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.