Ryan Summerlin October 22, 2013
I was watching a little TV a couple of Friday nights ago and all was peaceful and sweet. Ahhh, the weekend stretched ahead of me like a ribbon of highway in the Nevada desert.
I heard my cell chime, indicating a text and padded over to check it out. As I looked at the screen, all I could see was a small picture message that looked like a certificate of some sort. Straining my weary night eyes, I squinted and finally picked up the name on the certificate, that of a former Court Appointed Special Advocate teen, whom I had cared about for many years, who know lives in Southern Nevada. Tears started to form in my eyes as I realized that she had sent me a picture of her high school diploma. It was the text I have ever received.
I broke the peace and probably awakened Kerry from dozing as I screamed, “Oh my God, you won’t believe the text I just received” to my Friday night companion of 46 years. He appropriately tried hard to share in my over top joy.
Two years ago, in our local courthouse, this same child, just turning 17, was granted the freedom to return to live with her mother, brother and sister for the first time in just about a decade. “Lucy” had lived in several foster care placements along with her brother for most of those years. Oh, how she loved and missed her mom. Her mom loved her too, but had struggled for years with her demons, finally overcoming them. She had lost precious years with her children. Lucy always wanted just one thing in life, to be able to be with her mom.
Mom, brother, and Lucy walked out the door of the courthouse, going home to build the family with each other that they had missed being able to do earlier. As her CASA, I was able to plant some seeds and start a conversation about the possibility of her being reunited with her family. I knew Lucy well. I knew at that time what it would mean for her to be with her family. I knew the pain she was feeling and the harm that she could do to herself out of loneliness and despair at being separated from her family. She had a great foster family that cared a great deal about her, but she ached to be with her siblings and mom whom were all living together.
That day, as we parted with promises and hugs I asked her for one promise only.
“Lucy, please promise me that you will get your high school diploma.” She had struggled in school because of the personal upheaval in her life. But Lucy had goals of her own too. She said, “I promise and I promise I will let you know when that happens.”
She left for her life and I went on with mine, at peace with knowing that she was cuddling on the couch watching TV each night, eating ice cream or munching popcorn with her family. We touched base often, then more infrequent.
That Friday night of the text, I immediately called her, choking up as I congratulated her on her high school graduation. She modestly she said, “Thank you”. Lucy was always like that, never showing off, always a bit quiet and sometimes sad. I said, “When did you graduate?” I could almost hear the smile that I knew was spreading across her face. “Today” she said.
She said, “Wendy, we live in a four bedroom, two bath house, and have three dogs, 2 cats, and some fish.” She went on to tell me that her older brother and sister live there too. She is now 19, her siblings 21 and 23. Without my asking she added, “I am happy, really, really happy.”
Happiness eludes so many children. As CASA volunteers, we do not always know the difference that we make in a child’s life. That Friday evening, I was able to find out what a difference I made. As we said our good nights, Lucy said, “Thank you, none of this would have happened without you.” Not really completely true because the mom did the work in rebuilding her family. This CASA helped.