I hope she doesn't come in sobbing again. The last time she walked through our door she brought a tangible sorrow that refused to leave our house for almost twenty-four hours. I love her. She is my son's girlfriend. But I have already done what I can do, now it's up to her.
I know that I have to give her time. I know because that's what I needed. Time and direction.
The Source of Sorrow: Last year my son's girlfriend found the courage to tell her mom and the police that her step-dad had been raping her. He went to jail and she called me wanting to know if her family could hide out at my mom's place when he was released because they were afraid of him. I explained that it wouldn't be safer for them at our home and would only invite danger into the lives of my family as well. I also shared with her the truth that going to a safe home for battered women, preferably far away, would be the safest and smartest choice. I know because that's what my mom did for us after my step-dad molested me. She gathered all six of us kids and headed to The Yellow Brick House where we were offered safety and information about abuse. Information we just hadn't had. My mom read, learned and taught ferociously. It was a long road to understanding and stopping the cycle, which eventually led to my mom becoming a speaker for RAINN (Rape Abuse Incest National Network).
Needless to say, I understood elements of what my son's girlfriend was going through. I also understood that my son was also being asked to understand a kind of emotional turmoil that would threaten to grab hold and drag him down. Of course, being a teenager has an element of this regardless. Double whammy or intentional learning; I planned on making it the latter.
However, when his girlfriend's perpetrator was released from prison and her entire family started bending over backwards to keep him happy, out of both fear and a misplaced guilt, I was reminded of the strength and courage my mom showed by choosing to run away from her house and bill paying abusive husband to an unknown world with six kids; four on the spectrum of autism. But she knew she had no other choice.
My son's girlfriend's family sees things differently. They fight about who's at fault, they drown their fears and confusion in alcohol. I know, and have told them when asked, that the only way to get away from the danger is to leave and learn. To insist on change and prepare for hard lessons.
But I am not the mom in this story. I have no power. I am there for my son when things seem crazy and he needs to talk. When he wants badly to help the girl he loves but doesn't know how.
I wish I could do something. I want to change things.
So I have allowed this young girl into our home and have shared love and lessons. We have exampled a willingness to talk about our fears and beliefs by doing so with and around her. I have said no to allowing certain behaviors and people near our home.
I have done research and found what seems to me to be a wonderful safe house for abused women and children three hours from here. A place where she and/or her family could live and learn how to forgive themselves and stop the cycle. I wrote the address and phone number down on an index card, along with the number for RAINN and gave it to both her and her mom with love and hope.
Sometimes what we can do for others is be ourselves and offer knowledge, say no to getting sucked in and understand that we have a right and a duty to take care of ourselves and let others do the same their own way.
A phone number on an index card may seem like a small thing. But it's not. I was able to example helping others without getting sucked in or allowing things I'm not okay with. I was able to see how the struggles of our life can offer answers for another. And I was able to teach my boys that we are always a part of the world, and just by being ourselves sometimes it will make a difference for others, but always it will be what's right for us. The sorrow that tries to invite itself into our home with my son's girlfriend rarely stays long. Our love, my son's love, has been louder so far. And if ever it isn't, we will insist on change.