In 1974, when I had just started working at Saint Francis Hospital in San Francisco, my younger brother, David, came to live with me. He was 16 at the time and I was 24. At the time he arrived, I was living in a ten dollar a week room over The Rainbow Cattle Company on the corner of Valencia and Duboce (That story can be found here: Rainbow Cattle Company). Dad had left David’s mother, Irene, and had remarried Deanna, who would eventually murder him. Dad had apparently thrown Donna, David and Hebert out of the house when he married Deanna. Their Mother, Irene, had moved to Sunnyside, Washington.
David and I got an apartment on Larkin street shortly after he arrived and he lived with me until he turned eighteen. I had just finished the Psychiatric Technician program and was familiar with behavioral contracts and wrote out a contract with David specifying that he was expected to work and go to school.
In the eighties, for some reason that I will have to try to remember some time, Darlene’s son, Chris Tasker came to live with Milton and I. He was sixteen when he arrived and was 18 when he left. I also used a written behavioral contract with Chris.
By 2011, Milton and I had been living in Vallejo for quite a while and my Nissan was on it’s last legs. Milton thought I should just donate it for a tax write off but I thought the car had some useful life in it still and so offered to give it to Misty’s son, Sean, if they would come down and pick it up. Milton was worried that it would not make it up to Washington but it did and lasted Sean another year or so after that and helped him get moved out of Yakima, over to Everett.
Misty decided to bring Sean’s younger brother, Alex, down to pick up the Nissan. I really didn’t know any of Misty’s kids very well. Little kids are just not very interesting to me. Wynter was the oldest and I had seen her a couple times when she was an adolescent. She had come down to Vallejo with Darlene and her brother Sean and her cousin, C.J., and a girlfriend of hers. Sean was the youngest on that trip and I don’t remember much about him from that time. I had also visited with Wynter on one of the get together’s in Spokane. When Misty brought Alex down to pick up the Nissan, he was sixteen and would turn 17 in a few months.
Darlene had spoke of her grandson, Alex, at various times as he was growing up. For the two years prior to his coming down with Misty, Darlene and Misty had called me multiple times about Alex. He had various somatic complaints and the doctors in Yakima seemed baffled. He had not been to school for two years because of various symptoms. Misty took him to Seattle and multiple tests were done and the doctors were unable to find a physiological basis for Alex’s symptoms
Misty and Alex stayed for a couple of days in May with us when they came down to pick up my old Nissan which I was giving to Sean. I took them on a tour of San Francisco. The Story, pics and video of Misty and Alex’s visit in May of 2011 can be found here: 2011- May- Misty and Alex Visit
Within a couple months of Misty and Alex picking up the Nissan, I was talking to Darlene and asked about Alex and how he was doing. Darlene told me that he had asked her if she thought Milton and I would let him come and live with us. I was kind of surprised by this but did discuss it with Milton. As I mentioned previously, I had already parented David from 16 to 18, and then Milton and I had parented Chris from 16 to 18, and now here was another 16 year old that was having problems. When David had lived with me, he was less than 10 years younger than me so we had quite a bit in common and I had known him all his life. When Chris had come to live with Milton and I, I had also known Chris all of his life. Alex seemed so much younger than David and Chris had been. I had only spent a few hours with Alex in his entire life up until then. I really didn’t know him much at all.
Milton and I discussed whether we were ready to deal with another teenager in our lives. We had both liked Alex and both felt he was in some deep trouble, although we were still not sure exactly what that trouble was. I had spent part of my life in Yakima Valley and knew how awful it had been for me. There were really no opportunities there for growth and development and people were very narrow minded. There was a lot of alcoholism and drug abuse as well. It was around this same time that there were news accounts of a rash of young kids in the United States committing suicide. I had just made my own, “It Get’s Better” video which was part of an anti-suicide campaign, telling kids that life does get better if they can get past childhood and their teen years.
As I said, Milton and I really didn’t know Alex very well and he did not know us, so we decided that he could come down for a trial visit for a couple of weeks to decide if he wanted to live with Milton and I in Vallejo and to see if Milton and I could actually tolerate someone staying with us again. During that visit, we discussed what some of the rules would be if he were to want to live with us. Like David and Chris before him, I wrote up a “contract” that specified our expectations. We tried to make it as clear as possible to Alex that we had expectations for his stay with us and that he was not coming to make new friends, for a vacation or just to play and have fun. We recognized that his life was out of control and he needed limits, boundaries, rules, supervision and goals. Although Alex never did follow the contract to the letter, it was a good starting point to make expectations clear.
Alex flew down in August of 2011. We got him enrolled in an online school for homeschooling and bought him some new clothes and shoes. I bought him a gray fedora that he seemed to love and everyone loved it on him.
As we approached his 18th birthday, we got him a drivers license and studied for the High School Equivalency test which he did pass. I helped him write a resume and he got his first job at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and then a second job at a local bowling alley. Since Milton and I paid for everything and he had no expenses, Alex was able to save up a good chunk of money from these jobs and we began looking for a rental in San Francisco.
We found a place on 25th Avenue in The City for $750 that Alex liked. It had two rooms, a microwave and small refrigerator. He signed the lease five days before his 18th birthday. Within a week or so he had a job in San Francisco and shortly thereafter, he was enrolled at City College of San Francisco. He had come an incredible distance from when he had first arrived.
These are some pics and video from the period that Alex lived with us in Vallejo.
Always interested in images, whether they are oil paintings, silk screens, videos or photography, I created two sets of “Alex photos.” The first, I called “Alex in Black and White.” The other, I called “Alex in Color.” Then I also made a short video including both and called it “Alex in Black and White and Color.” I used a song he liked for a soundtrack.
Alex in Black and White:
Alex in Color: