Tuesday, June 14, 2011

In the Valley of Shadows - Part 4

August 8, 2003 was D-day. Departure day.  We were tired of living under the gun wondering when the Sheriff would show up and lock us out of our own home. Or what had been our home till we finally fell 3 months behind in our mortgage. Not knowing anyone else who'd been thru foreclosure, we had only rumor that bordered on wild speculation to guide us re what to expect when.  The bank was no help in that regard either. We realized that God had forestalled the inevitable as long as he was going to. There was no grand cavalry poised to ride to the rescue. So, we packed it in.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I cleaned the house one last time and weeded the planting beds. We mowed the grass.  I watched the cows make their morning line thru the woods and down to the creek. I noted that the summer's undergrowth had begun to die back. I grieved over the boys' play fort and wondered how many months till someone else's kids would bring life back to the yard. I walked the long driveway remembering the chalk drawings they had created to welcome trick or treaters.  Why us? What had we done to deserve what was happening to us? I kept taking deep breaths to try and drink it all in one last time. 

No one from our old life showed up to say goodbye. I kept telling the boys how lucky we were to have a place to go.  Grandma needed us. She had been diagnosed with a rare neurological condition.  The boys would distract and amuse her.  I could be there to provide all the help that would delay a nursing home admit.  This was a good thing.  This was a good thing even tho' I had no idea how long this good thing would last.  Maybe forever?

While Jeff pounded the pavement hoping proximity to a bigger city would finally equal a job, I set about developing a routine for the boys and my in-laws. Several months later, Jeff noted that he had never seen his mother laugh as hard or as often as she had since we'd been with them.  This is a good thing, I reminded myself.  Even her doctors agreed saying her muscle strength and tone had improved since our arrival and noted how rare it was for a patient to do anything but gradually decline given her diagnosis.

6 years later
Our 5YO was pleased to have a captive audience that was unable to escape.  He'd hand her a whiffle ball and then grab a big plastic bat.  She played many a game of baseball without leaving her chair.  He made costumes. She became the queen. He became the king. They dueled for hours with light sabers.  When he'd finish his kindergarten classes for the day, he'd crawl up beside her and give her simple lessons in spelling and math.  On one memorable day, he climbed up beside her and announced that it was time for her Bible lesson.  He began to faithfully recount the story of Adam and Eve building up to a dramatic climax.  He became electrically animated and said, "Eve gave Adam that apple, and when he took a bite, Amma, their clothes DISAPPEARED!"  We can still erupt with laughter at the memory of her hysterical shrieks of mirth as I said, "Obviously, we need a remedial lesson in Adam and Eve..."

Jeff eventually landed a job at Lowe's. We filed Chapter 13 to give us a little more time. The filing stopped the foreclosure. We clung to hope that the unbelievable would happen which would allow us to reclaim our little house in the big woods.  We faced the officer of the court. Help had never come. We explained in dry, monotonous detail how we had fallen from grace.  It looked as if she wanted to say, "You only owe $6, 000 in medical debt and about as much in mortgage debt.  Isn't there ANYONE to help you?"  I wanted to tell her what God had told me.  Nothing could stop what was coming.  I figured she'd think I was crazy.  She banged her gavel. Our old life was really over.

The boys and I spent our days at the park or library.  When we'd leave our home away from home, I tried to erase any sign that we were there or coming back. I realized one day that it was as if I was trying to be as invisible as I felt.  If I could make us disappear while we were gone from the house, it might not be so draining when we got back  If we were in our car, we were praying broken prayers.  Reminding God we still trusted him and were waiting on him to show us the next step.  The cone of silence grew more dense as even God quit talking.

my alter ego, Nancy
I stumbled upon a wonderful group of homeschool friends.  For months, I didn't say a word about our plight.  I was so adept at wearing my public face that my mask-girl even had a name--Nancy we all jokingly called the giddy side of me.  Nancy was my alter-ego, life of the party who could have earned a great living on the stand up comedy circuit. No one had a clue that on the inside I was a wreck who was homeless and invisible.  They saved my sanity and never knew what they were doing.

I never said the word 'homeless' because we weren't living in our car under a bridge.  Then, I read a newspaper article about the 'new homeless'.  Hmmm...people like me living back and forth between different relatives.  I really was a statistic.

November of 2004, 15 months into our journey thru the shadows and 4 months after they auctioned off our house, the phone rang.  Ten days later, Jeff was an engineer again.  We saw the end of the valley, but the shadows between us and the mountain were even more disconcerting than the ones behind us.

If you have wondered where Lemony Snickett gets his material, I must go on the record to say, I'm not your girl! Everyone has a story, and yours probably drawfs mine. I'm just the one who is taking off  my mask and inviting you along for the ride.  I thank you for coming.  You humble me to tears because you have chosen to share my journey.  If you know someone is hurting, click 'share' and tell them you know a fraidy cat they might like to get to know.  See you tomorrow, maybe?


  1. Hi Carol Anne.

    I love your story about your son's account of Adam and Eve's clothes falling off--made me laugh out loud and I don't often do that. :)

    I've been there when it comes to hiding behind masks so no one else sees the "real me." I won't go there anymore though because it was so miserable. Now I just have to be honest, even though it means taking a risk.

  2. Hey, Ellen! How sweet of you to jump on as a follower! I'm glad to hear I made you LOL! I try to evoke that response at least 1-2 a week, so I'm glad I got it right at least once this week!

    Sorry I didn't reply sooner. It's been kinda crazy around here. Hope you guys are ok over on your part of the county!

  3. This post didn't show up for me on FB either! But I DID the get the one about your power being out, and the ones since then. I hate not posting thise on my FB page! How do I fix it?

    We have never been in the exact valley you have been in, but I can tell you that we certainly skirted around the very edges of it!! Once I work up my courage, and get the okay from my husband to share some things, I'd like to share my own story on my blog, in the hopes of encouraging someone else and giving glory to God.

  4. I'm so glad that "Nancy" got her due recognition in your story! :-) I know that was a terrible time for you back then, but I do have some good memories of very much needed good, hard, belly laughs!

  5. Well, since you helped 'create' Nancy, lol, I'm glad you remember both her and the hilarity we enjoyed as fondly as I do. Honestly those laughs we all shared at the Y and Applebee's that one time is about all I remember fondly from those days! You all did truly keep me sane! Well...ok...sane might not be totally correct, but you know what I mean! Feel free to share my blog on your news feed. In these fierce economic times, I am hoping my story will help others know you CAN endure and that there will be 'life' again!