I remember walking out of the airport in Chicago into the parking garage. It was January of 1996 and I have never felt cold like that before. My nose seemingly stuck together as I took a breath in.
I was 16 years old, and I had just moved from my home with my grandparents in California to live with my half sister and her mother. The circumstances around my leaving California just ten weeks after the trial and suicide is a story for another day.
I wish I could tell you what I was feeling at that time. I’m sure I was sad, probably a little bit excited – but none of that was allowed through the armor that I had covered myself in to brace against the traumas of my life to that point.
It was a shame that I needed that armor still. The next 18 months of my life were equally traumatic as I endured the emotional abuse, and narcissism of my new guardian.
To say my life in the care of my sister’s mother was unstable is an understatement. In the 18 months that I lived with her, she moved us a total of five times, between three states. I went to three different high schools while living with her.
She did a lot of drinking in those early days of my arrival – many times with friends who lived an hour away over the border into Wisconsin. There were many times she would leave me to care for my 13 year old sister over night.
Unsupervised, angry, and rebellious – I took full advantage throwing house parties and influencing my little sister in all the wrong ways.
No Time for Me
There are numerous occasions she threatened to kick me out, other times she would drop me off with her friends for a week or two at a time because she “couldn’t handle me”.
One time in particular, I was left for two week with the family of her boyfriend at the time – in Kentucky – 8 hours away from where we lived. I did nothing for those two weeks but sit on a farm in the middle of nowhere, with people I didn’t know, and smoke pot with the guy that lived in the garage.
She left me with the people in Kentucky a couple times, before moving us down there completely.
When she couldn’t find work after a couple months in Kentucky, she went to work in Illinois and would travel every weekend between the states, leaving me and my sister in the care of her on again, off again alcoholic husband.
Our time in Kentucky ended abruptly one week in December 1996 when her husband broke parole, went out drinking with his nephews, and wrecked the car they were in killing one of them.
I found out what happened through calls to police and hospitals when he never returned home that fateful night, leaving my sister and I unsupervised. Then I notified my sister’s mother so she could make the drive down to get us.
State, Take Her Away!
Twice, for offenses I do not recall, she attempted to sign my over into state systems. Once was during the short time we lived in Kentucky, once in Wisconsin. Both instances I can only assume the child service agencies found I was not a threat to the household because neither time was I taken away.
She continually reinforced in me the belief that I was unwanted, and a burden to anyone who was charged with my care.
In the final months of my 17th year, she became adverse to the boy I was dating and began to use him as leverage to control me. I remember one night in particular she kicked me out of the house, so he got a hotel room for us. The next morning I called her from a friend’s house to let her know I was okay and to see if I could come back home – she instead had me arrested at my friend’s house for running away.
I was taken to the police station and cuffed to a bench to wait for her to pick me up. When she got there, she tried to have the officers charge my boyfriend with statutory rape. Due to our ages, it didn’t work.
I believe it was through this situation that the final attempt to have the state take me away occurred. When that didn’t go her way, she threatened to make me live in the unfinished basement of the home we were living in so instead (with her blessing) I left to go live with a friend.
I Got Out, Or Did I?
I turned 18 soon after, signed myself out of high school, moved in with my boyfriend and was quickly married and pregnant.
When I first found out I was pregnant she told me to leave him and that she could still add me to her insurance so I could abort. I wonder if she remembers telling me that?
She didn’t come to my wedding.
I wish I could remember what reconnected us – but by the time my son was born, we were talking again. This has been my life’s pattern with my sister’s mother. She has treated me badly yet I continue to stick around and take it.
The course of my relationship with this woman has been tumultuous and painful. For a short time after my first husband and I separated I lived with her and my young child. I was an adult at this time, working two jobs to save and take care of my own child yet she treated me like I was a minor child in her home that she could order around.
Her need for control was over the top.
Through failed attempts to control me and my parenting she eventually found a situation to blow out of proportion and once again, she kicked me out – this time with my three year old child. In the years that followed, I made a life for myself, refused to ever go back – but have always maintained contact with her.
Until four years ago, I referred to her as mom. That’s how badly I wanted to have that connection, that type of unconditional love and acceptance.
As New Realities Sinks In
As I have told my story the last four years I have always believed that I am able to share so freely because the people who abused me are dead or thousands of miles away. I have never identified with this abuse from her, until now.
Only now, am I gaining awareness of my trauma responses regarding her and why I continue to allow her into my life.
After she kicked me out, for the next 15 or so years, I maintained a moderated relationship with her but she still continued to let me and my son down. She has always been so unreliable and untrustworthy. Yet, I continued to put up with it … until my graduation in May 2016.
As I mentioned in part one of this story – that was the catalyst for me to end all contact. That was my breaking point. I needed space.
Now, new levels of awareness and healing are guiding me to finally face the reality of what she did to me and how I have carried it instead of placing it rightfully back with her. I can’t hide from my anger or my hurt anymore but I refuse to carry it longer than necessary.
My sister’s mother made me feel horrible about myself as a child. I came to her just ten weeks after my grandfather had killed himself and my own father was scheduled to testify against me. I was a broken child who had just been shipped off again because my grandparents couldn’t handle my responses to the trauma. And all she did was reinforce every perception I had drawn of the world around me.
My sister’s mother was one of the many adults in my life who abused me rather than care for and nurture me.
I am owning that part of my story. Now it’s time to start healing it.
Stay tuned as I explore my feeling about sharing, why I chose to reconnect with her and how I feel about it, as well as what I hope will come from all of this.
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