The Boy (What Carter Means To Me)
The summer of 2012 found me working at JJ’s Super Shine. On most weekdays, I would report to work at 1 pm, which allowed me to meet Michelle for lunch. In July of that year, I met her at a restaurant near her work and found her speaking on the phone, not getting out of the vehicle to share a meal. I hopped in her car and found her in a serious conversation with her aunt. She had a look of worry on her face. The kind of look she might have if she had sold our house for magic beans and was afraid to tell me.
We went in and ordered our food and she finally uttered the words, “I always told my aunt that if anything were to happen, I would take care of Carter”.
Carter is Michelle’s aunt’s grandchild. I had met Carter once before. A three year old with no teeth. An earring. A mohawk. A tendency to stay close to papaw’s lap. It was a family dinner at Michelle’s mother’s house and I left wondering who that child was. He was toothless because his teeth had to be pulled as he was given chocolate milk as a baby. His teeth were decayed. I never got an explanation on the earring and mohawk. And then, in 2012, his name popped up again, in a serious conversation as to whether we could let him live with us.
I was not a fan of the idea. Our kids were nearly grown. There was no way it would work. Where would he sleep? What would it mean for our schedules. It took very little time, however, for Michelle to answer my questions. About 17 hours after he moved in, I fell in love with the boy. He cried the first few nights. On the second night, I walked out of his room and told Michelle I thought I should say to Carter, “I love you”.
Her response was, “Then do it”.
When I would drive up from work, he would tell Michelle, “The Car Wash Guy is here”. Now he calls me Kev, Kevin, and sometimes Dad. We are in the fifth year of raising him, loving him, living with him, The fifth year of letting him make mistakes and learning how to correct them if possible. The fifth year of my heart skipping a beat each time I see him. He is one of those responsibilities you take on that are such a blessing you never notice it was an obligation in the first place.
I am proud of Carter. I am proud of Michelle for being loyal to her word and family. There are great things in store for Carter and my family loves him as does Michelle’s. His aspirations change. Currently I think he wants to be an architect and a doctor. Not or a doctor, and a doctor. Truth be told, I will love him no matter what he does. As to the question about what Carter means to me? He means that there is something good in the world. Something pure. Not because he is a child, but because, when faced with the choices a child is faced with, he makes good decisions, and is becoming what he is meant to be. Which in truth, is what we should all be doing each day. He gives me hope that it can, though not easily, be done.