Finding My Strength: Part 2

Tyra:

Leaving Harvey was one of the best things that could have happened for us kids, but what happened next was unexpected. We moved into this place behind the bottle depot, it was a quaint place. It had green carpet, a large bedroom upstairs, that is where I slept, and 2 bedrooms on the main floor. The kitchen seemed to be my place where I would cook the meals for my siblings and myself. Being 13 and having the responsibility of a mother on my head was stressful, and the only way I could deal with the stress was drinking and smoking pot.

During the early part of my binge drinking and smoking pot, I did some crazy stuff. This one time at my friends place the guys dared us to take off our shirts so they could see our breasts. I looked at my friend and said why not. I took off my shirt and the guys being 13-14 years old were in awe. I just did not see the reason for consealing my breasts. My friend still laughs about that to this day. I just wanted to be accepted in the group and if that was the way I needed to go then I did it. I felt a thrill go through me, I was being admired and it felt good.

I had lots of friends that would be smoking pot, so that was easy to come by. Drinking I needed friends that were much older. Getting alcohol came easy for me. The guys would get the alcohol for me and I would drink and get drunk. It seemed to be a weekly thing for me to binge drink. This one guy named Chris was a really cool guy, he would pick me up to teach me how to drive. He would buy me flowers, and he supplied me with alcohol too. We would drive down the dirt roads around Smoky Lake and drink. Then this one evening he decided to let me drive while I was drunk. That was a wild trip, I think I missed the ditch like 3 times then came to a stop and said “I think you should drive now, I am too drunk” we switched places.

This other time I wasn’t drinking and was learning how to drive, and did a donut in the middle of the intersection. It was exhilarating, my heart pumping really fast and when we came to a stop we just laughed like crazy. I couldn’t do a donut if I tried, but here I was doing a donut in the street. We had several driving lessons and the relationship was platonic, so I didn’t see a problem.

Then this one day, I passed out at this guys place and my mom literally kicked my ass all the way home. To this day I am not sure what she was mad at, me not being there for my younger siblings, or that I had a guy in my life that did not take advantage of me. Maybe she had real concern for me. It is confusing when I look back but I did hope it was the latter.

In grade 8 I came up with this plan to help save the children in Ethiopia. I made a suggestion to my class to donate $1.00 a month and we could sponsor one of the children that needed our help. I guess I was more mature than the rest of my class,cause I was serious, but they laughed at me. This could be the reason why I don’t like to talk in front of people. I felt so humiliated, their laughter echoing inside my head like a group banshee wraith. My face burning with shame I went to my seat and did not say another word.

Living in a small town everyone knows everything, and this time was going to be no different. I went to school only to have an individual state “your mom is a drug addict”. I knew what he said was true, but it still hurt me deeply. He looked at with a smirk on his face, I glanced at him, and he sneered. I could not help myself, my heart felt like it was being crushed. I was crying, sobbing, I was mortified. I ran all the way home. Mom came upstairs asking what was wrong and all I said “why can’t you be like other moms? She looked at me, her nightgown hanging like a limp rag, her once beautiful waist length hair, just a mess of tangles and knots. She looked so haggard, I felt a pang of sympathy. When did mom get so rough looking, I thought. Then ,I remembered the boy from school and I became angry all over again. “Why do you need all those pills. They cause you to overdose! Mom?”. Her reaction was one that I was not prepared for. She said “I don’t know”, and she started to cry. After she said that, I just had to be by myself. I would not cry in front of my mom. There had been to many back hands and slaps, when we couldn’t stop crying after she had hurt us. Warningly, she would say “stop your crying or I will give you something to cry about.” She did, more than enough to cry about. I felt smothered by a feeling of loss and I felt so alone. I wanted to comfort my mom, and be comforted by her. That would never happen, so I curled in a ball, and quietly cried my self to sleep.

Our mom had overdosed 3 times and each time she had to be taken to the hospital, a neighbour joked, that at least it saved him money cause he found it more entertain to stay home and watch us. The last time I was so angry, I just could not believe it. There was no empathy for her children, she wanted what she wanted. The problem now was the medical doctors would not prescribe her anymore medication, she had to find herself another physician to fill her fix.

This one day at home something unsual was happening with mom. She came at us with her hands like claws, chasing us, we did not know what was wrong. We asked her to stop what she was doing but didn’t. She was so scary! We called the ambulace to come and get her. The neighbours and other individuals were watching as they took her away again in the ambulance. How could she do this to us? That was the only thought, filling my mind. How long is she to be in the hospital? Everything was up in the air. She was in the hospital for 3 days then sent back home. That was good cause the kids just did not want to listen to me as they were so upset over the situation.

Having to get her drugs, she decided to take us to Edmonton to see her psychiatrist. What happened next just blew me away! All of us kids were taken away again. We were put in a receiving home to wait for our mother to get better. We were there for about a month. Us kids wanted to get back home, we missed it, the familiar. We wanted to be reunited, with the kids brave enough to be our friends. There wasn’t many, but there was enough, and we missed them. Promises were made, she would get better and it would not be long, days went into weeks and then we went to a permanent foster home in country.

This time it was different, I knew this was the end of us going back to our mom. I had a sicking feeling in my stomach.It felt foreboding to me, like I was waiting for my executioner to come take me away. Mom was so unstable and needed help for her mental condition. I was too young at that time to realize she started a rapid decline after her love affair, with the man that abused my big sister over a period of years, had ended. Sadly for me, it didn’t end soon enough, and he tried to replace Tammy with me, and I was sexually abused.

I am not sure what moms condition was but it was not good. We would visit and ask how much longer it would be for her to get better and she would say a few more months. She seemed so frail to me, her skin kinda looked yellow. Her hair, her once crown and jewel was now stringy and looked greasy. It was short, a lot shorter. It wasn’t the same any more. She wasn’t scary to me any more. Hearing on a regular basis that mom wasn’t well enough to come home-was difficult for the youngest ones. They would always ask if we could go back and I would tell them no. I would let them cry and hug them and say everything will be fine. Down deep I was hurting too,I felt I needed to be strong for the youngest ones. It was an odd feeling, being torn, I was grieving the loss of a mother I never had, and raging at the one I did.

Tanya and I always shared a room and a bed. We would lay in bed and tell funny stories and laugh. Man did that ever make the foster mom mad. She would tell us to quiet down and go to sleep. It was hard to do sometimes as we needed the laughter and not sleep. Sometimes, when Tanya and I were giggling, it would remind me of times Tammy and I would giggle together too. My heart would twist, and I would say a quick prayer, please look after my sister dear God, and then I,would have to turn my thought away, it hurt much..I missed her.

Trevor was always up to something. When he was in school he broke both of his arms at the same time! He was playing on the monkey bars and fell head first. He crossed his arms to protect his head, and all his weight must have impacted his arms! Must say for a kid in grade 2, he was pretty smart to protect himself like that. Looking back it was like foretelling, his life would be one of protecting himself, and being brutalized. I was upset that I had to find out after school, but he did not have a head injury, two broken arms was more than enough.

Trevor would say things that were not nice, sometimes down right mean, not that he had great role models. The foster mom would call him names, I would get mad right away and say “don’t be calling him names, he does not deserve that.” She just looked at me, shocked, that someone my age would be so brave as to confront an adult. I knew how much it hurt to be called names that were not true. Those hateful names people call each other, the hurt it causes can affect them for life. I still hold this thought near and dear to my heart. If she called him a name it would be when I was not around. Trevor never told me otherwise either. My comment must have struck a nerve in this lady, I believed in my young mind, I was a protector.

Living with a grandma and grandpa had its advantages and disadvantages. They spoiled us with clothes all the time. It was nice to have more than one set of clothes. Our grandma had great taste in clothes. Having so many choices of clothes, it reminded me of when we were in Vancouver. Mom had bought Tammy and I one pairs of pants each for school. They were the ugliest green pants I had ever seen. One pair was a limey green, kinda fuzzy texture, the other pair was those shiny, polyester? Ones. Tammy and I traded back and forth those two pairs of ugly green pants so people wouldn’t know we only had one pair each. I think we told ourselves that any way.

You must think we were really poor, if we could only have one pair each. This was not the case, though, and I feel a little ashamed that our mother thought so little of us. Her closet was brimming with clothes. Beautiful colours, purples, reds, pinks, so many colours but no green. Now that I think about it, I can not recall one time, mom was ever with out an array of clothes to choose from. Us kids might go to school a couple weeks out of every month with no lunches, but mom always had beautiful clothes.

During this time, we did see our mom for visits, but something always happened where we were not able to go back. Then court time came, and it was a horrible experience for me. Mom was acting like a teenager, my dad was telling lies, and us kids just wanted to be happy. Everyone seemed to have an agenda at this court meeting. Mom was trying to get us back. She had enough practice, throughout the years, that I guess she felt it was ok to goof off. My dad was portraying me like I was a vicious troubled, misbehaving, delinquent.

The child welfare workers, stood watching with detached interest, the family dynamics unfold before them. I looked around the room, and thought, there is not one adult, in that room, with my best interests at heart. Then like a cold blast of water to the face, shockingly, I realized, the only adults that ever had my best my interest, was my foster mom and dad when I was a baby. I was given three years Grace, to be loved, and I am so grateful to have had them. With a gut wrenching realization, I had an understanding. Why I wasn’t there, was represented by those two child welfare workers, who worked for government. A wave of heat washed over me as a truth, I did not want to face, demanded to be acknowledged. There would never be an adult in my life there for the sad little remnants that I had left of my little girl self. I grew up in that moment and there was no going back, my heart broke as the last pieces of my little girl self fell away. I was 14 years old, I was an adult.

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