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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The day you ran away from home, Take Two

I really thought that we were just going to the mall for job hunting, a little shopping and lunch. Stupid me. I really wanted to spend time just with you, to try to reach you, to give you hope and support since I knew you were struggling. I thought you needed that, time with your mom. Foolish, gullible me. I loved having time for just the two of us, a rare treat...and after the last several months, it was much needed.

We've had our trials and tribulations over the past year, haven't we? You left us once, flying from the nest to explore the big, wide world on your own...we tried to be supportive, to let you make your own choices and mistakes. The end result was a learning experience (or so I thought). In the span of a few months, you lost your job, you got kicked out of school and eventually lost a place to stay. In the end, you found your way back home again and we hoped you were a bit older and wiser. You had a new boyfriend who we actually liked. You got a new job. We were more hopeful. You even came downstairs and talked a bit instead of hiding in your room. It was so nice to have you home, to have my daughter back! I wish it could have lasted...

Sadly, the next few months didn't go so well after all. You were home in body but not really present. You were secretive, even dishonest, to us and to your boyfriend. You lost 3 more jobs. money started disappearing around our house and also the neighbor's house. You denied and denied, expressed shock and outrage that we would accuse you...then finally admitted stealing from us all. It was a stunning blow but we survived. You started therapy and we prayed that would help. At least I thought it was helping; that's what you told me while we were at the mall...just hours before you ran away, making your carefully planned escape from our family.

Why? Because we pushed you to get a job? (Yes, we pushed, I admit it. We've always told all of you that as young adults in this house, you had to either work or go to school.You made it clear that school was off the table so...) Because we held you accountable for your bills? No rent, mind you...just your cell phone bill and your car insurance, less than $200 a month. We thought holding you accountable for those things would help you learn responsibility, would prepare you for self-sufficiency. We were so naive...and genuinely perplexed when you refused to be responsible. Instead, you chose deceit and theft as lifestyle choices, options that never occurred to us.

It was so unlike you, this surly, unmotivated, duplicitous, entitled person who took advantage of others...you had always been our hard working girl, always with an incredible work ethic. Surely this was just a phase and with enough love and support, you'd be back to yourself! So we kept trying to trust, even after the theft of hundreds of dollars, even after the bold-faced lies upon more lies. We wanted to believe you when you said therapy was helping you. We wanted to believe that you were in fact searching for a job on line but not having any luck. Even in my frustration, I felt bad for you, thought maybe I had been too hard on you, maybe you just needed some help with the process. That's why on that sunny Saturday, I said I'd help you job search, there were recruiters for seasonal work all over the mall. I was sure you'd find part-time employment and could turn things around, be more self-confident and proud of your accomplishments once more.

How was I to know we were working from completely different scripts? How was I to know the whole day was a lie? Putting your name in for interviews, giving contact information to store managers...all just a sham, an act to keep me off your back. Do you remember what you said to me that day? "As long as it makes you happy, Mom..." Even as you said that, you already had one foot out the door. You already had an airline ticket for that very night. You already knew you were leaving the state and had no plans to come back. Even lunch was a lie...I thought we were sharing a mother-daughter meal at the mall. I was planning to treat you and your brothers to dinner out as well. I had no clue you didn't plan to stick around for dinner. You were on your way to the airport at 4:45.

We got home at 3:00 and I felt so good about the day. I thought maybe we had turned a corner, maybe in the next few days you'd be more open. Your Dad and sister were in Florida for the weekend, visiting your grandmother...I thought you and I would have more time together while they were gone. I was clueless, wasn't I? An hour later, you came to me to break the news that you were leaving. You had a boyfriend in Florida, an online boyfriend who you had never actually met but you were sure he was a great guy. He must be since he bought you an airline ticket, right? I tried to tell you that you weren't being safe. I asked you if you knew the definition of the term "Catfish"...you said you would be fine. Just for a couple of days, you said...that was a lie, too. It was a last minute surprise for his birthday, you said...another lie, wasn't it? The only thing last minute about any of this was telling me. I asked if you had packed a bag and you magically appeared with two, obviously packed earlier...before the mall and a dozen other lies and omissions from the day. In the end, there wasn't a thing I could do to stop you. You're 20 years old...all grown up and making your own choices, no matter how ill advised in your mother's eyes.

You were gone from our home within 45 minutes, a string of secrecy and deceit trailing behind you that's still paining those you left behind...like your sister who can't understand why you couldn't even say goodbye. Like your Dad who you still haven't even texted. (You're his brown-eyed girl, always will be...but that doesn't mean anything, does it? The fact that he's struggling with your choices means nothing, right?) Like your brothers who don't get any of this, who wonder what happened to you. Like your boyfriend here who didn't have a clue that you were cheating on him for months. Like the friends and neighbors who love you and worry about you, who ask me almost daily if you're ok. And then there's me...your mom who had to break the news to everyone else, including the young man whose heart you broke. Do you remember telling me on that Saturday that you didn't want to hurt him? You left that to me to do, didn't you? You avoided his calls, ignored his texts, even when you knew he was leaving flowers at our door for you. Do you know what he said when I finally had to tell him what you had done? He didn't get mad...he didn't swear or call you names. He said that he hoped that you were safe.

You've been gone about a week and a half. You've shut down your Facebook and locked other social media accounts. I have an address and phone number which you gave me begrudgingly before you left that may or may not be valid. We know nothing about your boyfriend, where you're living or what your plans for the future are. You've made it clear that you don't want us to know what's happening in your life. That's your choice. Don't expect us to approve of your lies, of the terrible deception that brought us to this point. Don't expect us to pretend that we're not hurt. We feel abandoned and betrayed; we don't understand why you did this. We always tried to teach you that honesty was best even in the toughest situations; why couldn't you trust us enough to be honest?

And yet...we love you and always will. We crossed an ocean and half of the planet to make you our daughter. Nothing will ever change that for us, not even this. We wish you the best and hope you find what you're looking for in life. We hope someday you'll be able to put aside lies and deception and really face life honestly. Maybe then, you'll find the peace of mind and happiness that you deserve. You're in our prayers...

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