Friday, November 5, 2010

Saving D, Part 2

I'm in a movie. That's it - I'm reading from a script. I must be playing a character because I can hear the words I'm saying, but I don't recognize "parole officer" and "turn yourself in" and "house arrest" as words I would ever need to say.

My former student D is eighteen now. He called me a week ago to tell me many things, all of them troubling:

1. He was just released from prison.

2. He has a four-month-old son who's in foster care.

3. He currently owns only three articles of clothing.

4. He wants to go back to school and graduate, but it would be too embarrassing (see #3).

5. He really wants a job to the point that he's harrassing people, but no one will hire him.

His last words at the end of the call - "Mrs. Rigsbee, can you help me?"

I wrote about some of D's troubles two years ago. Whenever I see him or talk to him, I cry. It's so sad to witness the stereotype of the young, smart kid growing up in poverty and heading in the wrong direction. I cry because I always thought if I cared enough, if I encouraged him enough, he would beat the odds.

He didn't.

And I cry because I don't know what to do to help him now. But this time I start by doing a Google search - I find that he was arrested in April for armed robbery. Later I learn that he was there but had no weapon; two others actually carried out the crime. D was convicted of "accessory after the fact."

Next I do a Department of Corrections Offender search. There's his name, just like it used to sit in my grade book, on his rarely turned in papers, and on the suspension list. I now know his DOC number, his age, his offense, and the fact that he's out of prison...on parole.

That leads me to my next step. I call my county's parole office and find the name of the officer I need in seconds. He returns my call within an hour.

When I have health issues, I pride myself on being educated on what may or may not be going on with my body. I do research to the point that I feel confident that I can converse with a medical doctor to communicate what I need. Not so much with a parole officer.

I know that I don't have the language I need to articulate what I want - some ideas about resources for helping D. As it turns out, it doesn't matter. Halfway into my first sentence, the officer interrupts me: "The thing is....he's at large." I have to think about that one a minute, but finally I get it. He's out there somewhere, they can't find him, and they want him. My heart sinks.

The officer tells me that there are three warrants for D, and he better get in touch before it's too late. I had called because I wanted to help D get a job and some clothes and a place to live. Instead I find myself asking for time...time to find him so I can encourage him to turn himself in. The parole officer gives me one day.

I call D's phone, but it's turned off. I go through my phone frantically and find the number he used when he called me last week. I have no idea whose phone I'm calling, and I'm terrified. A girl answers. I tell her who I am and what I want. She mumbles, barely audible, "Hold on." Another girl comes to the phone. Same scenario.

Finally, "Mrs. Rigsbee?" I talk, words tumbling out of my mouth one after another - "turn yourself in"..."do the right thing"..."I'll help you through this...."

He says, "You don't know how they do. They lie."

I say, "Don't talk without a lawyer. You have a right to have a lawyer present." (I shake my head at the phone. Since when am I Kate Beckett on Castle?)

He resists.

I continue, "D, you've hit rock bottom. You have two ways you can go. You can make something of your life, or you can go to jail. What's it gonna be?"

One thing he wants me to know: "Mrs. Rigsbee," he says quietly. "About my armed robbery know I could never hurt anybody, right?"

"I know, D," I answer, choking on tears again. We hang up so D can make his call. Soon he calls me back to tell me he's going to turn himself in.

And now I wait. I wait for the ending to this movie I'm in. Years ago, I signed up to teach middle school kids, and now I'm the one getting "schooled" on life. I tell D I don't know anything about this world he lives in...all I know about what he's into is what I've seen on tv. He turns his face away from the phone and yells, "Hey, Mrs. Rigsbee thinks my life is a movie!"

Yea, D, and I just pray for a happy ending.


Sioux said...

Cindi---This is a story you should try and publish---whether it is in a teacher's journal or a Chicken Soup for the Soul collection. It's a well-told tale, and the way you ended it is quite clever.

Now, about "D." How tragic. I too hope that he gets a happy ending. We just heard tonight that one of our older boy scouts in our troop is floudering in school, and his mother found some bags of "white powder" in his room( he claims he is only "holding it" for a friend) This young man has not been to a scout meeting in months. His mother provides little supervision. We are going to try and have an "intervention" of sorts to see if we can get him back on track. I hope "O" has a happy ending, too...

Laurie Wasserman said...

Your story was so very sad and touching, and made me think about all the "D's" I've taught. So many have been in jail due to circumstances exactly like this. The saddest and most heartbreaking one is the story of G who is in jail for first degree murder. He was doing drugs with a classmate and they were both high, things got out of control, and you know the rest of the story. G and all his siblings were born from a drug addicted, mentally ill mother. All were eventually removed from the house. It breaks our heart as teachers when we witness kids who aren't cared for and loved, just begging to be parented. How can a child not have enough clothes or food? How can a parent steal from their own child to take care of their needs first? It is horrific.
I will keep D in my thoughts, and you too, because I know every day he is right there when you wake up first thing, and last on your mind before you go to sleep. Please let us know what happens to him.

L. Rodriguez said...

I have only been teaching for eleven years and that is one of my biggest fears. Like you, I feel I would do anything for my students. Our students become our children once they walk through our classroom door and we "feel" everything that happens to them. Every year we have students that we know could end up like D but hope will not. Hearing your story brings tears to my eyes because I can only imagine the feelings that you are experiencing and because it makes me think of all the D's I may have just never heard about. My thoughts and prayers will include both you and D and for the happy ending we all hope to hear about one day.