Sunday, January 23, 2011

Comings and Goings

I have a friend. The comings and goings of those she loved into and out of her life began very early. Her father was an alcoholic. He was home for a few days, then gone for a few, a coming always followed by a going. She experienced moments of beauty when he was present. He would give “his girl” gifts of silver dollars and chocolate milk. Her heart would soar, but he would always leave again. She made up stories, as any four- or five-year-old would, to make sense of his comings and goings. He comes when I'm good. He leaves when I'm bad. Stories to make sense of life. One day he left for good.

My friend and her mother survived together for a year or two after the divorce, but the pressures of life plunged the mother into her own alcoholism. One day her mother disappeared, and the little girl, my friend, was taken to an orphanage in a station wagon driven by strangers. During her five years there, she created one story after another to make sense of her mother's disappearance. The little girl was sure her mother was dead.

And then on the day of her eighth grade graduation, her mother came again. The little girl, now twelve, didn't recognize her mother for a moment; she had been dead for five years. The little girl had worked out the good-byes; they seemed to last forever. The hellos took another lifetime to accept.

- Patricia Lynn Reilly, Words Made Flesh

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