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Blindsided

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Posted: Sunday, October 30, 2011 8:49 pm

In the opening credits of the movie The Blind Side, Sandra Bullock narrates the preceding play and epic career-ending injury Joe Theismann sustained during an NFL game. She explains in detail which player missed his assignment and allowed Lawrence Taylor to hit Theismann from his blind side. After that, the movie pretty much was lost on me.

Those close to my family know that for a time I had three sons. Biological sons Christian and Nathaniel were joined in 2004 by our foster son, "Sam" who was 16 at the time. We did not set out to become foster parents. Admirable as it is, I’ll admit it was never our goal to reach out and try to change a young man’s life. "Sam" himself was the only reason. A chance meeting and the realization of his need versus our plenty.

It wasn’t on a rainy evening and I’m not Sandra Bullock. It was prom night and Nathaniel had a couple of boys pick him up at our house. Dressed in a Faux Tux-T, jacket and white high-top tennis, "Sam" appeared. He was polite and charismatic as Nathaniel made the introductions. Later, when I asked Nat about "Sam", I included the remark “You can tell a kid who’s parents have done the work”. Nathaniel said that was odd because "Sam" didn’t have parents. He was living in a group home around the corner. I encouraged Nathaniel to invite "Sam" around. It wasn't long until Jim and I arrived at the point we wanted to take a larger role in his life. With "Sam's" permission, we fought, what in essence was, a custody battle with the group home and won. We gained legal guardianship of "Sam". (Group homes are handsomely funded by the state and this particular facilitator was not willing to lose a prize cash-calf)

In my 20 years of parenting I had never been inside a police station or had lawmen inside my house. Within 90 days of "Sam’s" entry into our home, I had both. "Sam" was invited to leave the local high school and enroll in a nearby continuation school. Providing he worked very hard, he could catch up and graduate on time. But, for every step "Sam" took forward he made two giant leaps back. He cut classes, brought a weapon to school inside his backpack, lied and cheated. "Sam" told me once that he didn’t think he deserved any of the good things in life so he would sabotage his own efforts. He was very smart good at a few things here and there, art, graphics and such, but mostly he was good at that: Thwarting his own efforts and ours as well. "Sam" loved us. I am sure of it. He called us Mom and Dad and seemed to be truly grateful for the opportunity to live a normal life within a normal family and as much as I’d like to say our family story had the same happy ending as Michael Oher’s in The Blind Side, it did not.

Its been a few years since we’ve seen "Sam". I still wonder if the three years he spent with our family was enough to carry him on a better path than he would have walked had we not rescued him. Or did we even do the right thing by trying. Were we lost in the confident arrogance of parenting? I congratulate the Touhy family on pulling off what we could not.

I'm sure there are many, many successful foster stories out there, but in the end, for me, LeeAnn Touhy’s highjacking a high school football practice was not the most unbelievable thing about this movie. But then I could just be bitter.

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