Tuesday, May 7, 2013

My Kids, My Life, My past

Seconds after I glazed into my granddaughter’s eyes, warmth filled my soul. To hold her, love her and kiss her cheek is only one of the million reasons I love being a mother and grandmother.

My fun loving grandson has a giggle that brings back fantastic memories of his father (my son) standing at my parents front door giving that same identical giggle.

I have had the wonderful experience of living in 12 different foster homes before the age of 14. I remember coping with a mother who dealt with rejection and mental illness. A sickness filled with poison not just to her, but to all those around. Mental illness brought a dark cold cloud over my family.

My past haunts me. Memories I have capture deep in my heart that sometimes bleed out and drain me from the life I lived as a child and teenager. I think of the blessings I have been given. The blessing of being able to see out of one eye, to give birth to five amazing children and now to raise a special needs son who has brought full circle what matters in life. I have many blessings that encompass my heart from the pain.

I want to share part of a chapter from my novel. A manuscript that took years to nourish and now it is starting to breathe on its own.


Mom’s illnesses came in cycles, like the orbits of the moon around the earth, and it gave different appearances. My favorite type of moon is either a full moon or a half moon. I had heard a new moon, also called the dark moon when shadowed from the sun, can either be invisible or have a slender crescent. On this visit, I realized my mom was invisible and in the dark moon cycle, which made it impossible for her to be a part of our family or my life.

We stepped off the elevator and I found her across the room with her uncombed, matted hair. She sat on the edge of her bed, with her light-blue hospital gown displaying the outline of her large breasts. With each step I took, I observed Mom’s right leg bouncing with a constant rhythm. I was familiar with this habit of hers. Taking a seat by her and rubbing her arm, I hoped she would awake and escape from the world that held her captive.

She rocked back and forth, making a continual hum under her breath. She didn’t move her arm or respond to my touch, but her leg continually bounced. My heart ached to have any kind of love and attention from my mother. I glanced at her expression. There was no smile, no twinkle in her eyes, and I sensed bottomless pain, deeper than any ocean and taller than any mountain, unending in either direction.

Dad sat on the other side of Mom and tenderly touched her back.

I took a leisurely look around the room and noticed other patients in the same state as my mother. Some yelled out, some banged their hands against the wall and a small, old lady pulled her hair for gratification.

I repeated several times to myself the word, “Courage.” I felt I needed to show courage to be strong for Mom; bravery to not be afraid of the people who surrounded me. My hands trembled. I clasped them and hoped no one noticed. I watched as a worker stopped at the bed of each patient. He pushed a cart with small, clear cups on a tray and a water pitcher with individual medication containers.

Mom usually wasn’t on the third floor, but, for some odd reason, she had taken a step back emotionally. I liked our visits on the second floor better, because she was verbal. 

When my hands stopped shaking, I touched my mother’s hand and wondered if she remembered using those hands as she held Gigi’s head under the bath water or when she placed them around my neck.

I hoped she would abandon the ugly memories from her past locked inside her. My dad told me that the twenty-one electroshock therapies, she has had these last two years, had helped some of the past vanish. I personally hated the electroshock, because it made her vacant inside with no emotion. It made her become a robot.

I grabbed my ponytail and stroked it slowly, trying to think of the words I could say that would persuade her to come home. Now that I was twelve, I needed her. I needed her to teach me how to style my hair. I heard my friends talk at school about shaving their legs, wearing a bra. I needed guidance. I wanted my mom to teach me about what my friends had learned already.

“Mom, when are you coming home?”

I waited five minutes and, while I waited, I watched a woman across the room who yelled nonstop. When Mom spoke, I ignored the other woman and listened to my mom.

“I am not sure, Lizzie.”

I took a deep breath and smelled an unfamiliar odor. I began to get sick to my stomach. I exhaled and bent forward so I could see my dad on the other side of my mother. Amidst all the people, I felt Dad and I were the only ordinary ones in the room. This time my brothers didn’t come; I wished they had.

A clock on the far north wall made a distinct sound. I looked at the clock and wondered If Mom realized the date and time. I wondered if my mom heard the sound of the clock.

Moments before we left, I wrapped my arms around her and whispered into her ear,” “I love you, Mom.”

I then walked over to the elevator and waited while Dad talked privately with Mom. She glanced away as he spoke words of comfort. She hadn’t responded to either of us. I took a picture in my mind of my parents and captured it in my heart with a prayer; someday we’d be a normal family under the same roof again.

Dad drove me back to the Nottingham’s and parked in front of their house. I wished he would have driven me home instead.

Dad squeezed my shoulder, “Elizabeth we are here.”

I moved my body nearer to him and hugged him.

“I love you, dad. Can you please take me home with you?”

Dad rubbed his hand over his mouth.

“Oh, honey, I wish you could come home. Let’s have faith that it will be soon. Look, they are waiting for you at the door.”

I didn’t want to let go, but I knew I had to. I walked up the driveway of the foster family’s home and kept the warmth of my father’s love with each step I took. Under my breath, I said, “I want to go home.”

That night I laid back on the bed they had provided me and clasped my hands behind my head. I stared out the window with a desire to reminisce about an experience I had with my dad, when he drove me around town in his semi-truck, delivering orange juice, lemon juice, pickled onions, plus other foods to bars, stores and restaurants. I thought of the happiness I felt when I was with my dad. Even though I had to ride in the trailer, which was basically a large refrigerator on wheels with crates stacked and tied from floor to ceiling, I realized if I didn’t go with Dad on his delivery route, I had to be put back in a foster home. Mom wasn’t able to be a mother to me, so Dad took over and kept me safe. When I first climbed into the trailer, the arctic breeze circled around me--an added bonus after being out in hundred-plus degree Phoenix weather. My dad turned a crate upside down so I could sit on it.

Dad smiled at me.

“Are you okay there? I wish you could ride in the cab with me, but if my boss found out, he’d fire me.” 

I smiled and sat down.

“Yup,” I said.

He grinned as he closed the doors of the trailer and, within minutes, darkness surrounded me, blacker than the midnight sky. I heard the door latch shut and then counted how long it took for my dad to climb up into the cab to start it up. I always visualized his short, stocky legs as they reached up to the steps. Even though the trailer was cold and I often got scared, I trusted that my dad would unlock the doors and let me out. When my dad turned a corner, the crate I sat on slid quickly across the trailer. I attached my fingers tightly in the crate holes and prayed it wouldn’t fall over.

A knock on the bedroom door broke that safe place I felt I was at. At least I believed I was there in thought in the back of Dad’s truck and on my way home.


I lived this…I know all trials are filled with pain and joy. To me this trial was one of faith, hope and love for not just myself, but for all those around me. I feel blessed that the Nottingham’s took me in and let me live under their roof.