Monday, October 02, 2006

The Helplessness of Being Apart

My youngest daughter is in Canada, and for the most part, she’s happy and enthusiastic about being there. Sometimes, she gets homesick and I gather her friends to chat with her so she’d feel like she’s hanging out with friends, albeit virtually.Once, she called from a hospital and I was terrified to ask what happened but grateful that she herself called – she may not know it, but it is great reassurance just to hear her voice instead of somebody else’s. The best, of course, is when we can talk in person, but accepting the fact that she’s away, I am willing to settle for a phone or Skype call. But when we can’t Skype or telephone, I’ve learned to guess how she is by how long or how short her blogs are, or from the expressions (wheee, yay, hooray, MWAHAHAHAHA! and the like) or lack of them that I see on her blog.

So days manage to pass, and I’ve learned to accept her absence as fact, while continuing to wish she could be in two places at the same time. But once in a while, very rarely, like today, she hints at something disturbing, (her blog says “need to sort through some deeply disturbing things. I'm not sure if I can explain things over the phone or IM just yet") and I run around like a headless chicken trying to know what happened. Today, I read what I dread – she is disturbed about something and could even be in danger – or was. There are hints as to what happened, but I don’t have enough details to know if my daughter is still in danger, if she is still upset, or if she needs help.

I tried to call her, but her phone was busy – at 5:40 in the morning (her time)! What could be happening? I tried calling again and again, but all I got was the busy tone. I left a message on yahoo, I left a message on her site, and I called up Clair, one of her closest friends. Clair was not answering her phone, either. I tried twice. Panicking, I called up my husband and, between sobs, read to him parts of Sacha’s blog. He promised to call her.

Sacha said she would give more details in her personal blog, so I tried searching for that – she has not updated that for a long time and I have since re-formatted my computer – oh, where do I find that other blog. This is pure agony.

My husband called and told me that he had spoken to Sacha and that she is fine now. Fine now? But what happened? Is he telling me the truth or is he just trying to pacify me? Then, the maid paged on the intercom, “Ma’am, telephone,” and it was Sacha. It was Sacha on the landline and my husband on the cell phone. I wanted to talk to them both, but didn’t know how. So I picked up the receiver and talked to Sacha, but she wasn’t offering any details. She said she wanted to sleep. Gee, I know it’s six in the morning, but if she had been up all night with whatever was troubling her, didn’t I deserve a few minutes to know what it was? I asked her what time she would wake up, and she said it’s Sunday morning, and she’d been up most of the night so she’d like to sleep late. My heart was pounding so hard, yet all I could say pleadingly was, “call me no matter what time you wake up.” Even after noon (which would make it past midnight here).

I went back to my search for her personal blog – by checking her friends’ blogs. I remember finding that through her friend Charo’s – maybe the link is still there. I tried to remember, and I tried to google. I also tried to re-read her blogs so I could get a clue as to who she was with that night. I found a name. Not a familiar name, but still I had a lead. So I googled some more, and while I was searching for clues in, not the proverbial haystack, but in a wideworldweb, my computer went knock, knock. I was startled – I almost fell off my seat. It’s Yahoo instant messaging – Sacha is online!!!

She was probably more concerned about me than about herself at this point, or maybe her dad told her how distressed I was, so for the next hour or so, we “talked.” She was still evasive at some points, and tried to divert to other topics like marketing, or books, and I just followed her where she wanted to lead me in this conversation. Once in a while, I would test if she wanted to talk more about what happened, but she seemed reluctant. And so, I am still waiting.

From what I could gather, she was disappointed not just about one person, but two – but for different reasons. Somehow, her feelings about these two people were very dissimilar but related, in a sequential way, as the second was somehow occasioned by the first incident. That much I could divine. And she felt safer talking about the second rather than the first. As a mother, the closest thing I could do was to guess. Was she talking more about the second because it was a more manageable pain? Or was it a greater pain?

I waited for the hours to pass – giving her time and distance so she could sort out her own feelings, make her own assessments, and plan her next moves. But I could not focus on what I was supposed to do here at home and at work as I waited for her to call. I sent her an SMS to call me anytime (hint: I’m still waiting), and I waited just in case there was a delay in the transmission of text messages. After an hour, I could not contain my worries. What if? What if? I was going crazy. I know she’s smart and she would know what to do, and I know I can trust her. But the what if’s continued. I prayed – prayers know no boundaries - and I don’t feel so helpless anymore just because she is there and I am here. “Dear Lord, I trust you to take care of her, but I need to find out how she is,” and while I whispered an apology to God for my lack of faith, I dialed Sacha’s number. She answered! And she talked to me in a tone, and accompanying giggles, to suggest that she was fine. We talked – still avoiding the first and focusing on the second issue. Oh, well, when she is ready.

If she had been home, I would just have hugged and cuddled her so she could feel safe, well and wonderful again. I could watch her sleep and rest while waiting patiently for the moment when she would wake up and smile again. She’s generally a very cheerful person, and she spreads good cheer all around, so she’s very “low-maintenance” emotionally. But once in a while, when she needs to be on the receiving end of good cheer, I’d like to be there for her. But she is away, and no technological advances have made it possible for us to hug each other now, while she is in Canada and I am here in the Philippines.