It’s 4 a.m. I’ve been awake for an hour and a half. The pharmacist said that my Claritin might give me insomnia. She was correct. I don’t know if it’s the medicine or the late hour that is making my mind race, but if brains could enter marathons, mine would win them all tonight.
I am currently twenty-nine years old. That changes on the first day of July. I’ve been telling people who ask my age, “I’ll be thirty this year,” since January. Every time I do, I think, “Why am I not telling them I’m twenty-nine?” Don’t most people cling to their twenties? I just want mine to be over. The last ten years have been difficult for me. A lot of wonderful things have happened, but growing up is a bitch.
I’m convinced people will start taking me seriously at 30. I have a young face and demeanor, so people treat me as such. It makes sense, I guess, but on the inside I’m a serious person. I have fun, sure, but behind my smile and laughing eyes you’ll find a person who is in constant thought. It’s difficult for even me to reconcile my outward self, who is always joking and trying to make people feel loved, with my inner self, who is always thinking and trying to love the person I know I truly am.
Maybe a little background would help you understand?
I was born July 1, 1986 at Medina Community Hospital in Media, OH. My mother was unmarried, and my father died three months prior to my birth. He would not have been in the picture even if he had lived, because he was married to another woman. My mother says that she was led to believe they were separated and in the process of a divorce. He died in a car accident at age twenty-seven. He was traveling at a high rate of speed and slammed into a truck that was carrying a mother and her two young daughters. They were treated for minor injuries but lived. He drove away from the scene of the accident, only to drive straight into a telephone pole a short distance down the road, which led to his demise. Alcohol and/or drugs, I suspect, were involved.
I’m not sure what exactly happened with my mother between this time and a year and a half later, but it wasn’t great, because the state stepped in and placed me in foster care. Another clue that her mental state wasn’t wonderful: the only picture I have of my father has tiny stab marks in the face, something my mother said she did when he died and she found out he was still married. I never found out what made the state get involved. There are many stories and I don’t really want to know the specifics. The vague generalities surrounding my early years are enough to keep me up at night, details would kill me.
My first foster mother didn’t want me. I threw constant tantrums and was a violent, angry child. I don’t blame her, honestly, though my heart still feels heavy when I think of that. My second foster mother…she saved me. She loved me and I believe she was the first one in my life to really do so. I never felt scared with her. Never. I felt safe, and warm, and loved, and whole.
Then I went back to my biological mother. It was shortly before my fourth birthday. I still cannot begin to comprehend why anyone would think it was a good idea to return me to this woman, but they did. The family rumor is that my grandmother testified for my mother, speaking not 100% in truth, in hopes that I would be “one of the lucky ones.” What a gamble.
I was terrified daily for the rest of my childhood. My mother loves alcohol, and she has a fondness for other drugs. She also has deep anger issues and poor choice in men. I will leave out the gritty details, but believe me when I say that it was a grim period for me.
When I was almost nine, my mother met the man she later married. I loved him at first. He was so funny and I guess I thought that he could save me from my mother if they got married. Wrong. It was like my mother married herself in male form. And not only did he enjoy alcohol and drugs, he was involved in the distribution of his choice recreational pharmaceuticals: cocaine and marijuana. By the time we settled into his home and they were engaged, he was no longer selling coke, but he was still heavily involved with selling weed. So heavily that he was inevitably busted and sent to jail.
I remember the day they took him. I was in fourth grade and getting ready for school. A bunch of cars, some police, some unmarked sedans, pulled into our driveway. The police were often at our house for domestic altercations, so I didn’t think much of it and kept getting ready for school. As I was walking around, gathering my belongings for the day, the officers and some men in street clothes were sitting around the house, looking serious and like they didn’t quite know what to do with themselves. I learned years later that they had the decency (at my stepfather’s request) to wait to handcuff him until I left for school.
He never went back to selling anything once he got out of jail, and, though he was still violent and full of rage, it was to a lesser, seemingly more manageable degree. The police still constantly came to our house and there always seemed to be a new hole in the wall or another injury that couldn’t be explained, but it was better.
Then I turned eighteen. I didn’t move out of their house right away. I can’t explain why. As strange as it might seem, I almost felt safe there, if only because it was what I knew. But near my nineteenth birthday, a friend asked me to move in with him, and I accepted, thus beginning a new phase of my life.
I did not do well mentally for several years after I left my childhood home. I always thought there was something wrong with me, which made me feel and behave even worse. Looking back, I was doomed, considering the life skills my mother and her husband taught me. My one saving grace was that I did not drink. I did many drugs, but I was not a drinker. I’ve been drunk a few times since, and occasionally enjoy a drink now, but at the time, not one drop of alcohol passed my lips. I felt like as long as I didn’t drink, I wouldn’t become them. I was better than them.
The next several years passed quickly. I made a whole bunch of horrible decisions, laced with a few decent ones. But I was never arrested, never got into anything heavy, never got in a physical fight, was never abused by a partner, and was never homeless. I think I was living by one basic rule: don’t become your mother.
So now I am twenty-nine. I am a case manager at a domestic violence shelter and I write on the side. I have a three-year-old son with autism and he has taught me new ways to see the world. I was always a positive person, even with all that garbage going on at home, but now that I am a parent, I see things even more brightly. I’m grateful for what I went through, because it taught me to be resourceful and brave. It gave me perspective to help the families I see at work. I truly am one of the lucky ones.