N. is 18 today, and it has been more than two years since he ran away. I stopped writing about him in February. I stopped bargaining with him. I stopped responding to his demands and requests. I stopped trying to give him advice.
He continued under CFS care for a few more months. He kept getting into arguments with the workers assigned to supervise him in hotel arrangements. CFS got him a room at the Salvation Army and left him alone. I think his drug use continued. I know there were some criminal ventures, and that he was arrested and charged. He called me from time to time and I met him for coffee or a burger a few times. He seems to have continued to deal with the same group of people. Some of his adult friends ended up in jail. He said he was giving up crystal meth but he did not ask for treatment for his addiction. I think he tried to limit his use, and that he had a problem with giving it up.
In June he said he was going to get a job. He also said that a different agency would take over until he was 18 and support him with place to stay. He wanted me to pick up his goods from the Salvation Army and hold them until he had got a new place. The next I heard, he was headed for Halifax. He left with some other young people, and he seemed to have planned this for a while before it happened. He told me, in one phone call, that they expected to find work on the fishing boats, which was a good story. I wonder why he thought I would buy that. I don’t know what they did for transportation and living expenses on the road. He tried to get me to send money during his first week there. He gave up on that after a few days and a few calls. He now says he has a room, and has a job at a Subway since early July. He hasn’t asked for much – only that I forward his birth certificate. He has told his mother some stories about honour fights with his buddies and broken teeth.
I think he is as safe as he can be, perhaps safer than he was in Winnipeg. He has to avoid getting involved with the police, because if he is arrested in Halifax, he may get sent back here, where he has unfinished business in the courts, complicated by his having absconded. There may be other unfinished business on the street. It will be good if he can avoid more legal trouble, hold down a job, start a more normal life. He turned from shy and stubborn boy into a teen slacker and stoner, into an addict and a thief. His choices have been motivated by the pursuit of a kind of psychological comfort – a predictable set of pleasures and challenges involving male bonding, adventure, drugs, and sex. Survival seems to be assured in the sense that he doesn’t need to worry about food and shelter. He does take risks. He may be headed for a life of degradation and poverty but he has chosen it because appears to him, for now, to be a challenging, interesting and enjoyable life.
I have a sense of having failed to do many of the things that I expected to do as a parent. I thought I had created as safe and comfortable home, and given him the opportunities and means for a good life. I loved him, I thought I was connected, that he was learning to value his intelligence. He was, obviously, learning to play me to get what he wanted, and I was not mature or engaged enough to manage or educate him very well.
I would feel better about my life as a parent if he had separated from me more gently, and established himself in a safer way. He has handicapped himself. It will be a challenge for him to earn enough to have the rudimentary material things that contribute to happiness and safety. He has learned that he can’t get them by asking for them, lying or playing his parents.
Happy birthday, big guy. We’ll talk when you’re older. I love you.