“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.”
My reliance on a sleeping medication, Ambien CR, had been ongoing for about six years. My difficulty in sleeping came when my brother had committed suicide in a very public place when Grace, my third child, was 8. I made the decision to stop the Ambien CR when I started having memory lapses. They were small ones, like not remembering a name. So - I got off the medication for those reasons, but the real benefit came a few weeks later.
I had been off Ambien CR for about five or so weeks when Grace, then 14, came down the stairs one Sunday night around 11:00 pm in March of 2013. She asked me why I was still awake - and I told her I was off my Ambien and it was hard for me to fall asleep. She said "Oh," and left the room. As she left the room - she pulled my always-open bedroom door shut. I told her to leave my door open. I noted the hour and that she had not changed into pajamas yet.
Around 11:35 p.m., I thought I heard the front door shut. I get up and walk out of my bedroom to the front of the house and see that the front door is not, in fact, fully shut. I call upstairs, "Girls?" - already immediately knowing I had a child who just went outside. My 12-year-old, Caroline, answers from somewhere up the stairs. I ask - Where's Grace? Caroline tells me that Grace left. I ask with who - and to where? Caroline says she thinks to a park that is by our house.
I don't let the girls go to that park in the daytime alone - it has turned into that kind of park. In fact - we three have been walking there before around dusk and were advised by a total stranger to avoid being in that park by ourselves after dark. Grace knew the park was off limits, especially at night. And then it occurred to me - I have a child who snuck out at 11:35 pm on Sunday - why was I even pondering the safety of the park as a choice? Her simply leaving was enough. I don't even bother to get dressed in real clothes. I run back to my room, get my slippers and rush out the front door.
Please know reader, I can describe this calmly now, but in that moment, I am livid that a child would dare sneak out on my watch! The audacity. The nerve. The disregard for her safety and ours. The disobedience. I now understand the saying "was so mad I could barely see straight." I was that person. My heart was pounding so fast I could feel it against my skin.
I tear off down the street and to THE park at 11:45 - I call her name, I see people in the park, well, I see people-shadows under trees, I walk close enough to be able to tell Grace is not one of them. Then - I think - I will call her cell. I run back to the house and get my phone to call her and walk back outside to see if I can see her anywhere. I dial. I hear the phone ringing. And she picks up (!)
Where are you?
Just down the street.
Doing what?! With who?! Get here immediately!
Ok Mom. Calm down. I am just right on our street.
I. Want. You. Home. Immediately.
I hang up.
I walk in the house - fuming. I ask Hope if she knew. She said yes. I told her next time she must not keep this secret.
A couple minutes have passed, and Grace is not home.
I call her again. I walk outside looking for her.
Where are you?
I am on our street.
I want you here now.
I am coming. I am walking now.
I would have thought Grace would have come running back. But no - I eventually see her revealed in the streetlight a block or so down, literally sauntering her way back to the house. This only serves to infuriate me more.
I am standing at the front door. She walks over the threshold and hands over her phone voluntarily.
I tell her to go sit in the den.
I am having to pace because I am so angry and have so much adrenaline barreling through my veins.
She sits on the sofa. I am still pacing in the den.
I tell her I am livid with her.
I tell her she has disrespected me, she has disrespected everyone who has invested in her over the past half year to get her out of a bad spot. I told her that she put me and Caroline in jeopardy by leaving the front door unlocked. That it was not safe for her to go sneaking down the street.
It's no big deal, she calmly says - and looks at me as if I am some kind of crazed woman. And at this point - I am so angry I probably do look like a caricature. Her treating this so casually makes my anger continue to well up to where it is difficult to even modulate my voice.
Who were you meeting?!
A boy. He was going to take me to get ice cream.
He's a good boy. I know him.
And in fact - it would be more accurate, in hindsight, to say she knew OF him. I told Grace I was disappointed. I told her to get in bed. I went upstairs to her room, grabbed her laptop and told her she could forget about electronics for the foreseeable future and we would talk about all this tomorrow.
Tomorrow, however, was the day that Grace decided to up the ante and attempt her own suicide.
Next: Chapter 2: The Dark Settles In