When I write posts like this I struggle with wondering if I'm sharing too much. But then I remember that this is my blog, about my life and it's not always rosy. I don't want to be one of those bloggers whose life looks so perfect online because they never write about anything crappy that's happening. Fortunately, for me, the happy outweighs the crappy most of the time.
If you don't know the story of Artie, you can read here, here, here (scroll down a little), here, and here. In short, he's a kid who holds a piece of my heart. (I was going to write that's he's special to me, but that doesn't even begin to describe the relationship we've had or how I feel about him.) I've known him since he was born and have loved him and hoped for him since the first time I saw him. My heart's been broken because of him (not by him, necessarily) many, many times, but he's the one who taught me about loving a child. He's a wonderful, creative, funny, charming kid. I guess I should call him a man now, since he turned 20 in March. I can't quite do that, though, since I still think of him as the little 2-year-old boy with the beautiful brown eyes and independent spirit. The little boy who had a whole life ahead of him to do great things: to prove to the world that even though he had an awful childhood, he can rise above it; to be the first in his family to finish high school; to show that even one person rooting for him matters.
I could say that I loved him like he was my own child. But it was different. He wasn't mine and yet I still loved him and gave him all I could. It wasn't enough. It couldn't be enough - he deserved his mom's love and support and everything else a good (even average!) mom gives. He never got that and I can tell you that it eats away at a child when they don't have it. His mom always put her own selfish needs above her children's and wonders to this day why they are such screw-ups.
I've always been there for Artie, his brother and sister and their mom (whom I grew up with). There were many times when I (and Jimmy) rescued them. We filled their refrigerator when the only thing in there were roaches. We took Artie to the hospital when she hurt him. We bought clothes for the kids when they had nothing to wear to school. I volunteered at his schools. I did his homework with him. I called CPS when she abused them. (All before they came to live with us.) We raised for her kids for five years so she could get clean. It never happened. What did happen was that two of them hate us. All three are lost and struggling. What did we accomplish?
I'm not writing this to get pats on the back. I have enough of them. I know that we did a great thing and that not everyone would do what we did. I don't care! We did it thinking that we could make a difference. When I say that to some people they remind me how bad it could be - that he could be a murderer or something equally awful without our influence. That does not make me feel better. You know those after-school specials/commercials/movies that tell you that just one person can make a difference in a kid's life? They make me angry.
We saw the horrible, disgusting things Artie's mom did to him and his siblings. We tried to make it better. We tried to help. All three kids were in therapy. All three had healthcare, clothes on their backs, food in their bellies and a clean, safe house to come home to everyday. We loved them. Instead of thanks, we were threatened by their family (who, by the way, never stepped up and offered to take care of the kids).
As Artie's therapist once said to me, "You and Jimmy tried to fill the Grand Canyon. You can't."
I never wanted Artie to grow up and be a doctor or a lawyer or anything like that. I didn't even care if he went to college. I just wanted him to grow up. To be happy. To rise above. To be proud of himself.
I feel like I have to end this on a positive note. What that whole situation did do for me was to make me so incredibly grateful for Malayna. She's loved. She's ours. She has a normal, perfectly happy life.