has returned home and has begun calling Chris the “n” word, and being otherwise verbally abusive. “GET OUT OF THERE!” I said for the 15th time in two days.
Chris has now packed his clothes and cleaned his room. Metaphorically, he stands at the door, looking back at me and smiling. He has come a long way from that early stance at the door – much has happened to our son, much of it good, much of it not good, much of it life-altering. I suspect this is one of those instances where his life will be altered for the better. There is never a dull moment with our son, that’s for sure. Open the door, son!