noun: guardian; plural noun: guardians
- a defender, protector, or keeper.
Amongst the plethora of things I love about my mother is, that every once in a while, when I throw something absolutely insane at her, she simply says, “ok.” One such thing were the “Alexs.” Now, the Alexs are not some Prog-Rock group, they are two of the best friends I have ever had. Both were much more than friends, they were and will always be, family.
The first Alex came into my life at a junior high dance class in 1987. She was a tall gal, and I am a tall guy, so we got paired up a lot in the class. One day we were attempting a swing-style dance flip, where we linked arms back to back, and she would flip over my head and land on her feet in front of me. Well, that’s not quite how it happened, I lost my footing mid-flip and she came down hard, on her head, on the concrete backed parquet dance floor. And that’s how we’ve become like brother and sister for the last 30 years. During high school, I went to a different school than Alex, but I still visited her at her mom’s little apartment in a much rougher part of town. That detail is important, because of what I’m gonna tell you next.
One day I got a call from Alex that they were being evicted, and she asked if I would bring my station wagon over and help her move her things. Absolutely! I drove the short distance, and we began loading things into my car. I wasn’t the only one who was harangued into helping the family move. There were three or four other folks who were also loading up cars in front of the seedy building. We had just gotten all of Alex’s things into my car, when one of the other gals spilled the load she was carrying, and amongst the CD’s and picture frames was a toppled laundry detergent box whose contents were anything but clean. Some needles, a couple of baggies, a pill bottle, basically a whole “after school special” laid strewn across the sidewalk. I knew what it was, and I knew what I needed to do about it too. For a white kid from the suburbs, in that situation, in that neighborhood, I should have been apoplectic, but a calm washed over me in the moment. I looked at Alex and calmly, but firmly, told her to get in the car and 20 seconds later we were driving back to my house.
I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t know how I was going to explain this to my mother. But what I did know, was that I loved this girl like my sister, and there was no way in hell she was going to stay in that situation. So, I went home and calmly explained what happened, and essentially told my mother, who was already caring for her kids and my newly disabled father, that Alex was going to live with us now. And my amazing mother, simply said, “ok.” I don’t know if it was whatever she saw in my face, but she knew that I had experienced something profound, and she said, “ok.”
Switching gears a bit, to the other Alex in this post.
In high school we were the 3 Musketeers: J, Alex, and I. Singers, actors, dancers, drop-dead sexy models, and me. I was the Costello to their Gables, the Hardy to their Grant. I’m sure they only kept me around because all the girls actually liked me. The three of us did all sorts of things together, but Alex wasn’t able to spend a lot of time away from home, or out at night, like the rest of us. See, he had a very overbearing, former Hell’s Angels, step-father, who didn’t really think much of Alex or his “pansy-assed” ideas about wanting to be a performer. Luckily his step-dad was a pretty heavy sleeper and one night during the summer of his 18th birthday, Alex slipped out his bedroom window as my station wagon coasted, engine and headlights off, down the slight hill in front of his house. When Alex jumped in, we were off to celebrate his birthday at the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Alex had the night of his life–one that would make the beating that awaited him at home worth it. Luckily that beating never came, but others did. Just after graduation Alex’s step-dad moved the family about 60 miles away out into the desert east of Los Angeles. Taken away from his friends, and fed only abuse, Alex withered. I would drive out to see him as often as I could, and eventually I even talked his step-dad into letting him spend the weekend at my place so he could hang out with our friends from high school.
One Saturday I got a call from Alex, and he didn’t sound right. Apparently there had been an argument between his parents and it spilled over on to him. He sounded cold and detached from reality. Alex was breaking, and I didn’t know if that meant he was going to hurt himself, or someone else. I asked where his parents were, and he told me they were at some car show and weren’t going to be back for several hours, but he was supposed to clean up the house and sweep the garage. The same calm from before had filled me again. I told him to not move. I was coming to get him. When I got there, I told him to pack his things, because he wasn’t going to go through this any more. We blitzed through his room, throwing as much as we could into my car, including taking the entire closet rod full of clothes out of his room and dumped in as a unit into my trunk (disposing of the wooden dowel when we were done). Once again, I was driving an unexpected Alex back to my house.
I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t know how I was going to explain this to my mother. But what I did know, was that I loved this guy like my brother, and there was no way in hell he was going to stay in that situation. (Sound familiar?) So, I went home and calmly explained what happened, and essentially told my mother, who was still caring for her kids and my disabled father, that this Alex was going to live with us now. And my amazing mother, simply said, “ok.” I don’t know if it was whatever she saw in my face, but she knew that I had again experienced something profound, and she said, “ok.”
Guardianship doesn’t have to be this extreme. In this day and age, we experience moments on a daily basis where someone needs to step in and help, or say something, or shield someone from a bad situation. J told me recently about a fight he almost got into because some guy didn’t like that J rolled his eyes when this guy’s girl blocked both pumps at the gas station because she pulled up a little too far when she came in. Now J just moved over to a different set of pumps, but this guy wouldn’t leave the situation alone. Another gentleman at a nearby pump spoke up and confronted the guy about how he was overreacting over essentially nothing. This is also a form of “real-world” Guardianship. Stepping into a situation and lending your strength and number to side against fear, chaos, and imbalance of the natural order. Guardians have to be able to step back and see the big picture. The scared children sitting in a car while a man rants and curses at another man. The lady who has refused to get back out of her car when her tank had filled, because she just got out of an abusive relationship and his incessant screaming was triggering her. These are the times when Guardians step up and step in. Still too extreme for you? How about, “Hey Frank, didn’t you already have three doughnuts? Those are supposed to be for the whole office.” Guardians see the right and wrong in all situations.
As always, in life, in love and in spirit, keep pushing for that positive forward motion.