No one will ever probably understand the impact that abuse and neglect can have. I also think that it has a different look for each person. And then there is the facade that is built. No one chooses to be “different.” As humans we have this need to be “normal,” whatever that means. But for a child, it tends to mean feeling accepted and loved by his or her parents and then community. It also means trying to find a way to assimilate wherever that acceptance can be found. For some, that’s where gang involvement comes into play. What is interesting about Martin and Victor is that they were highly intelligent, despite being hospitalized at age 22 months for abuse. They were both Academically/Intellectually Gifted (AIG), and they took honors and AP classes in high school. They wanted better for themselves, which meant they wanted to fit into the group of kids that were high achievers. Martin and Victor weren’t ashamed of wanting more in life, no matter how hard things were around them.
As I shared in my blog last week, Jay and I unexpectedly brought Martin and Victor home in early December of 2012. Honestly, we didn’t blink an eye. We couldn’t imagine what their lives had been like, and what things were going to be like if we didn’t step in. It was a no brainer. Due to the chain of events, an agent from DSS had become involved and was getting ready to send the twins off to a group home. It was just an unusual circumstance, but through the support of the twins’ high school social worker, we were able to find the right legal avenue to step in and get custody of them.
This all unfolded right at Christmas time. For many, Christmas can be a season of wonder and beauty. People seem more willing to bring cheer into the atmosphere. A smile, a nod, songs of hope and love…children joyfully talking about the gifts they wish to receive…but what about the ones who aren’t loved? What about the silence? How do you even talk about that?
Christmas had come in our home. With the unexpected addition to our family, we had very little turnaround time to get things settled. And honestly, we were ecstatic. We were so proud of our family. My son, Andrew, willingly and selflessly became an instant little brother at age 13. He didn’t bat an eye at sharing his space upstairs, his friends, his pets, and most importantly, Jay and me. He was proud to have two new big brothers, and the three of them seemed to instantaneously mesh.
Jay and I took great delight in our two new boys, and we shopped till we dropped, making sure our twins had new backpacks for school, every kind of clothing they had ever wanted, new shoes, computers, cologne…you name it! Our church and many others bought our boys everything from new pajamas to school supplies. Christmas morning, all three of our boys burst into the living room, giddy as can be. Their eyes shone with delight as they saw Christmas stockings that were embroidered with their names, and so many presents under the tree that they had to hop over the stacked boxes to get to the couch. I could almost see the glimmer of wonder and excitement of little three-year old boys in their eyes…the little boys they never got to be.
I know presents aren’t everything, but it was a precious moment. To Jay and me, sharing all we had was our gift. Our hearts were full. When I would think of how Victor had stood in my doorway only a few weeks prior, ready to end his life…well, tears filled my eyes. Honestly, it was all so overwhelming. Love is a beautiful thing. It just is.
Christmas had just about come and gone. We had torn through the presents, eaten our meal, and were beginning to put our new treasures away in our closets and drawers. As I walked into the living room to grab another load of boxes to take upstairs for the twins, I saw Victor sitting on the couch. His head was hung down low, and his formerly bright and cheery countenance had diminished. He dialed a number on his cell phone and patiently waited.
“Um, hi, Mom…well, I just wanted to call and wish you a Merry Christmas. I, uh, well I hope you are doing well. I just wanted to say hi. I’m sorry I missed you. You can call me back. Merry Christmas.” He hung up the phone and I walked over and sat down next to him. We sat in silence. I didn’t know what to say. He just looked at the floor for a bit. The truth is, I didn’t know what that felt like. Victor had just experienced another round of rejection. This child, who had so much sweetness to him, was left speechless, wondering yet again what he had done wrong. And honestly? I had no clue what that must have felt like at that moment. I just knew that I loved him and Martin. I loved them for who they were. I loved them for what they had endured. I loved them for who they wanted to become. I loved them for the little boy excitement and passion they both had. I loved them for the sheer fact that they just wanted to be loved…to belong…to have somewhere safe where they could fulfill their purpose. For whatever reason, God gave me the capacity to love them as mine. But there was this very large broken piece that I could not fix…and it was deep.
The next evening, Victor and I were sitting on the couch again. Maybe we were watching “Golden Girls.” The twins just loved that show so much. Jay and I thought it was kind of funny how twin teenage boys found humor in a show about retired, single women. Victor was restless though. He picked up his phone and texted his mother. “You haven’t answered any of my calls or texts. How come? “ This time, he received an immediate response unlike the call from last night. The response wasn’t one of hope or love, but of dismissal…for him and Martin to go live their lives, to leave her alone. Victor texted back, “Mom?” There was never an answer. It was as if this single word, this moment of crying out got lost in the night sky. Mom: a term of endearment used to refer to a woman who is admired by her child or children. Mom. His words returned void to him, never to be answered. A tear ran down his cheek, and he uttered the broken words of, “What did I do? Why doesn’t she love me? I don’t understand what I did.”
The impact was real. Immense. And this moment was almost too much. Honestly, I was an amateur. I wasn’t prepared to watch this precious young man endure another round of rejection. I quietly excused myself and ran upstairs to find Martin. Surely, he would know what to do. He was in his bedroom, listening to Praise and Worship music. Who were these spirit-filled children anyway? With only days away from turning 16, they both read their Bibles, listened to Christian music, and constantly prayed.
“Uh, Martin, I’m not sure what to do but I think Victor needs your help.” I gave him the story, step-by-step. His face scrunched up as he processed my words, and he began to breathe deeply. He reached on top of his dresser, grabbed his phone, and searched for “Mom” in his phone contacts. He quickly hit the backspace button multiple times, and then punched in her first name instead. I couldn’t quite understand what he was doing, until he then went to the “L” section in his phone’s address book. With curiosity, I watched him then find my name, and delete it out, letter by letter. He then typed, “M O M” where my first name had been.
“Oh, now wait Martin…that’s not what I came up here for. I think your brother needs some help. He’s downstairs crying and honestly I don’t know what to do.” With tears of rejection leaking from his eyes, he replied to me.
“You’ve been more of a mother to me in these past three weeks than I’ve ever had in my entire life. You are my Mom now.”
He ran out of the room to find Victor. I stood there in the silence, heartbroken. Jay and I just wanted them to be okay. How would we help them through this crisis? What exactly had these boys been through anyway? All I knew was that they deserved more…better.
Stay tuned for part three, next week.