Monday, April 10, 2006

A Smoke, and Further Thoughts

The other day when "Josie" got word that she was likely to be sent to a residential facility, she was understandably very uptight. She paced around, and muttered, and I was pretty sure at one point she was considering the pros and cons of running.

I made sure I knew where my car keys were.

But eventually, she got up and walked out. That's unlike her...she normally always asks before she goes for a walk or a bike ride. It's not that we're likely to deny her permission, it's just that we like to know when The Beast is Going Abroad. Do you know where YOUR kids are?

Anyway, she walked out, and I went to go tell The Wife that her dumb PO had dumbly told her dumb mom, and her dumb mom had dumbly gone and told her dumb daughter. Buncha dummies we're dealing with.

It happens that our bedroom overlooks our driveway, and as I related events to The Wife, I watched "Josie" walk her bike out of the garage, jump on, and pedal hard to get up the fairly steep slope of our driveway. She turned left and started rolling down the road toward the lake.

About 100 yards or so from the driveway, suddenly she slowed and rolled to a stop, dropping her legs and standing astride her bike. As I watched, she paused a bit, and suddenly a white plume burst from her head, looking for a moment like a halo in the sun, then like a conversation balloon like the ones you see in the comics, and finally just a thin white jetstream that rapidly thinned and disappeared, to be followed shortly by its twin, born a few seconds later.

She started the bike rolling again, a burst of white issuing from her head every few seconds, until she rolled out of sight behind the trees. I know how she feels. Despite the fact that I have cystic fibrosis, I started smoking when I was 16. I wasn't diagnosed until I was 29.

I didn't quit until I was 32 (having decided by that age that I'd like to try to live another 32--at least). When you're a smoker, there's nothing like a 5-minute tryst with a cigarette to help you think. I'm not defending the's destructive and expensive and not something anybody should take up. But I do understand it, and if they ever did come out with a cigarette where you could smoke all you want and not kill yourself (and if I was in the mood for another divorce), I'd probably start up again.

It hurts my heart to see a 15-year-old smoke so expertly, though. She started, according to her, when she was 9. I don't necessarily doubt that, either. She told me a story once of a time when she was 13 and her brothers let her get so drunk she threw up all over. It was a "reward" for not bugging them. A reward.

I think of that story often...every time I get mad at her. I consider what sorts of standards and "norms" her family has provided her with. I consider how her brothers have mistreated her, and how her mother has so often turned her back on her.

How lonely that must be. She's just so damaged. How can we help pick up the pieces? I know we're not really in a position to now, but how do we get into that position? There has to be a way. And maybe it just involves putting in the time.

I hope this girl doesn't think she will have seen the last of us when she leaves our house. She won't get off that easy. No freakin' way.


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