Helter Skelter

Rust Cohle: Look. I consider myself a realist, all right, but in philosophical terms, I’m what’s called a pessimist.
Martin Hart: What’s that mean?
Rust Cohle: Means I’m bad at parties.
Matthew McConaughey as Rust Cohle and Woody Harrelson as Martin Hart in True Detective

Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes things go very wrong. And sometimes, well…


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The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.

I have previously written about the kindness of strangers, but there is a reason I approach life realistically. Like the quote above, many people consider it pessimism. People can be good, and people can be bad, and people can just let you down. If you think someone is good and they pull the rug out from under you, a realist approach to the world knows this was possible. A pessimist might think that it was inevitable. An optimist must pull his head from the sand, shake off the grains, and try to avoid devastation. But even for a realist like me, the story below both knocked me down and lifted me up proving that we live on a spectrum: sometimes people can be very good, even if it sometimes seems most aren’t.


Several months ago we were amazed when the education consultant (Erica Mackey*) we hired told us to tear up our contract. She said she couldn’t charge us because Ethan’s case was so incredibly complex that wherever he was placed would be so expensive that we would need to save every penny for tuition. She would continue with our case at no charge. I was surprised but not shocked at how difficult it was to contact her over the next couple of months. She was out of town or washing her hair or sick or… We hired her in June. In August she told Melanie that the case was too difficult, and while she would remain a resource, she could not continue with our case. We spent exactly 0 dollars, so monetarily we suffered no loss. Time, however, is something altogether different. We lost more than 2 1/2 months when we could have been more thoroughly searching on our own or hired someone else. Time cannot be recovered. I expected a placement by the end of this month at the latest, and now we are, for all intents and purposes, starting over.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with being more pessimistic than optimistic. Optimism is broad-based, non-detail-oriented thinking; pessimism is detail-oriented thinking.
David Rakoff

We also mentioned the generosity of the lawyer (Mark Trustin*) with whom we are/were working. He intended to cap his fees. Mr. Trustin was more than generous with his time, speaking at length with Melanie on the phone. However, it became more and more evident that he did not remember Ethan’s situation from one conversation to the next. I’m sure he is busy, but Ethan’s case is so complex, so difficult, it’s hard to believe that he wouldn’t retain some of the information. These warning lights went from yellow to red when his offer to cap his fees also escaped his memory.

That’s OK. Again, we have only lost time, right? Another lawyer was highly recommended, “the best.” We knew that she wouldn’t come cheap, but at this point we wanted to make sure things went smoothly and quickly. When we tried to contact her (she is based in Wilmington, NC), we discovered that she had moved–to Alaska. So, we are again in an ever frustrating game of phone tag with a few more lawyers.

And as for educational consultants, things seemed as if they would proceed a little more smoothly. We simply contacted the one who is considered “the best” in our area, understanding there are not many in our area. Again, phone tag. When we finally made contact, we discovered that she has been recovering from eye surgery. We are still trying to figure out our next move. At what point does phone tag morph into phone hide-and-seek?

Ethan has been at Youth Focus for nearly three months.

I think even the most optimistic of optimists might be knocked back a step or so.

School has started. Melanie and I have returned to work. Those summer months when we could have (should have) been scouring, instead of searching, the Internet in search of options have passed. We were let down, and now we are scratching and clawing for time, those two months that were excised from our summer. Including the money that has been donated outside of our GiveForward fundraiser, we have raised just over $13,000. This is incredible, but with our new found expenses, we may be lucky to break even in lawyer and educational consultant fees. While I’m sure everyone is aware of the costs associated with lawyers, the cost of an educational consultant is unfamiliar. The average cost is around $4,000. The eye surgery consultant has been described as “expensive.” This could mean a fee of $7,000 dollars or more. Yikes.


A few days ago a friend of mine, Laurin, suffered a great loss, the death of a parent. What did she do? She asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Ethan’s fundraiser. With all of our recent setbacks, it is almost impossible to fathom the incredible generosity of someone who, in the midst of grief, put others needs above her own. There are no words that can express our resulting emotions. At the visitation, when we were there to support the family, the family took the time to support us. The mother and aunt of Laurin took the time to talk with us, to hug us and to talk with us about Ethan. Thank you doesn’t seem enough.


*I generally do not identify people by name unless they have made a positive effective on our lives. I do not mention these names for any reason other than to provide substance to our experiences. Everyone has different experiences with professionals. Ours, while not negative, proved to be very frustrating. Even the best intentions can result in negative consequences. We are grateful for every bit of help and advice we have received from professionals in the areas where we are seeking assistance.

Twitter: @ethansnotalone  #ethansnotalone

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