This next part becomes a battle for me both physically and mentally...
"When the day is long and the night, the night is yours alone,When you're sure you've had enough of this life, well hang on. Don't let yourself go, 'cause everybody cries and everybody hurts sometimes....." R.E.M.'s Everybody Hurts
The summer following the end of my 5th grade year, some interesting changes happened. First I want you to keep in mind that my dad's wife is expecting a child at this time, her daughter Mary Anne (who was 5 at the time) was completly estatic. I will revisit this a little later in this story. Second, Rab's last comment touched on inner battles- and believe me one was brewing in me.
It was in that summer that I started to get sick. At first it was just a cold. But I remember it being something more. Mom had a friend watching over me at his house. He was an older man, another drinker- but different than I had known men to be. He was really kind, the drinking was out of lonliness and heartache, something he would never talk about. But, being an older man, he was out of touch with how to take care of a sick child, so I laid miserably on his couch for most of that day. Remember how I had mentioned in a previous chronicle that I always seemed to dream of strange things...
I laid there that night dreaming of vague images, images I'm sure would have been frightening to any other child. But it was not the dreaming that gave me such a fright- it was the feeling of something trying to take me over. The weight of it pressing down on me, it was so heavy. I remember thinking "Dear Lord what is this thing?" Whatever that thing was, it was dangerous, and it was suprised at the reaction it got from me as it began to dawn on me what it might be. I remember clearly in the dead of the night I was stretching my arms out in the air and pushing with all my might to throw it off and reminding it in no uncertain terms that it was not welcome in me. The child that I was and somehow I was able to send it away. I don't know how, but I did sleep peacefully afterwards, my fever having broke. That experience has since stayed with me, speaking to me of certain things.
We moved alot during this period of my life, always in a different school, but in the same general geographic area. We were living with the current boyfriend of Mom's in Miami Village when I really started getting sick. My illness I think must've been hiding, for I became really, really sick the first weeks that school began. Mom finally got sense enough to take me to the doctor when I passed out at school from the dizzyness of it. It was then they found out I had phenomonia. Walking phenmonia they called it and I had it bad. I was as white as a ghost, thin as ever, and more weak than I ever remembered feeling. I was hospitalized for a whole month, it was so bad. Mom later said that the doctor took her aside and said he wasn't sure what he could do for me at this point. I was literally staring death in the face. But I didn't know it, and you could not have told me so. I had won my battle with the demon you see, I knew that it knew better than to try to snuff me out. but that was the first of a series of battles I would wage.
The next battle I would wage with myself came shortly after my sister was born. She lived for a mere two breaths, and then the life in her was gone. My dad has never really said what happened, but it was another blow to his already fragile being. For me, however, it was about wanting to give my life so that she could have a chance to live hers. It wasn't that I didn't want to live, it was that I wanted her to see what beauty life had, even with all the trials in it. I was angry that she was not given that opportunity, and I had never seen such a tiny casket. It made me even angrier. A friend of mine in the school that I was in told the teacher about Jennifer's death. Mr. McDevitt. He offered his listening ear, but I refused to take it, glared at my friend and ran to the girl's bathroom shouting all the way, "I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT! Leave me alone...just leave me alone" those last phrases I whispered to myself as I huddled in a corner of the bathroom, holding my knees with my arms wrapped tightly around them. Silently the tears ran down my face. I was grieving for her and the rest of the world who might know the same pain I had known and was unable to find the same beauty in life I was beginning to see. I was greiving because I could not give all that others would need. I think Mr.McDevitt was a wise man, for he did not send someone after me. I think he knew that I needed to fight this battle for myself.
It was also at this time that we got the call about Clyde's wife, my sister Amy was becoming more needy, and Eddie was raptly attentive to the televised evangelists that spoke of God and his healing. Most who know my brother, would never have guessed that he was deeply moved by these sessions. He wanted to believe there really was someone who would love him. But my siblings are not of the same heart I am (I wonder sometimes if this has to do with the fact that their dad is different from mine) and I believe they were each waging their own inner battles as well and sadly over the years, they lost. Somehow thier spirit couldn't take the weight of it all. But I still hold out a small measure of hope for them. Even to this very day, when I can't really stand to be around either of them anymore. It didn't help them that for a brief two weeks or so their dad came walking back into their lives. He began picking all of us up for visits, but I believe that was because mom had him court for non child support all these years. Once during those two weeks he took us shopping. He had given us each 20 dollars to spend. I don't remember what Eddie and Amy got, but I chose a tape of R.E.M.- the one with the song "Everybody Hurts" on it. I love that album, not because he bought it for me, but because of the truth of the words that band tends to belt out (Speaking of that album, I should look for it on cd, I don't have it anymore). Their dad was least pleased with my selection. I wasn't thrifty enough for him I suppose. But it didn't matter to me, I wasn't looking for his approval like they were.
As the days wore on, 7th grade came. I was slipping into a dangerous depression. It was hard to keep from it. There was no more violence, except Eddie's growing anger as he also began to recount our childhood and in the same fall swoop dismissed the idea of a God, for what God would subject his children to such things. He did not see the same road as I did, a road that would one day help me to see that the free will choice of others was something God could not change-but that did not mean he didn't care. Eddie's angry swings and choking episodes of me started to change my view of him. He was no longer the little boy I needed to protect, but rather a boy who was rapidly outgrowing me and in need of something I could not give.
This depression of mine led me to lock myself in the bathroom everyday after school and line the sink with the many different prescription pills Mom had in the medicine cabinet. Every day I would look in that mirror above the sink and contemplate my worthiness to live, and every day I would find a reason to return the pills to their rightful bottles, and restock the cabinet again. I couldn't bring myself to believe that I would never find the beauty in the world I wanted to see and find so badly. I could not make myself believe that the whole world was so useless that I didn't want to be here, because I did want be here. But I was weary, tired of always fighting for my life, and so each day the battle would go on. It was during this time in my life that I would visit the local library frequently, alone, by myself, just absorbing the books they had on their shelves. I found one of my favorite authors during this time. Terry Brooks, and his clever fiction novels held my attention as if nothing ever had it before. Its a wonder Mom never asked where I had been or what I was doing. Come to think of it, we never had a curfew. Ever.
Mom finally got a real job. She began to work for a local nursing home. There was a lady that was visiting mom every now and then to help her learn budgeting at our new apartment. And, there was something else going on at school that took me by complete suprise. The teachers were offering me odd jobs before and after school to help raise money so I could go on the 7th & 8th grade trip to Washington D.C. They must've known I wouldn't have accepted the money outright. But who had told them I wanted to go???
Mom also met Phil Nulf this year. He was a man who was 18 years sober, but 30+ years my mothers senior. He wasn't perfect, but he treated mom better than anyone I'd ever seen in my lifetime. I was still battling my depression, but I was for the first time seeing a few good things come about in my life. I was hoping, even singing a little now and then, though by now mom had let me know clearly that it probably wasn't possible for a partially deaf child to make a living at singing, it really hurt to hear her say that. Ironically, anyone else outside of the family who had heard me sing would often be impressed, so I could never really decide if I was truly a good singer and my family didn't like it or if I really was not a good singer and my family was just being kind enough to let me know. I find it difficult to believe my family could be that thoughtful though.
And so the days continued. I went on that 7th and 8th grade trip and had the best time. It was nearing the end of school ,my 7th grade year, when Mom announced we would be moving in with Phil. He lived in a different county though, so I would change schools once again. It would be the last time we moved until I graduated high school. Never has a man had my respect as much as Phil did..but that is part of my teenage stories and I need to get a few people's permission to relate some things that are their stories as much as my own before I post them here...