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What would have happened if . . .? For today’s writing challenge, I am supposed to write a different ending to someone’s story.  A little presumptuous, I think.  Here goes-

What if she hadn’t encountered him that night at the restaurant?  What if he hadn’t captivated her with his charm and swagger?  She was too beautiful to miss,  but he was just another good-looking salesman wining and dining his clients.  She had a fiance- a good, kind, steady fellow- who truly loved her.  What if they had simply chosen a different restaurant, and she had never even seen him?

Many of the addictive, depressive behaviors were already in place that night, but, being young, could a stable, loving relationship have held her on course to a contented life with a husband and children, with purpose?  Would she have explored her various gifts in writing and drawing?  Would she have gained the confidence to believe in her voice, her worth?  Would she have had not one but several children (her doctor told her she was made to have babies)?  Would she still have found the Lord and followed him?  Who would my mother have become?   Well, not my mother, for one.

I do try to imagine at what point the tide could have turned, and her life could have been fulfilling instead of a journey toward continual self destruction.  Some of that journey was outside of her control.   Born to an alcoholic, abusive father, she was the oldest, the one who bore many of the scars, along with her mother, that he imparted upon their souls.  She bore the burden of responsibility for her widowed mother and younger siblings at age eight, when her father tragically died.   Those formative years were fraught with fear and abuse and self-loathing and an inordinate level of responsibility.  How does one overcome such odds?

Then, there were the genetic forces at work within her driving her toward poor choices, which she made along the way.   And, she was torn away from her familiar,  safe hometown and beloved grandmother, when her family uprooted and moved to a new town before her senior year of high school.  She couldn’t make the transition,  couldn’t make yet another transition to college the following year (where she was suspended/expelled).  She floundered at the very beginning of her independence and never quite regained a foothold in her own life.  Engaged to a nice man that she may have not truly loved,  she was swept off her feet by my father- a much older man, with no morals to speak of and no respect for my mother.  He married her selfishly and mistreated her throughout their short marriage, leaving her further scarred.  From there, she became a single mother to me, taking one job after another to provide for us.  The alcoholism was already in full force, destroying both of us.  Suffering from pancreatitis when I was a young child,  she nearly died.  And yet, she continued to drink, moving us to Florida on a whim, where she dabbled in drugs and nearly lost me to Child Protective Services.

Miraculously, we both made it back to Wisconsin,  where she resigned herself to die, but instead found AA and 20 years of sobriety.   We were reunited after I lived with my grandparents for a year, and life resumed with a greater normalcy than before.  We both found salvation in the winter of 1988-89, and the next four years were spent delving into Christianity.   Along the way, there were problems, but nothing like my younger years.

We parted ways after my first year of college, and she made a choice, unbeknownst to me, that impacted the next few years of her life, ultimately leading to her turning back to alcohol to escape from loss and regret.   That was 12 years ago.

Today, she is on an obscene amount of medications for her anxiety, depression, stroke and other mental/physical problems.  She’s also an active alcoholic who attempted suicide this summer, but survived.  What is survival, though,  if you are not LIVING?  She is lost in her apartment,  an abyss of clutter and reminders of all she has lost over the years.  She cannot find hope for the day.  She cannot find joy, or Joy (as that is her name).

At what point could things have been different?   Where could she have turned a different corner before it was too late?  Is it too late?  Can she write a new ending to her own story?  I want to believe she can, but I get so frustrated with each day that she doesn’t.   Only God, only God can turn these ashes into beauty, but she has to give Him the ashes of her broken life and surrender herself to the Potter’s hands.   She has to allow Him to mold her into His image once more.   Only she can do that.  I cannot write a new ending for her story, as badly as I want to.  I can only read each page as it comes and pray for a happy ending.

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