Nightmare To A Blessing

It's that time of the year when the newspaper runs a series spotlighting local graduates.

Each night, for about two weeks, they feature "outstanding" high school seniors and their various achievements. Usually these are students with academic honors, community service volunteers, athletic awards, music honors or some other notable accomplishment. The photographs with the articles usually show clean-cut, all-American kids.

These kids deserve to be proud of their accomplishments, and I'm sure their parents are very proud also.

Well, I'd like to tell you about my daughter, Heather, who will not be featured in the local paper, but who I am extremely proud of.

She's definitely not your typical clean-cut, "preppy" looking kid. In fact, Heather likes the outrageous Gothic/Skater look. You know, black, baggy clothes, dark lipstick, sort of spiked hair. She's not athletic, doesn't play an instrument, hasn't received any academic honors, and hasn't volunteered much for community service, because she doesn't have a lot free time as you'll see.

The fact is, Heather should have graduated last year from high school. But Heather got side tracked on the way to graduating.

Heather was always a very obedient daughter. She never gave us any trouble -- that is until she started high school. I'm sure it wasn't as sudden as it seemed, but it appeared she woke up one morning, and was the most rebellious teenager on the face of the earth. That year she skipped school more than she attended, ran with a "rough" crowd, got involved with drugs and ran away more times than I can count.

For about two years we lived a constant nightmare. There were times we didn't know where she was, or if she was even alive. I prayed constantly, "God, please protect her. I can't seem to reach her." Every time I thought things couldn't get worse, they did. Then, in the fall of 1996, when Heather was only 15, she told me she was pregnant.

Once again, she ran away. In May, 1997, Ashley was born. Heather was now a 16 old mother, not in school, living on her own in absolute squalid conditions. Although she was minor, I got very little help from the authorities trying to bring her home.

But, God was faithful to answer my prayers. Just as suddenly as Heather became rebellious, she seemed to come to her senses! She had enough living the way she was, and returned to the family. She moved in with her dad, along with Ashley. Soon, she stopped hanging around with the wrong people, quit doing drugs, got a job and went back to school. And, in time, our relationship healed.

Heather didn't return to regular high school though. She started attending the CESA 7 Alternative High School. The school the "bad" kids go to -- the ones who don't fit the establishment mold.

It's amazing what can happen to a child when there are teachers who don't judge where you've been, and who really care about ALL the kids -- not just the "normal" kids. When everyone else in the establishment has given up on these kids, these teachers keep believing. I'm so grateful for their support of my daughter.

Heather will graduate June 1 at a small ceremony at a banquet hall (no caps and gowns). She has a new job with a computer printing company, and she'll enroll at the technical college this fall for computer programming. But, by far, her greatest accomplishment is that she is a wonderful, loving mother to Ashley!

No, Heather won't have her picture in the local newspaper with a long article about all her honors and awards, but I can tell you unequivocally, that there is not a prouder set of parents on this earth than her dad and step-mom, and her step-dad and me! Through a lot of perseverance, hard work, and long hours (while most kids her age are playing, I might add) she turned her life around.

The biggest lesson I learned from this situation is that we should never give up on our children and by the Grace of God, a nightmare can be turned into a blessing.

[ Terry A Kubiak -- from 'heartwarmer' ]


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