When Christopher Fraser was 10, the state determined that his father was unfit to care for him. And Christopher went to live with his grandparents — a move that got him off the streets.
Now 22, Christopher recently discussed the night he arrived — and the changes that came afterward — in a conversation with his grandmother Victoria Fraser.
He began with a question: "What was your initial reaction, to see a 10-year-old kid sitting in your kitchen — with not so much as a phone call prior to that?"
"It was a surprise," Victoria said.
Christopher's father had been arrested, and for the weeks and months that followed, Christopher was distraught.
"Your grief was really big," Victoria said.
And he said things to his new hosts that astounded them.
One of them, Victoria remembers, was "I really don't think that I should be living with you."
In those early days, Christopher called his grandparents "castle people." And he described himself as a street person — he and his father had been homeless, a fact that came as a revelation to the rest of his family.
"I talked like Rocky," Christopher remembers.
But he stayed.
"We never said, 'Oh yeah, he can live here for 10 years,' " Victoria said. "We said, 'We'll do this one day at a time.' And because you've been as great as you've been, it hasn't been all that hard."
Christopher is now a senior in college. But, he said, there is still something he feels sad about: that he hasn't thanked his grandmother enough for what she did.
"I can say it to anybody else, but I sometimes find it hard to say it directly to you," Christopher said.
"With all your grace, you managed to actually fill gaps," he said.
"You fill the mother role more than I could ever ask — and definitely more than I've ever known. But even the parts that are missing with a male figure — it's different, but you manage to make the pain a lot less."
The lasting impression, he said, is that of someone who can "carry the world on their shoulders and run at the same time."
"Well, thank you," Victoria said. "That's very kind of you to say that."
Produced for Morning Edition by Katie Simon. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.