Tuesday night, while the kids were getting ready for bed, April appeared again. She was making a trade, her bike with the busted tire for one that worked. The guy she traded with waited nearby at a distance for her to bring the bike out to him.
I asked her what time she wanted to leave the next morning for her appointment. "I'm not going to go," she told me. "I got a bed at the rehab place, I go in on Thursday. So I'm just going to call them and let them know I'm doing what they told me to do first. There are some things I have to get together to take though, before I can go in. Could I come over tomorrow so you can help me figure out what I need and where to get it?"
I had given her $10 the night before to get minutes on her phone which is how she got the news.
"I'd be glad to." I told her, really happy that she had a bed, already mentally rifling through the linen closet so I knew what I could give her for bedding.
Little asked me if she could give April her dessert, and April smiled and thanked her as she left, banana bread in hand.
I was home all day Wednesday. April never came. Thursday dawned and I hoped she had made it to the rehab place, that she'd managed to get a ride and all the supplies she needed. She still had a bag of clothes and the cards she had for her kids sitting at my house.
For 2 weeks I hoped and prayed she was in a facility, with people trained to help her, and getting better.
Then we decided to stop at the park after the library one day. The low sun shone on the transition between kid hang out and dusk gathering of people who have no where else to go.
April was there, sitting astride a bike, talking to a group of guys.
"What happened?" I called down. "Why are you still here?"
"Well, I'm working on it," she called back. "I still have to get all my stuff together so I can go in."
"Why didn't you come to see me so I could help you."
"Well, I'm going to these NA meetings and they are on Thursdays and they last for hours and it takes me a long time to come back and I had to organize my stuff in storage first."
I nodded, choosing not to call her on what sounded like excuses just then and simply said, "Let me know if you need a ride. I know it's a ways away. I'll drive you there if you ask me."
The kids played, she stayed to talked to her friends. I waved goodbye as we headed back to the car.
The next day she was back at the gate, to pick up her bag of clothes, and cards.
"Did you get to that doctor I told you about?" I asked as her fingers fumbled with her things.
"No." She hung her head like I was a teacher asking about homework.
"Why not?" I asked. "It's right next to where you go every Tuesday and Thursday."
"I just don't care very much about myself these days I guess," she mumbled.
"Well I care about you," I said, knowing how little difference that would probably make for her but angry at her answer.
She told me a bit more about how she needed to get stuff together for her admission into the rehab facility.
I offered again to help her, told her she could come the following day to do her laundry if she wanted.
As she went out the gate and turned to close it I said, "Please take care for yourself. If not for you, for your baby boy."
I got his name a little wrong. She corrected me laughingly.
"Right," I apologized, "Now I remember."
Then she road away and I haven't seen her since.
I think she must still be on the streets nearby.
I tried to just show you what happened, rather than tell you what to think about it. Here's some of what I think about it.
I know for some people doing something like this would be really freaky. For me it's something I'm used to and grew up with. Someone commented about how awesome I am for doing this. I really don't feel like it. For me I knew I would sleep better at night if I did something than if I didn't. It's that simple. There were moments when I was nervous. And I hope you notice the caution in how we went about it.
I don't regret helping her. I know everything she said could have been a lie, but even then I wouldn't regret giving her a safe place to sleep until she was strong enough to move on. (Also, she totally had the body of a postpartum mother. I would know.)
I want to give you a nice happy ending with a pretty bow, for her sake, but you may have noticed that real life seldom works out that way, especially because people have this pesky thing called free will, and they make their own choices, good or bad.
I do wish Aaron hadn't had to leave so soon and I could have had a bit more time, at least to get her to a doctor, and maybe actually get her to rehab.
I think returning to her life on the street when she did was not helpful in her follow through.
But then I remember that she had the sweetest offer from my in-laws: a room in their house, a real bed, and their love too, and she turned it down.
She was too afraid!
I think she didn't make it to rehab for the same reason. For one thing, they would try to get her to talk about the things she's been working so hard to forget, so she can learn to deal with them instead of avoid them.
Also, you get used to what you know. There's an illusion of friendship, camaraderie, this is the way it is and this is all I'm good enough for, that gets reinforced the longer you're on the street. And when it gets ugly, well, that's what you end up believing you deserve.
I also think her drug and alcohol use were self medicating for untreated PTSD after being attacked in her own home and stabbed multiple times, and grief for losing her kids, however that happened. (I'm totally not a licensed professional. I wish she would see one.)
I think the system failed her, if not as an adult and the victim of a crime, a story I only know a fraction of, then as a child in and out of foster care. Who does someone like that have to fall back on when things go bad? Why do you think there are so many 18 year old kids about to graduate out of the system who are still hoping someone will adopt them?
I write the part of her story that I got to be a part of because I want you to know that she's a person. Her story and life are complex, and shouldn't be easily dismissed by anyone, just because she's homeless.
I suspect it's easier for her to stay where she is than try and face disappointment. I suspect that she grows less, and less sure that her baby isn't better off in foster care than with her as time goes on. Social workers sometimes have a way of doing that to moms in her situation.
I hope you will join me in praying for her. Maybe someday she'll gather the strength she needs to try again and succeed this time. My door will always be open to help as I'm able. Maybe she'll find her way back to it in the end.