Seeing Abel's birth mother was a shock, there is no denying that. But, it was a shock because I let it be. She has no power over him anymore. She cannot physically hurt him ever again. I know that if he should think to look for her on Facebook, it will be a shock for him. But you know what? He is not that little boy anymore. He is not the out-of-control teen. He is a young man with coping skills better than most adults I know. He will handle it if it happens.
When Abel was about 14, before he went into the group home, our horses got out onto the highway that ran by our house. I ran out on the highway with lead ropes and halters, shouting at Abel to stand by the gate so that he could close it quickly after I chased them in. Cars are slamming on their brakes, I'm waving frantically to get people to stop, trying to get a rope on at least one horse, and Abel stands in the driveway, not moving.
"Abel! The gate!"
He doesn't move. Thankfully, the horses don't care for the screeching cars and headed back through the gates. "Shut it, quick!" He stands, unmoving, with an angry look on his face. At that point, he wasn't the only one with an angry look. I ran down, grabbed the gate and swung it closed.
"What the hell? Why didn't you close the gate?"
"Don't tell me what to do," he said, and walked back to the house. I was furious, frustrated, and my heart was still pounding from dodging cars and flying hooves. I could not understand why he couldn't do that one small thing, particularly in an emergency. I don't think he could have explained it to me.
Leap forward in time to last night. For several days, I had heard a cat meowing plaintively from across the street, but I couldn't figure out where the sound was coming from and I thought that whoever owned the cat would take care of whatever problem there was. Jacob went to a school function with friends last night, and as their car drove away, I heard the cat crying again. This time, I walked across the street as one of my neighbors came out. We quickly realized that the cat was up in a very tall, very bushy pine tree and that it had been stuck up there for several days. I called animal control, but they couldn't come out until the next day. I just couldn't stand the idea of that cat being up there hungry and thirsty, so I went home and yelled upstairs for Abel.
"There's a cat stuck up in a tree. I need your help." And he came. He groaned a bit, but he came. And he and I and a couple of neighbors spent the next hour shining flashlights up in this tree, hauling out different ladders, carrying an open, dripping tuna fish can up into the branches to lure it down, and finally, having the great satisfaction of rescuing that cat. We both went home flushed with pleasure. It didn't matter that he'd had to leave his computer game. He sat in the livingroom with me and said two or three times how great it felt to save that cat.
He is not the same boy or man that he used to be. And as I see his heart growing to love his brother, his friends, and even some stray cat, I also see the strength in him growing to withstand the challenges ahead, even the challenge of confronting the knowledge that his birth mother still lives in this world.
Now if I can just confront that knowledge without wanting to form a ninja band of trauma mamas to hunt her down...