Wednesday, January 2, 2008
The time before Christmas and the holidays are such a blur, and much happened on the homefront that I meant to write about as it was happening but it all unfolded too quickly in some ways. I have posted before about our spare teen, D. She has continued to spend lots of time with us, and in church on Wednesdays and Sundays. She is preparing for her baptism on Easter Vigil, and will be confirmed with LC#2 on All Saints Sunday. Her family situation continues to be very troubling and discordant. What happened recently made me think of the story of the Little Match Girl which I think was by Hans Christian Andersen.
Two weeks before Christmas, we had an ice storm. The schools dismissed early, but the public library was open. I picked up my two kids from school, but they told me that they thought D took the bus home. She had instead, walked to the public library in town to read and get a treat at the coffeeshop in the library. Unfortunately, about 2:00 p.m., the power went out in our entire town, and the library had to close. D. now had nowhere to go but to head for home. So she walked about two miles to get home. She is not allowed to have a cell phone and she did not think to come to our house which is only a half mile from the library( she is after all a teenager).
Her Mom is at work about an hour and a half away. Mom’s boyfriend was somewhere, but no one left a key out for her to get into the house ( she is not allowed to have her own key). There seems to be a pattern of the boyfriend locking D out of the house.
So now she is at her house, and it is windy and there is a light freezing rain, and the door is locked and she thinks her Mom will be home in a couple of hours. There are no neighbors at home, and she is cold and wet and tired. She sits down on the front step to wait. The power is off in town until about 5:15 so there is nowhere open she can go. And when it does come on, she could walk a half mile to the convenience store, but she can't stay there forever. Unfortunately her Mom is not home when she thought she would be, and the boyfriend had not come home... No one comes home until 9:00 p.m at night.
Now she is really cold and hungry and tired, and nto surprisingly, she gets sick- she had pneumonia. She misses the rest of school before the break except the last day. And her Mom could only stay home with her for a day or two, so she is home sick alone. And she doesn’t want to bother anyone, and so no one knows.
But by Christmas Eve she is well enough that she can come and sing with the youth choir at church. Before all of this had happened, I suggested to D that she invite her parents to come to see her sing at the service. She seemed skeptical that either would come, and frankly, so did I.
But on Christmas Eve, when we picked her up to go to rehearse, she says she thinks they are coming. And she has a new red shirt and she is excited. And in fact, her Dad and his new wife come for the whole service. Her Mom did come later, but had missed most of the singing by the youth- but she came. And for the first time she is dressed up and with makeup and it looks like she feels like a real person, maybe because she is there without the boyfriend, who D says is a “mean drunk.”
As I communed all of them, I tried to get a sense of it all. Did Dad come because it would be rude to say “no” to his daughter? How hard was it for Mom to tell the boyfriend she was doing something for D regardless of whether he wanted to come? D tells me she hears them argue about her and she knows the boyfriend considers her an intrusion. She tells me she asked for a microwave and a cappuccino maker for her room in the basement so she won’t even have to come upstairs to eat when her Mom is gone and the boyfriend is home. I worry what that really means.
I pray for this blended family that they can rejoice in the gift of each of its members, and that abuse, and fighting can stop, that caring can happen, and that permanence can occur. And I pray that D's Mom finds the strength to be the Mom to her daughter she needs to be, even if that means giving up the relationship with the boyfriend. Even though he is the father of her toddler. People who have known D's mom say she has really changed- she is not who she once was. Does she not care or is it all too overwhelming? I pray for her, and I pray for the safety of D who at least knows she can come to us, and that there is a light. And I pray that she would come to us if things were really dangerous and not just kind of tense.
What must it feel like to be 14 and know that most days, a choice is made which picks everyone but you? I have made sure D knows that she can always call us, and have asked the librarian to let her use the phone to call us if she is there and needs a ride. We have told her she is welcome at our house anytime, even without calling.
And for my part, I think that the next time I am picking D up and the key is under the flower pot, I am going to give her a gift- we’ll make copies ( we'll keep her spare) and she can keep it in her bag. No one needs to know. As much as I can’t fathom why the adults are not responsible, and why she is left to find others to pick up the pieces, I just can’t live with the thought that another day could pass when she can’t get in and she becomes a headline.