Friday, September 21, 2012

Cold and Tired

I was at least the forth reporter to come knocking on her door this day.  Cheryl Braham is the adoptive mother of Jason Braham, a 21 year old  burglary convict who, just 2 days earlier, had escaped from the Uintah County jail with the help of another inmate, Dallas Derrick.

I know she's home, the door to her house is propped open slightly, I can hear the muffled tones of the television droning on in the background, and When I knock on the glass screen door of her Layton, Utah subdivision, her dog, a Pekingese, I think, juts it's wet nose through the crack and begins yipping incessantly at me and my photographer who is standing on the sidewalk a few feet away.

I am certain Cheryl, who has no idea I am coming to her home to ask personal, and some might argue, invasive questions about her son, her family and her child rearing, knows I'm lingering on her front stoop, but chooses to ignore me, weary of reporters who have likely been gently stalking her all afternoon.

After about 5 minutes, and just seconds before I am ready to click off my mic and head back to Salt Lake Empty handed, she barks at the door, "who is it!"  "My name is Chris Jones, I'm a reporter with 2 News."  I hear her release a weary, incredulous laugh, it says to me,  "oh brother here we go again."

Cheyrl creaks the door open, her hair dripping wet, and she is draped in a green bath towel, "I just got out of the shower, I can't talk right now," she says urgently, making the gap in the door into a centimeter wide sliver, from which I can she only a fragment of her form.

This is the part where you get to jeer me, call me a heartless vulture, and smack your forehead in disgust of everything I do.  I lean in, just a bit, smile gently and say with real understanding that I am invading her privacy, "if you have just a second."

This exasperated mom, stands literally and figuratively naked in front of me, goosebumps racing across her skin, as she rushes out of the warm, steamy bathroom, into the stark coldness of the living room.  "I know, I'm so sorry," I say with an awkward smile on my face,  "could we just talk to you for a moment?"  "Uh," she says pushing the door closed tighter, "I've said all I have to say," Cheryl fiddles the door knob, as she, trying not to be rude, begins the difficult task of shutting the door on me forever, "I know," I interrupt, "I'm sure you're tired of seeing people like me, but we just want to give you one more chance to communicate in some way with your son."  She sighs as she flashes her eyes to the ceiling, "let me put on a robe."

She returns a few minutes later, dressed in a colorful coverall, emblazoned with bright, multi-colored, vertical stripes, and her hair, dryer, and straighter then when I met her before.

Finally dressed, and not nearly as vulnerable, Cheryl tells me about her adoptive son Jason.  By all accounts his life, almost from the beginning has been, to say the least, a challenge.  Cheryl, a foster mom, took in Jason, his brother and half sister, because of some major, yet undisclosed to me, issues with their natural mother.

After some time with Cheryl, Jason, at age 7 was finally slated to go home to his mother.  As he packs his bags with clothing, and toys, his mother is on the phone with Cheryl, telling her "she didn't want him anymore,"  Jason's real mother, had just made it, real clear, to Cheryl that "you can have him," and from that day forward, Jason, abandoned by the one person who is supposed to love him most, deems himself, unlovable.

Almost immediately Cheryl says, Jason displayed his rage of abandonment by stealing.  First in daycare at age 8, Jason stole from his daycare provider, snatching cash and checks right out of the woman's purse.

Beginning at age 15 he was in and out of jail, always for taking from others, until he was finally imprisoned after he and another man ended up burglarizing an Ogden, Utah home.

According to Cheryl, the men were in the home, the owner catches, then Jason's cohort pulls out a gun and fires, the man isn't hurt, but Jason runs and hides in a bush nearby, in what proves to be one of the coldest winter nights of the year.  Hours later he is found, unconscious and hyperthermic by and man and his daughter, out for a brisk morning stroll.

Cheryl says he nearly died that night, and was later sentenced to the jail from which he would eventually escape.

It would be easy to describe Cheryl as heartbroken, distraught, or shocked.  The truth is she is none of those things, the woman in a bright robe, running her finger through her hair, scouting for knots and tangles, is just indifferent.  She has the attitude of a woman, who has done all the worrying she can for this boy.  "I Love him, I mean, I'll always love him, but..." wanting to be brutally candid, Cheryl decides political correctness is the best approach right now, and punts, "I think it's possible people can change at any age," she says, referring, it appears, to "other people," not her troubled son.

The man she raised from a little boy, is now one of Utah's most wanted.  After a decade and a half of mind-numbing frustration, Cheryl can only hope that when her son when found, and she knows he will be, she just hopes his desperation doesn't get anyone killed, "that's my fear, that they'll (the two escapees) be desperate, and they'll hurt someone."

As we wrap up the interview I ask her how to pronounce the name, "it's Braham, like Graham, as in cracker," she laughs, "have we been pronouncing it right on the news, I ask with a smile,  "No, I've heard it pronounced every way," she says with a laugh and a shrug, as she gathers the opening of her robe at her collar, and turns to finish her shower.

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