A mother makes a very difficult choice to change the despair in her life.
| It is a gloomy day with an approaching thunderstorm. The boom of thunder feels like a foreboding of things to come. Perhaps she should turn around and go home. But that would change nothing.
Going through the gates, Selena is stopped at the guard house for an ID check. At the main entrance her purse is searched. She finds herself chewing her lip and notices a fine tremor in her hands. Why? She is the visitor, the innocent one.
Selena Richard lines up with grandmas, moms and children of various colors waiting anxiously in line for visiting time. The children push each other, act bored and have a million questions as women speak to each other about grocery prices and current events. No one appears to be as nervous and unsure as she feels.
'This is the most important decision of my life'.
Selena's mind travels back to the day that drastically changed lives and brought her to this point. It had started with robin blue skies and promises for the future.
Her daughter, Angela, was taking a driving license exam once again. On the way to the Department of Motor Vehicles, she kept up a constant flow of conversation plus the stereo was tuned to an irritating hip-hop station. Selena knew how nervous Angela was so she tuned into her daughter and tried to ignore the music.
Her husband and proud dad, Roger, was at home planning a "Congratulations" party. He was always positive. If she did fail he would turn it into a "Better Luck next Time." They owned a catering business so parties materialized frequently at their home.
Angela was Daddy's little girl. That very morning she sat by him on the sofa and he recited all her accomplishments so far in life.
"You didn't think you would make the cheerleading squad. You could fly through the air, babe." Then, " You were sure you'd fail Organic Chemistry and you made an A".
"Daddy, that's different! I have tried this and screwed up! I might fail again".
Roger wrapped her in his protective arms. "You won't. I will not allow it!"
"Then you come and take the test for me."
"I think someone might notice I am not a cute teenage girl, ya know?"
When they arrived at the DMV and her number was called, Selena gave her daughter the thumbs up sign and received a half smile. A half hour later, she returned with a jubilant smile; as if she glided on wings.
Selena felt conflicted. After all it is another rite of passage towards becoming an adult and a little pull at a mother's heartstrings.
Angela called her Dad.
They arrived home, greeted by pink streamers and silver mylar star balloons. Then there were tea sandwiches and shrimp with cocktail sauce, cheese balls, crackers and Selena's spinach dip in dark bread. It would be finished off with Roger's specialty, chocolate fondue with fresh fruit and pound cake.
Angela's close friends had been invited and most brought a date. There would be no alcohol but a great raspberry sherbet punch and a DJ friend, Hi C, was spinning discs by the pool. Angela was ecstatic with joy. Her Dad was the best at planning parties.
The sun was a glowing ball as the golden rays picked up the highlights in Angela's strawberry hair. She had changed out of jeans and was radiant in a red cotton dress with silhouette hearts and spaghetti straps. She had fair skin with freckles and hazel eyes.
Selena reached for her daughter and cupped her chin. "Do you know how special you are?"
Remembering back, Selena was forty before they stopped working so hard at their business to consider children. There were four miscarriages and a thousand tears. Finally they turned to a fertility specialist. Their life was ruled by sex when the clock said so, a thermometer, injections, calls to Roger.
"It's time, hurry home!".
All costly but worth every penny. They were blessed with a kind and beautiful daughter.
Selena was brought rudely back to the present with loud voices around her. She is patted down and gives up her purse. Then she goes through the final security gate at the prison. The banging of the heavy metal doors sends shivers through her body.
'How does anyone make it in here without losing their minds?'
Roger doesn't understand why she is doing this. His answer is spending nights drinking a six pack in front of TV. Ever since the tragedy, he is like a windup toy. He goes to work at another catering business. They had to give up their own business because trying to create happiness for others was just too much. He occasionally eats the dinner she cooks and then falls into his lounger. He doesn't want to talk about what happened or seek out counseling.
At first, Selena couldn't sleep or eat. Her family practitioner gave her prescriptions for sedatives. She would sleep but during the day she was in a fog. She sat in a chair, the TV for company, ignored the ringing phone and caring neighbors at their door. After several weeks she realized life was moving on and she was stuck. She threw away the pills and found a therapist.
Father Bennett had tried to help and he discouraged what she was doing now. She just knew it was going to take something drastic to heal this atrocity.
The iron door swings closed behind her. Her heart begins to race. She feels trapped, like a mouse running in a maze trying to find an exit.
This is a horrible life he must live. He deserved it but, by the grace of God, it could have been anyone. She had done some very stupid things in her youth, after all.
She wants to run. Her hands are clammy and shaking.
Sitting in an uncomfortable well worn chair, she picks up the phone.
Behind the hazy screen is the enemy. She blinks her eyes and sees a skinny young boy, eighteen, with sad dark eyes, acne and greasy blonde hair.
He speaks in a soft voice full of tears, " I'm so very sorry, I wish I was to die!"
She watches tears roll freely down his cheeks. She knew that the two of them had a common bond. They were both in hell.
Part of her wants to scream. "I wish it had been you!"
She tightens the steel grip on her rosary beads then speaks rapidly.
"I forgive you. May God forgive you."
She puts down the phone. It is over, she can breathe.
Walking back through the gates, she allows herself to remember the rest of that day. The day that Angela had won and been so proud of herself.
Angela had asked if she could drive Amy home. Roger and Selena both said, "Yes, but be careful."
They had said that so many times to Angela for swimming, a date, a movie with a friend, even a walk to school.
So, Angela waved, put her seat belt on and looked both ways backing out. She was so careful.
One half mile from their home, a beat up old Lincoln had crossed the center line and hit them head on. The driver was "knee-walking drunk." At the hospital the staff declared both girls died instantly.
'How could they know that? They weren't there'.
Selena wanted to scream at them but when she opened her mouth, nothing came out. She felt paralyzed. That was the beginning of sleep walking through days, taking care of what was needed without thought.
Today, Selena gets in her car at the prison. Now the tears flow. She can feel Angela's presence, a squeeze on her shoulder. For her, this was the right thing to do. She will never forget but tonight she can rest. The healing can begin.
By Kathie Stehr