Monday, September 1, 2008

The Lessons I Learned from My Children

Someone might ask why I chose troubled and lost teenagers as characters for my books. LESS DEAD is the first of the Niki Alexander series. She deals with runaways and throwaway teenagers. They are called the "less dead" because no one cares when they disappear or are the unidentified lost.

I was a teenager once. My children were teenagers. My grandchildren are teenagers. Weren't you? Do I understand them? Not completely. I'm trying.

My children are grown now, but I was a single mother. Yes, I was married a few times and they tried to be fathers in their way, but not satisfactorily. My kids came first. As a family we told ourselves it was us against the world. But it wasn't easy for them, I have to admit. My son hit the streets when he was 14. He found Covenant House when he stayed until he called me to pick him up and bring him home.

My daughters were independent at an early age. My oldest daughter took up karate and entered tournaments. While she attended high school, she also worked nights at a Dairy Queen. A man accosted her one night as she walked home. He had a knife. Did he do anything to her? Never had a chance. The knife really pissed her off. She threw a karate kick at him, knocked the knife out of his hand, and he bolted.

My youngest ran away for a brief time to her girlfriend's house. The girl's mother was an alcoholic and a drug addict, but she took the time to talk to the girls, and listen to them. I had to learn that lesson from her before my daughter would come home. Later my daughter brought home friends who had run away. She knew they would be safe with me. Now as an adult with a teenage son and a six-year-old daughter, she still takes care of her friends when they need help, and her children are learning from her.

The "less dead" have transient lives and are basically ignored by society. They want more than life gave them but were thrown out before they had the "legs" to stand on and the ability to walk alone. They survive any way they can. They sleep in the park or in all night fast food restaurants or in door steps. Some go to shelters, but others cringe from authority and rules because they have "adjusted" to a certain way of survival. But they are prey to the worst type of predators and some are never found again.

I created Niki Alexander to be their champion, to fight for them when they could not win by themselves. She used to be a cop until one terrible day she came up against a PCP-addicted teenager who would have killed her if she had not acted. She quit the force to become a counselor at a teen shelter. It became more than a job to her. It was her life and purpose to save the children

I have met many of the teens she deals with everyday. I have listened to them at the street church which gathers every Wednesday night and provides food, drink and counseling. I have met them through my children when they were teens. I try to reach and listen to my teenage grandchildren as they struggle through these tumultuous years. The future generation should never been thrown out and abandoned.

We have to be responsible for our youth because they will soon be adults. Who do you want to lead our country?