Broken by a stranger

Probably one of the saddest things I’ve experienced in a long time happened to me the other day.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this before but, I drive a white Sahara with the “Maine Ghost Hunters” name and logo plastered, in black, all over it.  It’s pretty spiffy lookin’ and the community eats it right up. We get chased down the highway more often than I’m comfortable with, and people take pictures of us when we’re driving around wherever we happen to be.  We get beeped at and thumbs-upped constantly, so it’s pretty cool.  

The one thing that makes me uncomfortable is when people walk up to the Jeep to talk to us.  Mostly it’s because I’m not really all that great with people I don’t know, but also because the stories and accounts they tell are always just a tad bit longer than I had scheduled to stop for.  And, I hate to be rude so I usually wind up not saying anything which leaves me stuck there for the duration. It’s just a ‘thing’.  Mostly I don’t mind, because it’s fun to see people get excited about seeing the Maine Ghost Hunters Jeep, and it’s fun to hear stories and personal accounts, and to watch them get all animated about talking to “Maine Ghost Hunters” in person.  You know, it’s just a part of the whole MGH experience.  If we’re going to drive this Jeep around town we need to expect that these encounters will come along with the attention it attracts – and I do.  I mean, honestly, isn’t that the point of plastering MGH all over the Jeep?  

So, the other day Tony and I were out and about and we wound up downtown in a nearby city.  We were sitting there getting ready to leave when this young lady came into view. She was walking on the sidewalk on the side of the street we were parked and I did my best not to make eye contact because she seemed to be looking straight at us.  I could hear her talking excitedly, and since there was no one around it was pretty obvious she was talking to herself.  I should clarify that in this part of the city it’s not, at all, uncommon to see people talking to themselves.  There are people who argue with themselves, fight with themselves, fight with no one … fight with anyone who comes into their general area… holler and scream obscenities while looking at no one in particular… mostly they’re all just harmless, and I try not to pay them too much attention.  I’m not even sure if they’re aware of the difference between what they’re experiencing as reality and what the rest of us are experiencing as reality.  

Anyway, this young lady was clearly fixated on the Jeep and so she walked right up to my window – and even though I kept my head down and didn’t bat an eyelash her way – she started talking at me through the glass.  I kind of felt compelled, at this point, to roll the window down and share in her excitement.  And, boy, was she ever excited.  She asked us questions about being Ghost Hunters, and talked about watching TV shows and having been in some haunted places, and then … the conversation took a turn I never saw coming.  

Clearly this girl was developmentally delayed, and pretty obviously cognitively challenged.  But, she had a great presence.  Very positive, very upbeat, very pleasant, and with someone who was making the best out of a pretty rough personal situation I wanted nothing more than give her the time of day.  At some point in this conversation she started talking about her case worker, and then she moved on to why she had a case worker and why she was in this city even though she wasn’t from here.  The next thing I knew she was digging into her bag and saying things like “… my mom is dead … she died when I was a baby … my stepfather killed her … I was only 2 years old but I remember he shot her because I was right there …” and she’s digging into her bag some more.  She kind of offhandedly laughed a bit when she said “… the police found me ….” either running down a desolate road, or out in the middle of a field, all by herself.  And here I am thinking I have no idea what to say to this person.  

And then I realize, she has no real idea how bizarre it is for someone to be told these things by a person they, literally, just met on some random sidewalk somewhere.  

The worst part is the reason I’m writing this blog entry – because it ruined my day.  It actually ruined my week, and then I realized  – it ruined my month.  Because I’m still talking about it and it’s been quite a while since it happened.

She finally got a hold of that thing she was digging around for in her bag, and she pulled it out.  It was a folder of her case file.  It was all the formal and informal information she’d received from the state or had looked up, on her own, regarding the death of her mother.  Apparently she’d been completely removed from her family because she would have had grandparents or aunts or uncles, or someone immediately related to her that could tell her what she needed to know about her mother’s untimely death.  But she didn’t.  She was doing this research on her own.  She wanted to know more about her mother because, I’m guessing, no one, who knew her mother, was around to tell her anything about her.  And she knew … not enough.  

She handed me her case file and asked, repeatedly, if there was anything we could do to please help her locate information about her mother.  

I’m being about as honest as I can be, here.   I broke inside.  I literally … broke.  Something inside me … shattered.

She was just as pleasant through her pain as she was in her excitement to see us.  The fact that I told her there was no way I could tell her where to look for information on a woman who was murdered well over 20… 25 years ago… didn’t change her demeanor.  This young lady was pleasant through and through.  She had goodness about her even though she had these horribly terrible things happen to her, and her entire existence in this lifetime has been nothing but one tragedy after another, without any way to really pull herself up out of it.  Her ability to function in mainstream society was limited, so even if she could psychologically process everything that happened to her as a child she’d been handed a raw deal from the start.  Her mental capacity was so obviously limited that she had few options at her disposal.  And the fact that she was alone in the world, without family to lean on – family that was her own by blood.  It’s a tragedy beyond comprehension.  I’m still trying to understand it all.  

So many things keep running through my mind about this girl …

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