Saturday, November 20, 2010

Snorting Stan's Mother

There were always big bumps in the night.

As a Therapeutic Youth Care Worker when I worked overnights, I might be folding laundry when I’d hear a “thump” and the ceiling would shake. I’d tiptoe upstairs with my trusty flashlight, only to find four kids fast asleep. I could’ve sworn somebody must’ve fallen out of bed or threw the fire escape ladder out the window to “run.” Nope. Never.

Always sleeping children.

My first night on the job-- it was about midnight and the rest of the staff had just gotten back from our annual Gala. Two of the gals were sitting on the sofa in the living room. As I walked from the kitchen toward them, one of them jumped. I heard her say, “Oh, I thought it was the ghost”. It was just a reflection from the flashlight. Mind you, she didn’t say “a ghost”, she said “the ghost”. Big difference. “Is there something you guys aren’t telling the new overnighter??“ They just stared at each other.

My first week on the job there were numerous “doorbell rings” in the middle of the night. No one was ever there. Oh, how I hated that. It stood the hairs on the back of my neck straight up. I finally had the house manager disconnect the doorbell…and after eight months, I finally moved to days---someone else could have the thumps. They could also have the static-filled baby monitors that we used to listen to our teenagers trying to sneak a smoke or plot whatever else was on their minds. The only sounds we ever picked up on those things were babies crying. But we didn’t have babies. We were a shelter for children aged 10 -18 years old.

When a youth comes under our care, one of the first things we do is inventory all of their belongings. Some of these kids are just getting out of jail, some are awaiting foster care placement, or maybe a higher level of care somewhere. Many are taken from their homes because of neglect, abuse or both.

One of my very first experiences with inventory went like this: I was still working overnights when this big, hairy kid got dropped off. He was 16 years old, six foot two, long hair, scruffy sideburns, and big, baggy clothes. I got him settled in his room and started writing down everything he owned. I’m sitting on the couch with his file on my lap. I come to this little blue jar tucked inside two baggies. There are rubber bands holding the lid in place. I carefully take it out of the baggies, slide the rubber bands off and lift the little lid. Just as I feared…drugs! I was pretty new at this job and I didn’t know the protocol in this situation. I knew this was serious because my adrenaline was pumping.

Being naive and not knowing what drugs looked like, I decided to sniff it. I was pretty sure I could at least identify pot. There was no odor as I basically snorted the stuff, some of it blew down to my papers. As I licked my finger about to pick some up to taste, a fleeting thought crossed my mind: What if this is a relative? I did not taste it. Scraping up the scattered remains, I put the jar back together as best I could. I wrote on his inventory: “relative?? haha”. I have an odd sense of humor. I was seriously making a joke when I wrote that down.

I went to my boss the next morning and told her what had happened. I told her my fears of finding some crack-cocaine or something of the like. She told me to just go ask the young man.

I took the jar and was visibly shaking as I walked the hallway toward his room. I was not very confident with confrontation in those days. Intimidation is more the word. He opened his door just as I was about to knock. He towered over me. I said, “Stan?” He looked down at me. “Ya?” He mumbled.

“Could you tell me what’s in here?”

“My mom”.

“Oh”, I said in my best, this-is-the-most-normal-thing-I-have-ever-heard-in-the-world-and-I-snorted-your-mother, voice I could muster. “OK”.
Ever since the day I had to confront Stan, sadly, there have been a few more occasions where we encounter cremated parents.  On the positive side of things,  I do know now the difference between drugs, and loved ones. 

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