Going Home

There are some messages we never want to receive. In our time they often come as phone calls; for earlier generations it would have been a telegram, a letter in a hasty scrawl, an out-of-breath messenger bearing the summons, Come as soon as you can, there isn’t much time. On the last day of November, my mother made one of those dreaded phone calls. To me.

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Why Foster?

The first call came last Thursday: a local number I didn’t recognize, but which I thought might be the kennel I had called that morning. In less than forty-eight hours I had to relinquish my dog to someone else’s care, and I still hadn’t confirmed who exactly that “someone else” would be. But it wasn’t the kennel; it was the Department of Child Services. And instead of relinquishing, I was being asked to take in, not a dog, but a child—an eleven-year-old white male.

It had only been two days since my foster parent support worker called to tell me she’d received the news I was fully approved, and my home was officially open to placements. It was less than four months since I submitted an online request for more information on becoming a foster parent in Knox County. Despite six weeks of classes, a home study, and lots of research, I still didn’t feel ready. And the simple fact is I wasn’t ready. I still had three long work trips ahead of me before I’d be home for more than a few days at a time.

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Why We Read and Write Hard Things

When I was a kid, I had to write a book report in Senior English. Ms. Southern gave us a list of famous novels and works several pages long, and each student was to choose from among these. I was a rather morose teenager, enjoying moody music and—as with many teenagers, I expect—anything that smacked of resistance for resistance’ sake. As to what we were resisting, who could say? This being the case though, I perused the list and selected the suggestively titled Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut.

I didn’t know any Vonnegut. The title felt like a fragment of the cultural landscape, like a roadside hillock I had passed a million times without thinking about it. Plus, it seemed to imply violence of a kind, which fit well into my social lexicon. This was the dawn of the new millennium; Gladiator had come out, along with the acrobatic martial arts of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. My friends and I had recently discovered Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. I enjoyed Michael Crichton novels and bloody Japanese cartoons. In that instance, violence at least felt like a method of enduring schoolwork’s rigors and ennui.

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Invisible Hope

It can be dark,
dark as night.

It can be thick, and damp, and endless.

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