The story I've watched unfold began with a beautiful little girl ...shiny bright, sensitive, funny and determined to get her own way. Caught on the playing field of a broken home she marched through high school the All-American poster child ... show choir, church, good grades, too busy for boys and then off to college, confident, creative and caring. We thought she had survived the teenage mine field. We thought the world was her oyster. Enter a boy, alcohol, drugs and a slow, downward spiral.
Twenty-years later she is a bag lady. She hasn't quite reached the permanent state of pushing a shopping cart around the streets of Santa Barbara but she is panhandling for change and sleeping in a box at night. She is moving from one abusive guy to the next. Recently her sister tried to rescue her and brought her into her own home for a week, took her to AA meetings, let her play with her nieces, tried to show her what "normal" life is like. The funny thing is "S," the subject of the story, saw no connection to her own life other than to say that her sister was "lucky." She can talk about how to live life as if she were actually living it.
She says she is "too tired." Too tired to get sober, too tired to get a job, too tired to get on a bus and go to her sister's for help when a ticket is offered. Yet, every day she has to scramble for the money she needs for food, cigarettes and beer. Every day she has to wonder if her current guy will beat her up, throw her out, or, possibly, be nice to her. Every day she has to wonder where she'll sleep, who she can scam for money, how to hold herself together.
It makes me tired to even think or write about her life. All of us in the family have been drained of money, energy, emotion, ideas. We don't know what to do and it makes us crazy to admit that there is nothing we can do. That sentence generally ends with ... "except love her." But how do you love someone who doesn't love herself and looks upon everyone around her as a "mark" who might be able to supply her need for money? Maybe that's the ultimate frustration ... my own inability to feel loving toward her and the feeling of guilt I have about that and about not being able to help her.
And, once again, I come back to Louise and the work she does. All I can do is pray that somehow there is a Louise in my family's story and let go of that image that keeps coming back to me of that bright, shiny girl turning cartwheels on the beach, long red-gold hair flying.