Published: January 19, 2014
Hello diary I am happy to have you. My name is Elizabeth Patterson and I am nine. None of my friends have a diary yet. What I will write in you will be special. Sometimes it will be secret.
My big brother Joe gave you to me at Christmas. That was cool. It is the first book that I have which has blank pages. And I can tell you anything I want. I am getting grown up. I will hide you under my bed. My brother is the only one who would search for you - and he would love to hide you somewhere to laugh and watch me get mad. Weird.
I guess that doesn't matter now because my brother is in the hospital and has to go to some kind of special place where they hope to make him better. His name is Joseph just like our grandfather who takes us hiking in Manitou and served in the Army.
When he was acting goofy he always patted me on the head and threw my pillows and stuffed animals at me. Sometimes he would hide them from me. I throw pretty well too.
He was really sick one night and fell on the floor in his bedroom. He threw up in the wastebasket and told me not to tell Mom or Dad, who would be angry with him. I didn't, but I was afraid he might not wake up for a long time so I closed his door and told Mom that he went to bed early.
All he does now is get angry at home and walk around town with his older "new" friends. Most times he will not even wave to me when I see him across the street. They do not go to our school so I don't know them.
Mom said I won't see him for a long time and I can't even talk to him on the phone. He has never been away from me. I hope he misses me too.
Maybe I will let him read this diary when he gets back. Will he come home in time for my birthday? He can't sing well and I love to hear him try. Mom, Dad, Grandpa and Grandma Patterson just want Joe to get well. Me too. I just want to hold hands with him.
They say that he is addicted to drugs which is why he acts differently now. We all love him but we cannot help him get well. They said that these drugs have harmed his body and damage his brain.
Mother will get a second job so we have enough money to get him medical care. I don't know exactly how that will work but I do know that I will go across town to my grandma and grandpa Pattersons after school until my parents can come get me. I will take you with me because you are the only friend who understands.
Will I be able to find new friends at Pop Pop's house? Will I sleep there if Mom and Daddy have to work late? Will Pop Pop take me to see my brother and will he know how to call me at their house? What do I tell my friends at school about my brother?
I am just a kid and I am lost. What do I do?
Young Elizabeth, like two other generations of her family, is sad and lost. No one can anticipate if the residential rehab program the family is struggling to afford will succeed. All that the Pattersons have learned is that their son is addicted to a substance that is threatening his life. Hopefully, Joe and his family will succeed.
Before the Manitou Springs City Council makes a final decision on whether marijuana sales can be of help to the city, it must consider the damage it does to the community and Manitou families.
I hope they can feel this family's story. It will be replicated within the community as individuals and families are wounded and damaged. Among the latest business information and scientific discovery, they should feel what Elizabeth senses; they should know that marijuana can permanently change and irreparably damage baby, teen and adult brains.
Real leadership puts the needs of its people first.
Your renowned community has a long and proud history of tourism that may need a bit of brushing up but has consistently produced real income over the years.
Marilyn Ware is the former U.S. ambassador to Finland.