64 / 365 – Who Needs Love?

PAM TILLARY

I can’t stop thinking about Megan Tollefson. She went away to foster care somewhere. No one seems to know. It’s as though she blew away when the breeze blew through. I don’t know what kind of life she had, living in the old Nygard house while they cooked up meth and left trash in the rooms and clothes and garbage all over the place. You think you know a person and then you realize their life is a mystery.

She was a cheerful girl, a little quiet. She drew a lot. She drew people well, much better than most second-graders. They were always smiling, holding hands. I looked back through some of her work — I have a lot of it because her mother never showed up for conferences. There is always a sun in them, which we have a fair amount of, and trees, which we don’t. Even though her mother never made her conferences and sent notes with apologies, I thought from her sunny disposition and the pictures she drew, how considerate she was of other students in the class, that she had love at home. She was the girl who opened doors for people, who when another student couldn’t find her gloves or her jacket, she would help. Usually when you see kindness and confidence in children, that’s what you’re seeing.

But now, knowing what we know, that she was living in some kind of hell, I see something completely different. Maybe her mother was loving, but after what Chief Stave described in that house, it must have been a nightmare. At least I imagine she was probably ignored, neglected. That’s what it seems like when you think of a little girl walking around in the road on a frigid day with no coat on, looking for her mother who has run away. So I look at those pictures now and I imagine a girl who was trying to imagine a real home come to life. All those smiles and people holding hands, all that sun, those trees. It must have been a sweet wish.

I miss her. They won’t say where she’s gone, it’s all confidential. She’s not with the Tollefsons here, and definitely not in town. It doesn’t make sense but I guess it’s all legal stuff. Of course they police or the state are watching for her mother to come looking for her. Imagine that, you have to make a choice to come claim your daughter but go to jail for neglect and whatever else they might charge for turning your house into a drug lab. Or you just walk away from your own daughter. It’s heartbreaking that that seems to be her choice.

It pains me to think of that girl, somewhere in a strange town with a family she doesn’t know, even more alone than when she lived with her family, if that’s what you can call them. I keep finding myself daydreaming about bundling her up at the end of the day and taking her home and making her hot soup. Giving her extra love for what she probably didn’t get.

I was thinking that the other day when Finn came through the house, on his way out to work at that terrible bar. It just occurred to me that I never showered love like that on my own children. They didn’t need it. They were pretty self-sufficient. So is this a silly feeling I have — thinking that this girl needs all this extra love? Maybe she doesn’t. Maybe she’s OK, like my kids were OK. Or maybe my kids are not OK. Tom sure thinks Finn is not OK. Maybe I should have been paying more attention to my own children all this time. Maybe I would still have all three of them.

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