Part III: The Father
Part IV: Back at the Office
Part V: Interlude
Part VI: The Mother
Part VII: The Pact
I called Becky's assigned public school who insisted that she stay enrolled at the alternative school. I got quite an argument from the alternative school about bringing her back, but it was an argument that I won using the last straw I had to pull out of my hat. It was the law that a child of 14 be in school.
Driving Becky to the school the next day, we chatted about nothing for the most part. When I asked how she felt about returning to school, she just shrugged and changed the subject. Finally, she asked me, "What do I do if that asshole gets in my face again?" We went over the steps to taking a deep breath and thinking through alternatives. She grinned when I told her that by maintaining her cool she would actually win. She was good for her word, and I never heard of any trouble at the school.
I'd meet her after school once a week to run for a donut or just sit and talk in my car. We would talk about what she was covering in school, her friends, and she'd tell me about any situation that came up where she handled it differently than she used to. Best of all, she stopped stinking!
I never met the other caseworker assigned, but talked to him regularly on the phone. He said he made quite a bit of headway getting that apartment cleaned up, and his approach sounded pretty forceful. He also liked Becky, she did what was asked of her. The mother was pretty useless when it came to housekeeping, so it fell on Becky and her older brother to do most of it.
I held onto that case, kept it open and on my list. I was teaching a college psychology course at the time called "Counseling Theory and Ethics" and I used the case to highlight various scenarios for my students. They came to care about Becky as much as I did, and always asked about her. We did a lot of role playing that semester using the various characters in Becky's story while using the various techniques of the counseling theories. It was no surprise that I learned as much from them as they did from me!
Becky's case was still on my list when I left Social Services to teach full time at the community college. I worried for her about returning to the public school when the year started, but she was on solid ground. Our visits had already been fewer and farther in between, so our closure came easily enough.
During the summer of 2000, I worked as an enumerator for the census. I had to call my old unit when I found two very small children alone in a condemned house. My old supervisor updated me about several of my big cases after she took down the particulars of my call. Becky, in particular, was doing very well and was very active in several community efforts as a volunteer. She helped prepare the food for Meals on Wheels, worked at a few soup kitchens and at the food bank. Oh, she was still painting her lips and fingernails black and wearing that spiked dog collar and leather jacket.
Yep, she was still showering and still in school. Whew!
I can't help but wonder about Becky now. I Googled her name and found nothing. Perhaps she married, or maybe she joined one of those aid agencies that help the people in Africa or something. Her face appears in my dreams every now and then, and I can't help but worry about her a little. I sure hope she's OK.
In the beginning, she had my life in her hands, and in the end, I would trust her with my life without a second thought.
Dare I say it? Sure, why not.
(Would you believe this? I'm crying!)