Lost and Found

Sunset on the Mississippi

Sunset on the Mississippi

Written on August 14, 2009

I woke up yesterday with that dead feeling in the pit of my stomach. Something just didn’t feel right. “Maybe I just didn’t get enough sleep or maybe I was just really hungry”, I thought as I got up in the wee hours of the morning. I knew it was something else and I could feel the anxiety start even as I maneuvered through a dark house. Two weeks. It had been two weeks since Jasmine took off again. She had only been home for five days. Prior to that, I had dropped everything and raced out to Ohio where she was found in an emergency room. I know that most people could not begin to fathom the stress our family has been put under this particular year. Just the cancer alone was knocking us down, but to have a child that goes missing–repeatedly, being told repeatedly there’s nothing anyone can do to help us or her, and to watch your other children suffer as a result of both–well the monumental stress of that far surpasses the stress of cancer and I’m beginning to think that if the one won’t kill me–the stress of the other will.

I managed the day with a two-fer–field trip to the Children’s Museum in the morning, and a pool outing in the afternoon complete with a picnic in the park. One last big hurrah before the last of the 4 boys goes off to kindegarten. The weather was hot, the sun was shining, and I knew I desperately needed the calming effects of the water to wash over me. There’s nothing that can do it any better for me then a semi-empty pool on a hot day. I could have stayed there and played with the kids all day. I could have. I wanted to. I told myself that I was dropping everything and spending time at the pool with my kids this weekend. Everything else could wait. I needed to take care of my stress levels. So, with that self-made profession, I loaded the kids up at the end of a couple fantastic hours and we headed home to deliver them all to their folks. Once the last one was gone, I ran inside, changed clothes, and raced off to the Arsenal to work in the Child Development Home. Some question why I choose to work there or at my music studio for a couple hours each evening. They question as to whether it heightens my stress level. Quite the contrary, actually. At either place–its really quiet. I still get to work with kids–something I’m passionate about–and there’s no phone ringing, dog barking, etc. Last night was no exception. It was so peaceful out at the Cottage. I only had one little girl who was simply delightful and made me laugh as she jabbered about this and that on our walk.

I sat on the porch swing for a long time with her and I realized how much I missed the porch swing of my house in Davenport. It dawned on me that I had been seriously void of any swing therapy for myself in the past 4 years. When I left, the breeze was blowing in and the hazy sun was beginning to set. I decided to take the way off the Island that snakes you along the Mississippi. I was so taken aback by the peace and calm of the evening, the breeze blowing across the river, the sun giving off its final burst before setting into the horizon, and the sound of the waves lapping at the shore. I stopped the car, drank in the solitude for just a moment, then took my phone out and snapped a picture. I was so appreciative for the lull in my life at that moment. True to the forces that are governing my life right now, though, the moment was gone as quickly as it appeared and the ringtone on my phone interrupted the silence. I looked at who was calling in and my heart skipped a few beats. I sucked in my breath and quickly answered, “Hey Mitch, what’s up”. Mitch was the boy that left with Jasmine on that cross country trip which culminated into a quarantine unit of St. Anne’s Hospital in Westerville, Ohio.

I have found it extremely difficult to really be able to discern which of Jasmine’s friends are truly concerned for her safety. The numbers of kids who are more eager to pressure her into God knows what or to emotionally yank her down are staggering. I have only found a handful through the years that do not view me as the enemy–the adult who is just trying to put the cabosh on whatever good time may be going on. Yes, there are still times when I have to control myself from chewing those friends out as well, but I try very hard to remember that none of us in this world are perfect. We all make mistakes and kids just do them on a more regular basis until one day–the lightbulb turns on. This handful of true friends knows Jasmine’s problems and still love her. They are genuinely worried for her safety and well-being and have formed an alliance of sorts with me to do what it takes to see she gets the help she needs. Mitch is no different and if weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have half the clue I do about the circumstances revolving around her extensive roadtrip earlier this summer.

“Mrs. Heald, drop what your doing. Jasmine just called me and she is in a lot of trouble. She’s hurt and needs to go to the hospital.”

At the same time, my husband beeped in–“Jasmine just called–she wants to come home–she’s not doing well”.

I wanted to throw up. Right there on the banks of the Mississippi. How much worse can it be this time? Each time she took off and came back, she was in much more perilous physical condition then the time before. The ailments were at times life threatening. I cannot begin to describe the feelings you go through as a parent when you get these types of calls. Knowing that HIPPA laws were going to prevent any medical staff from relaying information to me since my child was 17 only increased my anxiety. I told Mitch he would probably reach her faster than I would and to go to her and don’t let her leave his sight. I told him to text me the exact location and I would contact 911.

A coordinated effort was quickly put into place between two neighboring communities and paramedics were called once the text message came through. I raced off to find the ambulance fearing the worst, but hoping for the best. I passed an ambulance going in the opposite direction. I wondered if that was hers. There are two hospitals close to where she was found. I wasn’t sure which one she would be taken to. When the 911 dispatcher called me back to tell me both hospitals were full and she was enroute to the West Campus, I knew I had just passed her. I turned around and raced down the side streets to avoid the lights. I arrived to see three squad cars and an ambulance. My heart stopped. I turned the car off and sat in there for just a few more moments so I could do some much needed praying.

“Dear God, please surround my daughter with your loving arms and help lift her up out of this Hell she has been suffering in. Help ease her afflictions and quietly whisper your word in her ear so she may be reminded you are there with her always”.

I ran into the emergency room and was buzzered in. I could hear her crying through the hallway. When I opened the door, my heart broke once again. I went to her and held her and told her I loved her just as I had done in Ohio, just as I had over Mother’s Day weekend when we stood in the rain under a streetlight behind a restaurant. Each time she has been lost and then found, I ask her if she has reached her bottom. Each time she says yes. Each time we are all amazed that she still has had further to sink. There is nothing so saddening then to see a young person who once used to be filled with laughter and love and life, gifted with musical talent and beauty, and graced with such intelligence that many colleges were lining up to grant scholarships to–and then within a period of one year–its gone–and all that remains is the shell of that person. A shell that has also been so badly wounded that you barely recognize the person standing before you.

The one thing that remains a constant in this whole nightmare is that I am her mother. I have not agreed with or respected the decisions she has made this past year, but I am and always will be her mother and I will love her just the same. She was given to me by God to raise and to guide in her journey through life. How could I forsake her now when she needs me the most. Even though I want to lecture her until my tongue falls out–what good would that do? She is in obvious deep, emotional and physical pain. Earlier this year, I would have had no problem giving her a piece of my mind. It wasn’t until I met a woman in our local wig boutique one day. She said something to me that day that has resounded through me all summer. I don’t remember her name, but I’ll never forget her face. The enlightenment that I received from that chance encounter helped open my eyes in a few if not many areas of my life. I will elaborate more in another post, but for now let me leave you with the wisdom she imparted—-“Just Own It”.

As I pondered that over the next several days, I realized it not only had to do with my life and what was happening to me in reference to my cancer treatment, my hair loss, or my emotional ups and downs–but it very well could take a place in my understanding how my relationship with my oldest daughter needed to be evaluated. It was very evident to everyone that I had become for quite some time completely against all of my daughter’s life choices. They were completely against everything and anything I had ever tried to instill in her. She was making choices that I knew would have life long consequences, and as any mother, I would never have chosen those decisions for her. I realize that they are her decisions. She’s going to have to learn the lessons that come from them. I just know–having already been young–that you can either go through life the easy way or the hard way. The way she was choosing is certainly NOT how I would have advised her, but some idividuals just need to learn the lessons on their own even if its a much harder row to hoe.

Looking back over this year, I saw myself completely disassociating myself from her. I was becoming indifferent toward her. I didn’t want to see her and the chaos that lied in her wake. I didn’t want others to see it. I didn’t want others to judge what kind of mother must she have had for her to be so out of control. I knew in my heart that we had always provided for our daughter and our other children the values and beliefs of our family and our church. I knew that we were good, honest, hard-working, nurturing, loving, playful parents who enjoyed spending time with our kids in and out of school. We have supported all their ideas and extra currirular endeavors and we have always had their back when it came to anything that they needed our help with. Then, they start growing up and making their own decisions–ones that could have devastating consequences and you are frustrated, infuriated that all you’ve taught them has gone in one ear and out the other, disappointed that the dreams you had for them are not the dreams they have for themselves, and in a way–embarrassed. People judge. They do. Just like they love to tear something apart. It’s human nature–not the best side of it, but it is.

It was easier to turn into one of those people at that point. It was easier for me to start tearing apart all her ideas and thoughts and actions. It was easier for me to DIS-OWN her than it was for me to accept her and all her baggage and all her bad choices. It was so much easier for me to not care because caring was tearing my heart into tiny little pieces. In a way, it was a self-preservation technique. I know that sounds messed up, but I had gotten to a place where I just couldn’t handle any more. I had just been diagnosed with cancer. I was trying to juggle jobs and family and house and school and here was this entitiy–this child I had given birth to–who was now very symbolically spitting in our face and giving us the bird to everything we had tried to teach her. It was more than I could bear. The centrifigal force of my world spinning out of control has been uncomparable to anything I’ve ever known. So, it really hit me in the face like a ton of bricks when this woman told me, “Just Own It”.

I realized, as I said before, that I had begun to dis-own my oldest child. I couldn’t take what others must be whispering behind my back about her upbringing or about my daughter for that matter. I knew they all didn’t have a clue–no real intimate knowledge of the workings of my family and I was clinging to those friends of mine who did understand. They have been my saving grace through this along with an intense amount of prayer. It was extremely difficult for me to admit that I had begun to disown her. It’s a common element that runs pretty prevalent through our family and I was also beginning to realize that the thing I feared the most–losing my child–was actually happening with my help. I was becoming much like my own mother and that caused me so much grief I began to suffer terrible anxiety attacks.

I knew that the only thing I could do to help ease the pain in my heart was to “Own It”. Own that I have a teen that is making really bad decisions. Own that I can’t control everything about her life. Own that I do and will always love her. Own that people will always talk, but it is me that has to look myself in the mirror and ask myself if I have done everything that I can for the children God has entrusted me to teach. Own that I am not perfect and I make mistakes also and I have to forgive her. In essence, I was going to have to OWN Jasmine, again. Despite the questionable opinions of others, the raised eyebrows, the tsk-tsk-tsk they say under their breath. I know that they have never had to experience what our family has and I would never wish our burdens of this past year on even my worst enemy. I know that unless they walk a mile in my shoes, they could never understand the place I am at right now and how monstrous the mountain I had to climb to get here was. So, to those that wonder why I would drop everything and go help a child that keeps messing up–go ahead and whisper. I no longer care what you may think–it’s my responsibility to my children to help them–at any age–without enabling them. I would travel to the ends of the Earth for them. I would lay down my own life for them. It’s my duty to them to “Own Them”.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I know you are all wondering how she is and what happened to her. Out of respect for her privacy, I will not elaborate any further other than to say, “It’s bad”. She is safe, though, and being treated for the time being. She was transported to a hospital about an hour and a half away. She is struggling with the consequences of her choices and we are all praying for her. We had an opportunity to travel up to see her yesterday. It was bittersweet. It was nice knowing where she was and knowing she was getting the help she needed, but hard knowing that she will be released soon, I think. Continued prayers for her are deeply appreciated. I have given her a journal. She is also a writer. I told her to write down her experiences–the good, bad, and ugly–from her perspective. Maybe, she could help another teen and offer them encouragement that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I just pray after this, she will see the light herself.

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Started Tracking on 12-1-09

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