One day, while serving as a foster parent to two challenging kids, I came to a crossroads. I needed to end my services to one of the kids, as they did not play nice together. So I went to their teacher to ask her opinion in regards to which one should go and which one should stay.
She had taught behaviorally challenged kids all of her life and I thought she might put the whole thing in perspective for me. However, she told me something so terrible that I couldn’t believe she’d said it. “Stick with Matt,” she said, “for he is salvageable. The best thing that could happen to John is he walk out into a street and get hit by a speeding car. Because he is going to be institutionalized for the rest of his life.”
I walked away from that meeting, shaking my head and muttering, “That was harsh.” The next morning, I called John’s caseworker and told her about the incident that happened days before which resulted in me making my decision in regards to Matt and John.
We had been driving my Mazda King Cab truck down a side street. Matt was in front with me, John and my biker friend, Tom, were seated in the back of the cab. My two dogs, Sam and Bummer, were riding in the open-ended bed of the small truck.
John got mad at Matt for some reason and demanded to sit in the bed with the dogs. All I said was, “No, because you have to have a seat belt on.”
And John went absolutely ape!
He reached around the seat, grabbed me by my hair, kicked me in the face, and bit my hand before I put him in a restraint hold. Still trying to bite me, he began frothing at the mouth. My big, brave biker friend simply sat there, watching the scene in total fascination. When I finally shouted, “Grab his arms!” Tom grabbed onto John’s arms.
However, John kicked me one last time in the face. My feet came off the clutch and brake and we proceeded to shoot out onto busy Randolph Street. Quick-thinking Matt reached over and turned the truck off, and fortunately we screeched to a halt before shooting out into heavy traffic.
To top it off, some lady pulled up behind our stalled truck and began honking her horn so that she could get through the intersection. As if on cue, John began shouting, “Help, lady! Call the police! I am being kidnaped!”
Matt gasped, “Oh my God, John! Shut your mouth! What if she does call the cops?”
John shouted back, “Help! I am being kidnaped! Just call the police, lady! Call the police!”
It ended with the lady driving out around us and John being held by Tom all the way home. Three hours later, with still no cops showing up at my house, we breathed a sigh of relief figuring we were in the clear. John had stormed off to his room, slammed the door, and went right to sleep, drained from his ordeal.
At the end of the night, Matt came trudging into my room, carrying his sleeping bag and a baseball bat. “I’m sleeping in here on the floor with the dogs,” Matt said. “Because I am not sleeping in there with that nut-case! I also hid all the steak knives in the kitchen so he doesn’t knife us in our sleep!”
So as I shared with John’s caseworker the tragic story, she agreed with me that removing John from my home would be the best thing to do under the circumstances. She even stepped up to the plate to take the blame so John would not blame me. She and I both remembered what John had said when he’d first moved in. He had looked at me with his big brown eyes and sweetly said, “I really love you for taking me into your home but . . . if you ever get rid of me, I will take a knife to you and RIP YOUR HEART OUT!”
This last part he said in a demonic, harsh, guttural whisper that sent chills up and down my spine. And I firmly believed him, remembering he had also threatened to burn my house down, too. So it was a relief to have this caseworker, a rare breed at HHS, take full responsibility for removing John from my home.
Two months later, John having been placed with another foster family, showed up at my door, shirtless, out of breath, and bloody from a dozen or more scratches all over his chest. I asked him what was wrong, and John said, “Been jogging! Fell in a rose bush!”
I invited him in, and gave him a glass of pop and a shirt to slip on. Fifteen minutes later, the phone rang. It was John’s frantic foster mom telling me John had wigged out while she and her husband had been driving. The exact same MO! Only this time, some concerned citizen saw John kick the back window out of their blazer, saw the husband trying to restrain John, and promptly called the police!
The cop was there at their house, threatening to give the husband an assault ticket, and so I put John on the phone to talk to the gruff cop. By the time the whole affair was over, the cop drove over to pick John up, take him back home, straighten out the situation, and he left there not giving anyone a ticket. But shaking his head, I am sure.
Two years later, John robbed a small town bank and sped away with state troopers shooting at his car with shotguns. They eventually arrested him. While in jail awaiting trial, John called me and asked me to go speak with his brother. He was furious with him as he did not follow through with his orders. John said, “I am so pissed at him, because he won’t drive out and shoot the bank president! He was the only eye-witness to my robbery! If only he was dead, they couldn’t convict me!”
I simply said, “John, do you realize these jail phone calls are recorded?”
Click! is all I heard and then dead silence on the line.
Later in court, the judge sentenced him to 10 years on the robbery charge, and John blurted, “10 years? Hell, I can do 10 years standing on my head!”
To which the judge replied, “Fine, I will add an additional 5 years, so 15 years in all, and maybe by then you will be back on your feet!”
I kid you not, those were his exact words.
Which brings me back to what John’s teacher said about him walking out in the street to get hit by a speeding car. So while her words were harsh and terrible, she had been absolutely dead-on about where he would end up at for the rest of his tragic life.
And Matt? Matt grew up to be a biker, who rides with a motorcycle club. But he’s never had any law violations and has never done any time. In fact, the biker gang he rides with recently donated some of their profits from one of their rallies to help delinquent kids.
About a year ago, I came home late one night and before stepping into my house, I heard a voice from the yard next door: “Hey, Tom? Come over here and have a beer! Bring your guitar and sing us some songs!”
I was amazed. There sat Matt with my biker chick neighbor. He was dressed from head to toe in black leathers, a beer raised in his hand, and grinning fiercely.
I took my guitar over and played them songs late into the night.
Later, my biker chick neighbor shared with me something Matt had told her: “Living with Tom was a blessing in disguise. If it wasn’t for him I would have gotten myself into a whole helluva lot of trouble.”
So, in the long run, I made the right decision back in the day, getting rid of one so that I had a better chance at helping the other.
I guess I made the right decision after all.