But… I Didn’t Order this Life - Part I

  • Whether we have a chronic disease or something else that presents a challenge in everyday life, we all do what we have to do to get through each day. Sometimes that means simply putting one foot in front of the other. But if we stop to recognize what we're up against, we can face our obstacles head on and go beyond just scraping by. It is from that point that we can begin to heal and grow. This is the story of a stressed out mom who learns an important life lesson - a universal truth - in the least likely of places, from the least likely people.

    *The names of some people and places have been changed.

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    "You're not going."

     

    "I am, too."

     

    "There's no way at age 17 you're going to New York City alone to spend a weekend with a bunch of weirdo's you've never met."

     

    "They're not weird, mom. They're probably the sanest people I know. It's all set, mother, I'm going and there's no way you can stop me!"

     

    As a mom I'd fought many battles, but did I really want to die on this hill? In desperation, I did what any self-respecting over-protective mother would do. I decided I'd fly a thousand miles with my daughter, Paige, to the Goth Convention. Of course I had my doubts. Big ones. This could turn out to be a really bad idea. But, my husband suggested I make the best of it by inviting my good friend, Kelly, who had just endured her own parent's worst nightmare by losing her five-year-old daughter, her only child, to a long battle with cancer. So there we were, three women, each with more baggage - actual and otherwise - than anyone should have to bear. And off we went.

     

    As a mom I'd agonized over the fact that my beautiful daughter did not become what I'd hoped for her to be. Since the day she was born I'd wanted her to have the most wonderful life; as an accomplished child, a successful student, kind hearted, well-liked, attractive and popular - maybe even a cheerleader or Homecoming Queen (or both). Yet, be a normal child leading a carefree life - just one of the crowd. Fact was, since the day she was born, she was contrary at every turn, exceedingly obstinate, allowing me little sleep, and even littler peace. In spite of a very high I.Q. and physical beauty she struggled in school, academically and socially. She had always been a sensitive, tender hearted girl, but an awkward social outsider with a sort of distance about her, a sadness. Within the differentness none of us could understand, Paige went well out of her way to be anything and everything different than the other kids in school. I was almost, strangely, relieved when she seemed to find her way to acceptance from people of the Goth persuasion who were more like her; intellectual and off-beat (odd, by most standards, yes, but no more Satan worshippers or cult members than we). My dear daughter, no longer just a dim shadow of a girl I felt I never really knew, seemed recently to be emerging from the gloom. She was smiling again. The few friends she'd found were rebellious, yes, but also seemed to have quiet, peaceful hearts and a penchant for their own special brand of art, literature, history and fashion.

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    Sometimes, when I'd sit down to reflect on what had gone wrong - what I had done wrong - I would realize that in spite of all my imperfections as a mother, I had really done the best I could do with this child God had given me, and all I could say sometimes to comfort myself - to make some sense of it - was, "I love her to pieces, but this is not the child I ordered."

     

    Indeed, if we could only sit down with a great big list and check off what we want in life - what we'd like to order. You know, when you're in a nice hotel they have those breakfast door hanger menus. All you have to do at night is check off what you want for breakfast, hang it on the other side of the door before you go to bed and your morning meal - made to order - arrives at your room (at the requested time, of course) the next morning. So, if life was like that, the menu might read: Well-paying job that you enjoy - Check. House in a great neighborhood - no cracks in the plaster, no termites, no leaks - Check. Struggles with finances - Skip that one! Well adjusted children who excel in school, never get hurt, and have lots of friends from fine, functional families - Check. Job you never thought you'd have to do - Skip it. Nice nest egg in the bank - Check. But, you know, real life just doesn't come with those breakfast door hanger cards, and I again came back to it. "I'm doing my very, very best with what and whom was given me, but this is certainly not what I ordered!"

     

    So, we stayed in Manhattan at the hotel where the event was being held. In our comings and goings, Kelly and I rode the elevator with the participants. They seemed nice enough. They were friendly and polite, worked as plumbers, teachers, office workers, accountants. So far, so good.

     

    I knew the Friday night event was to be held in our hotel, so curfew was set at a liberal 2:00am. My automatic mom clock woke me at 2:03am Saturday morning. Paige was not there. There was a sick feeling in my gut and a fiery burning in my chest and throat. Had I made a huge mistake by letting her go? Where was she? Was she even in the hotel, or out there, on the streets of New York? My imagination ran wild with every horrible possibility. She knew our family rule - be home by curfew or call before that time. There's a ten-minute grace period, then if you're a no show, mom goes completely and totally ballistic and sends out the bloodhounds, the National Guard, and the S.W.A.T team. She knew that. After thinking of my 12 years of working nights in the emergency room and seeing way too many kids who went out for a fun evening never make it home alive, I became wild with worry and anxiety held me in its grip. I lay in the dark, clinging desperately to my prayers for Paige's safe and soon return, yet told myself that if she didn't walk through that door within the next five minutes I'd lose my mind...

     

    to be continued....

     

     

     

Published On: February 19, 2008