You Stay Here

When Abel was 4 or 5 years old his grandmother took him to an orphanage, stopped at the gate and said "You stay here" and she left. That's how he remembers it. That's what is seared into his brain. That rejection by his first love, his first connection, his first security, changed everything.

After that day for two years he was in the orphanage waiting for a new family. He didn't want a new family. He wanted his family. He wanted his grandmother who he always thought was his mother because his mother died when he was an infant. During those two years she would come to see him in the orphanage and crush his heart again when she would leave him there. Once again she was saying to him "you stay here" and she would leave. 

Then the day came that he met us, strange white people who spoke a different language and took him far away to another world, nowhere near his culture, his country, his grandmother, older half siblings, everything he ever knew and loved, everything that made Abel, Abel. We gave him a new last name and told him we were his family now. 

That was ten years ago. 

For the longest time I was the crazy one because Dean didn't see the side of Abel that I saw. I was the main recipient of the "eat shit and die" look. Let me explain that look, it's basically expressionless, like "you are nothing to me, your emotion right now means nothing to me" that blank look of disregard. His resistance was strong, consistent and specific toward me. When he would let his guard down, let love start creeping in, he would try to destroy it. Always. 

The first day of his 8th grade year Dean and I came back from a long weekend trip to Orlando Florida for my birthday, we picked him up from school to find he had cut his hair himself and it was atrocious. We'd told him if he did that again (because he'd done it before) we were taking him to Wal-Mart to get it cut. So that is what we were going to do that day. I saw in his eyes that he was going to run. He'd run away from school once the year before and ran away from home once before that when he was younger. I knew the look. I told Dean to keep an eye on him while I got dinner on. I made a mental note of what he was wearing. I turned toward the stove and just like that, without a sound, he was gone. 

By the end of the night he was in the TAU center for the first time. He had climbed up into a super tall tree and was being very cocky to Dean (This was the first time ever that Dean saw the other side of Abel, it shocked the hell out of him) he told us he would kill himself or anyone to go to jail and get away from us. He said wanted new terms at home. He was tired of our rules. So they admitted him to the TAU center for an evaluation. While he was there he admitted to stealing our van while we were gone and going to the mall with his friends. He was 14 and had never driven before. He also admitted to smoking weed. 

That was pretty much the start of our journey into hell. 

These last three years we've watched as Abel gave himself over to his demons. We tried to fight the demons off him. Last year alone we spent $11,000 out of pocket trying to get him help, intensive outpatient treatment, weekly counseling, residential treatment, and we still owe some places. We've taken out every loan possible and came close to selling our home a few times. 

But sadly, it has been all for naught. 

Remember how I said I could see in his eyes that he was going to run away? When he got like that it was as if I could see a tornado behind his eyes swirling in his brain. Sometime the tornado was small, localized and causing minimal damage, like just making him lie repeatedly or steal something small and never show remorse and the tornado would subside. But over the years the tornadoes had become more frequent and lasting longer, and they weren't just shaking the glass anymore, they were cracking it. They grew into days when he would rage, cry, and growl at us; tell me he had done things he couldn't come back from. I saw the glass cracking more and more. He smoked weed all day everyday trying to kill the pain. He told us he didn't love us or anyone. I watched him deteriorate. He started to act out at school and get suspended more. He became even bolder in his defiance toward us. We were calling the police to the house almost monthly. 

I remember the night when I saw the fragile glass shatter completely and the tornado lock behind his eyes permanently.  Dean, Steele, Abel and I went to Olive Garden for dinner. He was being kind of pissy before we left but I wanted to chalk it up to teenage boy attitude. At dinner, amid conversation about hairbands and over breadsticks, Abel casually tells us his friend Aden was arrested because he was caught with the drugs and paraphernalia they (Aden and Abel) had bought online so they could sell weed at school. He couldn't handle the calm, the happy, the love, he had to pull the pin on the grenade, toss it and devastate. 

Dean and I didn't give him the big reaction he wanted there at the Olive Garden. When we got home and Dean went to look for his drug stuff Abel threw the bag at Dean and cussed him out. Abel flew into a rage, I tried to talk to him, and he punched walls, growled, yelled and beat his chest at me like a gorilla. Then he became calm, the tornado locked and he embraced it. He told me he was going to kill a kid at school and that he had done things he could never come back from. The police were called to the house again, they did nothing again. 

His eyes never went back to normal after that night. The glass was shattered. The tornado stayed in his mind. 

That was back last September.

No one he loved would ever be able to tell him "you stay here" again, because he would deny love, destroy all the love. He has an arsenal of grenades ready to blow up our love at any time. And he doesn't care that he's blowing himself up at the same time.

But I still had hope after that. When he came out of residential treatment in California and was on medication, I had hope. When we found a new African America male led Intensive Outpatient Treatment Facility here, I had hope. When my boss let him work with me, and he was allowed back in school, I had hope. But that hope was short lived. He was suspended after only eight days in school and he had resumed criminal associations and activity. 

When he first came back from residential treatment we were told we needed to have a backup plan that he may not be able to function at home. We had contacted Heritage Ranch which is a Boys Home and still have him on the waiting list there and we also took him for an interview for the YCP program. He'd agreed to go to the Youth Challenge Program back then but over time, being back home and back in with his "gang" he changed his mind. 

His counselor agreed that after the recent situations at school and with him getting back into criminal activity, YCP was really our only option for the sanity of our entire family. The night before he was to leave is when he stole our car, ran from the police, drove our car into a garage apartment and took off running on foot. 

Now Abel is in the juvenile detention center. He will be there until April 22nd then he will go straight into the Gillis Long YCP.  

When we went to the hearing I wasn't prepared for how awful it would be. I was so mad at him. So mad at the system for never doing anything to him no matter what he did, no matter how many times he was arrested or for what they never did anything and he bragged about that. So I went into the hearing with a request for him to stay in the detention center then go straight to YCP. (His counselor told us to go in knowing what we wanted to see happen and to ask specifically for that) When they brought him in shackled, it just destroyed me. His eyes looked terrible, all red and puffy like maybe he's sick. He didn't even look at us. He was emotionless, very matter of fact. I struggled to keep it together. When he was leaving he asked to say goodbye to Steele but not to us. I hardly made it to the car before I fell apart. 

It was the worst day of my life.

His demons won. They have him in a cage of his own making. 

I know it's the right thing to do, I know we did the right thing, that doesn't make it any easier. That doesn't make my heart any less destroyed. 

I've been asked before if I regret adopting Abel. The answer is I have a lot of regrets, I regret not being able to be the text book Karen Purvis Connected adoptive mother. I regret every time I responded in anger and rage when he gave me that look of defiance. I regret every time I was petty instead of nurturing, God help me I have so many regrets. I don't regret how God put our family together any more than you do. Think of all the men and women in jail that had good parents, loving parents, weren’t adopted, Ten Bundy had an ideal family and Jeffry Dalhmer was the only child of two loving parents supposedly. This is my family, my children, it's make up is more complicated than most, what we are dealing with with Abel is horrible, tragic, and will probably be a part of our lives forever but come what may he is my son. This is no place for regret, I don't believe.    

From that day he climbed up into that tree until the last time we spoke about his future I told him that no matter where he is I will be his mother and Dean will be his father. We chose him. We flew across the world because we knew he was alone in an orphanage and he was our son. I told him if he's in jail I will be sitting across from him behind the glass or if he's making music I will be cheering him on or digging a ditch I will still be his mother and I will love him.

I'm learning that just when I think I'm destroyed, that my heart can take no more, my heart rejuvenates. Love doesn't grenade-proof my heart but it does slowly repair the damage from the explosions. Love gets us through the absolutely horrific pain. That's why I hate so much that he won’t let love in, I hate that he believes love is the enemy.

I don't have much hope to be honest. I've seen too much. That feeling of hopelessness is the very worst. I pray it doesn't last. And really, there are flickers of hope trying to spark in me. If he could ever get to a place where he sees that he needs help, wants help, embraces help, I think I may feel hopeful again. The only glimmer I have is that he's still young, and maybe there will be a more thorough diagnoses for him down the road where he can get on medication that will calm the tornado. Maybe he will see the light, reach out to God, and find the grace and peace he's been denying for so long. And I have to somehow muster the strength the pray that God will make beauty from ashes.

If you would like to write him while he's in the detention center, here is the address. He will be there  until April 22nd.

Abel Turner c/o Juvenile Detention Center
1900 Parish Rd
Chalmette LA 70043


Chris said…
I hurt for all of you but you and Dean's love for him is evident and inspiring. Thank you for sharing your soul with all of us.

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