Emily Sue Harvey: An excerpt from SPACE

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Space (front cover)So many families now experience what the Stowe’s do in SPACE. Just when Deede and Dan are about to realize their retirement dreams , their adult, recovering drug-addict “miracle” daughter, Faith, moves back in with them. Everything changes.  Her baggage upsets the tranquil balance of the Stowe’s existence. Faith’s endless needs intrude hour by hour, devouring both their finances, their emotions, and most crucially, their space.  In turn, Faith finds herself bereft of everything she cherished most, her health, her marriage, child, family, reputation and most of all, a space to call her own. All three battle to find peace with each other, a harmony that doggedly eludes them. For the sake of family solidarity, each is forced to sacrifice elemental components of self, until desperation turns them one against the other. I chose this passage because it forces readers to ask the question, will love be enough here to turn the tide against bitterness, unforgiveness, and disappointment? Is it strong enough to warm again hearts grown cold? 

Dan and Deede Stowe have worked for years, planning and saving for their idyllic retirement years.  Just when they finally are about to realize their dream, their adult, recovering drug-addict daughter, Faith, moves back in with them. Everything changes. Their “miracle child”, complete with druggie baggage, upsets the tranquil balance of the Stowe’s existence. Private, romantic moments evaporateAmid chaotic challenges, against the other. They exist in halfhearted tolerance with only horrific crises bonding them at dark intervals. And Deede wonders “what happened to our wonderful family?” 


You must take the steps. There is no elevator.”

A Recovering Addict Proverb


Tonight, when Dan complained about Faith’s deficits, I reminded him. “We’ve come so far, honey. If you’ll just remember back to a little over two years ago when Faith went off the deep end….”

I’d known something in Faith’s behavior was off-kilter. Had felt it for weeks. It went beyond her sitting on the porch smoking herself to death and avoiding viable relationships. Her temper, never pleasant, grew increasingly caustic. Paranoia reigned, beyond her usual wariness. She kept to her room more with her door locked.

Unfamiliar cars appeared in the driveway and she would jump in and disappear with them for spells. Not overnight. She drew the fuzzy line there, just enough to keep from being tossed out. Dan fussed and I tried to calm him. “We can’t expect her to vegetate here, Dan,” I would say to placate him. “She needs a little time outside her four walls.”

But I was uneasy.

Still, I didn’t expect the axe to fall the way it did.

# # #

“I’m so sorry,” I said to the hospital medical staff at the nurse’s station. They all looked at me with abject pity. Embarrassment overwhelmed me and I turned away and went back to Faith’s room in the ER.

“Get me some food!” she shrieked. “Now.” Purple stains marked her hospital gown, medicinal remnants of the stomach purging. Her eyes remained glazed, slightly wild.

Her hateful, abrasive attitude and demands had, by now, driven the staff up the wall. She’d already insulted and ordered one poor nurse from her room.  I’d overheard the staff discussing committing her to the psychiatric ward but they had no available beds there. I knew they saw me standing nearby but by then, they didn’t truly care that I heard them. After all, I was part and parcel of the package called Faith.

The crisis had come on just hours before when Faith came stumbling down the stairs at home, nearly incoherent. “I want to die,” she declared. “Just let me die.”

I’d heard her dramatics before but this time seemed different. She slumped into a kitchen chair, head on the table, and continued a black diatribe of pain and death wishes. Soon, the tone changed and she began twitching and screaming with pain.

Dan called 911 and the ambulance arrived within minutes.

Once at the hospital, Faith was able to sign herself in, taking responsibility for any arrears. This was critical because Dan and I could not assume any more liability for her. At the same time, she also forbade the staff to reveal blood tests results to us. There was nothing we could do about it because she was of age.

The day was a nightmare permeated with Faith’s shrieks and demands. Both Dan and I felt shredded and helpless as she ran the show. Hours later, after pumping her stomach of whatever and running an IV the doctor on call called us out into the hallway.

“Listen,” he said quietly, “you two seem like good folks. You don’t deserve this. I can’t reveal anything about what we found in Faith’s system because she’s of age and insisted we not. But I will say this—if you don’t put her out and force her to stand on her own two feet, she will end up dead.”

We left the hospital in separate cars.  Faith had focused in on me to browbeat and Dan refused to let her ride with me. By the time we all got home, the two of them were going at it like gangbusters.

The language was harsh and unrestrained. Faith’s profanities went beyond her customary swearing.

“You’re outta here,” Dan tried to bodily remove Faith. She went so limp he couldn’t even push her. I was amazed at how strong she was just following the health crisis.

“I don’t have anywhere to go!”

“Call one of your friends who’re always showing up at odd hours. Where are they now? Huh?”

“I hate you. I hope you drop dead!”

Dan laughed his angry laugh. “Tough. I’m not going to die any time soon so you just as well decide to leave peacefully because you…are…going.”

I stood aside, shock splintering me as it all escalated. At one point, as Dan struggled with Faith to get her out of the bathroom with her holding onto the door with both hands, Dan fell against me and I nearly toppled.

“Mama!” Faith screamed. “Are you all right?”  She glared at her father.“Have you hurt her?”

“I’m all right,” I murmured through numb lips. “Look, all this fighting isn’t solving anything. Dan, let’s give Faith till morning to find someone to come get her.”

So in the end, that‘s what we did. Dan didn’t give an inch.

And somewhere deep, deep inside me, I knew that the end was here. That old familiar, sickening grip of betrayal held me captive, turning my insides and extremities numb and cold. It stole my hope.

Dan was right. We were, finally, on the same page.

I could no longer protect Faith from herself.

It was her turn.

The next day, Dan had relented but on the condition that Faith would submit to year-long drug rehab. Desperate to not be thrown out, Faith had agreed and faithfully completed the program.

Today, I reminded him. “So you see, Dan, she has come a long, long way.”

He sighed and rocked sedately in the chair next to me as we listened to April evening sounds. Soft mild breezes whispered through the Tulip Tree, whose huge buds now shriveled while vivid yellow and purple pansies still stood proudly along our sidewalk, unaware that in a few weeks, they, too, would succumb. Birds chirped and a squirrel frolicked along spruce limbs and sprang to a white-blossoming dogwood tree.

“Yeh,” he said quietly. “You’re right.  I’m just so tired, honey. You know I love Faith. With all my heart, I love her. It’s just hard for me to watch somebody waste their life away. It’s like watching my alcoholic father’s kamikaze all over again.”

“I know.” I sighed. “But she is looking for a job. Let’s just chill out and trust God to set things right.”

Dan reached for my hand. “We can believe all we want for somebody. But that person must be willing to change.”


Emily Sue author photoEmily Sue Harvey is The Story Plant’s Author of the Month. This means we are offering sensational deals on all of her works. You can learn more at our website.

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On August 20, 2013
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