Sam makes it to high school. It’s his first week. My cell phone rings. I answer it. “Mr. Tuvman, this is Mrs. Anderson, the Vice Principal over at Minnehaha High.” She gives me the “Minnesota Nice” act. “I’m sorry Sam has to start high school with a call like this but he was caught smoking a cigarette on campus.” I’m told to come get him. His consequence is a one day suspension. The call ends with her telling me again how “sorry” she is that Sam has to start the semester this way. If you only knew what this kid has put me through, I mutter to myself. I feel so impotent over Sam’s behavior. Besides getting caught smoking, the school has a truancy officer on staff. Sam is issued a citation for smoking on the school grounds.
The truancy officer works her magic and in a few days we receive a notice from the county summoning us to court at a specific time and date. We have to go before a judge. Our day in court arrives and the Judge asks Sam if he understands why he is here. Sam nods. The judge emphasizes to Sam the importance of following the rules at school. She asks Sam if he thinks he can do that. Sam answers “yes.” Besides getting a warning from the judge, she assigns a family social worker from
The following week, there’s a message on the machine from the social worker. She’s calling to make an appointment to meet Sam at our house. She says her name is Barb. We agree on a date and she comes to our house to meet with Sam, Channa and me. Sam gives Barb the silent treatment and won’t give her straight answer to her questions. Barb will stay in our lives for several years and become a major advocate to Sam.
Back at school, Sam is caught smoking again. Refusing to accept responsibility or show remorse, Sam is pissed at the school undercover policeman who busted him. He tells me he wants to go and beat the crap out of him. Suspended again, we are now told that we have to meet with a group from the school board about his behavior.
At the meeting all the top school administrators’ are there; the high school assistant principal, the truancy officer, a guidance counselor, the undercover cop, and a few others that act as liaisons between the city and school district. Sam and I are seated before the group. The assistant principal calls the meeting to order. She begins by restating the no smoking policy on school grounds. One of the counselors asks, “Sam what are your goals? What do you want to do with your life?” Before Sam can answer the question, Miss Schuberth, the truancy officer in a demeaning tone says “Sam, you have now been caught smoking twice and we have the right to expel you from school.” Turning towards the guidance counselor and avoiding eye contact with Mrs. Schuberth, Sam tells the group he likes school and hopes to become a lawyer. When they are finished with their questions, they ask us to leave the room so they can decide on what to do. While waiting to be called back in the room, Sam and I just sit there, like two ships in the night moving in opposite directions, neither of us having anything to say. The conference door opens and they invite us in. The assistant principal says Sam can come back to school but if he smokes on campus again he will be expelled for good. “Do you understand what I am telling you, Sam?” she says.” Sam nods his head and says yes. We are excused. Sam can go back to school. I feel relieved..
I have to get going. I have a significant client meeting in
A few days later and still in
Suddenly, my optimistic mood is overcome with anger and sadness. I feel like a complete loser and a failure. The truth is, I am truly powerless over Sam but haven’t admitted that yet. Although I only have one more day left in
There was a letter Sam left:
By the time you read this I will be on my way out of the state.
I realize that I have caused everyone around me a lot of grief and that they want me out of their lives. I have to figure out my own problems and I hope I can.
I am starting a new life and am hoping for the best.
The next time you will see me is in 7 years when the police will no longer be looking for me. I want to let you know that I love you and always will. But for now I can’t stay here. Tell Zach that I hope he won’t make the same mistakes I did.
I will miss you and him very much and I love you both.
All the love in the world,
Your son, Sam
p.s. I Love You
Over lunch, I’m hurting inside. I decide to share my plight with Karen. I know I’m not supposed to tell customers my problems but I’m not so good at holding in my emotions. The 12 Step Program has taught me to not isolate and reach out to others. Sharing my feelings of loss with over Sam, with Karen, somehow causes her to open up. She shares the hardships of growing up with an alcoholic father and understands where I’m coming from. It turns out to be all good. Nobody abandons me and I’m not left feeling embarrassed and humiliated. These are the feelings I felt on a regular basis before recovery.