Thursday, July 21, 2011

(43-359) My Story - Part 2

Let me start off by saying that I truly appreciate the heartfelt comments that I've been receiving in response to yesterday's post "My Story - Part 1".  Perhaps most bloggers wouldn't start chapter two of a story that way, but then again; I'm not most bloggers. 

If you read part 1 of my story, then I probably don't need to warn you that this is not a happy tale.  In fact, today's recollection is much more difficult for me to tell -  but I'm going to do it no matter how uncomfortable it is; because I want to leave a written record of what my life was like and how I got to be who I am now...

I did not speak to my mother at my father's funeral.  I didn't know what to say, and at the time I still believed all of the horrible lies that my father had told me about her.  My father's girlfriend made arrangements for my boyfriend and I to spend a week with a friend of mine who lived in Maryland; and upon my return she told me that I had to meet with my mom because I was going to have to go back to live with her.  There were a lot of hurt feelings on both ends I know, but my mother welcomed me back with open arms; and slowly but surely I reciprocated.

We had my Sweet 16 as planned, and a few days later I was admitted to the hospital for Arthroscopic knee surgery; which also had been scheduled before my father had passed away.  School was set to start a few weeks after that, and I didn't want to go to the high school that was by my mom's house since I had been teased terribly throughout Jr, high.  Because my mom understood how important it was to me to remain at Tappan Zee,  she made arrangements with my Principal so that I could use a friend's address and continue going to school there.  As a result of my knee surgery, I had an enormous cast on my left leg, from my ankle to my thigh and  since TZ was a good twenty minutes from my house, my mom went out of her way to drive me to school every morning and she paid someone to drive me home.

I got on with my life, adjusting to not having a father and getting reacquainted with my mother.  Then one day I was called to the Principal's office.  I was informed that I had enough credits to graduate that spring; but since I was only sixteen and had just gone through a truly, traumatic experience, I didn't feel ready to leave my new home.  I opted to stay with my mom, who had been in remission from her Cancer and took classes for college credit during my senior year.  My house became the party house, and all of my friends loved spending time with my mom. She was different.  She was honest with us, and she was fun, and funny and I had far too little time with her.

After being weight listed for my school of choice, my mom and I took a last minute trip to visit two of the Long Island University campuses.  Ultimately she and I agreed that Southampton was the right place for me; but imagine my surprise when on the first day of school, every other person I met was a marine biology major and I was there for Pre-law.  I thought there must have been some mistake.  I mean science was definitely not my forte and pardon the pun, but I felt like a real fish outta water.  I came to be assured that there were other majors at LIU-Southampton; it was just that most people did go there for Marine bio.  Most people, like my suite mate Michele Q.

During our getting to know you exercises Michele Q and I discovered that we had the same birthday.  And at the time, other than our birthdays and our residence, I thought that was all that we had in common.  It wasn't that I didn't like Michele Q; in retrospect, maybe I was just jealous.  She was vivacious, and confident and she walked around singing (beautifully) at the top of her lungs, and maybe just maybe I felt a little threatened by her. 

My mom came out for parents weekend, and she looked great.  I suppose that's why it was such a surprise that she ended up back in the hospital by Halloween.  Her cancer had come back, and I needed to get home to see her.  I was scared and I didn't want to go alone and when I asked if any of my suite mates would go home with me, Michele Q was the only one to say she would.  Michele enlisted our other suite mate Monique to come with us and they managed to turn a very frightening experience into a life changing event.  Michele came home with me every weekend to go see my mom in the hospital.  She had become my best friend; my sister. 

We almost lost my mom at Christmas time, but she managed to hold on.  I returned to school after the New year, but a week into my second semester, my Uncle called to say that my mom was being released from the hospital as there was nothing more that they could do for her, and I needed to withdraw from school, come home and take care of her.

When I got back to my mom's house, I found her in a hospital bed in our living room.  My grandparents had said that they would stay to help and there would be home health aides coming daily as well.  I enrolled at Rockland Community College, and I got a job at a bakery because I couldn't stand to be at home watching my mother deteriorate.  I would get up in the middle of the night when she called me for help, but I did so begrudgingly and that is a cross that I will always have to bare.  I won't make excuses for myself, but I do realize that I was 18 and for the second time in three years I was going to lose a parent.  I was watching my mother be slowly tortured and it was killing me; so no, I wasn't in good spirits when I tried to assist her and I will forever regret that.

While the Cancer took over my mom's body and she had no idea who I was; I had reapplied to the American University School of Justice in Washington D.C and got in.  But knowing that it wouldn't be long before we were going to lose my mom, I decided that I should stay closer to home for my brother's sake and I made plans to return to LIU in the fall.    Feeling like I was going to need to focus on more than just academics, I had applied to become a Freshman Student Assistant and after an extensive interview process I was selected for a position.  FSA training was scheduled for a week before school started, but knowing that my mom's end was near, I couldn't bring myself to leave.  I called Michelle Q, who had just arrived home after spending the  summer in Suriname.  And as soon as I told her how dire things had become with my mom, she literally dropped off her suitcases and got on a bus to come up to see me.

In the only moment of lucidity that my mom had experienced in weeks, she told Michele that she needed to pack me up and take me back to school.  I didn't want to go because I knew that I would never see my mom again, but Michele insisted as it was my mother's dying wish. 

I don't remember saying goodbye to my mother, as the person that I left in that hospital bed was a mere skeleton and not the exquisite, exuberant mom that I had grown to know and love.  I think that I must have cried almost all the way to school, but Michele reassured me that she would be there for me; and she was.

A few days after classes had started, I got the call that I knew was inevitable.  On September 11, 1986 my mom had lost her long, battle with Cancer and at the age of 19, I was parentless.  Michele and some other school friends took me home for the funeral and I attempted once again, to get on with my life.

My Uncle had moved in with my brother, as he was 17 and still needed to finish high school.  I tired to go home for Christmas, but I felt so uncomfortable there, that I never went back.  My Provost knew about my situation and as I wasn't eligible for work study, he created jobs for me so that I could live on campus during winter and summer breaks.

I worked as an FSA, I was Student Government Secretary for a year and a half, and President my senior year.  I changed my major to Sociology because I decided that I didn't want to be a lawyer and I didn't want to lose all of the college credits that I came in with from high school and I decided not to attend my graduation because even though Michele  and my dad's old girlfriend would have been there for me; I thought that it would just hurt too much.

After I lost my father, I thought to myself  that losing someone so unexpectedly must be so much more awful than knowing that someone was going to pass away.  But after watching my mom suffer the way she did, I can honestly say that in my opinion,  knowing is by far worse.   

I know that this story is an unusual one, and I readily admit that these experiences have left me with profound scars.  But each day I try to be the best person that I can be and I endeavor to be a person that my mom would be proud of.  I don't hold a grudge against Richie Howell, I just don't have any fond memories or good thoughts about him. Yet despite him and the course that he set in motion for my life,  I am happy.  I know that although I lost a lot at an early age, I also have so much more than most people, in the way of those who love and care for me.  
Till next time...


Julie Tucker-Wolek said...

So sorry that you had to go through all of this at such a young age... {{{hugs}}}

Bernice said...

Thank you for being so brave and so honest. Enjoy the next 43 years and more.

Erin K said...

Your story made me cry, thank you for sharing it. We may never know why we go through such difficult life experiences but we are all on a journey. Keep never know how many people you will impact and in what ways.

Paige said...

Thank you ladies! Your comments mean EVERYTHING to me!!!

I'm just a simple gal said...

Oh wow, you've had a rough go at it no question. I wish I could hug you... you are an AMAZING person and you are HUMAN! TFS your story with me...