My dear friends,
I appreciate so much how you’ve interacted with my family over the years as we’ve been figuring out how to be the best parents we can be to Allie. Some of you have been tracking with this blog since even before the Spring of 2007 when our granddaughter Allie was horribly abused and put into a coma.
What we have below is an excerpt of my unfinished first chapter of the book I’m organizing around the story of our little Allie.
I’ve been gathering scraps of records and memories I’ve written down. The emotions that have tattooed those memories into my psyche have come rushing into the present as I remember and write.
Some of you were right there with us as extended family and community. You prayed with us and encouraged us and even walked physically with us in the early days of this experience. If you were one of those who did, could you write me a few sentences about how the news about Allie first hit you when you heard it?
People who didn’t know us in the department of children services in San Francisco where these incidents took place judged my family harshly at first. They didn’t know us and I don’t hold it against them. They became our biggest cheerleaders once they came to know us. They really put a lot of effort into getting to know us.
Here’s a tough question: if you knew us personally and had criticisms of us, I want to welcome your thoughts as well. I want you to feel totally free to share. I’ll be honest, if I wasn’t in the middle of this, I would have had a harsh thought or two for us as well. Many of you know how coarse my personal interactions can be, so let it rip. I deserve it. You can leave me an anonymous comment below if you like, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I really want to hear about the emotions you experienced whether empathetic or harsh. This will be helpful for me as I write this book. I think will be helpful for future readers as well.
A pre-dawn phone call wrenched me from sleep. The display on the caller ID read "Charity."
Charity is my prodigal daughter.
"Dad!" she gasped. Her voice was strained with panic. I braced myself. My wife Susan was standing near me and I grabbed her wrist and gave it a squeeze. "You have to pray. Allie's on the way to the hospital with Timmy. They're in an ambulance. Allie isn't breathing."
Allie is my daughter's daughter. She was born four days after Charity's nineteenth birthday. The two of them shared Charity's bedroom in our Florida home until about three months before this call. When Allie was seven months old, Charity moved with her to San Francisco to make a life with Allie's father, Timmy. Now, at ten months old, Allie was speeding through San Francisco streets in an ambulance. This is a nightmare.
"Why isn't she breathing? What happened?" I asked.
"I don't know! Timmy only told me she isn't breathing. I'm on my way to the hospital. Please, you and Mom pray."
We prayed. I called my best friend, Dan, and got him and his wife, Cheryl, out of bed to pray, too. Dan and Cheryl wanted to know what happened, too. I told them I didn't know - that Allie wasn't breathing.
Waiting for more news made us feel helpless and useless. Our minds raced as we tried to fill in the blanks. Why isn't Allie breathing? What did she get into? Were drugs left in reach? Did she get her little hands on something poisonous? What else could have possibly happened? We didn't want to think it. Please, Jesus! She's only a baby! Please bring her back to us whole and healthy.
We were in shock. I felt like I needed to do more than pray. I needed to fix this. But all we could do is pray. There was nothing else in our power to do in this moment so pray we did.
We didn't know it yet, but our lives needed to get more connected to God. Our lives were about to enter a vortex of chaos. Prayer is supposed to be easy, but even prayer was going to be a monumental task in the near future. We needed more prayer than I knew.
Susan and I were in a holding pattern as we waited for more information. We wished the phone would ring.
The second call
Be careful what you wish for. The second call came from Charity. She said the one word Susan and I were silent about. We refused to let the thought surface. We were afraid that if we spoke the word, we might come to pass. So, instinctively, we kept that word in the darkest, most guarded hiding place in our minds. We wouldn't let that horrible monster into the world.
Then Charity said the word. Abuse.