This week, as I begin a new chapter in my life, my heart is still full and mind overflowing with thoughts, as I close the latest chapter of my life. I was not prepared for all that came to me last week…all these beautiful moments, that are now wrapped up, like a gift, in my heart and mind. I want to close this chapter, by sharing a story with you, that really doesn’t have anything to do with me but has everything to do with this family that fought against all odds and won.
Early, last Thursday, after dropping my precious daughter and grandson off at the airport, I drove the 2 ½ hours back home, in tears and silence. As I hurried to get the two little people ready for us to leave for school, I regretted not taking the day off, as I had a hard time getting my emotions under control. Yet, I knew I needed to be there, to hold some of my babies for the last time…I knew there were some things that I needed to finish.
As I sat rocking two of my babies and talking with the young girl that I mentor and one of the mom’s, I knew I was where I was suppose to be. A big part of what I did every day, at this job, was loving and listening…and these two young women needed my love and for me to listen on this day.
After they left for class, I thought about all the loving and listening that had gone on in that room over the past 5 years. If these walls could talk, the stories they would tell.
I silently prayed for all of them…for each one that had walked into my room and into my heart. I thought about those that would be considered success stories and those that some would be considered failures…some I still keep in contact with…some I have lost. I remembered and I thanked God for how he let me use my own life experiences to reach out and for all that they had taught me.
A short time later, while feeding all the little ones lunch, my door opened and in walked a family that I hadn’t seen in a year. In ran a 5 year old little girl, that I had taken care of, in previous years…she ran right into my arms, while screaming, “Grandma Lori, I came for you! I love you Grandma Lori!” She went on to say, “Grandma, you stopped being in my dreams, so I told my mom and my sister that I needed to see you so that you would be in my dreams again. You’re my only grandma and I don’t want you to die and I need you to always love me.” She touched my face over and over and said “Your face is still the same. I’m so glad that you’re my same grandma.” On and on she went…and my heart was so over taken with joy in seeing her and hearing her little voice as she cast upon me these words full of love. She hugged me and wouldn’t let go. Her 9 year old sister, soon joined us in our hug.
When I was able to pry them off, so that I could say hello to their sister (who was a former student), and to the mom (of the 3 of them), I realized that both of them were crying. After hugging them, I took a step back and it was then that I could see the noticeable, visible changes of their mother.
You see, just over 3 years ago, this mother, was a Meth addict and her daughter, who was 17 years old at the time, came to me for help, through a girl that I was mentoring at the time. She hadn’t been in a school for a year because she was at home raising her 2 sisters because of her mother’s drug problems. In order to bring a child to the school, you have to be the child’s parent and so since she was not “the parent” she was told she couldn’t bring her sister’s with her to school. After making sure she was serious about coming to school and graduating, I went to the director of our school and asked them to make an allowance. Basically, I begged the director and the teachers to let me watch this girls little sister’s so that she could graduate.
The following day, the 17 year old girl started school and in walked this little girl, that was not quite 2 years old. The next day, the other little girl, not quite 6 years old, came along too, since she went to kindergarten every other day. I don’t know if I really knew what I had gotten myself into but I sure had opened a can of worms by inviting this family into our school. Their home life was a complete mess…they came dirty and hungry…not just for food but love and attention as well. They didn’t know how to listen…they lived in chaos so didn’t get the sleep they needed at night.
At the end of the week, I sat the 17 year old girl down and talked to her about all these things. I had to say a lot of hard things to her… that these little girls were going to get taken away or the mom would have to move out and changes made in the home. The bottom line was that they could NOT continue living like this and she needed to decide if she were up for the challenges to come. The school backed me up on this and we told her that she had until the following Monday to let us know.
On Monday, the 3 of them came to school and shortly after, so did this mother. If you have ever looked at the ugliness of drug addiction in the face, then you know that this mother was a sight. The horror of what Meth was doing to her, stood staring me in the face and it was damn angry. She demanded that I leave her family alone. Little did she know who she was talking to…a Mother Bear that has walked in the ugly shoes of drug addiction…it did not take long for her to realize that she was not going to win. She stood there and made her daughters choose…her or me…they were scared but they choose to not go with her. That day, she walked out and disappeared for many months.
We were able to help them get their home cleaned up and got them help. Because this girl was almost 18, social services, allowed her to keep her little sisters. They have no other family. There is no grandma or grandpa…they started calling me grandma Lori almost immediately. This girl is remarkable. She was eager to learn how to care for her sisters and caught on quickly. The home economics(I know it’s not called this anymore!) teacher worked extra with her, in teaching her cooking and laundry skills. When new challenges came we faced them. It didn’t take long for these 3 girls to be wrapped around my heart.
Through out this time, I talked with the older girl about addiction and what she can do when and if their mom came back. The mom did come in and out of their lives but she didn’t interfere with their progress. She stopped by to see them at our school occasionally and each time I told her that it was never too late to get help. One of the times, she asked me why I was still nice to her after all she had done. I told her that I could see through her addiction and that underneath it all was a person that deserved love and forgiveness. I said something about being able to look in the mirror someday and see the truth of what addiction looks like and that it doesn’t have to be this way. She literally got down on her hands and knees and looked in the mirror, that I had hanging low to the ground for the babies. When she got up, she stood in front of me and said “I am going to die.” and walked out. Honestly, I knew that if she didn’t get help soon, she would and there was nothing any of us could do about it.
A short time later, this woman went away to a drug treatment center that specialized in Meth addiction. I seen when she got out of treatment and was going into a half ways house. Even though she was finally drug free, the affect of the Meth on her face and teeth was horrendous. This is the last time I seen her. Even though she was drug free, the true test would be when she got out of the half ways house. I doubted.
During this time, her daughter graduated from high school, and our school gave her a paid scholarship for the nurses aid training class. She then got a job working as a nurses aid and still had that same job the last time I saw them, which was about a year ago. We lost touch because of work schedules and she no longer had the same phone number.
So, here stood this completely drug free, woman, with new teeth and a face that doesn’t look the same, in front of me, crying and trying to speak. I hugged her and told her that she didn’t need to say anything. But, she did…she thanked me with such beautiful words…but her real thanks came in taking back her life, in getting her children back and being the mother that her daughters need her to be. With hard work and against all odds, she did it. She is doing it. They did it. The young woman said very sweet things to me too and to hear that she is still working the same job and thinking about going through the nursing program was music to my ears. My heart could hardly contain the joy, as I hugged them all, in one great big group hug, before they left.
Never, in a million years, did I think that I would be standing in a group hug, with this family, that had been torn up by the ravages of drug addiction, just a couple of years ago. Later, this same day, I had a reunion with the young mom, that I wrote of recently. She is doing well and looked great! She works as a nurses aid and is no longer a stripper. She has remarried, to what sounds like, a wonderful man(that has a steady job) and they have a baby boy. They live in a small town close by and she is going to finish up her school work and get her adult diploma, at our school. It is such a gift to me, to know all of this...to know that she made it, is a blessing because I never dreamed that I would be witness to this success.
Good things do happen…we don’t always know it or see it…we don’t always believe in it…but, it does happen. This is just one, of the many stories, I could tell you from my last days…of people that I will never forget.