Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Teacher (10/26/06)
TITLE: MUI OCHITEL (MY TEACHER)
By Marilee Alvey
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There were a few hurdles to jump before we said yes. Two years before, our sixteen year old son, Matt, had told us that my husband’s uncle had sexually abused him when he was young. After two trials and, in the end, an acquittal, our son had spiraled out of control. My husband agreed that Matt seemed stable now and, perhaps, having this new interest might keep him occupied.
Next, I asked Matt. Matt’s passion was baseball so, when he heard it would be the Fall term, he said yes, thinking it might be cool to have a new friend in his “off season.” Personally, I thought I could do six months standing on my head. We accepted the task.
A few months later, a pale, thin, painfully shy Russian boy came to stay in our home. “Russian?” my husband, an ex-fight pilot, commented to me. “You gotta be kidding! Why couldn’t we get a French kid or something? I’ve been trained to KILL Russians.”
So began our adventure. I’ll never forget a later dinner discussion when my husband, Larry, repeated that fact to Anton, now “Tony” to us. Tony replied, “That’s okay. When I was three years old, I carried around a machine gun and told everyone that, when I grew up I was going to have lots of children so that they could kill Americans!” As the months went by, their relationship was best reflected by their intermingling socks in the dryer. Slowly, Larry’s and Tony’s socks got so mixed up that they wore each other’s….and neither of them even cared. Lesson one: we could love a Russian child….and it wouldn’t take long. For world harmony, look to the laundry!
Tony and Matt weren’t exactly fast friends. They had internal and external differences. Tony was a quiet, introspective artist who wanted to be a car designer. Matt was an athlete. I joked that I had twins who were both born in April of the same year, but far apart from each other…in every way. Matt had black hair and dark brown eyes with a stocky build. Tony was blond, blue-eyed with what seemed a pipe dream to one day weigh one hundred and fifty pounds.
To our dismay, Matt’s troubled mind had just taken a respite. It came back in force that December. On the night of December fifteenth, he seemed very restless and confessed to me that he’d tried to commit suicide a month before. We checked him into the psychiatric unit. Tony waited up until we returned home at 2AM to find out how Matt was. The next day I urged Tony to go to stay at the home of my friend. Our daughter was returning home for Christmas and Matt, in his current state of mind, would need his own bedroom. I told Tony he’d have to sleep on the floor if he remained here. I told him of all the nice “features” he’d have at my friend’s home. Tony said, “Fine. I’ll sleep on the floor.” Lesson number two: It doesn’t take long to become a true family. Tony was not about to abandon a sinking ship. He would weather the storm with us. During this trying time, I took phone calls from people who told me that it was because we’d brought this “competing child” to the family and we should find him a new home. I didn’t listen. How could I? Tony wouldn’t permit it! Lesson number three: don’t listen to people. Listen to God.
Tony ended up staying with us, not for six months but for three years while attending college. He became Matt’s brother, not in a court but in his heart. Last year, Matt, now a very successful salesman, got married. Tony was one of his groomsmen. Lesson five: family is who you say it is.
It scares me that, at one time, he was just a decision in our heads. It scares me that, at one time, he was almost sent away. I have no doubt that he was a blessing that God sent to us, one of those “God’s best” that we carelessly discard. Tony’s lessons continue to this day. My teacher is now a very successful car designer in Detroit, but the best design he ever made was the completion of our family.
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