Some Unlikely Friends and Neighbors
I pass “John”, a local practicing surgeon, almost daily on my rural road, walking his two golden retrievers as I walk mine. His two “boys”, Jake and Buck, love to sniff and frolic with my Golden, Abby. John, and his wife, Karen, have kids close to my two older children’s ages. In the distant past, we crossed paths occasionally, mostly in the arena of our kids’ soccer games. And now, most recently, I find myself knocking on John and Karen’s door, with a box of my daughter’s used needles in my back pocket. “John – I have a favor to ask”, I begin. “Could you please properly dispose of my daughter’s drug needles?”. This request and subsequent conversation, result in an intimacy that I don’t share with many other casual friends.
Frank, and his wife, Cathy, have been constant, supportive friends throughout my divorce in 2000, and now, as I try to digest and deal with my daughter’s heroin addiction. I first learned, back in June, that my daughter was living in a ‘crack’ house and using coke and crack. I was at my friends’, Frank and Cathy’s house, when I received the phone call from a “friend” of my daughter’s with this disturbing news. After a few follow-up phone calls, I was able to discover the location of the ‘drug house’. Around 9:00 pm, as I was leaving Frank and Cathy’s to go home, I announced that I was first going to drive past the ‘drug house’ to see where it was and if my daughter’s car was there. Frank said, “We’ll take you. We don’t want you going alone.” And so, the three of us drove past the crack house about three times, desperately trying to catch a glimpse of Hayley, or discover some kind of information that would help us make sense of any/every thing. When we finally drove back to Frank and Cathy’s house, as we disembarked from Frank’s black Escalade – Frank quietly and unceremoniously retrieved his loaded revolver from the car’s console. “Jesus Christ”, I muttered. “This is the Wild West.”
When my daughter was evicted from her apartment in June, I wanted to try to salvage some things before the landlord hauled it all off to the dump. My dear friend, Donna, and I spent several days sifting through the wreckage of Hayley’s duplex: photos of family, college, high school, and even grade school friends and events; sentimental family letters and mementos; almost five years of unopened mail – all of it bad news from: collection agencies, payday loan businesses, Municipal Court notices, pawn shops, overdue credit card statements, suspension notices of basic utility services, etc.; empty prescription pain killer vials. There were not only favorite books, clothing, and jewelry; but also, a disturbing accumulation of dog waste, garbage, and junk. Every time I entered my daughter’s living space, I was traumatized; but I was determined to preserve some of her personal history. She deserved that. Donna, originally an AlAnon acquaintance, had become a close personal friend, who helped me sort through the devastation of my daughter’s life. After a day or two, I felt as if I was suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome and ultimately, I just couldn’t face going back in to Hayley’s “war zone”. Jill, my ex-husband’s wife, happened to be in town that weekend (from California) visiting her family. My ex-husband, Brad, Jill, and I had been communicating more with each other over the previous few weeks than we had in years – all centered around Hayley and her downward spiral. When Jill called me to check in and ask how things were going, I broke down and told her I just couldn’t finish the job of emptying out Hayley’s apartment. Jill volunteered to take over, and for the next two days, she and her older daughter completely cleared the place out – taking truckloads to the dump and Goodwill. This generous gesture on Jill’s part, was transformational for me. After harboring years of anger and resentment towards Jill, it all just melted away. At the end of that weekend, after Jill had left and I turned the key to re-enter Hayley’s vacant apartment, I felt a huge weight being lifted – – – and mentally moved Jill over to a different column in my ‘book’. Jill had definitely become part of my family.
After dinner one night, my good friend, Linda, and I drove behind the drug house to scope out possible escape routes for my daughter. One of my desperate plans was to sneak up to the back door of the crack house, enter quietly, and lead my daughter out the back, through the orchards, to freedom and recovery. In those early days, I still entertained the fantasy that my daughter was living in the drug house against her will and/or, needed ‘help’ in leaving. The plan was that Linda would be waiting on the farm road behind the drug house in the ‘getaway’ car. This scenario was never realized. But my friend, Linda, was a willing, non-judgmental friend who indulged my compulsions.
I could go on – – – but you get the picture. Friends and neighbors can sometimes be there for you even more than family members can be.