There was no Hollywood ending.
In our small town, several years before we arrived, a mother dropped her kids off at school and simply disappeared. The locals never forgot. The policeman in charge of the investigation never forgot. Her family of course never forgot. Despite holding out hope for years for her return, the dad finally had her declared dead and collected a modest insurance amount.
The “left behind” family eventually moved on—literally and figuratively—leaving this small town with its whispers of “what happened?” directed at the husband. The son and daughter muddled their way through their teen years; one now is a college graduate, the other is in the midst of her schooling.
And so, a few weeks ago, the above-the-fold headline in our weekly paper declared (soon to be joined by TV and radio stations across the nation) that the long-departed mother had resurfaced. In Florida. Tired of living a life in hiding, in shame.
She had been overwhelmed, she said, of the pending “amicable” divorce and a difficult financial situation. She’d taken off with a bunch of “vagabonds” (in our hometown?) who were hanging out at the local park, and hopped a bus to the Sunshine State.
People make fun of her, and her rough appearance (she used to be lovely). Yes, she snapped. At least she ran far, far away rather than turning on her family. Small blessings, that. But she created a whole new life, albeit one that sounds mostly miserable scattered apparently with moments—months, maybe a few years here or there—of pleasant living far away from family and old friends.
There’s been no reunion yet. No phone calls. They don’t want to talk to her. Since 2002 they prayed for her return, and then prayers gave way to mourning for her presumed passing. Never for one moment did they think she would have left—and stayed away—willingly.
Hollywood will have to wait. Mental illness and human hearts aren’t so easily mended.