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Through the Eyes of a Dysfunctional Child: How My Family Inspired Me
Part One: The Beginning of My Existence
Copyright 2012, Jennifer Tyler
"Congratulations, it’s a girl," said the nurse. Those were the first words that characterized my existence in my family. It all began from the moment I was born. My mother was only 18 when I was born and barely capable of making her own decisions. She and my dad had been married for two years prior to my birth. The beginning of their marriage had been characterized by my mother’s own pursuit of escaping her dysfunctional family. In that pursuit, she married my father as an attempt to solidify a new life.
It was June 1975 and the beginnings of a new life were starting to evolve. From the moment of my birth my maternal grandfather took pride in the new life that had been brought into this family. My mother was now seen in a new light in the eyes of my grandfather. Prior to that, their relationship had been characterized by trauma and chaos. However, this day all that had been forgotten. I was the link between a storied history of emotional abuse in my mother’s family.
From that day on, my grandfather was an ever present figure in my life and it appeared as things could not get any worse. My mother and father seemed to be happy and it was at this point in their young lives that they sought out new ventures. My father decided to pursue his interest in culinary arts and moved the family to Virginia. It was then that my grandfather could not bear to be away from his new grandchild, so he frequently visited us in Virginia. From all accounts, his visits were of a long duration and it was at this time that he made every effort to repair the break in his and my mother’s relationship.
My grandfather made sure that I was the center of his life and often showed his adoration for me by taking me places and doing special things for me. Even though I was only a toddler, I can recall moments where he took me places and taught me things I had not been taught before. My mother recounts the many times he called me his little tootsie roll and from this point on a newfound label had been assigned to me.
Then one day that picture perfect world came crashing down. My mother, who had been 3 months pregnant with my brother, suddenly found her world came crashing down on her. It was February 1978 and a day which my mother never will forget, as it was the day her father, my grandfather died. I was only 2 at the time, but conscious enough to be aware of the chaos going on around me. My mother was only 20 and yet she was facing the terrible pain of losing her father and at the same time nurturing the unborn child in her womb.
This day never ceased to end and it was only the beginning of what would eventually become a question of why me instead of how can I go on from here. My mother had her good and bad days, but mostly she could not understand why it had to happen when things had been looking good. It seemed as if her relationship with my grandfather was at a point of stability. I am sure my mother could not understand why this had to happen to her, but such a question can never truly be understood.
Four months later my mother once again found herself facing a difficult situation and I who was only three years old now was the child bounced from one person to the next. It was now June 1978 and my mother went into early labor with my brother. At that time, technology was not as advanced as it is today so babies born this early were at a great risk. My brother came into the world weighing a mere one pound and very underdeveloped. Due to his prematurity he was immediately rushed to Albany Medical Center and placed in a neonatal unit. From that point on, the attention of my parents was on the survival of my brother.
The first years of my brother’s life were nothing short of a pure miracle. I have been told that my brother had died clinically eight times and had to be resuscitated. Every day my parents had been in the hospital praying for my brother’s survival. In the meantime, my care was undertaken by various family members. As a child so young, my understanding of these events was clouded by my need for my parent’s love. I could not understand what was going on and I am not sure I would want to know. However, what I do know is that my parents’ love for my brother was evident by the fact that my dad let his job go because he needed to be at the hospital everyday. My dad’s willingness to commit to my brother’s needs at that time allowed him to put someone else’s needs before his own.
Months later my brother had come home from the hospital, not as a healthy baby boy, but one who had fought to stay alive. My mother believed that a true divine intervention had taken place and perhaps it did. No one knows why my brother was given life, but one thing was for certain, everyone was happy he survived. After all, my mother had only lost her father a few months before and the thought of losing a child would be more than she could bear.