My Journey through Heartache and Hope Part 1
My Personal Story
In all of our lives, we are faced with obstacles that seem to come when we least expect it. I’ve been through a lot during my life, from the time I was a young child. For the most part, I feel as though I have made it through pretty well. That is, I’m still functioning with what I would like to still think of as an optimistic attitude. However, inside I feel what I don’t share with others, and that is the scars that have collected through it all. Many times I hold up a smile to mask the tears behind it. I write to let my feelings out a bit, and now, I share those feelings with you.
To understand what happened that year, which wasn’t that long ago, I have to explain some of what has brought me here. When I was two years old, I lost my father in a drunk driving accident. I have two memories of him, the last Christmas I spent with him before he passed where he gave me a matching dress and a hat. I held onto them long after I outgrew them just because he gave them to me. The other was of me sitting on his lap eating a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal. I would look at pictures of him holding me with this huge smile and proud look in his eyes, and I knew my father loved me. And with that, I would cry, because try as I might, I couldn’t remember.
After his death, my mom went through a very difficult time and couldn’t take care of me. So, I was raised by my great-grandparents, and then later, my grandma. My great-grandma and grandma suffered from Bipolar, which made things very difficult at times. Several times as a child I had to hide my grandma’s purse and keys when she would say she wanted to get in her car and drive until she crashed. It was terrifying. In some ways it felt as though our roles were reversed, as I felt I had to take care of her.
She actually plays a huge role in my story, though probably not like what you would imagine. She married a man when I was four years old, and by the time I was eight, they had adopted me. When I was thirteen, they divorced, mainly due to the Bipolar. In the end, she made me stand before her with my hand on a Bible swearing that I had deliberately caused the divorce. Of course, I didn't, but I felt I had to admit to it because she wouldn’t believe otherwise. I left her, even though her husband was a wonderful dad to me. I had to take care of her. I wouldn’t speak to him again for another ten years.
When I was seventeen, my life took a very sudden and tragic turn. My grandma and I lived in a trailer park that my great-grandma owned. She had a trailer across the road, while I lived in the house with my great-grandma, as she was in very poor health and helped take care of her. During this time, finances were very tight. Renters wouldn’t pay and it was hard to keep bills paid. Then one day, my grandma, who I must say I always called Mampau since I was a baby. She will always be my Mampau. Mampau was in a car accident when she was hit by a Wal-Mart truck. She was hurt pretty badly and her car was totaled, but she made a full recovery.
However, with that, she came into some money from the payout. Not a significant amount by any means, but was enough to carry us through the hard times. She was able to buy a new car and make sure the bills were paid. Even though it wasn’t a lot, she was grateful for it. And unfortunately, due to her bipolar, she often spoke without thinking about it. A couple of renters who moved in particular, who did small jobs for my great-grandma. I don’t know why, but she told them that she had money. I don’t know if they thought she had much more, or if they were just that desperate. We also didn’t know that the guy was a convicted killer from Florida. At that time, my great-grandma never thought to run background checks.
Fast forward a month or so, one day we had another fight. Ironically, over money. I was wondering how much was in my account. She thought it was because I wanted to leave her. That fight would prove to be ironic a few hours later, in a few ways. That night, it had passed, she showed my bank statement and we enjoyed a cup of cappuccino together. She was tired and said she was going home to bed. I hugged her, told her I’d see her the next day, and watched as she walked out the door. Then, I ate soup.
You see, she would buy things for me that she thought I would enjoy. Clothes, food, anything. I didn’t always like it, but I still told her I loved it, because she would take everything very personally. To give you an idea of this, when I was a kid, she would make me macaroni and cheese...with mustard. Yes, mustard. I never liked it, but I never told her that. Well, in this instant, it was a can of chicken noodle soup with dinosaur shaped noodles. I loved it except for one thing, I’m a vegetarian. So I would wait until she went home to eat it, so I could remove all of the chicken. I did that that night. I ate it while watching Welcome Back Kotter reruns. Then, I went to bed.
The next day, she didn’t come for church. At one point, I took my keys and began to walk over to her trailer. Within a few steps from the door, I stopped in my tracks. Her car was gone, and if she had gone somewhere, she would have brought a note to the house. I went back to the house. Because I was a Sunday School teacher for the children, my great-grandma sent me to church. Once I got there, I broke down in tears and told everybody that she was missing.
It was my youth director and one of the deacons that went to the house, got the keys, and found her. I never saw her or the scene until it was cleaned. They said that she never knew, though the neighbor right beside her testified that she heard screams. I never heard or saw anything, as I was in the back of the house with my earphones in after I finished the soup she had bought me. That night my preacher went through our house holding a knife, as the neighbor had her purse with her house keys in it. And for the next year, I would sleep with the lights on and go into hysterics whenever there was a noise outside at night. One night as I lay in bed, I could swear I hold her outside my window, begging me to help her.
To this day, I still feel incredible guilt. If only I had been there. What had happened, to what I know, he was there waiting for her. She never locked the doors, as she was in and out so much. We both were. I think about if it had been me to go in for something at that time. What if I had gone with her? What if I had stopped her? The what ifs go through my head. The one time when she needed me to protect her the most, I couldn’t. I remember when she would have a spell, I would tell her that the world was mostly good. Most people were good, and that not everybody wanted to hurt her. These words, though true, pierce through me when I think of how she left, and what she thought of as the life left her. Though most everybody agrees, it was probably me. Overall, she was my grandma turned sister turned mom( I know, its complicated) but beyond that, she was also my best friend. We were so close, yet I’m here and she’s not.
A few days later, the day of her funeral, we got a phone call from the district attorney’s office. They had found him and the car. He had stopped for gas, but he was out of money, and he drove off. Thankfully, it was a Friday night during football season, so there were cops nearby. They shot out a tire, and was able to catch him. He received life in prison without parole due to the fact that he finally pleaded guilty. I wasn’t able to go to court as I wasn’t ready. I don’t think I still know all of the details. I question if I need to.
There is more to this story, but I’ll make a part two to this. I thought that after this, I could heal and live my life. But, life always have ways to throw those curveballs at you. My road was just beginning, and there would be other hills to go over.