By Mike Steffanos
I never had any biological children. It wasn't so much a choice as a consequence of my inability to sustain a relationship when I still had the youth and patience to be a father. Still, like many fatherless middle-aged men, I have surrogates who satisfy my need to mentor and nurture without the responsibility of full-time parenting. Then there is my adopted son Metsie 2007, who frankly gives me nothing but grief.
What's really frustrating with this kid is that despite how much I care about him, there's little I can actually do to help him when he goes astray. I've tried getting angry, I've attempted unconditional support, and even tried ignoring him for a time. Nothing seems to work. Sure, Metsie will have stretches where it seems like he's turned himself around, but inevitably, he will fall flat on his face when I am just starting to believe he might make it.
I don't even know where his Mom and I went wrong. He got off to a promising start in life. He was tops in his class for a while -- a bright, gifted kid who fairly oozed promise. Still, there were little signs that we probably should have picked up on, like when the little tyke passed out drunk at his fifth grade graduation, and those phone bills with thousands of dollars worth of calls to 1-900 numbers. There were those disturbing email exchanges with imprisoned serial killers that I guess should have raised red flags. Still, we loved Metsie, and blindly put all those foibles down to youthful hijinks.
Sadly, though, as Metsie moved from the springtime of his life and into the summer, his problems got much worse. His performance was often abysmal, but what mother and I found really disturbing was that Metsie seemed almost ambivalent to his own struggles. It was much harder to tolerate his constant failings when he would only shrug them off. He didn't even seem concerned enough to fake caring.
As my despair and disgust threatened to dry up any residual affection I felt for the lad, he finally seemed to wake up and tried to do something with his life. Sure, it wasn't always pretty, but Metsie began to enjoy some success of late. Despite my misgivings, I found myself hoping that he had at last turned the corner. Not to be...
Last night I came home from a hard day's work and found Metsie stoned out and cavorting with women of ill repute. He had stolen a car and robbed a couple of package stores. He was as bad as I've seen him this year, and I lost all remaining patience. I'm beginning to think this ne'er do well is a lost cause. I fear the worst, and know that there is absolutely nothing I can do to set this callous wastrel on the right path. It's up to him now.
Despite all, I will miss this kid when he's gone, whether it's next week or sometime next month. There will be a new Metsie next spring. He may look a lot like his predecessor, but he will inevitably be different. I can only hope that he values a division championship and a playoff spot more than his older brother. I'll tell you one thing, though, if I see him starting off down the same path I'm dragging the little punk out behind the woodshed.