This one time at Writer's Camp…
20 very short years ago, I met my dad for this first time.
April 26, 1992 (thank you Sublime for making the greatest day in my life the opening lyrics of your most controversial song… hard to forget that day)
Oh, he wasn’t a dead-beat dad or anything like that at all. I was a 13 year old kid in a group home, looking for a permanent home. I had been in and out of other group homes since the age of 4. I’d had a few shots with the birth family but things were just so wrong between us that it would never work (a realization that took me ten more years to figure out).
This — well, curmudgeonly is the only way to describe him — old bastard walks in while I’m at basketball practice (yes, Leroy’s Boys Home had a basketball team. Two actually, a JV and Varsity) and takes a look around at all the kids. I didn’t really notice (I get tunnel vision when I play sports, and nothing else in the world is going on when I am) and was confused when, twenty minutes later, I was pulled out of practice by one of the counselors. Me, thinking I was in trouble, get very nervous as I was led back to my house (we had houses… 8 in all I think, each holding…. 12? 14? kids) and plopped down in the psychiatrists office. Note: this was less than two weeks after I had gotten into a fight with another kid after the other kid had jumped me in one of the hallways. So I look over and this curmudgeonly old guy is sitting there. The psychiatrist (I think she called herself a social worker, but I only had one social worker that counted to me) then proceeded to ask me some questions:
Have I ever thought about a foster home?
Was I afraid of men?
Am I adjusted at school? (this was a big one because most kids at Leroy’s stayed on campus for school. Only 4 or 5 were allowed to go to regular school. Despite my lack of proper schooling, I was leaps and bounds beyond what they were teaching at the campus school so they decided I needed to go to regular school)
I answered “sure” because I was still a little confused, so this old guy asks me if I wanted to go for pizza. I was young and, well, hey… free pizza. So I said sure. We go out…
….and the freaking Los Angeles riots break out.
I kid you not. True story.
So all said and done, I am thankful that the man who was looking for another short term foster kid ended up with a son. Let’s hope that nobody decides to celebrate our 20 years with another citywide bonfire.
That’d be grossly overstating things.
But no worries, Dad. If they do, we’ll bust out the magnesium bricks and freak out the Boy Scout moms… again.