only in the nicest sense of the word, i hope. and only with my favorite facebook friends.
i drove far south, over the course of two days, to meet f2fb friend #298 colleen kennedy jacobs. colleen suggested that we go to the best cafe in town.
taylorville is the county seat of christian county and it was originally a mining town. at its heart is the courthouse square and four one way streets force a driver to glide past dress shops, beauty parlors, diners, a laundromat, a bookshop, and a convenience store. walk one block away from this center square and there’s really not a whole lot more. but friendly people–i asked a passing stranger where a cash station was and he walked me all the way to the bank!
f2fb friend #298 colleen kennedy jacobs showed up with her “safe” person–her mom–and it was as if we were old friends who had simply missed each other too much! we talked about golf–colleen’s mother won the taylorville women’s tournament four times and her sister has won it an astonishing ten times. if it hadn’t been freezing outside, i would have demanded golf lessons from this 93 year old who still carries her own clubs.
colleen overcame many things she’s afraid of in order to come to bill’s. first, she ordinarily doesn’t leave the house. at all. only when she’s with her mother, her boyfriend, or another safe person. a safe person is very important to someone with agoraphobia–i think i used my sons as “safe” people which probably isn’t healthy parenting.
second, she was meeting a new person. that makes two of us–meeting a new person is always scary. facebook can make us believe we know another person, that we’re friends, that we’re simpatico, but really, it’s the face to face interaction that is most important to friendship.
third, colleen doesn’t like to eat in public–her mouth gets dry and she gets nervous about swallowing.
colleen had her first anxiety attack when she was in junior high school and she freaked out so much that she ran away from school to her grandmother’s farm. her grandmother was a devout baptist totally opposed to drinkin’, dancin’, and whatnot but totally addicted to a medicinal home remedy that contained 11% alcohol. she gave colleen a healthy dose of the stuff and sent her home with a bottle.
colleen continued to have trouble with anxiety and transferred to a catholic school in town. she married three times, each time to someone from taylorville. she has two sons although one of them, sadly, passed on. she has tried every medicine and every therapy she has had access to. she is so brave and so beautiful and i asked her what she wanted to do most. ambition is hard for someone like us. but she allowed as how she wanted to drive somewhere by herself.
lunch was over. her mother was getting a little antsy. i had to get on the road. i was invited back to the house. i asked colleen if she wanted to ride with me–i have a mini-coop and she was sort of excited by the prospect. so we walked over to the town square parking place. . . and i threw her my keys.
“you drive,” i said.
well, that wasn’t so scary because she does drive sometimes so long as her mom is in the car. and we talked about how her mom is increasingly showing signs of needing to rely on colleen. colleen’s siblings have left taylorville and one day colleen will be the one who has to take charge . . . but then i did a lying, manipulative bitchy thing as we drove along the one way streets circling the courthouse.
“stop the car,” i said. “i just saw the greatest dress in that window. i’ll get us a parking space.”
and i opened the door and got out.
now there’s not much you can do on a one way street except go forward. and the only way to get back to where you are in taylorville is to circle around the courthouse. one block south, one block east, one block north, one block west. . . to where i’m standing wondering “did i remember to pay the car insurance bill?”
but, you know, colleen did all right by herself! and just before we walked into the little luxuries* shop. . .
it turns out the dress in the window was gorgeous but alas, not my size, but colleen found a white dress that is motivational. she’s planning on driving by herself every day and putting aside a little money every time so that she can afford the dress. as colleen put it “who doesn’t like to get a new dress?”
sure, there’s the dress, but i think her real motivation to grab hold of her life is the fact that her mother is now ninety three and colleen will become her mother’s caregiver at some point. and also, colleen wants to be part of the bigger world, the one she reads about, the one she interacts with on facebook.
i am very grateful to colleen for a wonderful wonderful day in taylorville! and i can’t wait to be sitting in my study and hear a car pull into the driveway. colleen kennedy jacobs gets out, wearing her new white dress, and yells “hey, let’s have some fun, girlfriend!” she’ll keep the car running!
*little luxuries, at 15 s. washington street, taylorville, illinois is owned by laura long and her mother.
February 17th, 2012 at 9:38 pm
Arlynn, thanks for sharing this story. I love it! A really excellent read! Please check out my blog, would you? Read the piece entitled, “The Right Shoes and A Box of BandAids”. I think you will enjoy it. Take care and happy travels! xo
February 18th, 2012 at 4:24 pm
you are my role model julia when you decided to unplug from facebook for a bit! and i will definitely check out your blog!!! much love!
February 19th, 2012 at 8:30 pm
Thanks so much! You’re a peach! xo
February 18th, 2012 at 2:26 am
you are amazing.. doing so much for so many! mega points happening for you in whichever heaven you choose! you go girl! and enjoy… but remember if it starts to be a burden.. then .. it’s ok to stop.
February 18th, 2012 at 4:26 pm
i do need the pajama days. that hasn’t changed one bit!! hey, if i can’t haul my ass to iceland can you get yourself to chicago?????
February 28th, 2012 at 2:40 am
you absolutely rock, girl; is that a good way to say it? let me say i just keep reading…well, i think it’s the authenticity, the courage, all this coming from an agoraphobic? well, what kind of Koolaid are you drinking, i mean, aren’t those types supposed to be ‘scared’. you are sooo brave, i wish i was your FB friend. from Paul Shippee in Southern Colorado, a tiny old western town called Crestone
April 19th, 2013 at 4:32 pm
Well, Arlynn, it’s been a little over a year since we met and I have great news in that I get out so much more and have been shopping for clothes every chance I get! I used to kid that agoraphobics have the cleanest oldest tennis shoes. I’ve actually wore out or ruined a few pairs of shoes, including dress shoes! YAY! It’s funny to try on clothes or shoes, not remembering what my size is (it’s been soo long)!!! I can’t wait to see you again…this time at your place…got a good greasy spoon in your area? Also my bf Terry and I have tickets to the Seniors Golf Tournament in St. Louis this May…taking Mom (of course!) Love you A! Keep in touch!
April 19th, 2013 at 6:58 pm
this is truly wonderful news! i’m so delighted that you’re messing up your tennis shoes! and chicago has plenty of greasy spoons and dress shops for you to drop your dime on! just give me a shout out before you land here and there’s a guest room for you and the beau. xxoo