We Are On Our Way There (1)

4 years ago
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(Continues from “Three Days”)

After the first frost, Jo spreads straw over the strawberry bed and I clear collapsed morning glory vines from the front of our house. I eat the last three blackberries while circling our garlic beds, already safe under straw. Jo starts up the woodstove for the first time this season and I make a sweet tomato sauce with garlic and onions, cumin and curry, cayenne, cinnamon, and the last of our harvest. Stirring the red pot, I glance out the window. Bright leaves dance their last stunning, spiraling dance to the ground. It has been six months.

Six months since that last night, that Friday in late April. I’d spent three days in a functional trance while inwardly trying to let go of Olivia’s goals around which our lives had been molded for the past two years. Season after season of working so hard to support her… Yet, during those three days, on the most basic level, I tried to begin releasing my dream of family. Year after year, the dream was the thing I’d chosen above all else, especially a career.  

That Friday afternoon, I’d already given Olivia a ride after school to her job, met with our family therapist at a café for a final session after six months of intensive individual and family sessions for a total of four and a half or more hours per week. I then picked Liv up and drove her home. Our text volleys, always riddled with my heads-up that I’m on the way, then waiting in the parking lot, begging her to appear, and wondering where she is after I abandoned my work load and deadlines to be there for her, were no different on that day. But when she sauntered toward me, I could only be relieved.

As she sauntered away on this particular evening, I’d reminded her that she’d agreed to respect house rules while she chose to continue living with us, and I’d even extended her curfew, hoping to extend it even more the next night. I watched her walk away—hugging the far side of our road which follows a lovely, swampy section of the river where it’s common to see blue heron balance on a rock or branch. But Liv looked straight ahead as she walked. I turned back to my desk, hoping she’d keep her agreement. The stakes were high—for us as a family—and she knew it.

But now that she’d decided to move out and drop out, perhaps she’d feel free enough to keep her word?

Where was I in my work? I inhaled deeply and woke up my computer screen. Where was I?

*     *     *

Jo and I rarely made plans for dinner with friends anymore—even on the weekend—because we never knew what teenage drama might interfere and cause us to have to cancel at the last minute. On that Friday night, we’d decided to stay home, make dinner, and watch a movie. It was delicious just to be together on the couch, with Jo’s massive iMac on the coffee table, and a glass of red wine. We’d entirely forgotten about our lives when I heard my cell phone chirp at 9:11 p.m. There were four texts from Liv.

Hey, we heard about this little show called show down, would you mind if I went? I have money and everything

Its actually called shake down

Its 20 dollars


We paused the film. I read her texts out loud. We looked at each other.

“Jo, I don’t want to respond. I don’t want to be texting for the next hour. We need a break—just a little downtime after this particular week in hell.” My voice was still calm and grounded.  

“I know. I know,” she said looking me right in the eyes.

“Isn’t it enough that we’re accepting her decision to move out and drop out of high school? Couldn’t we have one night? Just one—without having to renegotiate her plans at the last minute with little to no info and all by text because she won’t pick up her cell phone which we’re paying for?” I could hear my voice rising quickly.

Cause we are on our way there :)

“Shit. Oh shit. Okay, here I go,” I said to Jo, putting my feet back up on the coffee table.

Where when and who is we. How would you get back & by curfew? I typed and then immediately added: U ask at 9:15 @ night? No, because it’s not possible.

Its in the city, its tonight at ten and we are going with a bunch of friends. I’d be back a little later but I can get a ride home from my friend

No!!! No is my answer!!! I typed out, adding enough exclamation marks to prove there was nothing calm about me, although I was silent and still, except for my thumbs. Looking back, I’m embarrassed to have slathered my response in exclamation points. What a fool. And what a fool I am now to think a comma, lower-case letter, and understated period could have brought my daughter home.  

Itd be like 1:00 cause its a drive (Obviously, punctuation was not a determining factor)

No!!! (fool)

Why (such a reasonable question, reasonably stated)

No. I will not text further. My answer is no, I typed, trying to place a pathetic yet firm limit. Only 24 minutes had passed since 9:11 and adrenaline was surging through my body. I tried to stop it. Breathed. Sat calmly. Stood. Sat again. Looked at Jo. Engaged in conversation. Searched my fucking soul.

Meanwhile, Jo stopped the movie and began to Google local clubs and shows so we’d at least know where Liv was going. And where we might be driving to pick her up along with a crew of kids.

Well can I go and just sleep at Anna’s? She can give me a ride back early in the morning

Liv, its too late at night for a sudden trip to the city. Over an hour away. And with teenagers & driver we don’t even know. Your curfew is 11:30 not 1:00. Come home on time tonight—and it moves to midnight. Watching a movie and gotta go. You should really consider being an attorney. Seriously.

Only 16 minutes had passed since I’d claimed I wouldn’t text any further. 16 lousy minutes. But I wanted to respect her by at least giving her my reasoning, since she didn’t seem to fathom why any of this might be a problem. If she’d only planned it—a concert and sleeping at her girlfriend’s would be fine. Even great—perhaps we could watch a movie without interruption! But at that hour, she only had enough time to get to the club and drive around the parking lot once to check out cute guys (and bum a cigarette) before driving back. For me to abandon our house rules at this moment would have been irresponsible. Ridiculous. It was so damn tempting.   

Anna has given me a ride to work before. I’m sorry mom, but I am on my way to see a greatful dead cover band with some good friends. I could be home really late or I could just sleep at anna’s house, that would be less hectic.

Come home. You do not have permission to go, I typed—not a single exclamation mark in me.

I love you, I’m safe, goodnight.

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