Dear readers, my memory is jogged by all kinds of conversations and situations in my life. Recently I was transported back to a time my young daughter was reaching out for help.
I think about my life as a book, filled with millions of memories.
I organize my memories into life stories based on the places I’ve lived or live, from growing up in Kankakee by the Sea, to spending several summers as a young girl at summer camp in Fryeburg, Maine, to my college days in the dorm and sorority house in Madison, Wisconsin, to raising my family in Honolulu, Hawaii, to my present life in beautiful Chicago with my husband Shelly, our pooch Orchid, my mother, other members of my family and cherished girlfriends.
Last but not least, my life in Palm Springs, where I began a new passage in my life…that of a writer.
I have endearing feelings for all, but one stands out among the rest because I loved it the best. Hawaii is still home because it was all about family…my children and late husband, the mix of several ethnic peoples, the constant and breathtaking beauty of land and the sea and the Island’s laid back culture.
Flashing forward to just yesterday in Palm Springs…my girlfriends, Sheila and Gloria, and I were laughing as we discussed psychiatrists. It brought back a story that took place in Honolulu when one of my daughters was a teen.
Reaching out for help
The phone rang as I stood over my kitchen sink watering my orchid plants on a beautiful afternoon in Honolulu.
I can clearly see my kitchen with its big double doors that opened onto our wood deck. I can see the deep, blue tiles around the top and bottom of our pool, the swaying palms and banana trees surrounding it, and a humongous mango tree dripping with mangos that draped over the patio.
“Aloha!” I said in a very happy manner.
“Hi,” replied a warm voice on the other end of the phone. “It’s Genevieve Painter.”
My first thought when I heard her name was, “Oh, she must be calling about one of my committees.”
At that time I was holding the position of Chairman of the Woman’s Division of the Jewish United Fund for Hawaii.
Genevieve and I would probably have been close girlfriends if it were not for our age difference. She could have been my mother! Our fondness for one another was real and we enjoyed working together on the committee.
Our conversation continued. “Are you sitting down?” she asked me.
“No I am watering my orchids,” was my reply. “Is everything alright?
She started to laugh, “Yes,” she said as I sat down to listen. “I have been a psychiatrist for forty years and this is the first time in my career I answered my phone and heard a young girl’s voice pleading with me to make an appointment for her troubled mother! When I asked her name and her mother’s name I was in shock. Her response was, “My mother is Susan Forman (my late husband’s last name) and I am her daughter, Lizzie.”
I started to laugh! I could just hear this precocious daughter of mine dramatically stating her woes to Genevieve, the shrink, or as my husband affectionately calls psychiatrists, the stretch!
Genevieve went on with the conversation that took place between the two of them.
“How did you get my name?” she asked Lizzie.
“Oh! That was easy,” Lizzie said, “I was complaining to my girlfriend at school about my mom. She told me her mother made an appointment for her to see you because her mom thinks she is a troubled child! She told me she loves you and carries your phone number in her wallet incase she has a mental emergency! She gave me your phone number and I am calling you from the school phone. Please call my mom and see if she will go to you for help!”
Genevieve went on laughing to me as as she continued the story with her response, “I will call your mom, Lizzie. I know her and I am sure she would be willing to see me. Are you willing to meet with me alone and tell me what is bothering you?”
“Oh yes!” was Lizzie’s reply.
Genevieve and I talked for awhile and made the decision that Lizzie would see her. Then I would visit with her. And, finally, the three of us would meet together.
I know you are wondering why my daughter sent me to a shrink, darlings!
Lizzie turned fifteen. You can drive in the State of Hawaii at that age. So, we bought Lizzie her first car. Our rule: if you want a car we will buy one but you will pay us back. Every day after school Lizzie walked to work at Nokoi Florist. She loved her little job and gave us her weekly paycheck. No problem.
The problem: she wanted to drive alone in her new car on a weekend night to meet friends. I said, “No!” She said, “Yes.” It was a fierce power struggle because she was used to a very lenient mother and became unnerved by my unwavering response to her wishes. I would not budge.
I said, “I love you and want you to be safe. If you have two other girlfriends in your car I will permit you to meet other friends but you have to be home by 10:00 p.m. and one of the girls has to drive home with you and spend the night at our house. You are only fifteen years old. You could have a flat tire. You could run out of gas. I am not going to sit up worrying about your safety. I already sit up…just waiting to make sure you are safe and sound!”
“What?! 10:00 p.m.?! Two friends! Spend the night! Don’t you trust me?” demanded Lizzie.
“I do trust you but I don’t trust what could happen. Take it or leave it, Lizzie,” I replied.
That is when Lizzie decided to send me to a shrink.
After our separate meetings the three of us came together at Genevieve’s office.
I began the conversation this way, “Lizzie I applaud you for calling Dr. Genevieve. You had an unsolvable problem with me and figured out how to ask for help. Good for you.”
Lizzie said, “Thank you, Mom. I am glad I did, too. Thank you for wanting to come, too. I learned from Dr. Genevieve how all moms are wrought with worry about their children and how I cannot always have everything go my way. I have to learn how to compromise.”
I wanted to jump off the couch and kiss Genevieve Painter. I held back but I did lean over and hug and kiss my daughter.
Dr. Genevieve Painter took the floor. “I have a proposition. Lizzie drives with one of her girlfriends. She then has to spend the night and they can stay out until 10:30pm.”
I looked at my strong willed daughter in the eye, holding my breath, as I awaited her answer. She looked right back at me, smiled and said, “I love you, Mom. Is this okay with you?”
“Yes, Lizzie, I think it is fair and I won’t worry.”
“I think it is fair, too, Mom,” she smiled and hugged me.
Dr. Painter was our savior. Truly.
As Lizzie and I left the office, I turned my head to look back at Genevieve. She gave me a big wink and I winked back and life returned to normal in our home on Kahala Avenue in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Do something GOOD today…if you or members of your family members or friends is reaching out for help don’t hesitate to act!