As I walked away from my father without a word, leaving him lying on the picnic table, I felt a sense of freedom and pride, mixed with the fear and dread of not knowing how I’d survive without any help or resources. I walked through the shady grass, enjoying how it felt and appreciated its help in calming my anger and fear. At first, I had no clue where I was going, I was just letting my feet carry me over more concrete heading east. I realized I was heading toward the library and thought I would stop there and get my bearings.
I’d practically lived at the library many times; it was a safe, comfortable, quiet place where I could often find some privacy. Plus, I loved to read and it provided endless resources for escaping my life and stimulating my brain. However, I decided to keep walking. I knew that if I hid in a book all day I would end up sleeping on the street again and it was a thought I couldn’t bear. I had to find some help! I knew that the DCFS (Division of Child and Family Services) building was just a few blocks further east. I’d been there before with my mom when we needed help and I thought they might be willing to listen. I made it up to the 5th floor of the state building, walking in to the front desk looking like hell.
I was pretty embarrassed, I mean, I had to basically walk up to the lady and say “Uh…Hi…I wonder if you could help me. You see, I live up in the mountains tending goats, and I was wandering around Provo and Orem last night and slept in the back door of an Ernst hardware store and then this morning walked away from my dad because he cut off his ponytail and threw it in the air. Oh, and I don’t have any money, transportation, or a place to sleep. And I’m hungry too, thank you very much.” Regardless of my shyness and the bumbling explanation, she had pity on me and had me wait in a cubicle to speak with a caseworker.
The next few hours were a blur as I talked with one person after another, waited some more, spoke with a police officer, filled out paperwork, and waited some more again. I kept looking out the building’s windows as the sun moved closer to the horizon thinking “as long as it is still business hours, they can’t kick me out”. At least I hoped. Two police officers showed up and told me that they’d found my dad. They’d also gone and bought a ton of food for us and were going to transport us back up into the mountains. I remembered the tremendous relief that flooded over me– we would have food, and I could sleep in my sleeping bag in the “trailer”. I’d been living off of raw ramen noodle and hot dogs, so the thought of all those bags of goodies made me forget the awkwardness of being reunited with my dad. I loved him, and I knew he loved me too.
Dad and I were in the back of the van they were taking us back in, looking at each other giddily as we checked out the mountains of groceries we’d gained. We were driving up the curvy roads of Payson Canyon when we pulled over to the side of the road only a mile or so from our destination. An officer opened the sliding door and explained that they’d received a call and wouldn’t actually be able to take me back up the mountain- primarily because I hadn’t been attending school. They told me I was going to be taken into foster care due to neglect, where I’d live with a family in a home, go to school, and be able to have visits with my dad from time to time. I really wanted to go to school and the thought of a home with a family, neighbors, food, and hopefully stability sounded really appealing but I looked at my dad inquiringly- I didn’t want to hurt his feelings by being too eager.
He was actually trying to convince me, explaining that I should be going to school and I’d be warm for the winter and he could come visit me. He just hadn’t been able to provide for me as he’d intended. I shrugged my shoulders as I nodded my head and said “Okay, sounds good.” I was excited. A genuine hug was shared with my dad and he headed up the rest of the way with all that food in the van. I was placed in a cop car and headed back down the mountain as I wondered what my new life would be like.