Comforting Words: A Thought for Thanksgiving

Friday, October 06, 2006

A Thought for Thanksgiving

The phone rang and I picked it up on the second ring after seeing on the caller id that it was my baby girl, A.

“Hey, what’s up?” I asked.

“Why you took so long to answer the phone,” was her response.

Now feeling like the child in this conversation, I defensively explained, “I answered on the second ring.”

“No, you didn’t,” A told me. “It rang six times before you answered.”

“Well I know I answered on the second ring, but whatever,” the mother, me, who wanted to keep this connection going, responded. Thinking that something must have happened why she was counting the number of rings before I picked up, I asked, “So what’s up...is everything okay?”

Regular readers will recall the turmoil my partner and I experienced…no, let me correct that…the turmoil, utter despair and desperation that I, Claudette, put myself through and experienced when my baby girl moved out in May. After the dust settled, my daughter and I came to an understanding that we would stay in touch with each other three times a week. Well, I came to that understanding and told her that she should call me Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. She complied – for a month – then basically told me to bug off!

Since then, whenever either of my telephones rings and I see her name on the caller id a giddy sense of joy washes over me, “My baby girl is calling!” I have tried not to call her unless there was something important to say and I kept it very brief. Like the day I needed to tell her that it is time to submit our applications for Canadian citizenship and, not to worry, we would pay all the processing fees.

There is a commercial on television for a cellular phone company wherein the caller speaks so quickly it sounds almost like a coded message as they are watching their minutes. For very different reasons, i.e., my daughter’s need to feel independent, I found myself doing the same thing - talking quickly - when I call her even when the news was, “I will pay the cost of your getting your citizenship, just fill out the forms that I gave you some months ago.” Imagine saying that in under a second because that is all the time I would have before she decides to say, “Okay, bye.”

This time, her response to my speedy inquiry if all is well was “Yes.” Feeling that there was a waiting on her part, I asked, “So why did you call?”

“Nothing.”

“You just wanted to hear my beautiful voice?”

“No.”

Now treading into dangerous waters, I asked, “Missed me?”

“No.”

Totally confused but knowing that something was waiting to be said I decided to be silent.

“How do you make jerk chicken?” was the question from her that broke the silence.

I gave her the recipe and being the ever nosey one I asked if she is having a dinner party.

“No, there is an auction at work and a group of us are planning to a Caribbean dinner package as an item,” she told me. “The proceeds will go to United Way and so I want to do jerk chicken.”

That was my first “Thanks be to God,” for the evening. My daughter was thinking about others, how to use her skills, talent and gifts to serve others. “Thank you God,” I said to myself again and launched into even greater details as to how to make the chicken ‘nicer’.

The silence fell over us again. “Alright then,” I said thinking the conversation was over, “See you and D on Sunday?” D is her boyfriend, the apple of her eyes and the man of her dreams (at least that’s what she thinks now) and they are coming over to us this Thanksgiving for a meal in celebration of the occasion and A’s birthday which is on October 15. This is her first visit home since she moved out and we are pulling out all the stops.

“Do you remember S?” referring to one of her oldest friends in Canada and the person Juds and I thought was the best person for A to share a place with if she was not going to be living at home with us.

“Yes??”

“Well, she moved in with her boyfriend some months ago and he has her on coke,” she matter-of-factly said.

My gut almost fell out at that news and as she continued telling me the story about S, a beautiful young lady of 20 years, tears streamed down my face. I knew where this story was going to end because for the past two going on three months I have been at the gate ‘welcoming’ women who have taken a similar road. As A told me how her best friend has lost over twenty pounds in two months and is now living on the streets of Edmonton, I wept.

“I need to find her Mummy,” I heard A saying. “She won’t return my telephone calls and I know she has her cell.”

“Okay?” I carefully replied, “Maybe she is not feeling too happy about where she is right now, hence her not calling you back?” Not sure whether my daughter was equipped to deal with this situation and, quite frankly, not sure that I wanted her to, I asked, “And what do you think you can do?”

“I don’t know Mummy, but I just cannot leave her on the streets, I have to find her and talk to her, make sure she knows I am here.”

That was my second, “Thank you God.” Although my mind was rushing over all the horrible things that could happen by her getting involved, in my heart I knew she was right. In my heart I also knew that my baby girl has a caring soul and I thanked God again.

While I know this might sound bad I have to be honest. As I listened to the rest of the story; as I checked in with my daughter about her own situation, I was quietly thanking God for keeping her safe and indeed for her not listening to our suggestion that she moved in with this girl instead of with D!

As far as I am concerned and from where I am sitting, there is a real crisis in boomtown Edmonton and particularly among the young people. When one considers reports that approximately 26.5% of children in grades 7 - 12 are involved in heavy episodic drinking, that is drinking at least five times per month and that about 10% of the homeless population in this city are youths between the ages of 15 – 18 you have to wonder what the hell is going on!

On Sunday, as we have our Thanksgiving meal and celebrate my daughter and her partner, I know that I will be saying a special prayer for S and for the hundreds of young people battling the challenges of living in a wealthy province (and world) but living without a purpose.

I will also be praying that more people will wake up to the reality that is staring us down: that many people are merely existing not living, right next door to us. As we continue to close our eyes and ignore them; ignore the real pain and suffering in our worlds more young people, young women like S, will be greeted by the jail keepers or gravediggers.

Is that the world we were called to co-create with God? Is that the world you are celebrating this Thanksgiving? Or will you join my daughter and find, reach out to the human beings existing next door (in your house or through your gates) before they become the next addict? Let them know you are there and that you care.

Think and act on these things as you give thanks this Sunday in Canada or in November if you live in the United States.

Blessings,

Claudette

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