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Life

Happy 15th Birthday?

I met an almost-15 year-old tonight. His birthday is tomorrow. He’s in eighth grade. He plays the tuba and kinda likes it, but isn’t over the moon about it. (“It’s better than the clarinet,” he says.) His marching band is going to a competition this Saturday and might get to go to an amusement part afterward — if it doesn’t rain, which it’s supposed to.

He’s not happy. He specifically said that, but he didn’t have to. His whole demeanor shouted it. Slouched in his chair, bored but hurt expression, sarcastic comments, cynical outlook. Thing is, who could expect anything else?

He’s an only child who lives with his mom. He’s never met his dad, doesn’t even know his name. A step-dad was there for a while, but moved out when he couldn’t stand the mom anymore. The almost-15 year old says he doesn’t blame the guy — he doesn’t like his mom either.

She messed up his birthday plans for tomorrow night. There’s a new movie he wanted to see. Talked to his friends, made plans to go. Then last night his mom gets mad, says he can’t go. He tells his friends. Tonight, she changes her mind, says he can go. He texts his friends, but they all have other plans now. He’s left in the cold, with nothing to do and no one to be with on his birthday.

He likes watching fights at school. (One guy got beat up by about 12 girls after he cheated on his girlfriend – the crowd included both the girlfriend and the cheatee. Another guy kicked a kid dcwn the stairs.) He says his school is all jocks and preps and he doesn’t fit in either category. He’s right, given what I see — shaggy hair, oversized t-shirt and shorts, cockeyed black hat. He likes heavy metal and video games.  Likes to read and write and thinks math is cool.

He’s looking forward to being reunited next year in high school with the one guy he considers a good friend. They can just sit next to each other and talk and hang out (even with the tv off) and not be bored.

He’s headed to a sleep clinic tonight because he might have sleep apnea. He’s tired a lot, but has trouble sleeping — just kinda zones out. Last night he watched a tv show called “A Thousand Ways to Die.” One guy died when he fell in his driveway and ended up in the path of a big streetsweeper coming down the street.

He says his mom is always the last one to pick him up from places. The other night, she got there even after the janitors had locked up and left.

He used to go to a church in town, but quit going to the youth stuff on Wednesday night because he hated the seventh graders who drove him crazy. He almost punched one of them one night.

I ask him what makes him happy. “Nothing,” he says, and tells a story about when he went to Disney World in 4th or 5th grade. He didn’t like it, thought it was a waste of money to go.

As I drive away, he sits slumped against a brick wall, waiting — again — for his mom.

He just wants to be loved. He needs a dad. He needs friends. He needs a Happy Birthday. Most of all, he needs Jesus, but how’s he gonna find him?

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