Finding my strength


Social services must have found out about Harvey and we were on the move yet again. This time we moved to a small town called Warspite. The next town was Smoky Lake, this is the town that we went to school. We lived in this little house on a farm. There was lots of space for us to play or make hiding places. Our forts over the years would get more elaborate out in the bush. We would go where the bush was thick and a small space in the middle to bring the important stuff to. We spent hours cleaning the area when we had time.

Our mother’s addiction was so out of control that we locked up her medication and gave her only what was prescribed. While doing this we actually had a mom. She would actually come and help outside, and be part of the family. Those moments did not last forever, her addiction was too strong. She would manipulate us saying that she did not have her medications that day. When that no longer worked, she would break a glass and slash her knees and the neighbours would take her to the hospital for pain management and stitches. She said that she had fell on the glass, but how does this happen 3 or 4 times when you are an addict, the probability is really small. I also think the neighbor realized that there was a problem, but did not know what the problem was.

This is where I learnt to work. We began with having to do firewood. This was tiresome. We would bring wood out of the bush, stack it after it was chopped. That was ok, but then after all that work was done we had to put it on the trailer to take it to Edmonton to sell. This took hours as we had to make sure that the cords were separated, and stacked. When we sold it we would then again stack the wood for the people that bought it. It was so much work, but I did learn the value of a good days work. It is hard to believe that even today I enjoy stacking wood, it is relaxing.

Then we got our first pig, her name was Arnold. I know it is a male name but it just seemed to fit her. She was our dog. She would walk us to the bus stop, and sit there waiting for us to come home. I loved that pig, she really was special. I remember Tanya trying to ride her and Tanya ended up in the mud puddle. The laughter was loud and I treasured the laughter as there was not much. We spent hours doing chores for the pigs. Building pens, bringing poles out of the bush, pealing the poles then painting them. Wow looking back I wonder how I managed to get school work in. Oh ya it came second to the hard work. The work had to be done first then maybe you would have time for homework. This was so engrained in me even when I went to university I had to have my place clean all the work done before I could study. I find it kinda crazy now thinking about it because I just realized why I couldnt sit there and do my work if my house was dirty.

We loved Arnold.

Gardening was new to me when we were at this new place, but I begun to love it. My goodness we had abundant food for the first time in my life. Ya it was work but I knew I was not going to go hungry again. Who really likes pulling weeds, well I do. I think this come from when Harvey tried to bribe me by saying ” give me a blow job and I will give you the rest of the day off” I just pretended that I did not hear him and went back to pulling weeds. I just could not believe that he had the nerve to start trying this shit with me. I do not know what the difference was between Tammy and I but he focused on Tammy. The only problem was Tammy was not there, so he was trying to groom me for his next victim. I would not have it and let him know it also.

It finally came time to harvest the garden. Boy was I happy. I picked so much and cleaned it for supper, and learnt how to blanch vegetable before freezing. Mom did participate in the harvesting of the vegetables but only some of them. Then she was back to bed. The work load just increased when she would go to bed, as I picked up the pieces of the family life.

Having animals was a blessing and a curse during this time. I had to do the chores outside, which included feeding many pigs, chickens, and milking the nanny goat. She provided us with milk on a daily basis, we did not do without unless I did not milk her. It was important that I milked her for the younger kids so they would have milk for their porridge in the morning. It became a routine to make porridge in the morning before school and feed the kids then make lunches. We did not get everything that all the children had for lunches but at least we had something.

The billy goat was a mean animal and we did not have fences to keep them in. This one day I hear Trevor screaming, I run outside to find that the billy goat was throwing him up in the air with his horns. I ran to get Trevor away from the goat and to protect him from it. I just could only imagine how Trevor’s tummy felt after being flipped so many times. But here it is I was filling the mothering role for my younger siblings.

I was scared of this billy goat, they were too, but as a big sister I was the protector. When I came for a visit, they took me out to see the animals. This goat started chasing me and I ran like my pants were on fire! We hid in a shad and Trevor the youngest tried to climb the shed door, and got stuck. I let out a roar off laughter at the silliness of it all. They all looked at me in wonder. It was the first time I laughed in years, and boy did it feel good. Tammy

Then came the day that Harvey really tried to abuse me. He took me in his arms and tried to french kiss me in the kitchen. I slapped him as quick as he had tried to kiss me, and stated “don’t you ever try that again”. I am not sure if it was the look that I gave him when it happened or the surprise of the slap but he did not try this again with me. After that incident I decided to ask mom about my biological dad, what he was like and where he was. This lead to me asking to move to his place and live there where I did not have to worry about being abused by the same man over and over again. It turns out it was one of the worse mistakes that I had ever made.

Moving to Manning was about starting fresh and learning to live with my dad. What really happened is nothing short of the abuse that I already endured in my life. My dad was gone working in the bush running a cat. I was left at home with his wife that was so jealous of me it lead to her physically abusing me. This one day I don’t remember the reason but she was so angry at me about something that she actually pulled me by my hair to my bedroom. I could not believe that I put myself in this situation again. Then the disgusting names that she would call me, the worst names you can think of, it was said to me. I did try and tell my dad but he did not believe me that it had happened, so I found myself all alone. Really alone cause I did not even have my siblings there to comfort me. Then there was the incident where she was drinking and taking prescription medication and proceeded to try and drive 3 hours to Meander River. My goodness I was so scared it was freezing cold outside, snow banks were large on the road side and we hit the ditch. I am not sure how many times we hit the ditch on the way there but when the trucker pulled us out the last time he said ” maybe someone else should drive?'”. All I remember thinking was “who can drive Colleen was 14, I was 13, Joey was 10, and Allen had congenital defect”. So it was decided that Colleen would drive the rest of the way to High Level, and we did arrive there safe but it was one of the scariest times of my life. My step mom was just as bad as my mom with the prescription medications, I was thinking ” it is just better to go back to my moms and deal with her than deal with a crazy person wanting to drive while totally intoxicated” I was not ready to die. I made a attempt to tell someone about the abuse I was enduring at this home. I told my foster parents that had me as a baby, and that I could not do this anymore, I needed to get out. They suggested that I go to social services, but I knew what would happen if I did that. So I tried to leave the easiest way I could.

I told my dad the things that were happening and he did not believe me so he asked grandpa. Grandpa stated that things in the house hold were not good and reinforced that the incidents did happen. When dad came home and confronted my stepmom there was a big fight. It ended with my step mom leaving, moving to Meander River. The time that we were alone together I thought was good there was no drama, no abuse, and we were connecting. I do not remember how it came about that I moved back to my moms, just that I ended back up in Warspite on the farm.

One of the most painful wounds that can not be seen is the invalidation and disregard for our truth. Tammy 2019

Back on the farm my siblings were happy to have me home. I was happy to be back with them. The work load increased for me but I did not care I just did what I needed to do and move on. This one day I lost my temper telling Trevor to quit touching my butt, it triggered something in mom. She sat me down and begun asking questions for the first time ever. I told her what Harvey was trying and doing to me. She appeared to be upset about the situation. Mom must have talked about it with Harvey and there was tension in the air. Not long after Tammy came for a visit and it was at the right time. The visit must have made mom realize that we could be taken away again because of Harvey and decided to leave him.

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