Thursday, October 18, 2007

one person's paradise... another's hell...

every year many fellow hendersonians head to destin for fall break; so it never comes as any surprise to run into someone i know there... at the beach, the super-market, a restaurant, etc... it would actually be more surprising to spend a week there and NOT run into someone i know!

this year was pretty much the same.
however, there was one exception, sherri (i'll not divulge the woman's true identity but will refer to her only as, "sherri"). upon returning from the beach on monday afternoon, i entered my brother-in-law's and sister-in-law's condo to find my brother-in-law, tom, and my husband, john, conversing with sherri about her/their high school days. sherri had graduated with tom a few years ahead of john. i found out that she had, at one time, been a beautiful, young woman with everything in the world going for her. 

looking at her now, though, i would have never guessed...

sherri sat there dazed looking at me with bleached, blond hair, which appeared to have the texture of straw, brown, leathery, wrinkled skin , protruding face, shoulder, and clavicle bones, filthy clothes, and holding a very used, styrofoam cup full of beer. 

when i came in, my guys excused themselves. she and i formed an instant friendship.  she told me and her husband had fallen on hard times and had moved to florida to find work. she said she lived in the house (which was really a junked up garage that had been converted into some kind of place to lay one's head) directly behind our condos.

she smiled and laughed; her teeth were transparent and rotting.
before leaving, she asked me if she could come back to visit with me again. i told her she could that she was more than welcomed...

she broke my heart. 

the next afternoon our doorbell rang unexpectedly. i went to the door, and there sherri stood. i had just come in from the store. after putting away our groceries, i invited her out onto our patio.  seeing her in the sunlight, i realized she had dressed up for the occasion. she had pulled her hair back into a ponytail with a colorful scarf, and she had put on some make-up... at least there were gray penciled circles drawn around each of her eyes. in a movie, sherri might have been funny character because she was funny. but, in real-life, i found no humor.  she was a shell of a person whose only personality came from the alcohol she was holding in the same filthy, styrofoam cup from the day prior.

we started talking, and i found out that sherri and her first husband had once owned much of henderson's downtown area, that she had designed their home (with which i was familiar) where her first husband still lives, and that i knew both of her sons (who had been taken away from her for some reason or another in the late 80's early 90's). she talked, smoked, and drank. 

this went on for nearly two hours. 

 only minutes in, i began to find it remarkable that this woman could function well enough to put her hair in a ponytail (much less tie a scarf around it), she could put on eye-liner (much less draw ovals with seemingly no breaks around her eyes), pour herself a cup of beer, or even light a cigarette; yet, she did.  at the same time, sherri couldn't even keep her thoughts in order. but, i listened to and smiled at her animated tales of her past.

then came the stories of her present, which were a stark contrast to those of her past.  she told me she was most proud of a picture of allan jackson she had hanging above her grandmother's hutch and her dog, an alaskan husky. her more positive thoughts quickly turned negative with stories of a husband who nagged at her every afternoon upon arriving home from work, a daughter-in-law who never answered her phone calls, and... "OH!!!" her ribs and kraut that were in her oven burning. upon that revelation, sherri left but not before asking if she could come to visit again before we would leave to come home. i smiled and answered, "sure."

i didn't see sherri again last week. but, i wondered what happened to trigger this woman's downward spiral. was it drugs, alcohol, womanizing men? all the above? i decided it was probably the latter.

our condo was full of hendersonians most of whom were sherri's age. sherri was evidently a notorious figure to most of them. apparently, every year when henderson flocks to destin, she, comes out and goes door-to-door looking for someone to talk to about home. the reason i had never met her was because this was the first year my family and i had stayed in this particular condo.

i asked someone who knew her what was the matter with her. "she's a crack-head..." was the response i received. from what very little i know about the drug of the day, it made sense... here this woman had lost her children, home, money, youth, intellect, beauty, and most importantly her dignity all for a "fix"!

isn't that how the story usually goes?

one word sums up the situation...

sherri lives in a place that many would call paradise (amazing white sands, a brilliant, emerald coast, beautiful weather, happy people there with their families enjoying just being together... and all in her back yard). but, perhaps in sherri's situation, what is one person's paradise is another person's hell

sherri is living in her own personal hell; 
it is written all over her face.

i was told she did come looking for me. she did, however, find another woman, tonya, who was a little younger and a head taller than i, who was vacationing at least 5 condos down from ours. she was sure tonya was me. upon realizing she was not, sherri asked tonya if she minded her joining tonya at the pool. tonya who was affraid of the woman told her it was against the resort's policy and understandably turned her away. 

that was the last i heard...

i cannot get her off my mind. so, please, just say a prayer for her... say a prayer for her and all others who allow a "fix" to stand between them and that which is really important... LIFE... the gift with which GOD has blessed each of us...

love and God's blessings,
dani xxx

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