A/N: This is an absolutely true story. If you do not believe my story, then I do not know what to tell you. These are actual events.
I was an only child until the year I turned eleven. I had never embraced the fact that I would be a sibling someday. I believed that I would be my mother's only child for the rest of my life.
We lived in Riverside, California and I just happened to love it there. I can recall the day I had come home from visiting my aunt. My mother told me she had married spontaneously. At the time, I had no idea she even had a boyfriend. I knew that my mother went through as many boyfriends as pairs of shoes she had owned but I had never imagined that she would marry again.
She was married to an abusive man when I was around five years old. His name was Michael. He would not beat her, but would direct his anger upon me and my two stepsisters, Patricia and Nicole. He would never physically hurt Nicole, but Trish and I, he would physically harm. I would grow to resent my mother because she only stood by and watched. She would never stop the abuse.
After I was told she had married again, we packed our things right away and we moved to Utah. I was not happy with this decision at the time, but now that I am older, I am glad that I was able to get out of California because we did not live in a good neighborhood.
I recall a conversation I had with my new stepfather, Melvin.
“What should I call you?”
“You can call me whatever you like.”
“Would you mind if I called you dad?
My mother was with Melvin for a long time. Or at least it felt like a long time to me. My brother was born when I was eleven and I was thirteen when my sister was born. I was so elated when my brother was born because he was my first sibling. During my mother's marriage to Michael, she did get pregnant but had miscarried. I remember holding my brother for the first time and remember I had never felt happier. He was so little and I just pictured us growing up together. I also pictured the things we would do together and memories we would share.
My sister was born nearly three months early two years later. She was even smaller than my brother and had to be in the NICU for nearly three months until she could thrive on her own. My mother and I came to see her every day. I could not hold my sister until she came home.
My mother eventually was addicted to painkillers. I do not remember at exactly what point she started taking them. After my siblings were born, I was expected to care for them because my stepfather had a job in the sheet metal industry and was expected to work long hours. My mother would sleep all day long and I felt like I did not have a mother. I would go to school, come home, and take care of my siblings. I was usually not permitted to go anywhere else or go play with friends. This became a usual routine for me.
At some point when I reached middle school, my siblings had begun to attend daycare. I would pick them up after school just because I was expected to. During this phase growing up, I did not realize that I was being forced to grow up faster than most kids my age. I was pretty much being instructed to play “mommy” to my brother and sister.
During my middle school years, and I believe I was around twelve years or so, someone with child protective services had visited our house. At the time, I had no idea why she was visiting our home and taking pictures. A cop also arrived and took my sibling and me for a ride in his police car.
I would get to review the police report when I was older. This is what it read:
“The home was unsuitable for the children and we feel the children are in an unsafe environment. When the mother is asked why the house is in the condition it is in, she answered, “My husband and oldest daughter make a mess of the house and they never help me clean.”
After we were removed from the home, we were sent to live with a foster family in a small town in northern Utah. Miraculously, we were able to stay together despite our age differences. I did not understand my foster parents, though. I was expected to wear frilly dresses and attend a church I did not believe in. They expected me to work manual labor outside in order to earn my keep, and by this I mean, in order for them to feed me, they insisted that I play by this. We were not there very long, however, we did return to that same home. Only I did not return there after that one time due to my age.
During my foster care experience, I had only one home that I enjoyed being at. I felt like a member of their family regardless of my skin color and background. I cannot remember another time I was happy to be with family other than my time with my foster parents named Cheryl and Alvin. I truly felt like I belonged there.
I was with them for a few months and I remember the Christmas I spent with them was the most magical moment of my life. The tree was decorated immensely with a golden angel at the top of the tree. There were dozens of presents under the tree; not all for me, of course. At that time, I had just enjoyed being with a real family that had felt different from my own.
After just a few months with Cheryl and Alvin, I was sent back home to my mother. I was so happy where I was at, I honestly did not want to leave and return home. I had not pictured being sent back home to live with my mother. I had thought I would remain with Cheryl.
A short time after I was returned to my home, a caseworker visited with me a couple weeks later.
“How are you doing now that you are back home with your mother?”
I shrugged and remained silent.
She had no sympathy in saying what came next. “Cheryl passed away.” The caseworker stated it bluntly like it didn't matter.
I stared at her. She stared at me in return and she did not appear sorry nor did she apologize. She did not say, I'm sorry but your foster mother passed away. I was not told at the time but Cheryl had a heart attack right before she was scheduled to have surgery. I never did have the opportunity to contact Alvin and I did not remember his number or address. He has always been both in my prayers and heart.
I remember being at home when I was fifteen and things were fine. I had settled into school life and a usual routine. I still helped care for my siblings but not as much as I did in high school. I would still have chores to do but I was not expected to clean the entire house. I had average grades and I did not have many friends.
I was picked on severely; bullied would probably be a more accurate word. Boys would throw pencils at me or kick me; girls would pick a fight with me for no apparent reason at all. There was one boy in particular who was bullied himself but would also pick on me. He would call me names or kind of shove me in the hallway. I sat behind him in Spanish class and I did not like it when we would have to partner up.
A few weeks before my sophomore year ended, he started to open up to me and I even had grown to develop feelings for him. Michael was all I could think about and I even gathered the courage to tell him I liked him. I remember it was Friday after school and I was talking with him. I do not recall what exactly I said, but I remember that I wanted to tell him at that moment. I told myself, I will tell him how I feel Monday when I see him.
Monday came and I was sitting in Spanish class waiting for him to come to class. He did not come. I was very disappointed and I thought perhaps he was sick or something. My teacher began the class and in the middle of her lecture, someone from the main office brought her a piece of paper.
“We regret to inform you--” she started to read but broke into tears. A student grabbed the paper from her and continued to read it.
“We regret to inform you that Michael Anthony Roberts has passed away. Funeral services will be held the day after tomorrow. Students who wish to attend will be excused from school.”
Shock ran through my entire body. I was in disbelief. The boy that I liked and had deeper feelings for had passed away and I would never see him again. I cried silently the entire class period and I went straight home after that. I threw myself on my bed and cried all the tears I had in my body. I cried until I didn't think I could cry anymore. I needed to see him again and I needed to tell him how I felt.
I slept for days and I did not go to school. I did attend the funeral and they played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. I thought he would have liked it but it made me cry even harder. I saw people there at his funeral who had bullied him and people who didn't even know him that well. I felt alone in the fact that I actually cared about him.
One of his friends had approached me and told me he was sorry what had happened. I did not say anything and I just cried.
I would later find out that the night he had killed himself, he called a friend of his telling him he was going to kill himself. His friend did not take it seriously and he ended up going through with it. I never did find out how he did it but there were rumors that he used a gun and there were other rumors it was due to suffocating himself.
My last foster home was not a pleasant one. It was called a “structured” foster home and basically the intent of it was to have me learn responsibility. The terms basically were I had to find a job within six months or they would send me back to the facility in which they had gotten me from. I did not want to remain at the facility so I just agreed to go with her and I did not care what type of person she was like.
She was an astrologist named Karen and she had a biological daughter named Amber. The house was a decent size and she was not married. She had her own office for her astrology readings and I thought perhaps it was more of a hobby.
I would keep myself locked in my room, absorbing myself in writing letters to Michael. I would tell him of my experiences with Karen's home and how much I missed him. At this time I had dyed my hair black and wore black clothing; this is how I mourned for him. Karen did not understand and forced me to buy colorful, bright clothing. I went against her wishes and bought black, however, she sent me back to exchange it for other clothing. She also had me bleach the black out of my hair because she thought it was a negative color. I was unhappy with this but I just allowed her to treat me in this fashion because all I cared about at that time was Michael.
She also had set me up with a therapist who I was not interested in seeing at that time and they came up with the conclusion I was manic depressive. She prescribed me lexapro and I took it as I wasioioiul;lh instructed. It did make me sleep a lot; so much that I could not wake myself for school. I remember one morning I had not woken up for school and Karen came downstairs. She flung open the door and the lamp sitting on the nightstand fell and hit me on my head. She demanded I get up and that babies were not allowed to go to school. She made me get in the car and we drove to the school where my other foster sister was at. I jumped out of the car because I was so angry at her for treating me like a child. She yelled at me to get back in the car but I did not listen. I took off after that.
When I arrived at my aunt's house she greeted me with open arms. I explained what had happened and she understood. My grandfather was living in Idaho and we had called him. He told me he would come to get me and take me to Idaho. I was a little scared at the time because there was no turning back. Honestly, I was scared of what would happen to me if I turned myself in. I was worried I would end up in juvie or worse... What if I had been place in a more religious foster home than I had been subjected to?
I waited for my grandfather to come. In my aunt's bedroom next to her bed she had a little cupboard that I hid in. It wasn't necessary at the time to remain in that hiding spot, but I felt safer there. I absolutely did not want to be caught. I was nervous when we were driving through Utah and I was also anxious at the same time. I took in the change of scenery as we entered Idaho and I also noticed that the mountains were disappearing. Utah was my home for most of my teenage life; I was not sure if I was ready for this. I did remain resolved to deal with the choice I had made.
I had somehow ended up staying with my cousin instead of my grandfather. My grandfather was living in Twin Falls, Idaho and my cousin in a very small town called Richfield, Idaho. I do not remember the details of the place we lived in, but I do remember it was on a farm and very small. It had a fireplace and ugly brown carpet that reminded me of bear fur. There was nothing to there but watch tv. I would spend days watching crime shows like Hack and CSI. I also do not remember at what point I left there and lived again with my grandfather, but I did return to Twin.
When I arrived, we went to my favorite breakfast diner, The Depot Grill. It was our tradition to go there for the biscuits and gravy and Papa would get his coffee. He always got two sweet-n-lows and no creamer. After we ate there, we went to his apartment and fortunately, he had a spare room that I could use.
His daughter who was related to me only through my grandfather's blood was living there. To be honest, she had never liked me and I guess the feeling was mutual. I feel like at that time I was overall frustrated that I was alone in this. I did have my grandfather, but she was his daughter. I did not by any means want to compete with her, especially for his attention. Growing up, I had always fancied myself being his favorite, and we had spent a lot of time together.
One day, I was laying on the bed reading and she came into my room. I was in a bad mood at the time because I had just written an emotional letter to Michael. I also had dealt with some anxiety and depression issues. She wanted me to leave the room so she could hang out with her friends. I told her no but she would not accept that. She grabbed me by my hair and of course I tried to defend myself. I was so mad I left again. I walked around trying to clear my head. But instead I had walked to Albertson's where I just waited. I did not know what I was waiting for or even if I had somewhere to go.
I watched the people walk by. There were men, women, children. Mostly they were couples who had somewhere to be and couldn't be bothered to look at me.