By SCOTT WILSON
Glasgow Daily Times
Brayan Gusman can’t wait for Thanksgiving Day. He knows there will be a lot of great food, a lot of people to hang out and have fun with, and probably more importantly, he knows he will spend the day surrounded by people who love him.
Gusman, a senior at Glasgow High School, will be spending the day with his best friend Milas Norris and his family. Over the past few years, the Norrises have become Brayan’s “family” because Joan and Randle took him in after his family was deported back to Guatemala.
“It gets lonely, but the comfort I get from my teammates, my coaches and the Norris family helps to fill the void, even though that void can’t really be filled,” Brayan said. “It gets tough at times, but you have to set your mind right and keep moving forward.
“Milas and me have been friends since the eighth grade. And when he and his family heard about what was going on (in my life), they asked me to come over and stay with them. Milas’ sister (Randi) was going to be going away to college and he was going to be lonely. So, I thought sure, let’s see what happens. It was strange at first, but I have been living there about three years now and it is like living with my family. We have our ups and downs just like any other family.”
When Brayan was in the eighth grade, his father was deported back to Guatemala and his mother then self-deported herself and her children back to be with their father. He stayed with his family in Catarina, Guatemala for about six months before coming back to Glasgow, where he was born.
“I wanted to make something of my life,” Brayan said about his decision to come back to Glasgow. “I didn’t want to be a bum on the streets of Guatemala.”
“Brayan’s parents did not speak English, even though they had been here all of his life. We had met, but we really did not have a conversation because they don’t speak English and I don’t speak Spanish. So, we prayed about it,” Joan said. “As a Christian it is your responsibility to help someone if you can. That’s what helped us make the final decision to bring Brayan in. The kids were OK with it, so we decided we would do the best we could.
“Brayan’s mom and dad know where he’s living. I didn’t want him to be here and not have someone legally responsible for him so we did a guardianship order. However, it was also important to me that his parents know I was not taking away any of their rights. I didn’t want them to think they lost contact with their child.”
When Brayan talks about Joan and Randle, he refers to them as mom and dad. And he jokes that he and Milas have “teased” people in the community about actually being brothers. However, as smooth as everything seems now, everyone will tell you the transition took some time.
“There were some growing pains. Much of it was him being a typical teenager and the fact he had a different mindset than what our mindset was about what a teenager can and can’t do,” Joan said. “We told him that we are very overprotective of our children and I told him we would treat him just like he was one of our own. I told him every teacher would know they could contact me at any time and that was not something Brayan was used to. It was an adjustment for him to know that I was going to hold him accountable.
“It was his view that if he wanted to do it, then he should be able to do it. Our view is if you’re paying the mortgage, the same thing I tell my kids, then you can do it your way. But you’re not paying the mortgage. So you have to follow our rules.”
“In my dealings with Joan and Randle Norris, they’re all about family. I think this is great for Brayan, and to see how he has matured since coming over here in the eighth or ninth grade has been unbelievable,” said Rick Wood, Brayan and Milas’ football coach. “When they got hold of him, they gave him rules and told him he will abide by those rules. I told Mrs. Norris when this first happened that I don’t know if he realizes it now, but someday Brayan will realize how lucky he is and appreciate everything they’ve done for him. It is a remarkable story.”
Woods’ comments were almost prophetic as Gusman, and Milas too, are starting to see the bigger picture of what is taking place.
“The joy I feel and the happiness I have, the Norrises have given me,” Gusman said. “It is hard for me to show and express how I feel. I love Milas and his family so much. It is a great feeling to know they care enough to do this for me and if they ever needed anything, I would do it for them.”
“I hadn’t really thought about it, but he needed somewhere to stay and I really didn’t think about it. I just wanted to help him out,” Milas said. “And I always wanted a brother, somebody to have my back.
“I think this has been a benefit for me, too. It has helped me learn how to deal with different people. Brayan and I are a lot alike, but we’re different. Sometimes we get mad at each other, but having him here is a big help to me. And this (situation) helps me see where other people come from, what makes them tick. It has really helped me understand people.”
And now that football season is over, Gusman’s goal right now is to graduate on time and get ready for college at Western Kentucky University. He’s got big plans, most of which include bringing his family back to Glasgow.
“I want to try and bring my family back here as soon as possible, but it will take a bunch of money,” Gusman said. “Before I bring them over I want to make sure I get their visas and get everything organized because I don’t want to fear they’re going to leave again.”
And when Gusman is able to get back together with his family on a permanent basis, what will that day be like?
“Even if we just sit down and watch TV, I just want to spend time with them,” Gusman said. “I can’t wait to have Thanksgiving Dinner with them.”