Monday, October 03, 2016

Because It's Fun To Do This To Monica.

This morning I met with a woman who'd arrived in town only moments earlier, after spending almost a year in a treatment center.

We had a lot to talk about.

In the past 18 months she has lost custody of her children and now there is a restraining order in place, preventing her from attempting any contact with them.

Her father died.

Her mother, who was coddled and cosseted by her husband for the majority of her life, has collapsed into deep and abiding depression and the accompanying ill health.  She will not survive for long.

She has committed a felony offense that will forever prevent her from working in any field associated with her four-year college degree.

Her husband continues to use any and every illegal substance he can get his hands on.  When he picked her up from the 30-day program she tried prior to being sent to long-term treatment, he had a car full of his latest score and a motel room rented just minutes from the treatment center so they could use uninterrupted until it was gone.

This woman is a little younger than me, but not much, which means she's old enough to know better.  Her bachelor's degree is in psychology.  She has been through almost a year of the best treatment the court system can provide.  It may not be Betty Ford, but it's still pretty damn good.  Her family is desperately supportive of her.  She has friends from a Christian community group that have provided her local housing with a couple who run the only 12 step group in the county.  They have a car for her so she can drive to the neighboring county for work and recovery meetings.  She will be receiving one-on-one counseling through a program my office provides.  She'll be seeing me at least twice a month. She has already paid an attorney who will handle her attempt to regain custody of, or at least access to, her children.

All of that.  She has all of that.  And she chose to have her (ex)husband to pick her up from the treatment center and drive her 400 miles to see me.

I stood with her next to the window of my office on the first-and-a-half floor.  We looked down at the truck parked below, with the twitchy guy sitting at the wheel.  And we talked about choices.  And how she was choosing prison if she chose to get into that truck with him.

At that moment, in a truly inspired bit of timing, the man who is offering her a place to live, food to eat and a car to drive, showed up at the office door.  He knew she had to see me as soon as she got into town.  He was there to offer her a ride 'home'.

How much more of a godsend could there be? The woman, who is overly emotional on even her most sober days, rhapsodized over her good fortune.

He and I double-teamed her on the importance of "be still and know".  (He started it, but I've been to lots of southern revival meetings and I could play right along.  I've always thought that verse was God calling humanity to aspire to the deity and perfection of introversion, but I digress.) Promises were made by one and all.  Expectations were tendered and checked.  Small steps were plotted along a slow and steady path.

Then they left.

I shuffled papers.  Read an email.  Got up to stretch my back.  It's been giving me trouble and sitting too long is a problem.  I stepped over to the window and looked down.

I watched her get into the truck with the (ex)husband.  And then they drove away.


I told my secretary I needed to move around and I was going to pace the hall for a bit.

Walking past the County Clerk's office, I recognized one of my guys, leaning over the counter to study a form, along with his girlfriend.  He saw me too and on my return trip he came out into the hall to talk.

He's not a smart man.  He doesn't have mental retardation, but he's not far from it.  He's not had an easy life and drugs and alcohol were his only escape for a long time.  Now he has his own struggling auto body repair garage. And a woman to care for, which makes him feel like a man.

He peered up at me, his eyes huge behind the thick lenses and thicker frames of his charity eye glasses.  "We had a miscarriage," he said.  "We're here to get permission to bury the baby on the farm."

I offered what few sincere condolences I could.

"I've forgotten when my next appointment is," he said.  "Can you tell me when it is?"

I told him not to worry about it.  We would send him a reminder.  At his last appointment he'd made a special effort to get there.  They were driving in from the doctor's office, 50 miles away.  They'd had an ultrasound that day and he had pictures he wanted to show me.

Side by side, we leaned against the cold marble wall, pretending to read the posted foreclosure notices.  We stood together, dry-eyed and silent.


annie said...

Oh, man, this is downright depressing. I'm perennially hopeful and this sounds so terribly hopeless.

spookyrach said...

It was, and yet one thing I know, after 24 years of this, is that people are amazingly resilient. They survive. Mostly. And move on. Things change. People change. Life rolls on.

Unknown said...

Rach -

I don't know where to start.

Okay, here: First, your writing. Brilliant. Evocative. True. That's it, mostly; you write true, and if I could make that bold, I would. *TRUE* Your writing exudes authenticity.

And this story? Oh, man. When she got into the truck, I literally shouted, "NO!" to my empty kitchen. You led me there, and then you broke my heart.

Life breaks our hearts, so there is also this: That you care for people as you do, enough to see them and know their stories, enough to tell their stories to a world that wouldn't know them any other way?

Work of the Lord, sister. In every way.

Thank you, a million times over, for telling what is true. What you write matters. So do you.


Cyn Huddleston said...

Some of the resilience I've witnessed comes from a long, sometimes lifetime, string of unimaginable hard times. Someone beats you every day and you learn a beating won't kill you. So you get up, spit blood in the sink, put ice on the bump, and get supper for your brothers. That kind of roll can come in handy. But it takes someone else to learn that others can give you a hand without the lumps. That's what you do. You are the hand that reaches out.

spookyrach said...

Thank you Beth. Thank you so much! Damn! There might be something on my eye...

Cyn, you are so right. True, true, true. People get to rollin'. Sometimes they roll my way and just amaze the hell out of me. Thanks!

Monica said...


Monica said...

Though I will admit to a giggle at your "be still and know" digression.

stinuksuk said...

What a blessing you are to those who may or may not see it. Always planting seeds of hope, new beginnings, fresh starts, and being honest.
You never know what seeds you may have planted in their lives and you may never see them begin to germinate. But then, that's God's work, and not ours. May you never lose heart or get too discouraged for you are blessed to be a blessing to others.

spookyrach said...

YES!!! Gotcha, Monica! hahaha! And you KNOW I'm right on that 'be still' bit. Yessirreebob.

Thanks, St.inuksuk. :) You make me smile.

Anonymous said...

I also had to scream "NO" when she got into the truck. Your people are blessed to have you standing with them. CT

Steve Hayes said...

Lord have mercy!

Lady Anne said...

It's amazing (and not in a good way) how the most intelligent people can be counted on to invariably shoot themselves in the foot. And your "other guy" plods along, picking up the pieces that fall off, and eventually reach the finish line, in spite of all that life hands them.

patti said...

I have some relatives like her. On the white side.