We were sitting on the couch and they came in and said, “Your daddy passed away.”
I was 6.
I felt so alone.
They couldn’t get me to stop crying.
The first clear memory I have after that is spitting in my history book, and slamming the book shut. Man, I hope my kids never do that. The teacher made me wash windows during recess.
I didn’t have a very good bond with my mom. We didn’t get along until I was 18. I didn’t connect with anybody.
I carried a feeling of aloneness for a long time.
I didn’t know I was poor until I was in middle school. I think it was 6th grade. A bunch of girls were getting together for a slumber party and pitching in for snacks and stuff. My mom didn’t have any money for snacks.
“Holy crap!” I realized. “I’m poor!”
We went without. My little sister always wore hand-me-downs. We didn’t go to the dentist regularly. I didn’t get contacts until I was a freshman in high school, even though I had needed them for years.
I remember getting the government cheese. I loved the government cheese. It was Colby cheese wrapped in paper. That was the best cheese ever! Real cheese! I never talked to Mom about being on assistance. I’m not sure if she knew about the other programs available to help us.
I was totally going to be a teacher. In high school, I was so excited to get to college to take the classes I wanted to take. I was introverted until my junior year and then I came out of my shell. I was really active in theater,debate, and track.
The kids’ dad was my first love. He has a name, but I never use it. I met him my second year in college. We were over at a friend’s house playingDungeons & Dragons. I never played; I just liked the stories.
We dated for three months the first time. He was a leech and never got a job. I broke up with him, but regretted it. I felt like he was my soul mate. I was just a stupid 20-year-old kid.
By the time I got my act together, I was pregnant.
I thought we were going to have this great, wonderful life. Three days before the wedding we went to get the certificate and found that he was still married. Everything just kind of crashed down.
I hung on. I grew up without a father and I didn’t want my kids to grow up without a father. That’s what really kills me. I didn’t want to be a single mom. I watched my mom do it and it was horrible for her.
He left. I was still signed on for a lease, which was way too much for just me. I went to the housing authority and said, “I have two babies and I don’t have a place to stay.” The lady there told me that Delaware County doesn’t have any emergency housing. She didn’t send me anywhere. I didn’t have a job. I was holding my three-month-old baby and my toddler stood right there beside. The lady didn’t even tell me about the women’s shelter. Later, when I found out about the shelter,
I was so frustrated and angry and hurt.
They should know.
Two months later he came back into our lives. “Man,” I thought, “we can probably work this out.”
That week was a happy week. But I think I was so desperate to make it work. So desperate not to be a single mom that I ignored everything that was going on. I was an idiot.
One night at 2 a.m. we were in bed and just all of a sudden he said, “I don’t want to hurt her again.”
“Who are you talking about?” I asked. He was talking about our daughter.He said he had abused her.
I jumped out of bed and called the cops. They arrived at 2:32 a.m., but he was already gone — out of my life in a half-hour.
“Why did he tell you?” the cops kept asking.
Why do they think I have the answer to that? Everybody asks me that. I took her to the doctor and there wasn’t any sign of abuse, and she wasn’t old enough to say if he did or didn’t. She was two. I had to file a restraining order. Someday I’ll have to tell her why she can’t be alone with her daddy.
I was so angry, and I felt like no one did anything.
Conveniently, around the time of our court date, he started to go to church again. He found Jesus and a new girlfriend in a month. Eventually they got married. Part of me was like, “Why didn’t it work out with me? What was I missing?”
I felt like I was in the biggest, deepest, nastiest hole. Being alone was horrible. It was the worst. There was no one to talk to.