A year ago at the end of this last July, our family was blessed when a sweet young lady moved into our home. I'll never forget that first night - as she sat tearful and fretting on the sofa near my computer, with her suitcases and bags around her feet - all she was able to carry when she'd left the campground she and her mom had been working in every summer. At that moment - those few items, and our little family, were her entire world. Less than a year later, she was to become my daughter-in-law, but that was still a long ways off ...
My heart was breaking for her ... I could feel the fear and anxiety just radiating from her direction. I wanted so badly to grab her and squeeze her, and tell her that we would all love her so much that she would never regret what she'd done, but I didn't want to overwhelm her; she looked so fragile, like a little bird tossed in a gale of emotion.
I couldn't believe that this was only the fourth time I'd ever seen her, because I felt as if I'd known her for years. I was both relieved that she was out of the impossible situation she'd been in as long as I'd known her - indeed, her entire life up until that moment, but also worried, very worried, about what the future would bring for this sweet little sparrow who'd finally found her wings ...
Thus began Sarah's walk with us ... so helpless and fearful looking, that overcast hot July evening nearly a year and a half ago.
Sarah had just escaped from a lifetime of manipulation that could be called criminal - in both its quantity and quality. I wouldn't be able to list the things that were done to her here - that's beyond the scope of a mere blog entry - however, I can give you a few items to ponder ...
She was raised
to be anorexic. She believed that crash diets, enemas ... etc. ... were a normal part of every adolescent's life. Who taught her this? Her mother. That was the same wo
man who, on Sarah's second visit to us, called Sarah and screamed at her over the cell phone, ordering her to cut her day with us short so that she could return to the campground, and go out on a date with a fellow she had no interest in seeing. Her mother never realized that we were all in the car, and we'd been able to hear (unable to NOT hear!) the entire tirade. Sarah acquiesced, and my son, God love him, drove his intended bride all the way back to the campground, an hour away, so that his lady-love could go on a date with some other fellow - a date her mother arraganged. In fact, although Sarah had obtained permission (with great difficulty) to spend that time with us, her mother had called and humiliated her on both of the first two afternoons we spent together.
Yes, I know that teen-agers are sometimes given to seeing even the best of parents in a jaundiced light. When I first heard about what was happening in Sarah's life, I wondered if we may just not be hearing both sides of the story. The more my sons and I got to know her, however, the more we realized that there was definitely something wrong - and it wasn't all Sarah. Then came the day that I met her mother, and all of my doubts vanished - forever. I could see how the lady had a reputation for being able to "fool" people, but she either underestimated my powers of observation, or simply felt so sure of own manipulative skills, that she played a very heavy, obvious, hand. I came away from that meeting full of realization and dread, sick at heart - wanting to take Sarah home with us then and there.
I wasn't able to - but we didn't have long to wait.
Less than a month later, Sarah caught her mother making photo copies of her private journal. In a phone conversation, she overheard her mother and brother ... he was on his way up from Massachusetts. This was it. They had gone too far, and she was afraid of just what they might do next. She'd recently been locked in her cabin for a month ... would they take her away from New Hampshire and lock her up someplace else? She called my son. I had no idea what was going on when he left the house - but he knew me, and how I felt, well enough to know that he didn't need to ask. About an hour later, the phone rang. It was him: "Moof! I'm on my way home, and I have Sarah with me."
Sweet Sarah, frightened - but finally free ... at least physically.
We went through some serious "re-organizing" in our ancient, drafty, cluttered home. Daein was still home from college, his fiance was under our roof - tongues would wag. Arrangements were made to everyone's satisfaction, and Sarah became my "new" daughter.
Daein left for college, and Sarah became my companion. The first year was tough. I had some rather debilitating surgery just over a month after she moved in, and I wasn't able to get around and get her the things that she needed, and the poor little lady went around wearing my old, stained, beat up clothes - good enough for an old lady like me, not for a sweet little angel like her. But she was good and patient, and always tried to make me feel better about my falling so short of being able to get her properly settled in.
I worried at first, quite a bit, about Sarah starving herself - about the habits she'd been taught were normal, and safe. I was so afraid that she would end up with acidosis or some horrible electrolyte imbalance. Over a period of time, although she never lost her weight-consciousness, she began to eat normal portions, and even to snack a bit.
Oh! And that's
another story! There were so many things her mother had never allowed her to eat ... chocolate, other types of candy ... even Jello! She was "virgin territory" for food! I believe that she consumed a small country's-worth of Jello when she first tasted it! As I was gleefully introducing new foods to her, she was slowly becoming my "18 year old fashion advisor." And oh my - did I ever need one! I gave her Jello - she gave me blue toenail polish, toe rings ... and we gave each other self confidence!
In spite of how much we had come to enjoy each other's company - and the long, long talks we shared daily - I was still very worried about our little Sarah. She felt as if everything that happened was her fault. If she'd done this ... or if she'd only done that ... or if she'd thought in this way ... or ... I kept telling her that it was not her fault.
She'd hear me, she'd agree - but it kept coming up, and I knew she felt guilty - all the time. I wasn't getting through to her.
I was pushing, gently, for her to make "friendly" advances toward her mother and brother, because she misses her little nieces, and in spite of everything, loves her family.
I wanted to see Sarah free, making her own decisions, but not losing her relationship to her family. I thought she just needed to draw a line and say: "I love you, but I'm living my own life. You will treat me with respect, and I will treat you with respect. Let's start over from this new perspective, because we're family - we shouldn't stay apart." It wasn't long before I had to drop my urgings about she and her family "loving and being respectful" of each other. I watched her try to be friendly, and repeatedly end up being screamed at, verbally abused ... her mother even sued her for money. All we could do was be silent in the face of all of this insanity, and continue to try encouraging Sarah. I spent a lot of time contemplating what I would be like today had I been treated in the same way ...
Daein finished his junior year, came home last spring, and he and Sarah were married. Now she really is
my daughter. I always tell her, "Sarah! Why weren't you mine to begin with?" ... Daein always objects, he'd rather have her as a wife ... :-)
Sarah and Daein are now in their own little place up near the University of Maine. I miss her terribly, but this is the way things are supposed
to be. She's trying to get their little apartment set up ... with her Cafe Louis kitchen, and her Hello Kitty bathroom. She's even learning to make (and EAT!) some of the nicest chocolate chip cookies I've ever had.
But where is this all going? Sarah is finally
for the first time in her life, free emotionally
as well as physically.
She's been sending me emails about a web site she found - concerning a disorder named "BPD." I thought I was pretty savvy about those things, but I'd never heard of that one. "Borderline Personality Disorder." She sent me a web link
, and I was amazed to read what the signs of BPD are ... it was as if Sarah had written the web site about her mother. Blow by blow - classic. Dumbfounding.
I guess it's not going to help Sarah's mother much, because from what I can gather, few people ever recover ... however, it's released Sarah from the last of her chains. She now realizes
that it wasn't her fault.
that she is not crazy.
that her mother is ill,
and that makes it easier to forgive the lifetime of agony, and walking on eggshells ...
Sarah is finally, truly, totally FREE!
I asked Sarah if I could blog about all of this, and she said I could - (thank you, Honey!) There's still so much to say ... I could write forever ... but really, it's Sarah's story
to tell. She's writing her autobiography, and I think that if she edits it carefully, and it falls into the right hands, it will go a long way.
I wonder how many people are living the way she did, and have no idea that it's not their fault