By Lynn Paris
She arrived at the Houston airport looking like the druggy victim of domestic violence that she was. An airport attendant rolled her up to us in a wheelchair, shaky and gaunt, tears rolling down her sunken cheeks. During the drive home I remember being struck by how lovely she looked; she had a sort of “meth-head chic” look that turned her normally pretty face into something hauntingly beautiful. We’d been sure we could handle all of it. We had no idea what we were getting into.
The first week or so were actually not that bad. Strangely, the effects of weeks spent walking the streets virtually homeless, months of drug use, losing custody of her thirteen-year-old daughter, and being hit in the head with a baseball bat by her drugged out boyfriend all served as the ultimate wake-up call. She was so grateful to be sheltered, fed, and pampered that things stayed fairly mellow. No confrontations, no blaming, no freaking out—all that would come later.
Still, there were challenges to deal with. Like trying to get her prescription medications refilled at a Texas drugstore. It seems that Texas is very weird about that. Even if your doctor in California posted your prescriptions online so any drugstore could fill them, Texas won’t. Done the other way around, California will gladly fill a prescription from Texas, but I guess the Lone Star state is more concerned about narcotics than they are about guns. Medical care was difficult too, because we couldn’t get her treated anywhere without switching her California benefits to Texas, something she was adamantly opposed to. Nonetheless, we were finally able to take her to an Emergency Room to have the staples from her head wound removed. At the same time, they x-rayed her back, where she had claimed to have a cancerous bump that caused her constant pain. The x-ray showed nothing. Her back got better.
This was a particularly fascinating aspect of her time with us. Over the past few years she’d told us that she was suffering from a variety of ominous diseases, all substantiated by her medical records. For example, she was scared to death of the malignancy that was apparently running through her blood and/or bones. We remained highly skeptical, figuring that she’d be dead if she’d had cancer for as long as she claimed. But, we’d never actually seen the medical reports, and finally, she produced them for me to review. And there it was, on a series of lab test reports, the doctor’s handwritten notes referring to checks for malignancy rates, blood and bone cancerous cells etc. We felt terribly guilty for not believing her in the past. We had to get her treated.
Except there was one strange comment she made that gave me pause. In an off-hand remark she mentioned that it was strange that the doctor’s handwriting looked just like hers. Weeks later the truth came out. She had written these comments herself; she didn’t have cancer. She never mentioned it again.
The next month was a roller coaster. We had her in therapy for post- traumatic stress disorder brought on by the abuse she’d suffered. At home, we went through a period of eruptions of emotion, wild mood swings, hysterical crying, accusations, shouting, confrontations, even threats of suicide. Sometimes she made no sense. Many times she was nearly incoherent. Her thought patterns, her very way of thinking was upside down. We had to stay strong and united so we could withstand the attacks and the irrational thinking, and then be there for her when she calmed down. It was often in those moments when the most progress was often made.
I spent a long time assuming that my job was to “cure” her. Finally I realized that was just my ego talking. All we could really do was be there, support her small victories and facilitate the work God was doing in her life by letting Him use us—to set an example of how a healthy relationship works, to show her how we could love and forgive her despite her past mistakes, to show her how she needed to forgive herself and let go of the past, to show her what a good work ethic looked like, or how regular people dealt with the normal aches and pains of life. We listened as she spoke nightly with her daughter, and marveled at what a loving and compassionate mother she was. And we watched as she grew stronger, clearer, more empowered, less needy.
We started to enjoy her wacky sense of humor, her silliness and her total girliness; she was the ultimate girly-girl, something I’d never been. So I learned to stop judging and just have fun with her—to try on all the samples in the make-up department and spray on assorted perfumes like she did—it was a new but pleasurable experience for me. We also celebrated the fact that she remained drug-free, stopped smoking, had no seizures for 8 weeks (a record for her after having seizures for years) and began getting her act together.
By the last couple of weeks it was as if something switched on in her head. She began to take charge of her life again. She arranged for an apartment to rent in California so she could begin again on her own, after years of depending on one man after another to take care of her. We talked about her health problems and she began to admit that maybe she’d used them to get attention, but that she was getting far more positive attention being strong and clear-headed. She talked about the possibility of getting a part-time job. And she finally accepted that the relationship with her sixteen-year-old son would be fine, as soon as his trust in her was restored; she realized that if she didn’t try to force him, he’d come to her willingly.
The night before she left we celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary and her new beginning at a wonderful restaurant. She sat across from us, incredibly beautiful, hopeful, full of life and its possibilities. We told her how much we believed in her… and we do. We believe in her strength, her courage, and her newly found confidence. We believe she’ll make it.
The woman we sent back to California was very different from the one who arrived here two months earlier. She’d gained twelve pounds, looked and felt strong and healthy, and was ready—in our opinion and in hers—to get back custody of her daughter. She came here being wheeled to us; she left standing tall on her own two feet. We are praying that she’ll stay strong and focused so that she can take care of her children and herself. We did what we could do; she’s in God’s hands now.
me your opinions at LParis@netlistings.com