Through the Eyes of a Dysfunctional Child: Part Two
Part Two: My Father Left
It was 1979 and the beginning of my emergence as a person. At the time I was living with my parents and brother in a small cottage near railroad tracks. While there, I forged a friendship with a girl of the same age. Our friendship was my way of alienating myself from the problems in my parents’ relationship. Everyday I sought out my friend and played like my world was as normal as could be. Her house and friendship was my refuge. The one night, I could not contain my emotions, nor could I understand what had happened. It was on that fateful night that my friend, whom had become my confidant, was dead. I watched on that night as her house was ablaze and the cries of a baby wept through the cold air. I had later found out that her stepfather fell asleep on the couch with a cigarette and my friend attempted to save her baby sister, only to succumb to the fire. From that day on, I became somewhat of a recluse in my own mind.
Not long after the fire, we moved to a new place and it was here I began my kindergarten year. My first year of school was when it all began. There were many days when I missed school because of problems in my house. As a result of this, the teacher told my parents I was not ready for school and I was left back another year. As a child what did I know about being held back. All I knew at this time was that school was a refuge for me and a place where all my problems would disappear.
Initially, I was a model student. I aimed to please my teachers and was the quiet student. However, by the time I entered my first grade year of school things began to slowly go downhill from there. I was referred for speech services because I was unable to speak properly. My weekly sessions of being pulled in so I could learn how to speak properly began to make me question my own abilities. It also lead to me displaying overt behaviors. Living in a house where I received very little attention was starting to take its toll on me. At that same time, problems began to surface in my home.
It was at this time that my parents marriage began to crumble. My mother was somewhat reclusive and daily arguments were ever present in my house. Some days I would be the witness to flying objects passing by my head. In a sense, I guess I thought I was responsible for this and tried to get them to stop. All I had wanted was for them to be happy and for us to be a normal family like I had witnessed many of my friends having. However, that was far from possible, as the fights continued. During one particular fight I recall them arguing in a van we had parked in my grandmother’s driveway. Both my brother and I were seated in the back seat and within an instant I could hear my grandmother scream, "She’s bleeding". It was then that I realized I had been hit by the flying ashtray that was thrown in anger and I was the unintended target.
Then a year later the unthinkable happened; My father left my mother. I was only 8 years old and could barely understand the world around me, let alone why my father had left. All I could remember was him packing up his clothes and leaving us for good. What I failed to mention previously was that my mother was experiencing the early signs of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and this prompted my father to leave. What I couldn’t understand at the time is why he would leave us alone.
It’s not that my mother was intentionally a bad person, but as someone who could barely take care of herself she was almost nonexistent as a parent. In the beginning there were days where she would lock herself in her room and I would have to find food for me and my brother. I remember trying to make eggs and burning myself because I didn’t know how to cook. Most of the time I made toast with what little butter I could scrap for us at the time. Other times we would eat Puffs cereal or Wheaties with sugar water (as we had no milk).
Since I was now responsible for feeding both me and my brother, I also missed many days of school. This resulted in me being left behind yet another year and wondering when my father would come get us. My mother had continued to lock herself away in her room and the times she came out were almost unbearable for me.
One particular winter my mother was irritated by something and it appeared she was taking her anger out on me and my brother. She told us to go outside of our house and when we tried to get back in, we encountered a locked door. I remember banging so hard on that door that my hands were nearly bleeding. At that very moment I realized that she was not letting us in and we both curled up on the picnic table, as we lay on a bed of fresh snow. It was cold and lonely but what other choice did we have.
This would be the first of many "events" created by my mother. There were times she would throw all of our clothes, toys and other belongings in a garbage bag and throw them outside in the trash. On another occasion, she set our house on fire while we were in it. I found that I was often asking myself why she was doing what she did but could never come up with an answer. However, I made it my mission to protect my brother and make sure that somehow we would be okay and make it through this.