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Tell Me Sweet Little Lies

John's oldest son, Dylan showed up at Hannah's birthday dinner last night (and even had a gift for Hannah). Granted, a friend who we've never met had to bring him because Dylan's car has been sold to pay for his latest self-defeating financial decisions, but the fact that we were all shocked and thinking he looked better than we expected him to should give you an indication of how bad things have been with Dylan for the past few years.

A little over a year ago, John and I performed a sort of intervention for Dylan. He had been at a state school an hour and a half away from home for about two months, and in that period of time he had cut off all contact with us, been fired from his job, stopped going to class, and not paid his tuition, room, or board with the $4000 he'd taken with him when he left. There are several horrifying aspects to this situation: 1.) this was the second year in a row he had attempted to go to college, and this second attempt was against our advice, 2.) throughout high school, he had created a reputation of greatness for himself, and had convinced everyone outside his immediate nuclear family that he was going to be a millionaire due to his pro golf abilities or his science genius which he would use to fly through medical school, 3.) we knew he was in complete and total denial about his situation, and that confronting him would be like trying to convince our dog that he actually isn't human. Even knowing all of this, we dropped Hannah and the boys with various in-town grandparents and loaded up the car for a somber road trip. Leaving him there was no longer an option. He was going to be kicked out of the dorms within a few weeks for non-payment anyway.

When we found him in his dorm room, he spent three hours refusing to come with us, telling us that he would simply get a new job (what was wrong with the old one? Oh, they expected him to be there at 9:00 a.m. - ludicrous!), get an apartment, and take classes. Oh, okay Dylan. I see. So you want to live in this town, go to class, and go to work. WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT THAT THAN WHAT YOU CAME HERE TO DO?? And how do you expect to go to classes next semester when you haven't paid tuition on this semester? And where did your $4000 go? DVDs. Video games. CDs. Beer. Beer. Beer. Porn. Beer.

Once he withdrew from the classes he'd never attended, he came back to our house with the understanding that he could stay there for a few weeks while he found a job, and that his next steps would be to pay back the school and the merchants he'd been bouncing checks with, then decide if/when he would return to school of some sort. He found a job and an apartment and once again cut off contact. We started receiving bounced check notices, and hearing about outrageous lies through mutual friends and his co-workers - everything from how he was interning at a law firm to a story about how he had received a brand new BMW on his 16th birthday to telling people on three different occasions that his wallet had been stolen. We finally realized the stolen wallet stories always coincided with him owing someone money. This went on for months, until finally two of his friends contacted us and arranged a visit with him. They had begun to put two and two together, probably because they'd both been told on separate occasions that his wallet had been taken at gunpoint, and they wanted to find out the truth before helping him or enabling him anymore.

When they brought him over, he was jovial and nonchalant, telling us all about how his friends had straightened him out and shown him the way, he could never have made it without them, and moving on now, we have a great house that we're going to re-paint and carpet, you'll have to come by for a visit. Yeah. You've been out of contact for six months, completely unable to be reached, we didn't know where you lived, what you were doing, if you were alive, if you were living in your car, in jail, in a homeless shelter, or a stabbing victim after a gambling disagreement. And now you waltz in here as casually as if you've been on a weekend trip, and tell us to "come by your new place." HUH? I couldn't take it. Everyone in the room wanted so desperately to avoid the awkwardness and keep up the facade of normalcy, but I couldn't keep it in: "Dylan, I'm glad you have a place to live and good friends who are helping you. Do you know what you'll be doing a month or six months from now?" Dylan was clinging by a thread to his "I've got it all figured out" routine, but he wasn't giving up: "Yeah. I'm going to work at this job Cody got me, pay rent, and then go to school in December, I think..." His voice trailed off. I said, "That sounds great, and I hope that happens. Cody, we have heard this before. We have had this conversation dozens of times. I hope it's different this time, but I have nothing to go on but what I've experienced before. This is as ugly as it gets in this house. Dylan hasn't been abused or judged or looked down on, no matter what you might have been told. This conversation is what he's been avoiding. Not a yelling, abusive household. Dylan told you he has $4000 in the bank that he's going to buy a car with since that's a requirement of living in this house, right? Dylan, why don't we take care of this now. You don't have a savings or checking account because YOU OWE THE BANK MONEY. There will be no car and no school three months from now because you simply don't have the money - it's physically impossible."

His face fell as his facade lost its footing. Everything was coming out in the open now - all the conflicting lies he'd told the people from the different circles of his life - those circles were converged now, and this is the very situation he'd been avoiding for months. It wasn't a problem with his family, it was a problem with his life, and now not only did he have to face it, he had to expose its naked ugliness to the only people left who were willing to help him get by for another few days. And worse, he had NO WAY OUT of this situation - literally. I guess he could have run out the door, but he wouldn't have gotten far in this city without a car, and he didn't have that. He was at the mercy of his friends, who were going to force this thing to happen, this thing that felt like death to him.

His friends didn't get angry, but started asking questions. "When you said you came back from school because your mom died, was that true?" Dylan sat there looking at his shoes, nothing but numbness on his face. I answered, "no, that's not true. She's alive, but hasn't been in his life for years - her choice, not his, not ours." His friend was visibly hurt. The other friend said, "when you told me you lost your wallet at the casino, was that true?" Dylan said, "yes." I said, "what does that mean? Does that mean the money from your wallet was lost because you gambled it, or does it mean your wallet was there one moment, gone the next, and what specifically happened?" He said, "We went to the casino and I had my wallet. When we left, I didn't have my wallet anymore." Classic Dylan. No longer a lie, but there's a chance what he said was vague enough that someone might still believe he'd "lost" it. I said, "Dylan, did you gamble it, and that's why you left with no money?" He mumbled some affirmative statement. Back to the hurt friend: "What about the time you said you were held up at gunpoint outside your apartment and your wallet was stolen. Was that true?" Silence from Dylan. I said, "We were told from a co-worker that you said it happened at a grocery store." Dylan: "It happened. I'm not lying about it." Hurt friend: "But where did it happen? And how? I want to know the details. You have to start telling the truth if you want us to be able to help you!"

Dylan had had enough. How dare these people put him on the spot this way? He was going to be a doctor, a professional golfer! Did they even know who they were dealing with? He could lie to the pope and get away with it. These amateurs, these hocks. These last two friends giving him a place to live. These parents inviting him to eat dinner with them every night even though he never came. This sister growing up with no contact with her mother, and now her wayward brother, too. These little toddler brothers who'd been asking, "where's Dylan?" for months. These people he'd lied to and stolen from. He broke down and sobbed: "I lied about it because I'm a monster, it's how I survive. I know I need help."

He agreed, with his friends for accountability, to keep in touch with us this time. He acknowledged to his friends that he'd have to find a job within walking distance of their house because he didn't have a car and had absolutely no money. He apologized to everyone and said he intended to do the right thing this time, that he knew he was only sabotaging himself with his actions. John and I were internally skeptical. Dylan had been down this road before, although it was definitely different this time in that his friends were involved and knew his true situation rather than the fabrication he'd created for them. Since that night, he has called John a few times. He's still in major financial trouble and has a job at a gas station that only pays his current bills, so we don't know when or how he will pay all the debt he's created for himself. But we know where he lives, where he works, and how to contact him, and that is a huge improvement over where we were at this time last year. The fact that he showed up at Hannah's birthday celebration is somewhat of a milestone, too - last year he didn't show up or acknowledge it in any way.

I would hope that Dylan has started to realize that he's brought his problems upon himself, and that despite the fact that he spent his teen years resenting the fact that he wasn't entitled to a BMW or a brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee at his 16th birthday, that we didn't live in the neighborhoods inhabited by his friends with well-to-do doctors and lawyers for parents, and that his little half-brothers had to take up space in what should have rightly been his house, that he's now starting to grow up and recognize how much of his potential that mentality destroyed.

Unfortunately, it was confirmed last night that Dylan has a long, long way to go. When he walked into the restaurant, Bryce said, "Hi Dylan! Dylan, hey! Why did you decide not to live with us anymore?" (As a side note, I have not ever worded things this way about Dylan to Bryce. This was Bryce's own word choice.) The table went silent as Bryce repeated his question. Dylan hesitated and plastered a grin on his face while his mind visibly raced. I stepped in: "Because he grew up, Bryce. Kids don't live with their parents anymore when they grow up." But everyone was talking at once, trying to cover the silence, and during all the nervous talking, the response that stood out most troublingly to me was Dylan's: "Because there's no room anymore - your and Quinn's toys are there now."

Yeah. So I see Dylan's still convinced that he's a victim, and he survives by taking the lies he tells himself and spreading them all around. Bryce wouldn't let him get away with it, though: "Well, Dylan, they're all cleaned up and there's plenty of room!"

Dylan could stand to learn a lot from that four-year-old brother of his who can see through any attempt at a cover-up. I can only hope that by Hannah's next birthday, Bryce won't have to see through any more of Dylan's survival techniques, and that Dylan's presence at a family function won't be so much of a shock to everyone that questions like Bryce's are met with silence and nervous twitters from the whole extended family.

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