Saturday, November 29, 2014

 Thanksgiving and Christmas can be a lonesome time. Me, I’m a widower going over 75 years and yes I have children, stepchildren and a few friends.
  I celebrated Thanksgiving with one of my daughter’s family at my grandson's home, about 25 miles away. I sat there wanting to join in the many conversations but usually unable because I did not know what they were talking about. My hearing aids are very good BUT, nothing equals our God-given ears, especially in group settings. The food, laughter and fellowship were great, BUT in only 2 hours everyone was packing up and going home. On the way home I was thinking, “Whatever happened to conversation, the friendly board and card games, talk of the future and how everyone is doing now?” Driving home I just had an empty feeling, if you understand what I mean, something was missing.
 As I entered the mobile home park where I live there was a group of young girls (at my age all girls are young) huddled around and just being girls, I imagined. I thought nothing of it as I waved and most of them waved back. I let the dog out, put in the refrigerator all of the goodies that I was sent home with, sat down in the recliner and promptly fell asleep.
 About a ½ hour later my dog told me somebody was at the door so I answered it. Two young ladies in their mid twenties stood there and I said, “Can I help you?” One of them whose parents used to live in the park I knew slightly by sight said, “Mr. Patton do you recognize her,” nodding towards the other young lady who was smiling from ear to ear and had wet eyes. I laughed and honestly said, “All people look familiar to me, especially good looking ones.” They laughed and the one said, “I’m Raven.”  My mind was racing as the name and voice was familiar to me but from where?
 I said, “Come on in and don’t mind the mess,” as I removed the covering from the couch and apologized for the dog hair. We all sat down and again she said, “Do you remember me, RAVEN?” I said haltingly, “I do remember the name and the voice but from where?” and she blurted out, “Apache Junction!” I have been through some very traumatic experiences and as the memories rushed in, I was shocked, really shocked! I stood up and she rushed over and gave me a hug you would not believe and said as the tears flowed from both our eyes, “Yes, yes I am Raven.”
 I had started calling her Raven because of her gently glowing shiny black hair.  The same little beautiful Raven whom at the age of 12½ (she was adamant about the ½) was whisked away from her foster parents 2 days before Christmas so many years ago in 2003 or 2004, I think
 The same beautiful person who was on the edge of adulthood and who had been without leadership in her short life was now wandering, somewhere between lost and found and it was, mostly lost, who with God’s infinite wisdom was placed in a middle aged couple’s home through foster care in Apache Junction, Arizona in the same park we were managing. She was here, in my house after all of these years, she was here!
How I Met RAVEN   
 Sally and I were hired to manage the general operations of a mobile home park in Apache Junction, Arizona, The same park that also had about 30 RV sites spaced among the double wide trailers and the rest of the yearly residents. Shortly after learning the ropes of taking care of maintenance I also found I had another job. Right across the street from our RV was an almost empty mobile home whose owner was in a nursing home. I was told his grandson, about 18 or 19, moved into it and was selling drugs from the residence. Most of the traffic was at night and it was foot traffic. So I started patrolling with my trusty little dog, Aimee, a Bichon-Frise. What I lacked in hearing she made up for with her nose and ears. She would growl at a bush or a shadow and I’d know somebody was there. Now I also had another friend along, Mr. Smith & Wesson. So with my friends helping we kept the perps moving. There were getting to be less and less of them every evening. The grandson got himself arrested which really helped. Just about every evening I’d find Raven close-by or with the perps.
Soon, instead of sending her home she’d walk with me and we talked about ANYTHING and I mean anything in general. I found out just by listening to her comments that she’d had a very rough upbringing. Soon the druggies were all gone, but I continued my walks and most of the time she would walk with me, with her foster parent’s blessings.
  Christmas was coming soon and Raven started talking more like the young girl she was supposed to be. You could see the excitement in her eyes as they sparkled with the wonderment of the Christmas Story that her foster parents were telling her and she in turn was repeating to me. A story she had never heard before. Raven also started attending some of the functions at the recreation hall and was a favorite among the Snow-Birds whose families were many hundreds of miles away. There’s something about an exuberant, optimistic, beautiful child that everybody loves.
It was just two days before Christmas when Raven came screaming and pounding on our RV door, crying hysterically, trying to tell Sally and me what the problem was. Raven’s foster parents followed with tears streaming from their eyes. Following them were three other people! After things calmed down, and about half of the park had also gathered trying to find out what the screaming was about. The three people started talking. Most of us were floored with what they had to say. You see, Raven was ¾ Native American and was placed in foster care by the Native American’s foster care agency, whatever it was called. The foster parents realized, but never thought anymore about it, as things were going quite well with Raven.                                                 
To make a long story short those three were there to take Raven that very afternoon to new foster parents of Native American blood. No ifs, ands, or buts, she was going now with no warning.  Native American law supersedes white man’s law in a lot of things.
  Somebody called the sheriff and we were lucky as it was a man we knew and trusted. He was as upset as anybody but, his hands were literally tied. THIS WAS HAPPENING NOW!!! Not tomorrow BUT NOW!! It took a lot of coercing on our part to get them to let us have time to tell Raven good bye, and for the people who dearly loved her to run home and get their little Christmas gifts for her to take with her, while also extracting a promise from the Native Americans that she would get to keep the gifts, because at that time there was great distrust between them and us.
  AND just like that she was gone but not forgotten. We never heard from Raven again but prayed and wondered about her often.  Now a good 10-12 years later she was here and standing in my living room. A girl from the past and 2000 miles away was here with me now! As we all sat back down I reached for a tissue and laughed as I told the girls, “We are in luck! I have tissues. 
Raven filled me in on how she was whisked away from Apache Junction that day, put on a plane and sent to live with a loving Native American family in a small town (that I don’t remember the name of) in New York State. She flourished with her new Native American family whom she calls “Mom and Dad”. Her former foster parents from Apache Junction have since passed away.  She now goes to college in Michigan and is almost finished with her Major in Law Enforcement and a minor Specializing in Indian Affairs Child Advocacy.   
Because of the heavy snow in her home town in New York State she had nowhere to go for Thanksgiving break. One of her college friends invited her to come home with her for Thanksgiving; a friend whose parents used to live here in this little burg of Hesperia. After Raven arrived safely here in the area she phoned home and asked her mom to look through her cards from Apache Junction from so long ago, for anything about Hesperia, Michigan. That is how Raven found me, with just a name. As she laughed, she said, “A lot of people know you in this town, you were not hard to find.”
All too soon it was time for them to leave and we shed tears as I told her good-bye with the promise of communications, from both of us, to come.
I could not sleep Thanksgiving night.  As I thought about how disappointed I was earlier in the day, I thanked God for the reunion and again knowing that prayer does help and also wishing that Sally was here to enjoy today.

I am also happy to report that Raven said she learned to pray that day on the airplane as she flew to her new life in New York and as she stated, “I BELIEVE in prayer it is what truly helped me in those early days!”

 In closing I’d like to say that most of you know your actions speak more loudly than your words. Also remember whatever your age somebody is watching your every move and to them you are a hero.

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