Tales from the Frontlines: Jordan
It was one of those cold, November late afternoons, and the air was still thick with fog. Everyone in our Visalia CPS office just wanted to go home, start dinner, light a fire. I was turning off my computer and straightening my desk when one of my co-workers walked in.
“It’s a mom,” she whispered, her face grim. “She wants to do a relinquishment.”
She looked young, and had driven up in her beaten up station wagon with four kids in tow, each of them looking more shell-shocked than the other. They were quite young, ranging in age from two years old to eleven, the eldest a boy. He sat on the bench in our front office with his arm around his two year old sister, looking straight ahead.
We started doing the paperwork, explaining things, trying to understand why she would make such a drastic decision. It’s fuzzy now, but from what I remember it was a common story, one we had heard all too often before. There was a new boyfriend in the picture who didn’t like children, especially the oldest one, who had a bit of a lip on him.
“Jordan* is mouthy to Harold*, and he just won’t have that,” she said, her jaw jutted, as if that explained everything. She pointed Jordan, but he didn’t acknowledge what she said. He just looked straight ahead, occasionally patting his little sister on the back.
So the boyfriend wanted to move away. Texas, or someplace like that.
But without the kids.
We were almost done with the paperwork when my co-worker noticed something about the children’s ages.
“The oldest,” she whispered. “It’s his birthday.”
He had just turned twelve.
It was hard for everyone, that relinquishment.
Not that we had to work late, because by then such an inconvenience seemed trivial in light of what was happening. But the sheer callousness of what their mother had done stunned me, dropping them off to be cared for by strangers, all in the name of love. Or something like that.
And Jordan. That was the hardest thing to witness of all.
We walked them over to McDonald’s and bought them some Happy Meals while we waited for the emergency foster parents to pick up the children. They would be in two separate homes, for now.
One of the little girls squealed, “Yay, food! I love Happy Meals.” As if she found one small thread of silver lining in what was to surely be the worst day of her life.
But Jordan knew better. And because of that, he didn’t touch a thing, not even the chocolate sundae we bought him, hoping a little bit of sugar would ease the grief of the day.
His eyes were so old, as if he was a lot older than twelve years. Perhaps that is why I still remember Jordan, after all these years. He was a survivor. I wondered what he thought of his birthdays, and whether he was ever able to enjoy them again. I hoped he was able to maintain visits with his siblings, grow up, go to college, start a family. But he is just one face in an endless sea of many, and I will never know.