October 24, 2010

Evicted

“We have to move,” Little Biker Boy told me last week. “We’ve been evicted.”

As soon as he said the words, I knew it had to be true. He wouldn’t have known the word evicted otherwise.

I had wondered how long the landlord would put up with the police visits, the neighbor complaints, the many broken rules. The family needs to move out of the little trailer by November 30. It will be winter. I don’t know where they will go.

Ponytail hasn’t said much at all. That day, she sat on my lap and cried about a cut she had on her finger. Then she went back to playing with the traintracks on the floor. But Little Biker Boy talks to me about it every day.

“When I’m older and I have a car,” he said. “I’m going to come visit you.”

“That’s right,” I told him. “I’ll still be here.”

“I’ll come visit you, and we can sit at the table and drink tea,” he said. He has watched me drink tea with Beautiful Smart Wonderful Daughter.

“That’s right,” I said. “And I’ll make apple pie.”

I reminded him that he’s like one of my kids. “You aren’t like your father or your mother’s boyfriend or Ponytail’s father,” I said. I went through the list of abusive alcoholic men that have come through his life in the last couple of years, naming each one. “You aren’t like them.”

“No, I’m not,” he said, nodding his head with emphasis.

“You are like my kids. Like Boy in Black. Or Shaggy Hair Boy. Or With-a-Why,” I said. It’s a ritual conversation; we’ve had it over and over again.

“When I’m older, I’m going to be like one of your kids,” he said.

I poured him a glass of milk: he was testing the vegan chocolate cupcakes I’d made. He ate a cupcake and gave it his approval.

“I have a car,” I told him. “I can come get you sometimes, and you and Ponytail can come visit. Do you remember my phone number?”

He nodded as he always does, and recited the number back to me. Then he said, as he always does: “I have your phone number in my heart.”

59 comments:

EmmaNadine said...

This makes me cry.

Rebecca said...

Have you considered becoming eligible for doing foster care? That way if something happens and those kids have to be removed from their mom, they'll have a comfortable and familiar place to stay. I say this because I've been getting the training myself and I've learned that it has happened in a lot of cases that kids get taken in by a neighbor.

Anjali said...

This is heartbreaking.

What Now? said...

Oh, heartbreaking. I'm so glad you've been a part of their lives, and I hope there's a way that connection can continue. If nothing else, they've seen up close what a functional family looks like, which will help them realize that there are other options besides what they've been raised in. But it's all so very, very sad.

Mom2BJM(Amy) said...

It is really heartbreaking for those two sweet children, but it is also very heartwarming that they know that YOU care about and love

Mom2BJM(Amy) said...

them... (oops)

KathyR said...

Oh, this makes me sad.

Byrde said...

heartbreaking
and so glad to know that they have someone whose phone number they can call, who has been and provided good role models
and still so heartbreaking

Lilian said...

oh no!!!!

I knew what it was when I saw the post's title. It would happen sooner or later, right? I'm so so sorry that these poor kids won't have you anymore. :-(

Well, you did all you could and I hope that your influence over them can be a lasting one.

yes... this is heartbreaking, like everyone said.

elswhere said...

Oh, Jo(e).

(o)

Sarah Sometimes said...

This is so very sad, as everyone has said. I think all of us readers were so taken up with the story of how these children had become part of your family, and so glad for them, and it seemed kind of like a fairytale with a happy ending, but you of course were preparing yourself for this. I'm glad Little Biker Boy is talking to you about how he feels. I will be praying and hoping for those children. And missing hearing about them. And I know you will miss them, so sending you lots of love, too.

Sawa said...

I have tears in my eyes reading your post. Absolutely heartbreaking.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

So heartbreaking. Those poor little ones. You are so good to them, and I'm so glad that they have your phone number memorized. It's a good thing what you're doing, reminding him that he'll grow up to be like one of your kids, and that he doesn't have to turn out like those other men in his life.

Jennifer said...

This is making me cry. Those poor kids. I hope they end up still near you. You are their good thing.

Marni said...

Oh that breaks my heart.

jodi said...

I'm so sorry for all of you.

Di said...

Crying, Jo(e),

But at the same time, knowing that even if you never see each other again, you have made a world of difference. I speak from experience.

kristin said...

tears, flowing

Bardiac said...

So very sad. But, hopefully, Biker Boy will grow up to be like your kids, too.

liz said...

Sobbing.

Kate said...

And... I'm crying too. A lot. Had to close the office door. I don't want this to happen. I've followed these kids through your blog, and been rooting for them. I'm in amazement at your patience and love and caring.

Everything you have done for them has been worth it. You have made such a difference for them. You will matter to them for the rest of their lives, and when things are hard, they will remember you, and remember that people love them, and they'll remember your kids, and that they can be like them.

landismom said...

Like everyone, crying as I read this. Heartbreaking for them and you.

I'm so glad you have had the time with them that you have.

Psycgirl said...

Oh no :(
Please please stay in touch with those kids jo(e)!

ChrisinNY said...

I am so teary here. I will hold them in my heart and hope and pray that they are able to evade repeating the same situations they are exposed to in their home life as they grow up.

Leslie M-B said...

Tears here, too--though these kids are so very, very fortunate to have you and your family in their lives.

Songbird said...

Oh, jo(e). My heart goes out to you, and to them.

sherry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
immersion said...

How very unsettling. Know that what you have given, a full heart freely loving them, will indeed keep them strong. My prayer will be that they carry that within, without fading.

Rev Dr Mom said...

How sad for those kids, and for you. But what a wonderful thing for them that you have been in their lives however briefly, an oasis as it were. A blessing.

motherissues said...

Thanks, jo(e), for what you've done in caring for these kids (in many senses of the phrase!) and helping them through tough times. As a foster/adoptive parent, I think one of the best things people can do in difficult situations is do everything possible to keep kids out of foster care but still as safe as they can be. I've been so glad to see you expressing to your readers how that can work. It's been so meaningful to me from the other side.

And to the comment made earlier, it wouldn't be necessary for you to have a foster license because you're "fictive kin" for foster caring terms and that would be good enough to get you considered as a potential placement if they ever do go into care. As long as Little Biker Boy knows your number, that's one option if something worse comes to pass. Thank you, though. I think of the teens I've dealt with and how things might have been better for them if they'd had a jo(e) and I'm just so grateful.

Lomagirl said...

Jo(e)- I'm crying, too. Poor children. And how wise of you to say these things with biker boy.
The two of them have a whole community on the web praying for them and wishing them well, and I hope that, along with all that you have put into them, will suffice.
Blessings.

Ianqui said...

I have also always been interested in these children, and I have been in awe of your patience and selflessness with these kids. I like to think that I would have been as welcoming as you've been, but I don't know if it's true--you've been so generous.

So, what now? Are you going to try to keep in touch with them? Do you know the mom well enough to talk to her about it all? Or is it most realistic just to wait to see if Little Biker Boy will get in touch with you if and when they need you?

kathy a. said...

oh, no. i hope they end up nearby.

Amber said...

So many tears. Big hugs to all of you.

jo(e) said...

Ianqui: So much depends on how far away they move. If they stay within a reasonable distance, I have no doubt that their mother will continue to call and ask for favors (she has no car, for instance, so she always needs rides place, and she also often has to borrow cash), and I will be able to keep in touch that way. I have no doubt she would let me come get the kids and bring them to my house for a visit. The toughest part, though, is that she uses track phones, so she never has a consistent phone number so I would mostly have to wait for her to call or I will have to drive by wherever they are living. It's going to be much, much harder when the kids are no longer within walking distance. I'm really hoping the kids stay in the same school district because that's another way I can keep track of them.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Thank you for writing about these children. It has made me more aware of the troubled children around me, and the different ways that responsible adults can help them.

I hope they find a warm safe place to live. I hope they can keep going to the same school. I hope they get to keep their bikes. I hope they never need to call you (but are able to do so 'just because').

AmpersandPrime said...

Oh, wow. I trust that the universe will make a way for you to keep up with them.

kathy a. said...

i really hope they can stay in the same school. their home life is so chaotic -- moving and losing your family as a safe haven on the same street will be disruptive enough, without having to be the new kids in the middle of the year, knowing nobody and not having been part of the class.

is it possible the caseworkers can help locate housing? mom's obviously not going to come with a good rec from the former landlord, and equally obviously, her funding is limited.

jo(e), i'm glad biker boy is talking about it. poor ponytail is probably scared out of her mind. this kind of stress is not going to improve their mother's parenting, either. i'm afraid there are going to be meltdowns these next weeks. xoxo

Anonymous said...

Is there any legal way for them to avoid eviction? If the case went before a judge perhaps he would decide in their favor.

kathy a. said...

you know, a lot of evictions in situations like this are not totally legal, but the tenants don't know enough to dispute them.

most states have requirements about the reasons for eviction, how tenants must be served, the amount of notice, how evictions can be disputed, etc. a general resource for the law in various states is www.findlaw.com.

legal aid (or a private non-profit aimed at housing or landlord/tenant matters) might be able to provide advice and assistance -- check your phone book. they may also be connected to social service agencies and charities that might help. what legal aid offices can do varies by location, and funding to provide services to poor people is, as you can guess, often one of those things that gets cut. but it can't hurt to ask.

jo(e) said...

To say that the family have not been model tenants is an understatement. To be honest, I'm surprised that landlord hasn't evicted them before.

He gave them ample notice (more than 30 days), which is all that is required by law.

Yes, a caseworker will likely help them find a place, but it will likely be in the city, and not out in this small town. Their funding is limited to what the government gives her.

Rana said...

*hug*

Lorianne said...

This is so sad, but not surprising. You've done so much to protect these children, but so much is out of your hands.

I hope you can keep in touch with the children, somehow. Whatever happens, though, you've already made a world of difference in their lives, as others have noted, simply by showing them that what they see at home is not the only way to act and be in a family.

susan said...

Oh, Jo(e)....those sweet children. I think they have more than your phone # in their hearts.

RageyOne said...

oh, it breaks my heart that they are moving. your house is their safe-haven. what will they have now? :(

Yankee, Transferred said...

I hope the parents are at least with-it enough to see the importance of you, and that you will be able to keep in touch.
Such a sad, sad story.

Hugs to you, jo(e)

nikki said...

I'm so sad and so scared for these kids now. You have been the mom they have needed.

comebacknikki said...

Oh, jo(e), this is so very sad. I really hope you'll be able to continue to be a part of their lives.
{{{jo(e)}}}

Gawdessness said...

you probably know this already but making that effort to stay in their lives makes a profound difference, all the difference in the world. Thank you for taking these kids into your heart, even when you know it can hurt you, and thank you for staying with them as best as you can. That really is world changing, I know it is.

JustMe said...

wow, just heartbreaking....

Kimberly said...

You had me at "We have to move", another weeping reader. I have repeated every post you have written about these kids to my family for over a year. Their story has been a catalyst of awareness. I imagine the energy of goodwill that has been unleashed throughout the world by your words will bless upon them a miraculous journey. If a strangers from New Zealand can morn for their circumstances, the universe is surely to respond with loving kindness... I know this is not the end of this story

readersguide said...

Oh, this is heartbreaking. I hope you can keep in touch with them -- I think the longer you can, the more of a chance they'll have. Poor kids.

Anonymous said...

Jo(e). I read your blog once in a while. Enough to know these kids. I should tell you that I had a pretty awful childhood. However, there were people (some neighbours, some teachers) who believed in me. I didn't stay in touch with many of them, but they did have a huge impact upon me. They said what you did...I was a good person, and not like the people around me. It made a difference...a big one. I've never, never forgotten those moments. And I grew up to be a happy person with a great family (I still pinch myself on a regular basis). So, even if you never see them again, you did what you could to let them know others believe in them. Sign me as "Northern Capital Fan".

jo(e) said...

Thanks Anonymous (and other commenters as well.)

I'm always a little hesitant to write about the little neighbor kids, but I do so in hopes it will help readers notice kids in their own communities who need a little attention from a neighbor.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jo(e),

I've never commented before, but I just wanted to share, like everyone else, how much my thoughts are with you and these kids, and how inspiring your relationship with them has been (and still is). I've been wondering for a while, since I know someone who seems to be in a similar situation to the mom of the family -- overtaxed, low on money and resources, has been involved with some sketchy partners -- what's your relationship like with her? When she borrows money or asks for a ride, does it feel like any friend saying "Hey, can you lend me some money for milk? We're out, and I won't have grocery money for a while," or is there a sense of a power difference there? Again, I'm asking out of curiosity, but one motivated by wanting more insight into my own realtionship with someone who struggles (yet, at the same time, is very proud). All relationships are different, of course, but since you do seem to have good interactions with this mom, I wonder if you can share how you've managed it? Besides being so open and caring, that is, and such an amazing friend to her kids.

- Patsy

Digger said...

Jo(e), Hugs @ you, and for them.

east village idiot said...

There is nothing to add to that poignant exchange. You have been a blessing in their lives - a buoy. And that never goes away, even if they must.

Kyla said...

I'm so sad for them...and you. You've been such a powerful GOOD in their life, I hate that it will be less present in their daily lives now. I know you'll continue to support them, but their safe zone will be farther from them now.

Anonymous said...

Jo(e), I have read your blog for a long time and never commented. The latest developement is very sad. The stories of the neighbor kids are touching. I hope that biker boy does grow up to be like your children too.

A possible way to keep in touch is to use google voice. Your neighbor would need to be willing to keep her current phone number updated. If there are people she doesn't want to keep up with then she should not give them the google number.