Yesterday afternoon I received a phone call from my son that he needs a lift to the emergency room, because he cut his hand badly last night and today noticed that there are big chunks of glass wedged deep within the wound which he can not remove.
Of course, as mothers do, I said I would pick him up and take him to the hospital in 20 minutes. I had to know though, how did it happen? He slipped, while walking, on the wet pavement and he was holding a bottle.
My youngest was not impressed as it was her last day at home from her winter break, her sister had gone back to her school the day before, so today should have been just about her. Not a fun way for an 8 year old to spend her last afternoon of her holidays!
As I pulled up on the street corner, I saw my son a few yards away, smiling and chatting to another young man. He looked good. My son looked to be enjoying himself, fully engaging in conversation, smiling, laughing. He looked like a good looking young man enjoying himself. He looked happy.
My first glance at my son made me happy. Then reality sunk in and I was no longer happy. I was not looking at my nearly 19 year old son hanging out with his class mate after uni, waiting for me to help him do his grocery shopping before I dropped him at his flat where he shares with other classmates....just a nice hypothetical example, one of many "nicer" alternatives to the truth.
I was watching my homeless son, chatting to his fellow homeless mate who was enjoying a can of cider, standing outside the drug and alcohol clinic, waiting for me to take him to the hospital to get his hand stitched up. This was not right. This was causing me a great sense of cognitive dissonance. This was making me feel edgy. AND he was making me wait, because he was enjoying himself!
Upon arriving at the hospital, he tells the true story behind his injury. The day it happened he had gone to the corner shop and stole a can of extra strong cider and a bottle of wine. He then proceeded to the park where he consumed all of the wine and cider. He was, according to him, enjoying himself and got a bit drunk. This led him to want more, so foolishly he went back to the SAME shop and attempted to steal another bottle of wine. He thought he got away with it, but once outside a man from the shop and a guard dog chased my son down the street. This is when and how my son fell and fell with the bottle of wine which smashed in his hand as he fell. The man caught him, and according to my son, dragged him back to the shop by the scruff of the neck. When my son tried to escape his hold, he threatened to sick the dog on him. Once back at the shop, the manager decided there was no point calling the police since there was no longer evidence that he took anything, it was broken and all over the pavement somewhere. They let him go with the warning that he is not allowed to ever enter the shop again.
Having finished his story, he also told me that his hand was bleeding quite a lot after it happened and he wondered around and eventually went into a church that was holding an evening service. When some of the parishioners noticed the state of his hand they were concerned and offered him tissues. After the service the clergyman helped my son with his first aid kit, and everyone was very nice and helpful, though he didn't think the cuts in his hand were a big concern. All the while when he was telling me this, he was calm, relaxed even smiling and chuckling at times.
As he stood by the car door, very comfortable with the fact that he was going into the emergency room to get stitched up, he did not seem too bothered. I told him that I hope this is not the beginning of things to come. He said that it probably is and that he will probably get into fights and such and receive much worse injuries. I drove away sad, worried, and disappointed.
I reflected on our car journey home, how he was telling me, with his young sister in the back seat, how it is actually good being homeless. He gets a room and taxi. He gets fed decent food every night. There are churches that they go and hang out in to get warm and get light lunches during the day. He has free time and he is out doing a lot of stuff, not just sleeping and sitting indoors all the time like he was at home. He has no one hassling him, and the people don't judge and they are nice.
Right now being homeless, having a shelter with a special night provision, doing your own thing is an adventure my son is enjoying. I hope he gets housed in the supported housing project (that excepted him in early/mid December) has an opening soon, before this adventure turns into a chosen way of life that my son chooses over an improved living accommodation where he would get support with the intention of moving forward toward independent and healthy living. Something tells me once in a house with rules and boundaries to adhere to, he will look at homelessness as the better option for him. I hope my feeling is wrong.