The Cat Is Out of The Bag- Part Two

Part 2:

 

Hello. It is the thing people say when they answer the phone. It is a greeting when a person walks in a house, or in a room. I can’t imagine how many times in my life I have said hello, as a greeting and as a what the hell are you thinking attitude-y way. For some reason, the hello she said that morning made me sick to my stomach. It made me mad at myself that I hadn’t seen her since I sectioned her (for what? Number 102?) right after Christmas. And, if I am being completely honest, I still hadn’t recovered from that- the guilt was killing me. I can still hear her in my head asking me to get her Eggnog because she hadn’t had any all season, something that was usually a tradition for us. She was wearing these dingy clothes that I didn’t recognize, with a winter hat and these manly looking black winter gloves that were too big for her and she was high. I was driving her to a police station under the guise of one thing, knowing I was flat-out, full on, no arguing about it, lying to her about why we were going so I knew she wasn’t getting any Eggnog, or going to make it home to open Christmas presents, something else she asked about. On the way home from that episode, I saw one of her black gloves on the floor of the front passenger side. For some reason that glove still haunts me. Such a strange thing to think about it, but it feels like it’s a symbol of her life: half of it just discarded and left behind.

I made small talk for about a minute or two and then made an excuse to hang up. Once I pulled into the parking garage at work, I put the car in park, putting my head on the steering wheel to cry. I called AC. He reassured me that I would do the right thing. He told me that we would get through this. I don’t know what he thought the “right thing” was because I didn’t ask. I still don’t, if I am being truthful. I have never asked him. After a pep talk I walked into work. I couldn’t have been there for more than an hour before I decided, I couldn’t be there. I had to go to see her. Before I could call her to tell her she was no longer, what? My daughter? Part of our family? I had to see her. I had too. So, I left work, got in my car, and called AC. I must go to see her. He agreed and asked when, I told him I was going right that minute, but he said no, come pick me up first. It’s funny because I work 12 minutes from home, but I was annoyed I had to go back to get him, and in the end, I don’t know what would have happened if I went alone.

He drove. Smart thing number two he did that day. By the end of the day, the list was much, much longer. I sat in the car, a car that was driving in complete silence, immersed in thought. For days I had wanted to call my friends, any friend, to ask if I was doing the right thing but I just don’t do that. I don’t know why but I don’t. I almost called EJ but then I realized she was away for her wife’s birthday, and I almost called Lorrey but she was enjoying her grandkids and it felt like I would put a damper on her otherwise happy life. It feels like talking about this to anyone would be a burden. I could have called CA but then I fear that she worries about me, and Pam was traveling. You see how I can make excuses to just keep it to myself? To just carry it around like a suitcase full of bricks? So, that car ride was no different. Occasionally, AC would reach over to squeeze my hand, or rub my leg. He would throw out a few words of encouragement and say how great it is going to be to see her while I sat there wondering if I opened the door to jump while he was going 75 miles an hour, would I make it out the door to bounce along the highway to my death before he could grab me. That man has cat-like reflexes so the over/under was 50/50.

I waited until we were halfway there before I called her to let her know we were coming. I mean, I couldn’t just show up on her doorstep unannounced because she didn’t have one! To my supreme surprise she was excited we were coming. She started rambling about all the things we could do, and this place we could have lunch, and she had a doctor appointment so didn’t want to miss us so would we wait. I reassured her we still had over an hour before we would arrive, so she had plenty of time. She called three more times before we got into town to see if we wanted to go to this place, or if we could get her that, and of course, would I buy her cigarettes. As we got closer I started to brace myself for what I was going to see. She had been homeless for a long time now, so I had no idea what she would look like, or be like, or how I would react to either of those things. This is where the hard to describe thing begins. One might think it was the whole blog post worth of horribleness in the part one, but the truth is, that was nothing compared to what happened the rest of that day, and in the days to come.

As much as I am sure people would love the gory details, there are somethings I just can’t post publicly. Her entire addiction has been put on blast for all to read in the name of cathartics and education and she is fine with that. But, this was different. This is different. For me, it was shocking. It was alarming. My eyes saw someone who was in deplorable condition. The atrocity of her person frightened me, and saddened me, and made me morbidly curious. The sight of her was truly agnostically emotional, which seems impossible to achieve. Now, there may be people she was with in that time that thinks she looked fine, or didn’t see anything wrong with her, but those people didn’t know her before. Before addiction, before a long winter on the street, or before the last seven years. Those that met her that way was probably assuming she looked good for a drifter, but I felt differently.

We met her in a downtown area that was popular with homeless folks. There were several people hanging around with panhandling signs with various pleas for money and thanks for providing. One thing I learned about this area of Massachusetts is that they treat their homeless well. Now, well is sort of objective. They are still homeless but there are places a person can shower or cleanup and a homeless person will find a free meal every day of the week. In some cases, more than one. There is a restaurant that has two different counters for ordering. One is for regular paying customers with a full menu and one is for those with little to no money who can order a limited number of items including grilled cheese or other hot choices and pay what they can afford or nothing. And that was not uncommon there. In that way, I was sort of grateful she was out there. I could understand why she never made her way back this way. Being homeless on the North Shore would be nothing like being homeless out there, but that doesn’t mean it was a walk in the park. I mean…. Homeless is exactly that- without a home.

She wanted pizza or sandwiches at a specific restaurant so in we went. It was a quaint place and I would love to describe it more but I this post is getting long. Anyway, after we ordered the owner came over to our table, and without saying anything placed a handful of large band aids, some medical tape and a tube of bacitracin on the table top before walking away. Apparently JoDee had large open sores on the bottom of her feet that were making it very difficult for her to walk. The man knew this, and it wasn’t until later, much later, that I could even ask why, so he had been giving her some supplies. I asked to see them, my first mistake, and then I asked how she got them (when you have no home it is common to just walk around from spot to spot which causes feet to sweat and her shoes were too small hence large open sours that started out as blisters but kept growing), my second mistake, and I spent the rest of the meal watching her eat and listening to her and AC talk while I used every ounce of willpower I had not to run away or have a nervous breakdown. After they were done eating (I don’t think I even touched my pizza) I looked at her, really looked at her, and said how can we bring you home? It never works. But, and to this I should not have been surprised, AC had a plan.

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The Cat Is Out Of The Bag- Part 1

The cat is out of the bag. The. Cat. Is. Out. Of. The. Bag. I wasn’t saying anything to anyone, or posted publicly because, well, you know, superstitious. But, someone, Ms. Fancy Pants, has been posting on Facebook abut 5 seconds after she turned her phone on, so I guess, I owe everyone an explanation.

JoDee is home. She is clean. She is doing well. Much, much better then I have seen in many years. Instead of addictionish asshole-ness, now she is just normal millennial asshole-ness. It’s a welcome change.

How that happened is a story that will be hard to tell. To put certain emotions into words is so, so hard sometimes. Describing the chain of events that lead up to her homecoming involves an article on Facebook, a nightmare and a gut feeling. Buckle in because this is going to be an interesting ride. And it won’t be a quick one. This will not be a fast read, they will be long, and emotional, and probably several entries long but that’s because there will be no way for me to explain it without a lot of the detail. So, sit down and catch up, or ask someone who does for the cliff notes version.

We have been doing this dance with JoDee where I am the only one who talks to her, and even talking to her is probably a stretch, but never tell anyone that I do. She would call me for an Uber ride because she was late for an appointment, or someone was chasing her, or mean to her, or otherwise in need of a ride immediately, and I would use my Uber app to send it to her. This usually involved the driver not being able to find her, so they are calling me, while she is texting me saying she doesn’t see them. It almost always encompassed a stressful, anxiety-provoking chain of calls, and yelling, and my being upset, all while I am at work. Couple that with the calls for a toothbrush, a jacket which can double as a blanket and a winter that proved to be hard on both of us: emotionally and environmentally and it spells enough. I was at my end. I was at my rock bottom. My rock bottom is probably different from most peoples because the average person processes emotions on a regular basis. Emotions other than anger, irritation, or rage. Those three emotions I have down but crying? Sobbing? Defeat? Me? Defeat? I mean, come on, who is going to believe that? Believe it. I was swinging between no sleep and sleep like Rip Van Winkle. I vacillated between I am not getting out of bed and I can’t lay down for one more minute. I either didn’t shower for days, or I stood in the shower every day until the water was so cold I saw penguins run by me. It was so taxing. And I’m sure you can imagine how taxing this was to my family.

The truth is I’m a fraud. I write these blogs about cutting off your addict even though they are your child or your husband or your sister. I preach that tough love is the way it must be because otherwise we are enabling them. But suddenly I was faced with the absolute realization that I was the enabler. I was the life line she would always have. She would be able to call me to get an Uber ride, or money for toiletries and no matter how nasty she was to me, or the fact that she shut her phone off for days at a time wouldn’t matter because I would still do what ever she needed. Now, don’t misunderstand me, she was homeless. Not the kind of homeless like she was staying at a friend’s house because I kicked her out homeless but HOMELESS. No home. Natta. Zippo. Tent city. Squatting on a porch. Shelters and soup kitchens. Finding places to shower. And by the time I saw her, it was clear that wasn’t all that often. So, my enabling her didn’t feel like I was enabling her because she was fucking homeless. I mean, how can I enable someone I won’t even give a roof over her head too? But, alas, it was happening. Around the same time that I was reaching this peak of lowness, I saw an article on Facebook, probably in one of the many addiction groups I am part of, that said He is an Addict and an Asshole. The point of the article was that this girls father was an addict. He spent her entire childhood couch jumping, getting arrested and dodging all responsibilities as a father. And, she spent her childhood blaming everything on his addiction. Having spent enough time around Al-Anon, Learn to Cope, NA, AA, and any other acronym you can think of I knew that she was supposed to say that it wasn’t his fault. And then. There is always an aha moment. The girl meant up with her father years into her adulthood and years into his sobriety to discover, he was an asshole. Addiction or not, he was a dick. Entitled, nasty, lazy. A general jackwagon that no one would want to be around. For her, that closed the book on that chapter. She could walk away knowing it wasn’t because she was a bad girl, or a shitty person, but because he just sucked. For her it was a relief. For me, it was the anchor I needed to finally hit the bottom.

An idea is such a little thing sometimes. It starts small. And then the more I pontificate on it, it grows, sometimes into something way out of line. In this case, I started to think that JoDee was becoming an asshole. I started believing that even if she were clean she wouldn’t be a good person. I can’t tell you how that feels. I cannot describe the absolute gut-wrenching, violating, vulnerable, magnificently disillusioned feeling that was. For days I kept going back to read the article. And, I would bring it up to AC without ever really telling him I read it, in ways that must have seemed innocuous to him. At dinner I would ask if he thought if JoDee found recovery we would like her. Or while doing errands I would ask him if he thought people who met JoDee now but didn’t know her before would think she was a bad person. I have heard so many stories of people having an existential crisis, but I can only tell you that whatever you think it is, is a million and fifty times worse when it happens to you.

Around this time AC and I were shopping for plants (because you know, retail therapy) in Home Depot and we ran into two of my favorite people in the world. While we were catching up, of course, the subject turned to JoDee. I said it for the first time out loud that day, surprising myself when it came out of my mouth, that I was going to have to cut her off soon because she wasn’t the person I thought she was. I said I was going to have to cut her off, like your dead to me, cut her off. The words felt like balls of cotton in my throat, and the voice that said them didn’t even sound like mine. I believe my next words were, I can’t talk about it anymore because there is no crying in Home Depot. Humor. That is another emotion I can contend with. That night I woke up at 2 in the morning crying. That might not seem so unusual given the state of my life for the last 7 years, but this was not like cute little tears running down my cheeks. This was ugly, sub-sub, can’t catch my breath sobbing. I can only think of about 5 times in the last 5 years that has happened. And none of them were good situations.

I didn’t want to wake up AC so I laid there biting my blanket, crying, and sobbing, and feeling the complete defeat that had become all of us for hours. When AC finally woke up he knew something was very wrong as soon as he saw me. He tried to talk to me, to comfort me, but I cannot handle these types of things. I would rather ass punch you with a meat cleaver then feel these things. So, needless to say I wasn’t really receptive to his loving embrace. I believe I yelled some profanity and took a shower where I stood crying and cursing whatever spiritual beings there are for an hour. The next 24 hours were something out of The Walking Dead for me. I was like Morgan. I could only think of the loss of my child, I was not really present in anything I did, and I was a complete nut job. Well, more of a nut job then I usually am. I had to tell AC how I felt. And I did. Of course, when he tried to calm me down to tell me that it wasn’t like that I threatened to stab him in the neck with a fork while he slept so he just sat there staring at me. Ironically, I fell into such a deep sleep, the kind of deep sleep I hadn’t had in a long, long time, that night. Sadly, that blissfully deep sleep was fraught with a terrible nightmare about JoDee drowning and me trying to save her but her pushing me under the water to save herself. It was both awful and metaphorically perfect for how I was feeling. That morning, between rib-breaking sobs, I told him it was time. I had to say good bye to her. I was going to call her to tell her that she could no longer use me as her life line and she was on her own. After getting ready for work, I got in my car and dialed her number. Two rings later she answered the phone, and then hello changed everything.

Unfair

Recently I had to do a research paper on cultural appropriation. In case you do not know what that means (often called cultural misappropriation) it is a concept in sociology when the elements of a minority culture is adopted or presented by the majority of a dominant culture. One of the most egregious forms of cultural appropriation came by way of the Swastika. Many will find it hard to believe, but the Swastika is dated all the way back to the Stone Age. It was seen as a talisman for religion and good fortune.  In fact the word Swastika is actual translated to conducive to well being. In Buddhism the swastika takes on the representation of Buddha’s foot prints. In Mesopotamia it was used on coins and Navajo’s wove into blankets.  For centuries it was seen as a symbol of something good or cherished. It only took on the negative connotation when Hitler decided he needed to find a way to connect the German’s with the Aryan’s.  Turning the swastika on its axis in a white circle with a red background did it begin to become something…else.  Just like that. Poof. One man decides that this symbol now represents his white Aryan nation and wammo, a symbol of all that is pure becomes all that is tainted. Can you imagine how those that honored that symbol would have felt in that time? I can’t imagine the horror.  Or now. Those that a Buddhists may find it difficult to use a symbol of Buddha’s footprints as a decoration in their home, or a background screen on their phone because that is not how it is not how it is recognized world wide. And who would believe that? Hey- this isn’t an Aryan nation support symbol, I am representing the conduction of well being…. good luck with that.

The bigger picture here is that one person’s opinion can change everything. Hitler, to the first person, to the next becomes an army becomes a nation becomes an epidemic that nearly wiped out an entire religion. That is sad. And disturbing. And monumentally unfair.  But, I hate to add in the but, aren’t we all guilty of it? Don’t we all have some cultural misstep we commit regularly? Have you ever said I have a girl crush on so and so when you are a girl but are not in fact gay? Have you thrown a Cinco de Mayo party at your typical suburban house with the 2.5 kids, a mini van, and sombrero’s? Raise your hand if you have said that something was your spirit animal even though you are not native American. Doing those things does not make you a bad person. It doesn’t make me a bad person. Hitler appropriating the Swastika didn’t make him a bad person, the way he used it, and the endless acts of violence, hatred, torture and mayhem make him a bad person. So why am I telling you all this? Honestly, that is a question I find myself saying on the regular. Why am I doing or saying anything? The truth is I feel unfaired. I feel as though life has been unfair, and as a result I am the victim of unfairness. I am the unfairee. I recognize that those are not actual words, or actual things being done to me, but I am whining and pouting and generally don’t give a damn.

We just had another holiday that JoDee wasn’t home. I can’t even remember the last good holiday we spent with her. I can’t understand why this continues to happen and go on. I hear that she is not using, and she is trying to right her ship that has gone so far wrong that I can’t even see her horizon but is that enough? How do I know? How do I know when the time to help again has arrived? Have I gone so far into the realm of skepticism and distrust that I can’t trust my own judgment now? I behave as though I am the mother of a child that was lost. I feel as though I am a parent that has suffered the loss of her child. Isn’t that appropriating another mother’s pain? The mother of child that really was lost? My child is not lost to life, she is only lost to me. To us. To our family. Aren’t I being Hitler-like in the way of using something that isn’t to make something appear as though it is?  I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that this shit is really unfair.

The Unsent Letter

Adapted from the Fall from Grace album: artist Paloma Faith

I miss you in the mornings
Been up all night
I tell myself
You’ll be alright
Maybe someone will help you in a way I never saw
I am frantic, torn, and raw.

I miss you in the moments
When everyone is there
Listen to the silence
That hurts my heart
Maybe someday you will be back again
And not turn your  back
On the love that we try to send.

So I write this letter
That I’ll never send
Because there is no one to receive it on your end
And I write this letter
To my daughter, so filled with strife
So it stays with me forever,
Even if you aren’t in our life.

I miss you when I’m laughing
You’re very near
But then I open up my eyes
And you’re not here.
Maybe one day you will understand
The things I do,
I did it all for you.

So I write this letter
That I’ll never send
Because there is no one to receive it on your end
And I write this letter
To my daughter, so filled with strife
So it stays with me forever,
Even if you aren’t in our life.

And I’m just as scarred as you
Since you run wild with freedom
And I know right now you think there
Is no reason
But you’ll see
Nothing in life is easy

So I write this letter
That I’ll never send
Because there is no one to receive it on your end
And I write this letter
To my daughter, so filled with strife
So it stays with me forever,
Even if you aren’t in our life.

How’s JoDee?

Hmm. Everyone asks that. How is JoDee? What’s up with JoDee? Any word from JoDee? My answer is always the same. Fine, Thank you. Good, Thanks. Oh, really no knew news, thanks for asking. Those are the responses you hear on the outside. On the inside, well that is a totally different story.

On the inside, the words how is JoDee elicit a reaction in my gut that is akin to a rupturing volcano. My heart, which feels like a delicate piece of crystal, develops a new crack. Each crack threatens to break into a million pieces, for good, with no chance of putting it back together.  The more that she is homeless, by choice, on her own, on the street, staying with this person or that person that will give her shelter for the time being, using her mother by preying on her raw feelings of despair begging to come home, begging for a bus ticket and then using the money I send for a bus ticket (which the mother knows better than to do) for something else, the more helpless I feel.  Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t want people to ask, and I know they want too and should. I am not pointing fingers and telling anyone not to be inquisitive.

The problem is that the question, as obscure as it seems, is such a leading question. Why? Well, let me tell you. Suppression. Ignorance. Denial. If no one asks about her, or if I have talked to her, or where she is then I don’t have to think about it. I can pretend in my own ignorant mind that she is just off with friends somewhere living her life. I can suppress the idea that she is a drug addict, living a rough and degrading life.  People can tell me over and over and over again that this is not my fault. And I know that it probably isn’t but if there is a mother out there that can see their child living on the street, asking for a coat instead of a hotel room because the coat she can use everyday but the hotel will only keep warm one night and not feel like she has failed as a parent, raise your hand. I don’t know if it was a direct parenting flaw. Or if she is paying for my sins of the past. Is the way I treated or mistreated people in the past the reason she is suffering? If I apologize and humble myself to the people I have wronged, will the karma bus let her off? Will she be able to stop suffering to rejoin the world? Sadly, I am desperate. I am desperate for any relief so I started making a list. A list of people who may have felt wrong by me, or I  know I wronged, or I didn’t wrong but need to apologize anyway just in case. I have begun my own version of the 12 steps that are not Al-Anon, Nar-Non or NA/AA approved. It is not identical.  It is just me accepting that I can’t change this, but I can face it, and I have to find the courage to admit my faults and atone for them. I have begun atoning. It isn’t easy, and it is uncomfortable and it is embarrassing but I don’t know what else I can do. It is not ideal, but it’s all I have.

Please don’t do that thing where everyone tells me it’s not my fault and I am a good mother because it only makes it worse. It makes me feel like a fraud. Like one of those people who says how fat they look when they are a size 0 and you want to punch them in the face with a hostess Twinkie. And a vat of lard. But I digress…. at this point we aren’t really communicating which is something I have to do but don’t want to do. Although I preach cut them off, kick them out, tough love the truth is when she is sending me text pictures of her in a tent during a snow storm I offer to get her a hotel for the night. Which turned into two nights, which turned into a coat, and some money for a food, and then a $30 Uber ride and money for a bus to come home because she was alone and lonely and need me, which turned into her not buying a bus ticket. And when I questioned her she said she bough sleeping bags but she knows I can see the transactions on her debt card so I know that isn’t where it went. And the final straw is when she casually calls me, without realizing how stupid I feel for believing all the crap she has told me over the past few weeks, to say hey can you put money on my card so I can buy some food at the grocery store and I say….no. It is two letters. One word but the hardest one in the world to say. No. I cannot give you anymore money. I cannot give you even $10 for food. All I can do is say, No. And good-bye. And try desperately not to drive my car directly into the bridge embankment in front of me, or cry. Because if the damn breaks….there is no telling what will happen. Not one tear. One small, lonely, wet tear rolling down my cheek leaving a salt mark in my perfect make-up would cause a hurricane of emotion that would probably end with me in my bed. Again. For days. So….. ya, JoDee is great. Thanks for asking.

Conversation Part II: The Real Thing

1:01 Am

Are you flooding?

Not in the house. The back yard is nuts though.

Why are u awake? And how nuts

Idk. My daughter is homeless sleeping in a tent in a major snow storm. It doesn’t exactly promote sleep fullness. That little pond is back in the way back. The one where the ducks will probably come back too.

I don’t remember that.

It was way back. Why are you up? Are still outside? Are you safe?

I’m safe. Always. I’m in a house now, but not last night, and not tomorrow either. It sucks. XXX got approved for an apartment so I should be able to stay with him soon. IDFK. I am safe tho always. I just haven’t been sleeping.

The story will last longer than just tonight. Are you going to sleep in a tent outside? Or outside outside?

A tent usually. It’s not mine, so as long as I am with GGG and HHH then a tent. Otherwise, just, like, outside.

Jesus.

It’s fine mom.

(In my head: how the fuck is that fine? How can she even think that this is fine?)

JoDee, the storm is going to last longer than one night. Is there a cheap hotel near by? I shouldn’t do this but I will give you a couple nights worth of hotel fair but I need to pay them directly.

If you could do that it would be awesome. Then I won’t have to use the pay shower and I can use my money to buy food.

(If I wasn’t standing, I would literally have fallen to my knees)

Actually….

What?

I could really use a winter jacket instead. A hotel is only going to help me for one night. But the jacket will keep me warm all the time. I can only stay inside for small times but the jacket will keep me warm when I am walking and I can use it as a blanket.

(Is this where we are? Is this a real conversation we are having?)

Jesus JoDee. Je-sus.

Yeah, you have no idea.  Seriously. Go to bed, mom. I will call you in the morning so we can figure it out. Love you.

Love you too kiddo.

 

Who sleeps after that? What parent is going to then lie down and go to sleep after that? My daughter, who has a middle-class family that loves her dearly, is a homeless, begging, hungry, nomad. The next few hours, until the sun comes up, I laid in bed breathing through the desire to vomit, and contemplating exactly how much longer I can do this. Wondering exactly how much more I can put up with. Knowing I was getting worn out, and that usually means doing something I know I shouldn’t but desperate to feel better, even if it is for a minute.

Conversation

Hi

Hi, what’s up?

Nothing, what’s up with you?

Nothing. Everything ok?

Ya, are you getting this rain where you are? It’s friggen pouring here. The half dead pine tree in the back yard is begging to break.

Ya, It’s brutal here too. Cold, rainy, super windy.

So….are you, like, outside? Like are you in a tent or…. like what are you doing?

Mom, stop. (pause..sigh) stop.

Stop what? No I won’t stop. I’m supposed to just sit here thinking about you sleeping in some tent encampment while we are all warm in the house? I need to know.

The tent encampment was bulldozed when you had me sectioned. And what difference does it make? Are you going to pick me up? Let me come home? Cuz we both know that ain’t happening.

(Long pause on both ends)

JoDee, I can’t think of you just outside. Like living outside like a piece of trash. Like a piece of disregarded trash. Like a McDonald’s cup that is thrown out the window after some guy pulls the top off with the straw still in it, shaking out the last drop of ice and melted soda before he tosses it out the window on the pike? I’m supposed to just let you be that stupid cup?

Mom what are you even talking about?

You. I’m talking about you. Supposedly clean but basically choosing to live like a hobo. JoDee the hobo. That’s you. Do you at least have a can of beans?

Mom. Stop.

(Long pause on both ends)

Mom, can I come home?

No. You know you can’t. I can’t let you come home. It never works. It hasn’t worked in almost 7 years.

Then why are you even calling me?

 

I had this conversation in my head. The end result is always the same. I hate addiction. I hate what it has done to my family and what it has done to my beautiful daughter. My beautiful, addicted, homeless hobo daughter.