The first time I saw him was when Daniel brought him home from the hospital. He was only fifteen years old. I remember thinking what can a fifteen-year-old find in his life that is so discouraging that he would want to—I wasn't sure what to expect. But what I did see broke my heart.
He was in a wheelchair, and—I remember because when Dan got to the doorstep he had to lift the chair. I remember Dan just carried the whole thing into the house. Isaac's whole head was bandaged and he had it down on his chest because he was still sleeping. Dan didn't want to bring the chair upstairs because, well, between the girls and the dog, someone was going to get hurt.
Dan picked him up to carry him upstairs. Isaac's legs stuck out from the blankets like toothpicks. I've never seen anyone that thin. Not in real life.
We put him Elaine's room and put the girls together. He mostly just slept for the first couple days. He was very weak and it was hard to get him to eat. He couldn't really move his mouth. I remember being uncomfortable with the idea of Dan's son from his first wife staying with us. But after the struggling through those first couple weeks, I couldn't imagine sending him anywhere else.
It was my idea to home school him through the first half of his junior year of high school. He was always in and out of the hospital and I knew… Well he never said anything, but the trauma was there, the wounds and the scars were real, and I didn't want to see him go through all of that and go to school. You know how the other kids can be.
When he first arrived, he was 5'4" and he only weighed 87 pounds. By the time he was ready to join his peers in high school he'd grown seven inches and put on about 60 pounds. You wouldn't know it to look at him, he's still skinny as I don't know what. He was real quiet at first, he read a lot, kept to himself. He'd do things around the house, which I was grateful for. I hear horror stories about step children, but Isaac was an angel. We didn't have any problems with him, well, not until he was getting ready to graduate.
Dan was on his case about a lot of things. I think after the shock of Isaac's attempt, he wanted to let his son know that he was angry. Not only that, but Isaac's mother was calling more and more, trying to govern his life from afar.
Isaac seemed happy here, he'd never said otherwise. He had a few friends at school and things like that, but for the most part he was quiet and kept to himself. If he was unhappy here he kept that to himself too.
There's a depth to the boy that I sometimes used to find disconcerting. I noticed it in some of the writing he did for me when I was teaching him. He never got personal, but he was dark. A lot of boys his age are like that I guess, but there was more to it… I guess I'll try to find his papers, I could send them out to you.
There was only one time Isaac was ever decidedly emotional around us. He'd borrowed Dan's Cherokee to go to a concert or something with some of his friends and he brought it home with a broken headlamp. It wasn't really that big a deal, but Dan just blew up on him. They sat in the garage for almost two hours talking and arguing. After that Isaac's mother called. I didn't listen in, I always tried to give him his privacy. But anyway, they talked for about half an hour, and I caught him on the way to his room. He was sulking, which believe it or not, he rarely did. I asked him what was wrong, and he wouldn't say anything. He didn't brush me off though, he just stood there looking at me with those gray eyes.
I didn't know what to do, I didn't want to invade his privacy. We still had this distance between us, you know? He wasn't my child, I wasn't his mother. I didn't know, so I held him. I expected him to push me away and go off to hide in his room. But instead he held me back. He cried a little, that told me more than anything he could say.
I'm proud of him. I don't have a son, so I'm glad we had him for a little while. His wife is beautiful, and he's successful, considering the start he had, he's done really good for himself. Beatriz still sends out pictures of the family, and it's almost like Josh and Andy are my own grandchildren. Once in a while he calls me, and we talk.
He's had problems, he's had a terrible childhood, but Isaac would never hurt anyone. I'll stand behind that.