My Life From Broken To Beautiful.
He took me away.
As a very young child my father was a very bad man. My mother tried to get help. Tried to get custody and save me from him, but the laws were different then. And the abuse was hard to prove. She tried hiding me away when he came for his visits. I remember her and I, cowering in the attic. Listening for him calling me from below. Me wrapped up in her arms. In her warmth and safeness. Waiting for him to leave. For the yelling to end.
The courts told her that she had to let me go and if she didn't he would get full custody. So she was left with no choices. Either she let me go with him on his court appointed visits, or she would lose me forever. Her hands were tied. She had to let the monster take her baby. And hope. Hope that I would be okay. Hope that she would see me again. Hope that he could keep his own darkness at bay for the short time he was to have me.
But all that hope was shattered when he failed to bring me back.
I remember that car ride. It was endless. We drove and drove and drove. I remember crossing the Mississippi river because his girlfriend made a song of it. It was the first word I ever knew how to spell. It was a beacon for some reason in my small child's mind. And I grasped onto it. Repeating it over and over again. M I S S I S S I P P I. M I S S I S S I P P I. It was as if a physical thing, that name spelled out in a sing song. It was mine.
He took me to a place full of adults. They did things in rooms behind closed doors that I was too little to understand. There was a kind old man in a rocking chair with a crooked little smile. There were tarantulas running around outside which fascinated me to no end. There was a box of cereal with a smiling sun and two scoops of falling raisins and that, too was a comfort. But why, I cannot say. I was afraid. I wanted my Mommy. My brother. My grandparents. I wanted my home. But I had those three things. An old kind man. Fuzzy tarantulas. A happy sun on a cereal box. Those were also mine. And I loved them.
The day they found me.
I remember when they found me. After how long, I cannot say. I remember the police were everywhere. A rush of officers with guns and serious faces. At first I was afraid, so afraid. A small girl in a world full of chaos and yelling. Then a man picked me up. He was a warm man. A nice man. He gave me a Pez Dispenser and told me that everything was going to be okay. They found me now and my Mommy would come. And my heart was happy.
They sent me to live with a couple, a faceless man and a faceless woman. They had a big white house with a chandelier and a large staircase that seemed to go on forever. They gave me fruity tasting gum and let me pound away at their giant black piano. I felt so small in that house, but also safe. And I knew my Mommy was coming, and that finally everything would be okay.
But it wouldn't be okay for long. It would be a long time before it was ever really okay again.
My mom was dying.
My mom had gotten sick before my father had stolen me away. He knew she had cancer and was having treatment. After I was stolen her worry and grief overtook her. She was so sick with it, the wondering if I was safe. The constant thoughts of where I was, what was happening to me, if I were even still alive. The doctors had to stop the treatment. She was so weak with it all. The cancer took over. By the time she had me back in her arms, it was too late. She was too far gone. I had her again only briefly and then she died.
Because of her love for me, she died. Because of my father's greed and sickness of his own, she died. But his sickness was a different kind. A Scary kind. An evil kind. His sickness stole my innocence. His sickness stole her life.
A childhood of self loathing.
The courts gave me to him. His family was better off financially than hers. He was my father, after all. But, he didn't really want me anyway. I was too little to understand that how he was bad. Too young to understand that I shouldn't love a monster. He was my father and I loved him. I didn't know any better.
But he didn't keep me around much. He drug me from place to place. Home to home. Family member to family member. Mostly I stayed with an aunt and uncle, his sister and her husband. He would pick me up when he wanted the welfare benefits for a while, but I was an anchor. I was a mouth to feed. A body to keep warm. I had needs at times that weren't always convenient and a lot of the times, even so young, I had to meet those needs for myself.
Bad things happened to me sometimes. Sometimes they didn't. Sometimes it was just waiting around in people's houses as he and his friends fed their habits. Sometimes it was sleeping in cars on random dark streets. Sometimes it was waiting home alone while he drank the night away at the bar, or waiting in the car outside the place, for him to get kicked out. Food banks, and clothes banks and dirty looks from girlfriends who resented me for living, for being dumped on them because of their love for him. He was a talker, that man. A convincer of anything he wanted to convince. He was an artist in this way. He was a master in this way.
I grew up knowing I had no place. Nowhere or no one who truly wanted me or needed me or thought that I could be something. I didn't matter much to anyone. Even the people that loved me only seemed to do so out of the love they had for my mother. I was always in the way. I was always looked down upon. I was always the reason my mother wasn't here. And it didn't really feel like I was worth the trade.
I grew up hating myself because I didn't know what love felt like. Not really. Not truly. I know people loved me, but it wasn't the proud kind of love. The kind of love that made people really want you to be around. I was always the odd man out. I was always just tolerated. I tried to be the funny one to make people want me, but no matter what I did, it only made it worse. I was the annoying one. I had no place.
Until I met him.
My love. My life. My savior.
Steve. The first time I saw him, I knew. He had strong hands. Kind eyes. A gentle smile.
We were instant friends, Steve and I. Inseparable from the start. He was the first person to really love me. The first person to see value in me and the first person to teach me how to see the value in myself. He was instantly my everything. I was lost until I found him. He anchored me.
We moved in almost instantly. This incredible man whom I was unbelievably lucky to have met. We married, and had children and loved. And still love. He is, even after these last 16 years, my best friend. My world. My everything. He gave me love for myself. He gave me two amazing and beautiful children. He gave me security in myself and my future. He gave me faith in humanity. I owe everything to him and the love I have for him is so true and strong and fierce.
I still struggle sometimes. The weight of my childhood is heavy. But he helps me carry that weight. I'm truly not alone now, and I'm so very very grateful for him. He's beautiful. He's intelligent. He's strong. He's perfect. Everything I had to endure in my life led me to him. To our children. To this life we share. Everything I had to endure was worth it. Because everything I have right now is better than anything I could have ever imagined it could be.
And you know what? I'm worth it.