Ryan’s story, amazing. He’s an amazing person, and has a fantastic story about adoption and abandonment. I know something about the latter. I was raised by a single parent. But, keep in mind, I don’t think my story is finished nor does it have a bow tie ending, at the moment. So, if you’re expecting that— don’t read anymore. If you were also wanting to read about a perfect Christian girl, yea, I am not that either. I curse way too much, I don’t always go to church, and I sin a lot. I don’t want to, but I just do. I am also difficult, constantly working, thinking about myself, my career. I am selfish. I don’t let anyone in, let alone, someone to love me.
Alright, from the beginning, my story. I was born to two drug addicts. Heard this one before? Yeah, I feel like it’s more common than not. I was that mistaken-pregnancy child that happened to an alcohol and heroin-addicted, father, and a crystal-meth addicted, mother. My mother calling her crystal-meth endearingly, “Ice, Ice, Baby”. The last thing my parents were paying attention to was birth control. Seriously, they needed to get their next fix on! Interestingly enough, my parents were married once, and then divorced, then conceived me. My mom loathed my dad, and my dad said he only married my mom because she wouldn’t leave him alone. And all he wanted to do was be left alone once his mother died. But that’s my father’s story, not mine. Contrasting my father, my mom had two incredibly loving parents. Both upper-middle class, giving her everything, she ever wanted. From when I knew her, she never had a job. But again, that’s someone else’s story, and not mine.
Back to me, my mom smoked, drank, and did a lot of stuff when she was pregnant with me. Somehow, I came out okay. As an infant, I was sick at first, but made it through! I turned out an okay baby. Then my dad went to jail shortly after my first birthday. He got out when I was four. He was sober. He was clean. He met Jesus, and loved him so much. He didn’t have a license, or a car. He didn’t even live in the same town as my mom and me. However, he was there. When he could, when he had money to give my mom, she would let him see me. He took me to double features at the movies, and bubble blowing in the park. I was four, that’s really all I could remember, but it was good times! It was different than with my mom. It’s funny how the good times tend to be so transparent in your memory, but the bad is colored in so richly... My mom chain-smoked, a lot. I remember because I have asthma and whenever she smoked— I got so much worst. I went to the hospital for pneumonia a lot as a kid. My dad always took me. My mom didn’t have food, often. I don’t know where it went. I remember eating toilet paper and seeing my tiny belly bulge. I remember my mom not coming out of her room for days, and I would somehow know to still take my asthma medicine. It was liquid, one was red, and another was pink. The pink tasted good, like simply syrup. The red, tasted metallic and bitter. But I took both, always.
I remember finding needles in pink-colored bath water. I remember my mom’s boyfriend lighting our yellow VW Bug on fire. The flames consumed the night sky. I remember my mom’s boyfriend hitting me in the face with a gun, giving me a bloody mouth and a blue- and-purple eye. Then firing his gun, grazing my ear, bullets lodging into my bedroom ceiling. My dad picked me up the next day because we were going to get our pictures taken at the mall. Yes, one of those cheesy mall-time photos! I wore a shirt that said, “I look like my Dad.” I still have that photo with my bruised and beaten face. My dad never took me back to my mom’s. I never saw her again. I was six.
My dad went to court, and he got full-custody of me. The only way my mom could see me, was to have court supervised visits, only if she passed a drug test beforehand. She never took one. Years later, I heard she moved to Portland. Had a few other kids with a few other men. She doesn’t have those kids though. She gave some away, others got taken away. Again, not my story. When I was growing up, I never missed her. It’s so hard to explain, I guess, telling people who grew up with two parents. Or, having a parent die at sixteen— like my dad. People ask a lot about it. And, hey, I don’t mind telling, if they ask. I don’t ever say, why I don’t have a mom, but people tend to pick up on it when I talk about my dad so much. They instinctively think, where’s her mom? But just like my tattoos, if you ask me about one, I’ll tell you the story behind it. Losing my mom at six was like losing a limb at six. I was so young, so nimble. I just learned so quickly and painlessly how to live without. It’s like my three-legged kitty, Roary. She had her leg amputated at eight-weeks. She runs, leaps, and jumps— she’s ferocious. She doesn’t care nor does she ever think about having only three legs.
It was only when, I turned twenty-two, I think, I really let it sink in: I never saw my mother again. It was because she wanted drugs. She wanted drugs, more than she wanted me. She loved drugs, more than she loved me. That really hurt. I studied film and art studio in college. That year, when I was twenty-two, my film project was about a mother who abandoned her child, willingly. I read the script to my classmates, and a lot of my female peers, found it incredibly unbelievable. As if I wrote magical realism or something. I remember, one very outspoken woman, saying to me, “Not even a dog would do that to her pups.” I never told her that my mom did that to me. I didn’t want her to feel bad. I graduated college that year. Did I mention that I got a full-ride scholarship? I graduated summa cum laude? I worked my butt off too. I had an internship, tons of classes for a double major, and a job. I barely slept for four years straight. Did I mention that my relationship with my dad got strained? It really did.
I’ll back up a bit. Okay, here’s the thing. My dad’s superman, he’s women woman too. He was mom, and dad growing up. My dad would have a hella nice job, working in the tech industry for a few years, and then he lost that job, and got a job as a taxicab driver. We moved from a house into a one-bedroom apartment—where he slept on the coach. Then, he got a cool job working IT for a bank, and then he lost that, and went back to being a driver. He was constantly yo-yoing. We went for doing alright, to eating “McDonald’s Dollar Menu” five nights a week. It was frustrating. I just wanted him to get it together. Stop losing jobs. Take care of himself! When I left for college, he moved into his sister’s house, where he was collecting unemployment. It was fine. If that’s the path he wanted to take. I was good to take care of myself. And I did, for awhile, until I got calls from my dad asking if he could borrow money, for this and that. I was eighteen, what was I going to do? Say no, to the man who wanted me when no one else did? Of course not.
Like every college student, I partied, I drank, I did crazy shit I am not proud of today. But I wouldn’t take it back. It’s those stupid mistakes that make me the person I am today. Well, towards the end of college, my dad got it together, had this amazing job at a printing press. He was making chill money. Then, he wasn’t. I was twenty-two, graduating, not knowing what I was going to do next in life. It’s crazy when you’re first graduating college; it feels like you’re jumping off of a mountain into foggy air. You can’t see anything, let alone your feet, how far away the ground is from you, or if you’re going to land safely.
My dad didn’t like the way I was living my life, forgetting about Jesus, drinking too much. He was also bragging how he did it; he got his daughter through college. I was like, excuse me? Did you pay for it? Did you take those crazy killer classes that had me doing all-nighters? Did you have a job at the news station that you woke up at two am, then went to classes at eight am ’til noon, then internship until five, then worked on directing projects within your department for your thesis until all hours of the night? Just to repeat the next day? I don’t think so! I also didn’t like how he was always leaning on me. I knew he gave up everything for me, when I was little, but I felt like, “Why am I obligated to start re-paying you back dad, since I turned eighteen? Was that seriously part of the deal when you have a kid?” I was so angry at Jesus for making me feel like I had no one, making me feel like I had to carry bricks stacked upon bricks, to get my stuff done.
I moved New York for grad school. I stopped talking to my dad, and everyone in my family, because I was just so done. I wanted to get as far away, as possible. Then, things were okay. Grad school was cool. I was killing it. I was so lonely. I started going to church again for companionship. Honestly, it was so selfish why I went. I had so much pressure and tension in my chest, but once I was there, it went away. I kept on going back for that relief. What my dad doesn’t know, (and that’s crazy because I tell him everything, he’s my best friend) is that I had been talking to my mom’s sister for a bit, around that time. Just over the phone, she lived in California. She talked to my mom, and to my amazement, my mom was still alive. She was living in middle of somewhere, U.S. So, for a while there, I was really angry with my mom. When people asked about her, I just said she was dead. I didn’t want to deal with her anymore either. My aunt called me on Christmas day; I was spending it alone in my apartment, completely snowed in. She said that my mom wanted to talk to me, and asked if she could call me. I thought, “It’s been eighteen years, what’s the point? There’s no point. Let it go.” I think, I knew, at that moment, I hadn’t forgiven her. I was really missing my limb.
Well, a few months after that, my dad showed up on my doorstep. He had no job, no money. He had been working in Chicago and shit went bad. You would think, knowing me, I would be pissed, tell him to go live in a homeless shelter or something. Well, I didn’t. I cried. I missed him, so much. I asked him to forgive me, and I forgave him. It was so simple, pressure melting off of me. I was free. Jesus showed me that. He taught me how to forgive. He taught me to love unconditionally, because he has always loved me. He loves me even though I am imperfect. He is with me always. I can see that now—he’s with me in the good times and the bad. I know he was with me when I almost had my head shot off as a kid. He was the one who told me to take my medicine, even the nasty red one. He was with me that night when I drank so much—had to get my stomach pumped. He was with me, helping me get into second graduate school, and an amazing job opportunity in LA. He’s always looking out for me. Gosh, who does that? Protecting me, loving me, always, never wanting anything in return...
So, I didn’t think ahead of time how I was going to end this story. Maybe, because, I am still living this story. It’s still going and going. I am finishing up my second MFA. I have this killer job in L.A. I am starting to let people in. I never really did that before. Yes, my mom abandoned me when I was six. Yes, I still haven’t forgiven her or taken that phone call, I talked about earlier. I am still working on that. I am still talking to Jesus about that. Yes, I do have a dad who is probably the opposite of abandonment. I couldn’t get rid of him, even if I really tried. He’s my best friend. I can tell him everything. He loves Jesus. He told me about Jesus when I was four-years- old. My dad prays for me everyday. He’s also always there for me. When I had to get surgery earlier this year, he was there. When I got into a car accident just a few days ago, he was there. He will always be there for me. He will always be on my side. So, that’s pretty cool. Do I hate that I grew up without a mom? Hell yea, I do. I wish I had a mom. Would I change it? Hell no. I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Jesus made my life so imperfectly, perfect. He showed me that. Yea, I had to work, still work, really, really hard to live. But gosh, you know that saying, the sweet just isn’t as sweet, without the bitter? Yea, I’m living that. And, you know what, I really thank Jesus for that. I guess that’s the end...