Friday, October 1, 2010

Sarah's story

It was 5 years ago when she showed up at my house.  It was raining, she had on no shoes, a bag in her hand that appeared to be bursting at the seems and marks running down her cheeks where tears had made their way down her cheeks.

“I need a place to stay.” She said.  It was not a question, simply a statement followed by no emotion or indication if she had just knocked on the door of her next home.

“Well, um… why don’t you come on in.  It’s a little cramped, but um, we can sit at the table and talk while I feed Alex.”  

Alex is my son.  Two & a half years old at the time.  He is autistic, and at the time need full attention.  Little happened when I was not already doing something with him.   Our daughter Chelsey, seven, had begun to show signs of restlessness when it came to being “mommy’s little helper.”

“I don’t know if I should come in.  I don’t know if… well… if I’m welcomed.”  Sarah said, head hanging low. 

Pushing the handicapped stroller aside, we walked into the cramped living room to the small round dining table which was actually positioned just in front of the couch.  It’s a very small home these days, with Alex’s trampoline and tunnel crawl taking up a majority of the very small eating nook.

 “Ronald’s not home.  Now is about the only time you could come in.”  

Once before my sister had tried to blackmail my husband by threatening to tell his boss and myself they were having an affair.   This was the first sign her drug use had altered her state of mind to the point of disillusionment.  The month before we had received a call she was passed out at a crack house the police were about to raid (a perk of volunteering with the local fire department).  He had just enough time to wrestle her out before the cops arrived.  Afterwards he took her to a hotel room, paid for one night, and then came home and told me.  It was the same night I had planned to tell him I was pregnant with Alex.

“How’s mom?”  She asked, again with no emotion or sincerity in her voice.

“Mom’s fine.  She’s asleep in her room.  I don’t expect she will wake up after today’s chemo treatments. Don’t bother her.”  I repositioned Alex back into the chair Ronald had specially rigged to help Alex with his constant head rocking.  It helped while we were trying to feed, and took up the space of two chairs. 

After sitting down I remember looking over to see Sarah still standing in the open doorway.  Her eyes were wide, shifting from side to side, in syncopation with a small twitch she seemed to have happening in her neck.   Similar in nature to a tick Alex had developed early last year.  Her hair was particularly messy, tangled to one side and pulled together with a kind of rubber band seen at grocers markets.  Her feet where muddied, ankles swollen and toenails yellowed.  Lack of hygiene was not uncommon since she started using.

“Sarah, I said you can come in.  Get out of the rain, or in the least shut the door so bugs don’t get in.  We have a bad enough problem as it is with unwanted guests… um, I mean pests.  You know, rats and snakes and the like.”   Alex was having a particularly hard time paying attention to me at this point – its not ever good to receive a visitor during mealtimes.  But I knew I couldn’t leave Sarah out in the rain either.  I put the spoon down and picked up a flash card with an image of Thomas the Train, Alex’s favorite past time.  He knocked his head from left to right, a signal which we had taken to mean that he was okay with the next activity.

“I, uh… I don’t know.  I just uh, you know… I don’t have a place to stay and…” Sarah continued to ramble on.  She said the same phrase over and over and over again “I need a place to stay.”  

My heart broke while I watched her take tiny steps inside our house.   Mind you, we do not have a large home.  Last year when Alex was diagnosed, and mother’s condition worsened, we fell victim to the economic downturn quicker than most.  And having lost our first home, we were forced to move twice before finding the three bedroom rental we could afford on Ronald’s diminishing commission-based salary.

 “Sarah, I hear you.  You need a place to stay.  But you know, the five of us are already crammed in this tiny house.”  Carrying Alex into the dining room and rearrange the tunnel so it was facing the television, I tried to keep one eye on Sarah at all times.  Last time she had been allowed inside our home she took several of kids dvds and a camera that had been used to capture Chelsey’s 5th birthday party, then denied having even visited when we asked. 

“I just need a couch, I can even just… I can even just… just sleep on the floor, Claire.”  Crawling to her knees Sarah awkwardly laid down next to the couch to show her satisfaction with a spot.  “See, I can just sleep right here, just like… just like this…” again she continued, looping over the same statement repeatedly.

There is nothing more saddening then watching your once best friend deteriorate into the state of being a addict.  Sarah had graduated from college with a degree in Sociology, and worked at another local college for a few summer semesters, while trying to get a Masters degree for teaching.  She had left on a vacation with some of her best friends, and was never the same since.  The first signs were when mom called saying she had been asking for money more often, then she lost her job at the school.  We didn’t think it was much more than bad luck until her stories became more erratic at holiday dinners, her dress more inappropriate in general. 

“Sarah, get up.  You are not sleeping on our floor.”  Picking up her bag, I could sense she had not washed her clothes for some time.  There was grime covering most of the items, and little else crammed into the over-stuffed handbag.

“But, it’s just for a couple of nights.  Just until I get my feet on the ground.  I’ve been clean for a week now and I just need a place to stay while I look for a job.”  Sarah had sat up against the couch and as the sunlight streamed in through the dirty front window I caught a glimpse of the sister I once knew beneath the filth that had settled onto her once porcelain skin.

We spent the next few hours in a grime discussion about what had happened over the past several months.  Her story was rough, and by the time she made her way through what I thought was a gruesome section of the story, Alex’s movie had finished.  I had to ask her to sit on the porch while I fed Alex as it was imperative the lunch environment be exactly what Alex expected it to be: me quietly feeding him colorless, pureed food.  She complied, and patiently waited in the rocking chair we kept out on the front porch.   Once Alex and I had finished, he went down for an afternoon nap, and I stepped out to join her on the porch, so as to avoid having a residual odor in the house.  We continued our conversation only for me to hear her story take a turn for the worse.

Saddened by the tales of drug influenced woe and dealer manipulation, I knew I could not simply let her go back out to the streets.  Hearing about the sexual exploitation, thievery, rape and drug smuggling were enough for me to know that I needed to find my sister help.  She held to her claim of being sober for several days, and I was dumbfounded when she described waking up in the hospital after the major events of withdrawals had torn through her nervous system while she lay unconscious. 

“Well, Sarah, I don’t understand.  What happened to your shoes?”  I had tried to act as if I didn’t notice, but also couldn’t imagine the hospital would let her leave without a pair of shoes to wear.

“I didn’t have a choice but to leave the hospital, and I didn’t know where to go so I just left and sat on the dge of this building somewhere, and just stayed.  I don’t remember how long, but I finally fell to sleep and woke up and my shoes and my other bag were gone.  They couldn’t get this one because I was sitting on it, I guess.”

Dismayed and shocked I could not even begin to visualize the isolation of the scene she had just described.  “Why didn’t you call me from the hospital Sarah.  I might have been able to help.”

“I did… I did.  Well, I tried.  I couldn’t.”  Sarah scratched at her face roughly, then rubbed her hands brow before squeezing her eyes together from both sides.  “I couldn’t… remember your new name.”

“Sarah, I don’t have…” I began to answer when it hit me.  She couldn’t remember Ronald’s last name, my married name.  The one I had been using for ten years now.  “Nevermind.  We can… we will… well, let’s just get you inside and cleaned up before Ronnie gets home.  Are you hungry?”

Once inside I convinced Sarah to take a shower, while I threw her belongings in a power wash cycle, and scrounged up a set of clothes that would not engulf her withered frame.  I had also called Ronald to let him know to take Chelsey to his sister’s while I figured out what to do.  He was not happy to hear that she was in our home, and accused me of taking on another ‘fixer upper project’ and I was not happy to hear him refer to Sarah as such.  But in the end he complied, and reminded me to keep a close eye on my keys and to call him at the first hint of trouble.  

While Sarah showered, I began to put everything into perspective.  Mother had just begun aggressive chemo treatments, and news of Alex’s autism was still an adjustment for the entire family.  We already had a very tough road ahead of us, but I still felt the need to do something to ensure she would not end up back in a homeless situation where she could be repeatedly victimized by her dealer and addiction.  

The afternoon had passed quickly with the deep conversations, and by the time she emerged from the shower, it was time to feed Alex dinner.  Once more, I asked Sarah to step outside so I could feed Alex dinner, and decided to take a moment to call to a friend, Diane. 

When mother began to need constant supervision, just before this last bought of treatments left her nearly paralyzed in weakness, forcing her to move in – Diane was the friend who came in to help devise a plan.  A nutritional therapist by trade, she was a life saver for our family in the earliest stages of Alex’s diagnosis.  She taught us how to prepare foods that Alex would be able to eat, establish a strict daily routine for us to follow, recognize the signs and symptoms of ticks and tantrums, and alternative ways to develop communication with our special needs son.  And when I told her what was happening, I swear, I heard the phone drop.  She confirmed my suspicions.  With so many people living in the house already, if I were to invite a suspect ed-drug addict into the home now, the Case Worker would likely be forced to to assess the environment we were raising Alex in and call Child Protective Services.

“NO.  Claire.  You can not do it.   After all we have done to get you where you are now, you cannot compromise your son’s progress for your lunatic, drug crazed sister.  And that’s exactly what the CPS lawyers are going to say about her.  Isn’t she the one you said thought she could set herself on fire at work to collect compensation benefits?”

It was true.  The year before, while working a part-time job at a gas station, Sarah had drenched herself in fuel and tried to light it with a match.  The police arrived on scene and after a enduring a litany of stories from Sarah, the police watched the video to confirm their suspicions.   She had been lying about how the gasoline had gotten onto her clothes.  Rather than it being a splash back from filling an emergency container, she had simply lifted the nozzle out of its cradle, pointed it to herself and squeezed the trigger.  According to the police reports, she also pressed her face into the fuel soaked material and appeared to “huff” several deep breaths before beginning the bizarre process of trying to light herself on fire in the middle of the parking lot.  The police report investigation suggested she had been attempting to get money from her work to repay a dealer who had come in earlier with a threat to kill her if she didn’t pay soon.

My next phone call was to a crisis hotline number Diane gave me.  Their resource information was limited, but the older woman on the other end of the line did direct me to the county mental institution, who then directed me to a local shelter for the homeless.  I occasionally peaked out onto the porch while making the calls, hoping she would not become distracted and wander off.  Instead she sat in the same position, with her ankles crossed while she rubbed her arms hard, shaking her head irregularly from side to side, occasionally looking over her shoulder to see if anyone was watching from the street.  It was odd to look towards my young son and see such similarities in their physical behaviors.  And I remember feeling heartbroken because, I could see so few similarities to the sister I once remember teaching me to braid my hair.

I had never expected, in my life, there would be a day when I would open the door to my drug addicted sister whom I would later have to tell that I could not let stay.  And to top things off I was going to have to tell her she would have to move into a homeless shelter.  It all seemed to be too much for one person to handle. 

And then is I heard the bell, and felt the tug.  The bell was mother’s way of letting me know she had woken up and the tug was Alex telling me was getting impatient for dinner.

Walking towards the locked bedroom door,  I could hear the television click on “Mother, I’ll be right in!  I just need to feed Alex. “  Bending down I tried to pull Alex’s gaze to me “Alex.  Alex.   You are going to eat in just one minute, I just need to call...” and then the tantrum began.  It lasted about two hours.  And Alex lived up to every stereotype known for autistic children.  I heard the phone repeatedly in the background ringing to no end.  I was certain it was Ronald, wished mother could have answered the line and knew the noise was not helping Alex at all. 

These were the moments in that time of my life that I would find myself with tears streaming from my eyes while I would continue to try and encourage Alex to jump on the trampoline, or swaddle him in a giant hug clothe.  It was always so awkward to be sitting legs crossed with Alex in my waist, arms around him to satisfy the sensational needs his body was demanding, and crying to satisfy the emotional needs my own. 

And on this day it was even more uncomfortable to look up and see Sarah staring in through the small window in the door.  I almost jumped in fright at the stoic look on her face as she peered in.  I had forgotten hours ago I had asked her to sit outside so I could try to feed Alex and could not have predicted, nor could possibly ever predict when these spells would occur.  All I could do was shrug apologetically and hope that she could understand the sensitivity of the moment at hand.  Alex had to be my first priority.  Then mother.  Then I’d need to call Ronald back and let him know of how the situation was going though there was little progress to be told unless I could call the homeless shelter for more details.  She seemed to understand my message and appeared to return to the rocking chair.

While in deep thought, and feeding Alex pureed carrots, again, for the 12th meal in a row (I often feared my son would turn orange during this phase of his development) I heard it.  It sounded like the bell from mother’s room, expect it was a continuous ring-a-ling, not like the gentle rings she would send out to let me know she needed something whenever I had a free moment.   But an alarming continuous frantic tone.  I quickly put Alex’s mostly empty bowl away and placed him at the head of the crawl tunnel.  This was my signal to him that we were done with dinner, and it would afford me a few minutes of free time while he would meander his way slowly to the other side. 

I went into mother’s room through the extra door we had built in, and she had sat straight up in her bed for the first time in weeks, and appeared to be at strict attention, staring out of the window as if she had seen a ghost. 

“Mother?  Everything okay?”  I asked as I walked to her bed, and she put her finger quickly to her mouth as if to tell me to hush, then pointed to the single framed window.  Sarah was standing at the window, looking in from the back yard as if watching television.  She must have finally become restless in her waiting and wandered to the other side of the house.  I told Sarah through the window to go back to  the front door and asked her to put on Thomas the Train for Alex again.  Her shoulders slumped, and her head hung low as she sauntered away.

I was hard to explain to my mother the events of that afternoon.   Typically after her chemo treatments she would be so worn out that she could sleep for twenty hours straight, and not hear a thing – not even if Alex would bang on her bedroom door in the midst of one of his tantrums.   She was growing much older than her actual age as the cancer grew more aggressive than the treatments.  A once spry and active lady now lived in our spare bedroom, a prisoner to a disease she could not have prevented.

That evening we spent an hour talking about Sarah and why she had turned up after the months of having not heard from her.  I shared with our mother what Sarah had told me, including the trials of her addiction and the recent short-term success of being clean.  I told her about the plan to contact a homeless shelter, and began to cry as I admitted I was afraid to tell Sarah the inevitable. 

And I’ll never forget the next moment as long as I live. Mother lifted her weak hand to my face and said “God is with you and loves you always, Claire.  And he will always be with Sarah, and will always love her no matter where she is.  Go and tell Sarah I want to speak with her.  I will tell her for you.” 

That night my mother and Sarah talked until well past midnight.  Ronald and Chelsey came home quietly so as not to alert Sarah of their presence and went straight to bed as both had an early start to the next day.  I managed to wrangle Alex into bed at a decent hour and spent the last hour of the day sitting in the rocking chair where Sarah had spent so much time that afternoon.   Still in shock at the day’s events I returned to the kitchen to pull Sarah’s now clean laundry from the dryer, when she emerged from mom’s room with a Kleenex in her hand and tears in her eyes.  She came over to me and we folded the laundry quietly we had done as teenagers many times before. 

“Claire” she started.

“Yes, Sarah.”

“I think I’m going to be okay.  I think.  I think I’ll be okay.  Yes.”   Sarah continued to fold the last piece of clothing into the already full bag.  “But I could really use some shoes.” 

That night Sarah slept on the floor, exactly as she had acted out earlier that afternoon.  And as Ronald and Chelsey began to scramble off to work and school the next morning, she laid very still as if fast asleep, but on occasion I would catch one eye open as if to check that they were not watching her back.  She laid in that same position until well after I had fed Alex, and forcefully urged her to get up.

She was not much help in the kitchen – preferring to sit very still at mom’s bedside with one of the kids plastic tumblers full of water cupped in her hands.  The three of us sat in mom’s room while Alex played to the side, eating scrambled eggs and toast, drinking coffee and laughing at the morning talk show host who had decided to wear a hot pink marimba dress on the show that day.    It would be the last time the three of us would eat together before mother would loss her battle with cancer. 

The homeless shelter was not at all what I had expected.  In fact, I had thought there would be a gym-like room filled with cots, and a cafeteria style kitchen where people would be lined up with Styrofoam bowls waiting for their portion of stew.  Instead, it looked almost like ranch house, with small dormitories lined up one after another on either side and a large wooden framed building in the front. 

The business office where we checked in was a set of portables way off to the side tiny visitors parking lot.  The process took time, and I began to worry about Alex’s behavior, but he managed to stay distracted by the comings and goings of various peopled who walked in and out.  At one point Sarah was called into the second portable by a case worker who introduced himself as Sam.  They spoke for what seemed like an hour, and returned with another woman named Celeste who was from the recovery home to which Sarah would be eventually move.

The transitional plan was intricate, detailing what she would do today, the next day, and for what seemed to be every day for the next six months.  First, she would stay at the shelter until she had been sober for no less than two weeks.  If in that time frame she was able to find a job and could begin to pay the nominal rent at the recovery home, she would move there.  If not, she would stay at the shelter and receive occupational training.  She would have to abide by a curfew, and would have to report in to her dorm captain three times a day.  Failure to do so would mean she would be expelled from the shelter’s program.

They also had her in an aggressive accountability/support group system.  First she would attend daily support groups at the shelter until it was time for her to transition into the home.  Secondly, she would begin to attend the home’s weekly accountability meetings to become acclimated to the environment and women she would eventually call roommates.  Third, she would meet with a case worker daily to report how her day had gone, and to turn in her paychecks.   Sarah would not be allowed to have any money in her possession during the time she was at the shelter.

Her dorm would consist of 12 other women, sleeping four to a room, three rooms to a dorm.  The 12 would share one camp-style bathroom.  She would have one military style locker at the foot of her bed, and one dresser for her belongings, and if she or any other residents were with another resident’s possessions it would be grounds for immediate dismissal. 

As Sam read these details verbatim from a script, Celeste stood by Sarah’s side with her arm around her shoulder.   The two had already formed a bond closer than the one Sarah and I would ever share again.  Once Sam was complete, he turned the board to Sarah, she looked to Celeste who assured her she could would be fine, she looked to me and I smiled, then she slowly reached out to sign her name on the bottom line.   Afterwards they handed her a key to her small footlocker which she clenched tightly saying, “That’s one more key than I have had in years.”

After Sam and Celeste gave us each an abundance of reading materials, we spent the next hour acclimating her to her new room.  As a non-resident I was only allowed a short amount of time to visit before I would need to leave the premises.  I agreed to come to the weekend’s “Family Dinner” where resident’s family members were invited to partake in a meal with their loved ones.   Using Celeste’s business card I wrote down my full name and contact information for Sarah to have so there would hopefully be no more incidents of forgetting.

At that time in my life, I was not one to pray much, if ever.  My schedule was always so full and more often chaotic that I had once even asked God to always read my worried thoughts as prayers, any muttered thanks as praise.  But on this day, as I drove home and Alex slept, we talked.  I had a lot of questions and found myself asking them aloud. Would I ever see Sarah again?  Would this be the program that would help her save her life?  Would she fail and walk away?   Could Ronald ever forgive her and let her come back into our lives if she did succeed in sobering up?  Would my children be able to grow up knowing a happy, functioning aunt… or asking questions about the lady who once spent the night on the floor?  He kept reminding me through my mother’s words, “I am always with you and I will always love you.”  It was all I needed to hear.  It is all I ever needed to hear thereafter. 

At that time in my life, I could not imagine what being an addict had meant.  I knew when Sarah had began to go downhill she spent was spending her money on drugs or alcohol – we weren’t really sure in the beginning exactly how, and if asked directly she was not quite able to recall herself.   Continually I criticized myself on what I could have done as her only sister to prevent any of this from happening.  I wish I had picked up on the idea she had stopped calling.  I wish I had noticed how long it had been seen we had seen each other.  I wish I had made more of a point to do anything at all to keep a closer relationship.

It was not long before Mom went into hospice care, and a couple of days later passed away.  We each had our chance to say good-byes, and for a brief moment since the night Sarah slept on our floor we were all together again once again.  Since Sarah had likely missed the dinner hour at the shelter, Ronald and I offered to take her out to eat, but she left on her own saying she would be catching the bus back to the shelter.  

We all went about our daily routines, mine a bit lighter in responsibility which gave me a chance to focus on getting Alex prepared for entering an all day special needs schooling program. Sarah had choosen to keep us at a distance – rarely returning any phone calls, offering little information when we did speak.  I assumed it had something to do with mother’s death, until one day Ronald called to let me know Sarah had been picked up on a prostitution charge. 

After a very jarring visit with Sarah at the police station I left frustrated and angry at my sister, at myself, at everyone.   I screamed out “Why!  Why, why, why, why, why? “  It was the only word I could get out in between sobs.  Pulling into an empty parking lot I leaned my head against the steering wheel, and hoped for some understanding.   And then I saw it – Celeste’s card lying between the seat and the console.

I don’t know why I hadn’t thought to call her before that day but I recognized the moment as a sign.  We spoke for about an hour, and she consoled my worried nerves.  She reminded me this was likely part of Sarah’s process, and typical for anyone in her situation – there would be a cycle that Sarah would have to break in order to assimilate into the mainstream as a sober, functioning adult.  She reminded me those who had lived without identities, job responsibilities, homes or security did not have the same avenue of resources as those of us who were used to the security of four walls, a roof and a refrigerator filled with food.   And asked me to consider the character and self-esteem it takes to ask for help, and to understand these are often lost when one has lived without the dignity of being able to shower for weeks or even months.

Days later when Sarah was released I picked her up and we headed back to the shelter.  Sam and Celeste met us there, and again pulled Sarah away while they talked with her in the separate building.  As I waited in the room people began to arrive – and as I disclosed who I was, they each claimed to be friends of Sarah from the brief time she had been there.  Everyone warmly passed on condolences for our loss and many of them shared briefly a bit of their own story of homelessness and the difficulties they have faced when their previous life would collide with their the current path, and their individual returns to their past lives in tough times.

Through the window I could see the trio returning.  Sarah looked emotional, Celeste hopeful and Sam talkative as he led the way.  The others in the office with me hushed each other silent as they scattered about the office , leaving me questioning what was going on.  The door to the office opened, and after the three followed one another in it began.  In a soft murmer the hidden people began to sing, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you ain’t ever gonna keep me down. I get knocked down, but I get up again, you ain’t ever gonna keep me down.”  Quickly the volume became louder as everyone began to emerge from behind the desks clapping their hands and dancing about, even Sam and Celeste began to join in.  Sarah doubled over in laughter, and I stood speechlessly smiling until she too began to pump her hands into the air and signaled me to join in.  We sang the chorus repeatedly for minutes straight, as the tiny office began to bust at the seams as more residents continued to race in, excited to join in the surprise. 

As the momentum began to naturally wear off, a tall gentleman took to the middle of the room, grabbed Sarah by the hand and said “You know, it’s a tough road.  But we are your friends to the end and can’t wait to see where it leads you.  Stay strong, and know we love you.”  As though an unspoken signal was given, the group began closing in, arms reaching out to pat Sarah on the back, rub her on the shoulder, or give her a hug as she would allow.  I tried to break into the circle, but made no progress as I competed with the stream of people still coming and going out the small office door.  Sarah peaked through the crowd at me, smiled and waved.  I took it as a hint to leave – she was obviously with many people who knew what to do much more than myself.

As the months continued on Sarah’s journey seemed to move more quickly than I could have imagined it possible.  She found a part time sacker’s job at the local grocers, moved into the recovery home, and started attending a church program called “Celebrate Recovery” where she met a gentleman name Charles who simply and clearly adored her.   Between the two, each of who had barely seen their thirties, they had a combined total of 15 years of addiction, 5 years of homelessness and over $150,000 in accumulated debt.

Today they have been together and sober for four years.  Each remain in their transitional home environments and expect to be there for another year while they continue to pay off their debts.  Sarah is being trained to work in the bakery at her store, and was asked by Celeste to lead the recovery home’s support group next year.    She wears a modest wardrobe, and continues to share a room with another women.  Her smile is wider than any other I know, and her network of friends is larger than Ronald and I combined.  When asked why she is happy, she responds “Because I am alive, and I am loved.”

I see Sarah on a regular basis these days.  She is still without transportation and occasionally needs help getting from point A to point B and I appreciate every opportunity to be with my sister more than ever.  She has become the aunt I had wished for my kids, and they often show her more respect than they do either Ronald or myself.  Last year when Chelsey started receiving an allowance for her birthday Sarah suggested she save a dollar week.  Last week the current total saved was $63.  

The relationship between Sarah and Alex has been miraculous too.  Probably the only reason Ronald would allow her to come over so often those many years ago.  Soon after starting school, Alex had begun to develop some strange behavioral patterns, ticks and tantrums which made it difficult to leave the house.  The school therapists helped us identify the causes, but Sarah was the one who seemed to have the most luck connecting with him in the home environment.    One day after she picked up the language cards to try and ask if he wanted to play, the bond was sealed. They had such a close connection that I would often ask if she would go on simple errands with us so I could run to the store for groceries, or the mall for new shoes for Chelsey.   Then, about a year ago now, I guess, I was dropping Sarah off when she asked me to come inside to get a present she had bought for the kids. And on her nightstand, mixed in with a variety of fiction and romance novels were several books on autism in children, each which looked book marked, weathered and worn evidently by a very interested reader.

Life is amazing how it all works out.  Sometimes we seem to have it made, and other times trials will send us into the darkest corners of our minds.  I never thought life would return to normal after mother fell ill, Alex was diagnosed and Sarah appeared on our porch.  I asked myself, I asked God, “How am I supposed to do all of this stuff I don’t even know how to do?”  Sometimes we to take control, sometimes we have to trust others, other times we simply need to know that God loves us and is with us always, regardless of where we might be at that moment. 

I see Sarah coming across the parking lot heading towards me now.  She looks healthy and is not back at a healthy weight, with color in her skin, and has her ashen blonde hair pulled up into a well groomed pony tail which sits high like a cheerleaders.   I jump out of the car to give her a hug and she squeezes tighter than ever before.

“Hey, Claire.  Who has the kids tonight?  I’m starving, and its my treat.”  Sarah looks to her sister, beaming with a beautiful smile.  A woman healed by the grace of time, and the benefits of a healthy diet and stable life.

“I do actually.  Ronald took the kids to his parents.   What did you have in mind?”

“A celebration.”

“Really?  What are we celebrating?”
Sarah smiles at me, holding something up between her finger tips.  It’s a her key ring with two keys dangling from its loop.

“I’ve got a car.”

And like young teenaged sisters we both dropped everything onto the ground and began to dance and scream and shout with excitement singing our favorite chorus, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you ain’t ever gonna keep me down.  I get knocked down, but I get up again, you ain’t ever gonna keep me down.”

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed the story much more than the first time I read it. Good writing.


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