Rage and fury: A Halloween Tale . . .
As I sit here tonight alone in my room, I remember the snowstorm that cancelled Halloween. It was a fierce storm that blew in. My foster son was devastated, and so I promised that when the city held Halloween over the next coming weekend, my consolation was to take him and his friend across town to the “rich section.”
There was still snow on the ground. We loaded up the van, my kid, his friend, and a friend of mine from the old neighborhood, Big Tom Bretta. We pulled up just off of Sheridan where I let Jessie and Steve out to trick or treat. Jessie was dressed in my Ren-fair jacket, hooded and armed with a bow and an empty quiver, to go as Robin Hood. Steve followed Jessie off over the deep drifts and into the brightly-lit neighborhood.
Tom and I stayed in the van, where it was warm. I removed my boots. Placed my sock-covered feet on the dash. Sipped hot mint tea. Relaxing for the moment, mesmerized by icy crystals drifting listlessly through the air.
Thirty minutes later, here came Jessie and Steve, trudging through the snow, ahead and behind groups of parents and kids out for the night’s festivities. Jessie, a scrawny little kid, having grown up in the biker culture, was so completely out of place there among all those parents and kids. And I hoped against hope that tonight he would not show his true colors.
He was halfway back to the van, when he decided to remove his bow from over his hooded head. The string stuck. He pulled. It pulled back. He pulled again. And twang! The wooden bow came back and whacked him square on the nose! The bow went flying. Red hot cuss words filled the air. Jessie had a melt-down right there in the street, parents and kids staring in horror at the Tasmanian Devil transforming into a raving mad lunatic.
Tom, seated in the backseat, asked, “Aren’t you going to stop him?”
I calmly sipped my tea and said, “Naw, I’ll let him sort this one out. Besides, he’s only making a fool of himself, not me. Do you think I want to wade into that?”
It lasted another five minutes, and with parents rushing their kids off to safer quarters, Jessie and Steve trudged on back to the van. “Goddamned bow and arrow!” Jessie cussed. “Goddamned hit me in the face!” I said nothing, knowing when to remain silent. We drove home, Jessie continuing to mutter curses at the “goddamned bow and arrow.”
As I drove off through snow-covered streets, the words came to me, “You will only pass this way once in your life.” And the next words came unbidden out of some unknown space, “And you shall miss these times one day.”
Mind you, this is the kid who was allergic to the word, “No,” who literally blew up whenever I enforced the rules. Who went into Devil-mode whenever he lost control. And who in the hell knew where he went inside his head when he attacked me? Slugged me. Kicked me. Bit me. And even spit on me. He simply checked out and went into rage mode. While I did my best to restrain him. Sometimes his rages lasted over forty minutes, sometimes longer. It exhausted us both. By the time he finally wound down, and settled back to earth, we were both spent.
But this kid taught me more about at-risk children than anyone else. His troubled life impacted mine. He made me more determined to never give up on a kid. Never say, “Quit,” when the times got rough. It was my two long years with him that taught me all I needed to know for the next twenty-some years of my career. No other kid gave me as much trouble. No other kid ever got me to the point that I wanted to give up on him. This Tasmanian Devil changed my life.
So, now as I sit here tonight, thinking of that winter night, those words come back to me now: “And you shall miss these times one day.”
And crazy as it sounds, I surely do. Tears come to my eyes as I write this, for I have never felt so alive as I did back then. In the middle of the fray. Standing at the wall. In the heat of the battle. Doing what I do best. But alas, those days are gone, just as sure as that bow got broken and was swept away when the snows melted. Now all I have are those memories.
It’s true, we only pass this way once, so make the best of it while you live in the here and now. Seize the day, the night, the moment, and every once in awhile, let those memories wash over you, like they did to me tonight. Sometimes to extinguish the rage and fury, you just have to embrace it.