Journal of a Living Lady #280
Nancy White Kelly
The phone call brought forth a huge wave of nostalgia. The red-haired, freckled faced, ten-year-old boy was waiting with his few meager things. He was pacing the sidewalk outside the Children’s Home waiting for us to come. When our car pulled up beside him, he flashed his huge signature smile. He was finally going to a home where he would be, for the time being, an only child.
The home had called us a couple of weeks before to tell of a child who was left there with two older brothers by a mother who couldn’t care for them. David had trouble adjusting to group home life and the counselor thought he’d do better in a foster home. This was ten years before the birth of our own, late-in-life, son, Charlie.
David was the second of many foster children we would nurture for a number of years. He was a charmer. David was also mischievous and plenty stubborn. He liked to be the life of the party and did most anything to blend in with his peers.
In his early teens, the school called to say that David was staggering in the halls. The principal suspected that David was using drugs. I was insistent that he was just showing off. Many months later I found out that I was wrong. He had marijuana which was all too common in the 1970’s.
When he was fifteen, David and Buddy spent many months fixing up a car which was to be his first shot at real independence. On his sixteenth birthday, we gave him permission to drive it to church and back. He was to have no passengers. A few hours later we got a call that the car was in a ditch far away, but that the carload of boys were okay.
Things went from bad to worse. He tried going home to his birth mother. Life was entirely different in a looser environment. No mon. No fun. Repeatedly he came back home only to resent reasonable rules.
After high school, he went into the Air Force, but was soon given a general discharge due to marijuana use. Time and again we helped him on his feet, but eventually he landed in jail for shoplifting and employer theft. After serving his time, we gave him a new chance at home with us until he could get a job and get on his feet. I remember the probation officer warning us “that boy would kiss the ground and eat dirt right now to be free. But the honeymoon probably won’t last.” He was right.
David had a good voice and loved Elvis. He even sang at his own wedding. Charlie, then four, was the ring bearer. The brief marriage didn’t last, but he did have a daughter that he dearly loved. David was given few opportunities to see her for good reason. He wasn’t a responsible individual or parent. Yet that didn’t keep him from writing poems and songs for and about her. Sometimes he even wrote lovingly about me.
The phone call last week was from a friend telling us that David had died from collapsed lungs, asthma, and heart failure while on crack cocaine. He was 46.
Our first foster child, a rebellious teen, has passed away also. She turned her life around and was the mother of three fine daughters. Severe diabetes took its toll of her fragile body. She was barely in her 40’s also.
Though not blood related, they were our children: David for seven plus years and Linda for four. I miss them. They held such promise.
Life is serious, and for some, short. My mind keeps returning to that line in the Robert Frost poem from high school: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference. “
One young man took the wrong road and made wrong choices. I am sad today.