Saturday, May 24, 2008

For my Sister; Part 3

Even being 15 and having had been through the insanity I had lived through at such an early age I still had some wisdom and patience that a lot of adults envied. I realized even then that to tell my son the real truths of the ugliness his father put me through wasn't fair. To him or to his father. I decided early on that I would allow my son to formulate his own opinion of his father. I moved on with my life once I moved back into my parents house. But just as I had left home early for a reason, I couldnt stay in theirs for long either.

While I was living with my parents I went to Virginia Western to complete my GED. My education up to that point had never been important to me at all. School itself was a laughable subject. But I realized that having a child and being the hater of hypocrisy that I was, that I couldnt expect a child of mine to finish an education if I didnt have one myself. So in 92 I took part in a very nice event that Va Western through for the GED graduates that year. Within a few months of graduating I finally had my first apartment. It was in Tinker Creek and my son would be starting Lincoln Terrace the following year, but things were starting to look up. There was a world full of adversity for me. Every friend I had, that I had had since pre-teen years, all had serious drug problems. This being my first apartment and all, meant every friend I had ever had just had to come and stay with me. And they did, and they brought their drama and their problems to my door along with themselves. Sometimes even their children. Since I had learned my lesson about sex and pregnancy early on I was very adamant and religious about taking my birth control pills. So three months into my new apartment living, when I found out I was pregnant again I was also very adamant about not wanting another child. Especially with the new boyfriend with the same old abusive problem as the old ones.

When I confronted the guy I was seeing at the time and asked him for the money for an abortion he told me he didnt want me to do it. He told me he wanted a child. Being the person that I am I conceded. I would have never went through with it. But in anger I suppose I wanted to hear him say he wanted the baby too.

To make an extremely long story short, I went through with the pregnancy, spent it completely alone since the father spent the entire pregnancy in jail, had my son whose birthday was a small miracle in itself, and then immediately had him taken from me when I refused to get back with the father. A pain no mother should have to live with.. to date I havent seen my youngest son in 5 years. Not because I dont desperately want to, but because every time I had a visit with him his grandparents would torment him endlessly with questions about his mother. It got to where every time our visit was drawing to a close he would cry uncontrollably and tell me the things they were about to put him through. I couldn't keep putting him through that. And I have pages and pages of proof of my fight and struggle for him stored away, stored to show him on day he turns 18, that I fought for him until the fight started causing him pain.

Everything felt right though to me. When I was living in Tinker creek and just after my youngest son was born, I had a visit from Bob Underwood, and Edith Boyd. They both had their own stories to tell, and some of it I recognized as truth and some of it I recognized as fabrications. My mother told me that one day social services had showed up and just 'taken all her babies away.' As harsh and straight forward as I am I still couldnt bring myself to tell her the truth that I knew. The one where my older brother had screamed and cried when the police took his little sister from his arms. The baby he felt he had to protect. I always thought that one day I may tell her I knew the truth, but before that day came she died. And the way she died wasnt exactly free of foul play. My oldest sister Laura, one who has the mentality of a 12 year old due to the fetal alcohol, had written a letter to my mother 3 days before she died. The letter said she was going to kill her. Edith had called the police and turned the letter over to them. Apparently they ruled her death accidental, because Laura had given her the last dosage of insulin that she ever took. Just a massive load more then she required. Even though her death was investigated nothing ever came of it. But I knew what happened. At her funeral there were whispers of my true beginnings. The stories I had heard from people who had no reason to lie.

It seems like none of the experiences I had with my biological parents were actually truth. But I supposed even the that when shame is involved the truth gets very twisted.

Monday, May 12, 2008

For my Sister; Part 2

Well from the start my parents always let me know that I was adopted. I remember being around 5 years old and them buying me a book which I actually remember was called "Why was I adopted?" The writer of that book was genius and probably went a long way in shaping most of my teenage life. I will never forget a paragraph that explained to me that adopted kids were extra loved because they brought me into their lives on purpose. Maybe thats not so important or even trivial and petty to most adults, but to a very young girl it was really important to me to know that my parents went out of their way to get me and bring me into their home.

My Dad is what every little girl wants. He is my Daddy. At 34 I still call him Daddy when I talk to him on the phone. He is a hardcore italian with a soft spot rarely shown to anyone but his littlest daughter. At this point in my life I can now see that my Mom is the strongest woman I have ever known. At the time when I was a teenager we clashed badly. We had a lot of serious problems in our relationship, but she was always the rock in the house. No matter what, my parents NEVER did some of the things I know I wouldnt have been lucky enough to escape had I been brought up in Bobs home. My parents NEVER once called me any derogatory names. They never held me back. They never failed to give me as much love or as much punishment as I was asking for.

Though my early childhood was a little rough with not having a mother who was also my friend, by the time I was 10 years old I was trusted and mature enough that when my sister had a baby I was the one who babysat while she worked. My parents are far from the type of people who ever break any laws or harm children in anyway, it wasnt that at all. It was that I was a VERY mature child, at least outwardly.

The one thing that I lacked that left the hugest spot on my heart was the primal need for blood ties. That really hurt me badly. Whenever kids in school would make references to 'blood brothers' or some such reference to how much of a bond they felt with another soul, I always ached a little bit inside.

'You cant miss what you dont know.' Even right now I want to agree with that. It sounds like it should be true. But to a 15 year old who just found out she was pregnant. It was everything. I never once considered an abortion, and when adoption was brought up to me I nearly lost it. Once I knew I was going to have my son, all those references to blood ties and strong bonds became the most important thing to me on earth.

When I look back on it, my 15 year old teenage self, SO smart, so much common sense but still lacking the most important thing that only time can give you, wisdom. Then I start to wonder, you know.. What the hell is a 20 year old man doing with a 15 year old girl anyway. Of course when I first found out, my parents, my Daddy especially, just wanted the guy in jail. After we worked that out we all decided that it would be best for me and the baby if I just went ahead and moved in with the father of the baby.

So I did. And through all those months where he had played on the emotions of a young girl who desired nothing more then to be loved by someone other then her parents, he showed his real self all too soon.

The pregnancy was hard. I was a very small 15 year old. Very athletic but just too tiny still to be carrying a baby. The high risk pregnancy was also riddled with some ridicule. I was 15 and I finished my 8th grade year, but not without some amazingly horrible dirty looks and a lot of embarrassing moments when I had to repeat to people how old I was.

By the time I was 7 months pregant he showed me what kind of human he really was. I was 15 and 7 months pregnant when a man first decided to hit me. I recall my son being about 2 months old when one of those assaults happened to me, out in the front yard, in front of his whole family. When he decided to stop beating me in the head with a brick, I staggered to my feet, with them all still watching, not offering a lick of help. And when I passed by them to get to the front door, his father told me "ya know honey, you really shouldnt make him so mad." The physical abuse in that situation paled in comparison to such ignorance. Even at 15 I KNEW I hadn't 'asked for it'. I knew that it wasnt acceptable no matter what I had done.

When my son was only 3 weeks old I found out I had gallstones. I was immediately admitted to the hospital through the ER and in surgery within an hour. It was about to kill me. It was also incredibly scary for a 15 year old. Still sore and exhausted from childbirth. Now I had a 6 inch scar on my belly, with 60 staples holding me together. Even with all that going on I was an anxious mother. When my baby moaned or sighed or didnt breath when I thought he should be I would be up and at him. I recall when he was around 3 months old one time that the exhaustion took over and when he woke one morning I never heard it. After I had gone to the bathroom his mom thrust a baby at me and told me she couldnt believe I let that baby cry like I did which is why she had come and got him. And I laughed to myself thinking, Wow! and I thought I was alone before.

I finally left his father after one of his abusive incidents. I had no where to go at that point and ended up living with his cousins who lived just down the road. When my son was 8 months old he came after me. While I was standing near an alley which was in the back yard of his cousins house, I seen headlights coming for me. I gripped my son a little more tightly and moved out of the direct headlights and seen who it was. By then I had only the amount of time it took to literally throw my son to a by stander and within seconds his car ran over me.

After the police were called and my Daddy showed up ready to kill him, I decided it would be okay if I moved back home. So I did. I cant even describe the blessing my parents were, have been, and still are, all these years. But they were there for me. I was lucky enough that I was able to be a mother, be responsible, work and my parents were right there begging to watch the baby while I went out and enjoyed what was left of my childhood.

A month before I got my very first apartment my best childhood friend died in a car accident that I felt soley responsible for. It was amazing to me everytime I thought to myself that things couldnt get worse. And they did for a very long time.

I cant explain how lucky I feel through all of it. But the universe or God or whatever the highest power calls itself, has always had an eye on me I believe. For every thing that it ripped away from me, it has tried to give it back. Sometimes though, you cant see the forest for the trees, and sometimes, hurt and scared teenage mothers cant make out a face that is looking at her with love, because the tears make it impossible to see.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

For my Sister; Part 1

My adoptive parents. Joanne and Don, born in 1937 and 1938 respectively, lost their only biological child when they were about 26. Their son was stillborn and my mother was told she would never be able to have another child. Shortly after this incident they decided to start fostering children. They fostered ANY kids. Mentally or physically handicapped, refugees, even kids who didnt speak english. Once they had spent a few years doing this they decided they wanted to look for a baby to adopt. I could definately understand this, they sacrificed a LOT to take care of children who they would raise, one spent 3 years with them, and then the state or parents would take the children back. It must have been heartbreaking for a couple who had so much love to give a child, just couldnt manage to keep one long enough to pour the brunt of that love into. When Joanne and Don were in their early 40's they got a call from a lady they dealt with often who said words that I know my mother had longed to hear all her life. "How would you like a little redheaded baby girl?" Thats what she told me the lady said when she answered the phone. My Mom told me then that she went to her friends and told them and at a bowling game between them all they managed to pick out a name for me.

They were given guardianship of me when I was 4 months old and in December of 74 they were allowed to apply for the adoption process. The reason they had to wait was because Bob had applied for custody of me when the state removed me from Ediths care.

Okay here is the rough part, not because of the context of it as much as because while Im a firm believer in 'walk in my shoes' as well as a mother I have conflicting feelings about not only what I know, but how much of it is true. We all know how things can get overplayed, underplayed and distorted through the telling, and especially with time.

From what I know, when I was a month or so old, my oldest half brother Harley who was around 9 or 10 at that time was brought in by a neighbor who called child protective services because he had seen them and asked them if they could help him feed his sisters. I have two half sisters who are older then me, but they are the only ones of Ediths 4 children who have serious mental disabilities because of Fetal alcohol syndrome and a syndrome called Fragile X. Its very similar to Downs syndrome with the exception of it has the tendancy to effect boys more severely. Whereas girl children are usually just mildly handicapped in socialization and particular education subjects like math etc, the boys effected by it are limited to a pre-teen mentality and capabilities for their lives. Fragile X doesnt seem to shorten the lives of those who have it like downs does, but there is rarely a male with fragile x who is able to live independently.

So there is Harley 9 or 10, Laura 7, Melissa 4, and me a couple of months old and thats all I know. I dont know where anyone was or what they were doing. Just what was reported to me at the time I made the request for my biological parents information. Most of the things I know that I would feel confident in repeating came from a lady named Corinne Gott at Roanoke City Social Services, who not only still worked there from the time I was born until I reemerged seeking my familys history, but because of my blaze orange hair she never forgot me. Knew who I was before I even told her why I was there. She remembered what had happened after I was born.

For whatever reason she said that Bob did request a custody hearing for me, and that after several months of investigating him she just could not feel comfortable putting me in his custody. So she had sent the adoption to Richmond to be processed at that time. I was adopted instantly since I had already spent the required year with the adoptive parents by then.

As I said before, Ive spent my life being non-judgemental of people in general and the whys and whens of how things happen. I always try to remember that I wasnt 'there' when all this was going on, I had never walked in their shoes and it wasnt for me to judge God or fate or whoever as to how things had ended up. I recall that really hitting me as Corinne had spoken to me about what she remembered. How one action had led to another, and another and the result was that a mentally handicapped woman gave birth to four children who she wasnt capable of taking care of, and a little part of me hurt for her wondering why her children had to go hungry before someone noticed she needed help. And to this day I feel horrible for that 9 year old boy who desperately tried to take care of his little sisters. I was told that when the cops and cps arrived that Harley screamed and cried when they took 'his baby' from him. All those children were seperated by the state that night and had to look for each other to find them. I dont have an insane amount of maternal bones in my body but the thought of all that makes my heart ache if I think on it too long.

When I met Bob and Edith the first time, I think I was 21 and living in Tinker Creek at the time with my two sons. They told me their story. That didnt include anything that Corrinne had told me. Even though I knew the things they told me likely had little truth still I reminded myself that although Corinnes version was likely more fact, and my parents more emotion there was probably a good version of the truth somewhere in between. When Edith died 5 years later she still didnt know the version I knew. I had no plans of ever telling her. Because regardless of her actions and the responsibilities she failed in as a pregnant woman and mother, she was still a woman, young with 4 kids, who no one had paid attention to before her kids ended up hungry alone on a neighbors doorstep. Her relief in my acceptance of her version was extremely obvious. Even having had a relatively bad experience with Joanne as a young girl, my soul knew that this was my mother, she had given me life, although shakey, and thats why I was standing there right then. Its not anywhere in my usual nature to let anything I feel is a slight pass, to me or my family or friends, go unspoken. I always speak up. As a young girl I wrote a lot, I still have journals from when I was 16 where if I found myself alone I could still voice the stories of my life somewhere.

Well Joanne and Don adopted two more daughters within a few years as well. Cindy and Mary were adopted when i was a year old. Cindy was 11 and Mary was 6. Their mother had recently been killed in a car accident in Jacksonville Florida where they lived, their father was a vietnam vet and would never leave the V. A. Hospital so couldnt care for them.

We all grew up without a clue how lucky we were in my opinion. And although I wish a lot of things could be different I am forever greatful for the series of events that led to Joanne and Don being given a little redheaded baby.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Open Wide and Say My Name

I left my soul a million miles away
I drink from your tit
I sing your blues everyday
Now give me the strength to split the world in two
I ate all the rest
And now I gotta eat you