Lost Boy – summer of ’04

I’m posted the first version of this post on Wednesday August 4 from an Internet Cafe in Canmore, Alberta, where I was camping on holidays. I came for the Canmore Folk Festival and arrived in time to see most of the Festival in spite of car trouble. I finished this post from my friend Randy’s house in Edmonton on August 5.
I had a call Wednesday morning from Red, the manager of the group home where n. is nominally staying. He said n. had come back after several nights awol, but was voicing ideas of hopelessness and worthlessness. Red wanted to call in the Mobile Crisis Intervention unit to meet and assess him.

I haven’t mentioned n. in my posts since June 23.
Claire went to her mother’s family cottage on the weekend of June 26 and 27, and I managed to find n. at the group home and to connect with him that Friday. He had been awol from the group home and I realized that he seemed to be staying with his friend Mark B. at a residence on St. Mary’s Road in St. Vital. Mark’s family name and phone number had been recorded in the call display of my telephone recently, and I recognized it as a number n. had called from last fall when he was on the street for the first time.
N. agreed to meet me and let me my him dinner on Friday evening if I picked him up in St. Vital. He also agreed to come home Saturday night to have dinner and watch a movie, if I would let him use the computer to download songs and burn a CD. We managed to talk on Friday, but he spent most of his time on Saturday using the computer.
He said he didn’t like the group home because it was boring. He did not have access to a computer or a video game console. He said he had a video game console at his friend’s house. He said he had been promised “independent living” by his CFS worker and was getting tired of it. His view of that program is that he would get an apartment with the rent paid by the government. I didn’t hear from n. for the next few days.
I later learned that his friend Mark B. had been in jail most of the winter on drug charges, and had been released on a bail review in May, under house arrest. Mark is an adult with a history of stealing cars for joyriding and dumb stunts. It would seem that when Mark got out of jail and went home, n. connected with him and managed to stay with him.
On Sunday July 4, n. called me in the evening. He wanted to get together and suggested I could buy him supper. I picked him up at the St. Vital mall and I saw that his buddy Cody was hanging around when I picked him up. I think that Cody uses crystal meth a lot, although he uses anything else he can get too. He has that lean skeletal look. I think n. doesn’t use crystal except when Cody is around. N. seems to get agitated and gets into his most harmful and wildest behaviour with Cody.
N. seemed to be pressing me to get the meal. He suggested a quick trip to the take-out at the nearest fast food place. He smelled of cigarettes. I suspect that he was going to take off when he had the food in his hand. I told him that he was manipulating me into getting him a meal after he had been avoiding his group home.
He said he wanted to talk and he told me that he found his life was pointless but he immediately also said that he was not thinking about suicide. I listened with some skepticism because n. has a history of manipulation to get sympathy. I thought he was finding that his life was not as much fun as he thought it was going to be, and that he was playing the illness card to get some respite. He complained about the group home, repeating his old complaint that it was boring, and adding complaints about his roommate. He said he couldn’t sleep there because his roommate snored.
After I listened to his story, I told him that my life was boring too and that I was trying to maintain my healthy habits – cycling with my friends and taking care of myself, and his sister, and our home. He got angry and accused me of not listening to him. I said I had come out, late in the evening, when I was tired, on short notice. I had agreed to buy food and he had started to try to manage my purchases. I wondered what he was doing with Cody. I said I could take him for dinner, or take him back to the group home. He said he had plans and didn’t want to go back yet. I gave him a bus ticket to get home. I went home.
On Monday July 5, I heard from Jan. She had gone to her family’s cottage at Minaki on Friday, and had received a call from n. on her cell phone. He had wanted her to take him to the lake, and she had refused because she was already in transit. She had also given him a series of rules and limits. Apparently n. didn’t like her conditions.
N. and two friends, one of them being Cody and the other named Myles (I am not sure if Jan recognized Myles or if she took n’s word that it was Myles) turned up at the island at midnight on Saturday night, ready to camp and to cook sausages over a campfire. To keep this simple, it looks like n. and his friends had stolen a car, driven to Minaki, stole a boat, and got to the island. There were stories about break-ins and thefts in town that night, including thefts of gasoline.
I’m wondering if Jan still believes that n. has problems with his memory or any real excuses for his bad school work. He hasn’t been to the lake in two years and he got there in the dark. I checked with the group home during the week. N. did come back Sunday night and managed to sneak Cody into the house. They found him in a closet. N. then went awol for a few nights.
I didn’t hear from n. for over two weeks. I came home one night during the Winnipeg Folk Festival to find that there were some calls logged in the call display on my phone that suggested that n. had tried to call me that weekend. He called me, with some pressure from Iris, his key worker at the group home, on Wednesday July 21 and I spent time with him over the weekend of July 24 and 25. He had been awol from the group home several nights during the weeks of July 4 and July 11, but started to spend more time there the week of July 18.
He had managed to hide in freezer in a department store one day the preceding weekend and was caught in the store after hours and brought to the group home by the police.
He was sick on Friday July 23 and refused to walk to a doctor’s office with staff. I picked him up after work and took him to a doctor. He had a cold or flu, but nothing serious. Basically, he been stubborn about his illness to get one of his parents to pay attention to him. On Saturday, he dropped by the house while I was painting, and on Sunday I had him at the house while Claire was out with friends, and we watched a DVD movie.
He said doesn’t like the rules of the group home, and he spent a lot of time complaining about the living conditions and the rules. He asked me what he had to do to come home. I said that wasn’t happening now because he isn’t trustworthy and because he doesn’t seem to be able to handle himself around me without turning everything into a game or contest. I said he had to spend some time in the group home and learn to take care of himself and prove that he could take care of himself – get up in the morning, go to school, get a job, without constant adult pressure.
I left on holiday last Friday, July 30. I have been checking with the group home and he has largely been awol since Thursday night July 29, until Tuesday night (August 3).
When Red called me, I agreed that he should call for the assessment. I gave him my perspective, which is that n. is honestly uncomfortable in some parts of his life but is still trying to manipulate the situation. He wants the resources of the group home without the rules and is using sickness and emotional distress to get people to back off on enforcing rules. When Red didn’t call back by noon I called him. He said that the Mobile Crisis team had interviewed n. and had concluded that n’s problem is that he is oppositional (there seems to be some discussion of a new category of mental disorder called oppositional-deviant disorder; I don’t think it has DSM status yet). They felt his complaints of emotional distress were being used to avoid dealing with the rules of the group home.
Red felt that he would have to ask n. to leave the program because n. has done very little in over two months. I asked him to put n. on the phone. I told n a little about my trip – the car trouble, the weather, the happiness of being in Canmore. I said I wished he could be with me, and that I hoped we might make a trip together another year. I suggested that he should look at getting back into school. I told him I loved him.
n. has been running wild for the summer, which was his dream and his plan. He is starting to find that a life of freedom from rules and responsibility is not as easy or enjoyable as he had expected it to be, but he is still trying to get people to support his choice instead of trying to learn to live with rules and responsibility. He has not managed to get kicked of the group home but that may happen soon. I will have to hope that CFS will put him in another group home instead of another hotel placement and that he goes into rehab and goes to school. In another year he will be in the adult welfare and criminal justice systems, and he will have to learn some harder lessons about the consequences of breaking rules.
I can’t think of anything I can do now except to keep my distance, and let him learn some lessons, and hope that he is open to appropriate professional intervention. I can’t let him come home now because he would wreck my life. I can’t take charge of getting him to get up in the morning, go to school. I can’t play policeman against his thefts, drug use, and general criminal attitude towards me. It would make me and his sister crazy.


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