Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Room at the End of the Hall

The room Kelsey occupied in our house last was also her first bedroom. Then she and Marissa switched when Kelsey was about 15, I think. I can't remember the rationale they gave me, but it was a sweet deal for Marissa, and the reality I can now tell you in hindsight was that it moved Kelsey from being right on top of us. Greg was always a light sleeper; he heard what she was doing up there as long as she was directly above him, and moving her nocturnal activities away from his ears was, I am sure, the real reason for the move. But, she lost out really, because it is the better location. And, as the eldest, I chose it for Kelsey in deference to that when we moved in. Like I think is typical of sisters, Kelsey always complained that Marissa got preferential treatment. There was a modicum of truth to that. Like I think is typical of most parents, we were more uptight with Kelsey. Everything was the first time with her. And she was a more uptight individual, maybe as a result. Marissa seemed easier in many ways. She was easier going, and we were less hysterical about what to do with her. We'd been down the road before and sort of knew what to expect. That is, of course, until they both reached puberty and then all hell broke lose, and well, you know a lot of that story. However, the point of all that is to say I was sensitive to trying to give Kelsey some props as the eldest when I could. She got the bedroom at the end of the hall with the walk-in closet, two windows instead of one (even though one of them looks out onto this odd little crawlspace off the upstairs hall), and a sweet view of the side yard so you can watch the deer walk up from the creek in the evening. When they traded, she settled into a much smaller closest and a single window that is dominated by one of our giant oaks, that sort of hovers over the window like that tree in Poltergeist. But, as I said, it was a little bit of insulation from prying parental ears. If we had been smart, and there is no one on the planet who can defend our parental aptitude at that particular time, we would have refused to let the switch happen, but I still wanted to trust my kids. I still wanted to believe that when they looked me straight in the face and said something to me, particularly about something as seemingly innocuous as a room switch, they meant what they said. However, as much as I sometimes feel like a dolt now for allowing it, if I hadn't, Marissa would likely be dead from a heroin overdose. Greg heard her collapse more than once up there on the floor immediately above us. If he hadn't, if she had fallen onto her original bedroom floor, we wouldn't have been able to call 9-1-1 in time to revive her. Her heart would have stopped like her friend Kyle's. Somebody else would be wearing a tattoo honoring my daughter instead of the other way around. So, I chalk it all up to some things happen for a reason.

Yet, I'm getting off track. This isn't really the point. Well, actually, it is in a way. A lot of history happened in that room. But, kind of like saying a lot of history happened on Iwo Jima, it's not necessarily the kind of history you want to re-live on a daily basis.

The girls talked about switching back I remember. Maybe because Kelsey secretly wanted a check on herself, but I think it was more because she realized it was the better geography. But, one of the other reasons the adoption thing caught me by such surprise is that Marissa is a lot like my mom in a couple of ways. She has a lot of things. In particular, she likes to fill up her wall space and she has a lot of clothes. So, she was dug in like a tick. She has always been this way. When we moved out of the little house on Applewood to come here, hers was the last room I packed and it took by far the longest. Even the living room, with all my books and knick knacks, VHS tapes and DVD's didn't present near the challenge. By the time Kelsey decided she'd like to have the room back, Marissa had all four walls of that room covered with stuff that ranged from an errant piece of shingle off the roof to a little shrine for all her friends who had passed away. And the floor? What floor? I knew it was carpeted, but it rarely saw a vacuum because it was completely covered by clothes, books, shoes, CD's, purses, jewelry - you get the picture. So, getting her to organize all of it so she could move it out into a less appealing space just never happened.

And Kelsey, not long after, was in and out of treatment, so she was gone for months at a time. When she completed three months at the Center for Hope of the Sierras in Reno, we were strongly advised that she should not come back here to live. Like addicts are told they have to make a break with their old surroundings and friends, E.D. patients need to also break from where they are triggered the most. So, before she came home, Marissa and I went apartment shopping for her and found this older complex on the outer edge of Hyde Park. I love Hyde Park. It is an older area of Austin just north of the UT campus that is completely eclectic, but largely liberal. Many of the houses were built in the early 1950's, but some are older. Many have been re-done and are highly valued pieces of real estate. But, they will sit next to a totally run-down piece of crap house. Every one just accepts that this is the climate of the way things are there. But, again, I get off topic. That's not really the point. The point is, we thought we were bringing home our now adult daughter and establishing her so she could begin to learn who she was, what real life was like, and she could begin to move on with a life. Some days it seemed like that might happen. But, for the most part, it did not. She moved from her little apartment in Hyde Park to another complex in South Austin with a live-in boyfriend. Things went "south" in more ways than one, and she struggled while she was there. She found a roommate situation on her own and moved into a house with another couple. I never met them, and I was never there, but the situation was horrible. If even half of what Kelsey told us was true, she was trapped in a nightmare scenario. Finally, she moved to a wildly eclectic condominium complex in an area known as Dove Springs. Dove Springs is not where you want your daughter to live, let me just say that. But the complex was set off a little and everyone knew everyone and seemed to watch out for one another, even though half of those people are mildly left of center. She lived with two other people, one of whom was a new boyfriend who seemed pretty grounded, so we convinced ourselves that it would be okay and at least it was better than where she had just been. Things didn't go well there either. By then, her bulimia was threatening to overtake her again, which was a horrible situation for her roommates to be living with, and she was broke. Her boyfriend, who owned the unit, was trying to be supportive and understand, but a situation like E.D. is overwhelming for those of us who have been around it for a long time. Think how it is for a young man, still learning the ways of the world in general and now is faced with something that is like a beast, stalking your every move and pervading every aspect of your life. I never resented the men in her life for leaving her. Handling Kelsey, a complex creature in her own right, was challenge enough. Handling The Beast at the same time was more than they should have to shoulder. I am pretty sure he gave her an ultimatum, get over it or get out.

After a little less than three years of struggling to make it out in the world, Kelsey asked to come home for a while. But she wanted her old, original room back.

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