The new year brought a dramatic change in Sarah. Her meteoric rise from the pit to the pinnacle took everyone by surprise. Coworkers even noticed how different she acted, and asked me if this was the ‘real’ Sarah.
I nodded happily—our daughter had returned. She even agreed to drive to Phoenix to meet up with a friend I hadn’t seen in fifteen years. Sarah joined in the conversation and chatted with my friend and her daughter as if they’d known each other their entire lives.
That evening, we stayed in a hotel and ended up going on a spur-of-the-moment mall run (Sarah normally hates shopping, and I don’t love it). She astonished me by actually spending money—the child who always returned from overnight school trips with more money than she started with (she would eat cheap with the money the school gave her to buy meals with and not purchase any souvenirs).
We went to a craft store, too, where she bought art supplies because she finally felt like drawing and painting again. I couldn’t wait to see what her creative talent conjured up.
Sarah also returned to the world of social media—contacting friends she hadn’t spoken to for months and posting updates on Facebook. She also downloaded WhatsApp and SnapChat. I had my reservations about these apps, because I’d heard horror stories from other educators about how kids bullied each other from the anonymity of cyberspace. I realized that perhaps I needed to stop acting like a helicopter parent and remember that Sarah would turn 21 in four months.
In addition to her friends from Argentina, Sarah had somehow connected with a young man in Portugal who she had friended years ago on Facebook, but had never chatted with before. She drew his Facebook profile photo and the results amazed me. I had no idea that she could draw people so accurately. When she posted the results on Facebook, the drawing sparked a conversation and friendship with the young man that had heretofore been dormant.
In fact, they really seemed to hit it off very quickly. This worried me, because it brought back memories of her rapid relationship with the young man in Argentina. When I suggested this to her, she told me that it wasn’t the same at all. She explained that her friend’s brother had gone to a school in Brazil that many of her friends from Argentina attended, and that he was a strong Christian who attended a university in Portugal and studied nursing.
Her information partially calmed my overactive imagination—but not completely. Along with her improved mood, Sarah had acquired problems with insomnia. She would stay up almost all night working on her art, watching movies or interacting with her cyber friends.
Her late nights would sometimes prevent me from sleeping—not because she made noise, but because I would see the light on in her room if I got up in the middle of the night and then I’d worry about her for hours on end.
Pedro and I worried about her insomnia, but that fact that she had energy and enthusiasm outweighed our worries. Above all, we wanted her to find balance in her life. Balance in her relationship with God, balance in her friendships, her eating and her exercise. For her, balance seemed an unattainable goal. But at least she didn’t feel depressed any longer.
In addition to her painting, Sarah spent time planning her future. “I think I know what I want to do with my life,” she said late in January.
“I’m good with kids and the only reason I never considered teaching was because you guys were teachers.”
I laughed. “You didn’t want to turn into your parents, eh?”
“Yep.” She grinned. “I’ve been investigating, and it should only take me three more years of college to get my teaching credential and a Spanish major.”
“Sounds like a marvelous plan,” I said. “You’ll make a wonderful teacher. Kids love you.” Finally! A plan she loved and purpose that seemed God-ordained to combine her talents with her natural ability to teach and lead.
While her decision provided a measure of relief to my worry, her budding relationship with the young man in Portugal had me concerned. She filled her conversations with references to him and started cooking up plans to return to Brazil to improve her Portuguese and meet this young man when he came to visit his brother.
But for the first time in a very long time she bubbled over with happiness. I didn’t want to interfere with her climb out of the pit.
Sarah left on February 2 for the long drive to Reno. She planned on spending the night at my cousin’s house in Las Vegas (about six hours away), and finishing the remaining seven hours the following day. We texted on and off throughout the day, and to my dismay I discovered that by eight pm she still hadn’t reached my cousin’s house.
“I’ve stopped a few times to go shopping,” she explained. “I’ll get up early in the morning and make it to Reno in plenty of time.”
To her, it sounded like an explanation—to me, it sounded very uncharacteristic. In fact, it took her the entire day to make it from Vegas to Reno. She made it to her grandparent’s late enough that she would only get a few hours of sleep before loading up the taxi and heading to the airport before dawn. Between driving, shopping, visiting, spending the night in Vegas and stopping to buy gas, the 12-hour trip from Holbrook to Reno took her almost 36 hours.
I prayed for their safe travels and that Sarah would survive the stress of spending extended time in her grandmother’s company. I looked forward to a break in caregiving—although the last month hadn’t overly taxed me at all. I spent extra time writing and more time with God. But nothing would prepare me for what came next.
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