The next few months went by in a blur. To be honest I don’t remember much about that time. My mom and family tried to keep me busy. I know I spent a lot of time with my best friend, had my trip to Disney World that I would be old enough to remember , went to the woods in a hunting trip with my cousins, and had a birthday. But if you ask me details for any of those events, I am at a loss. It’s like it is a memory of a story I was once told. I remember it but have no feel of it. Not quite 5 months later, at home one day there was a loud and aggressive knock on the door. Not sure if it was evening, weekend or I just wasn’t at school that day. I had started to do that a lot, just stay home, away from the rumors and whispers. You see my Daddy hadn’t just passed away of natural causes…. he was murdered. I hated the way people looked at me now, a mix of pity and horror so I had started to stay home more than not. I got off the couch to answer the door as they rapped on the wood again, the sound echoing off the ceramic tile of the foyer. Being trusting and pretty naïve, I swung the door wide and looked up at two strangers. Two men standing at the door in badly fitting suits ask to speak to my mother. I never asked their names, I never asked them what they needed I simply shrugged in the typical preteen way and left the door standing open as I turned to go back to the couch and my TV show as I called out to my mom. I had no idea that my life was about to change drastically yet again. The trio walked into the living room together as the men uncomfortably glance my way and ask to speak to her privately and they walk down the hall. I am not sure who else was there, I don’t know how I ended up surrounded by people holding me back as I screamed and cried and begged the men to not take my mom too. Dropping to my knees crying in the yard not fully understanding what had just happened as the car leaves the drive way. Those two men were police detectives, homicide detectives. My mother had just been arrested for the murder of my father. I vaguely remember sitting on the couch and staring at the TV without really seeing it. People smoothing my hair and whispering everything was okay. I wasn’t sure how they could say that. I was trying to wrap my 12-year-old mind around the scene around me. When had all these people gotten there, why are they all whispering and crying? What was going to happen? There had to be a mistake, they would bring her home any minute and she would make us dinner and the nightmare would be over. That is not what happened. I went to bed that night without either one of parents in the house. My brother and sister and a half dozen or so other people were spread out in bedrooms and on couches that night but I had never felt so alone. Funny how tragedy brings people together, some we had not heard from since the day of Daddy’s funeral. I stole snippets of information from conversations over the next few days when they thought I wasn’t listening or out of earshot. I had learned long before now to make myself small and to be invisible in the house to avoid the chaos and now I used this skill to blend into the background to listen. She was denied bail, sell the house for attorney’s fees, what are we going to do with “her” meaning me. No one would talk directly to me, they talked over or around me in code they thought I didn’t understand. I suppose in their way they were trying to protect me but it just left me feeling lost, isolated and scared. Over the next several months, I learned I wasn’t really wanted much of anywhere and people lose patience with a wounded angry teenager rather quickly. People took me in out of pity or for the social security check I now received because of my father’s passing but no one knew how or wanted to invest the time to try to understand or really help me understand what was happening in my world. I was unwanted and bounced for one person to another moved out of the only home I had known, out of the town I lived in since the day I was born and bounced around between family that I barely knew and in a town I grew to hate. I had never felt as unwanted and discard in my entire life. If I had only known it was just the beginning of a life that followed the same pattern over and over. It’s hard for anyone to go from the spoiled baby if the family to a basically orphaned throw away over night. I lost my childhood mementos, had only a couple of suitcases of clothes to my name and no one had even thought to save a picture of my parents for me. After just a few months of a week here with this cousin a month there with that cousin I was sent back to a place where I no longer had a place or a home. I was glad to be back to a town that felt familiar and at least with my brother but I still felt unwanted and in the way. He hadn’t been married very long and didn’t have a clue what to do with a 12/13 year old girl. There were at one time 4 of us, siblings that is. My oldest brother had passed away when I was only 6 and left a hole in a little girl’s heart. He was 14 years older than me and I was his little sweetheart. He gave me a love of the Pink Panther and was my hero Marine when he came home from boot camp. We had a special bond that was born out of his loving protection he wanted to offer me for the world of verbal and physical abuse I witnessed most days. He was an old soul as they say, a kind heart in a cold world. It makes sense now why he was taken so early, he wasn’t meant for all that was to come. That left 3. I have another brother that is 8 years old and a sister that is 7 years older than me. The three of us had never really been close, we were just far enough apart in age to not know each other and they had no real desire to spend time with their baby sister. We were no more than people who happened to have the same parents and live in the same house. So here I was in the house, in the way of a newlywed couple that was not quite in their twenties they were trying to live a life most young people do and learn how to face the world as a married couple but we had never had a healthy example of what that should look like so it was difficult and often emulated my parents relationship. Drinking, friends over all the time, no time to make sure a seventh grader did her homework or had dinner that night. My sister was never around or when she was she was drunk or high with a new guy trailing behind her. A constant stream of parties and people. There was seldom anything to drink in the house but we always had alcohol of some kind. My sister taught me to take shots of straight Jack Daniels to win bets at parties because no one believed someone so young (and I looked even younger than my real age) could handle the burn of Jack. She thought it was funny and “didn’t hurt anything” and didn’t hurt that I passed out quickly leaving them to do as they pleased without needing to look after me. I woke up many times at night to an empty house because they had went out after I fell asleep. Never sure of who was in the house and never wanting to be there I took to staying with my best friends and staying out on the streets a lot. I was taken from a world that I had everything and thrown into a world I didn’t understand or much like. We had chaos and drama and hurt in our house but to the outside world it seemed that we had the American Dream. My dad owned his own successful business so showed his love with money. We had a house on the river, a boat at the dock and never had to worry if we would have dinner, lights or clothes. Now it wasn’t anything for me to be out running the roads well after midnight. We lived in a beach area so walking and riding bikes on the boardwalk into the morning hours became the new normal for me. A long way from the over protected years before. Most time there was nothing to eat in the house so there were times I wouldn’t eat that day, my friends mom would make sure I ate if I was around or we were even known to do a dine and dash if we really got hungry and no hopes of anything at home. My brother tried but he was young and busy living his life and dealing with the damage that was done. He had been the target of the physical abuse many times and with all the turmoil that followed it is little wonder he had learned early to drown his pain in alcohol and drugs. After all it was what we knew growing up with and alcoholic Dad. My brothers marriage couldn’t hold up to the stress and they broke apart. Then it was just him and a teenager he barely knew living in a duplex with a sister that we would find passed out on the back porch or that she had broke in through a window and sprawled on the couch reeking of barroom and alcohol sometimes with a strange guy wrapped up around her sometimes alone. She had been taught to seek her love and acceptance in the arms of men after the rejection and hurt at home. I had almost stopped going to school. I had went from a A-B student taking mostly gifted (what is now known as advanced placement) classes to failing out of school for missing 28 days in a 9 weeks. And that is when she stepped in, I’ll call her the guardian because the other names the come to mind are not nearly as nice.
I know I have glossed over almost a year here rather quickly trying to have some idea of where I was at this point in life. I know others had it much worse and compared to some I have come out the other side virtually unscathed. I am simply trying to write my story out to understand where it all went wrong. Where is that moment that I broke? If I identify it maybe I can fix it. Looking for a time I can look back at and possibly undo the damage I feel. The pain and loneliness that still haunt my days, how do I find the source of that and snuff it out?
To be continued …..