If you missed the last post, you can catch up here.
I don’t know if you know many ten year olds, but I imagine that if you do, you’ll see how difficult it is for them to recount the chronological order of events this month, or year, or even the last 5 years. You understand how trying that exercise on myself 15 years after the fact is only that much harder.
I know that I’ve left things out and have made it a point to not really put things on a hard timeline thus far, so continuing on that theme, know that these are approximate ages for these stories and please forgive me if you somehow are able to fact-check and see that I’m way off base.
Also, I want to note that I am so, so, so thankful for everyone who has taken the time to read this far and has reached out to share stories or experiences, or kind words. All are much appreciated! However, for fear of this becoming perceived as some dark, mopey narrative, I want to pause and let readers know that we’re almost out of the fire, so hang tight and I’ll absolutely be writing about the best of times shortly.
& with that…a note from my therapist back then.
Somewhere in this hot mess of adolescence, we got adopted. I think typically this is a time for celebration, but in our house, it was a time of dread. Shane, Laurel, and I even held a small counsel once in the basement, voted that we’d about had it with these psychos, and elected that we get to moving on. I was nominated as the spokesperson and marched up to Lisa’s study to inform her that we no longer needed her services and would appreciate if she would pass that along the proper channels. Lisa dutifully picked up the phone, called up our caseworker, and the appointment was set. Mr. Caseworker showed up on his scheduled visit and sat on the couch with his back to Lisa and we three sat facing the two of them. Now, I’m no nark, or anything, but have you ever tried to tell on someone for doing a bad thing with that person standing right the fuck there scowling at you menacingly?? That shit ain’t easy. My spokeswoman persona regressed into the timid little vermin that my mother taught me to be, and Mr. Caseworker left our house that day scratching his head as to what exactly that was all about. Lisa was all smiles as she walked him to the door and assured him that she was just as bewildered as he was. No sooner did she shut the door than time stood still and she turned around, a scowl clouding her features, at last having us all to herself – her little playthings.
I remember standing in the kitchen, unloading the dishwasher when Lisa and I were discussing our upcoming adoption. Puzzled by the legal proceedings of the entire affair, I had lots of questions. Lisa had been remarking lately about paying this and that for the adoption, and she wasn’t making the comments very lovingly. She always brought up how she and Stan had given up their unhampered lifestyle and sacrificed cruises and vacations and all kinds of luxuries to take care of me and my dratted siblings all because God told her to. (Dramatic, much??) So, to me, knowing what I knew and learning about US history at the time, this sounded a lot like a human trafficking situation. “Why do you even want to buy us???”, I asked. She, taken aback, explained that there was no slavery going on here and we weren’t being bought, but lawyers had to be paid, there were court costs, and who knows what other expenses there were to be had. I, unconvinced, asked, “So if this isn’t slavery, why didn’t you ask us if we want to be ‘adopted’?” In my mind, I’m hearing about a financial exchange, I know full well that I don’t want this to be my forever family, and it doesn’t even sound like my mom really wants me all that much, soooo isn’t this a lose/lose/lose? “Well, do you want to be adopted?” Feeling stupid and on-the-spot, “yes.”, I mumble.
Note: I think that this home is where the philosophy that “no one wants to hear what you actually want, and if they do, they’ll pretend they didn’t” was ingrained into my soul. This instinct is still my default and is something that I’ve been trying to shed for years, but you’ll see it re-appear moving forward.
So in the end, we lost and now we’re adopted. The game has changed and we just went from seeing the light at the end of the tunnel to straight up survival mode. We had to figure out how to maintain our sanity in this hell-hole until we were 18 and could walk away. Being so young, logic wasn’t a strong-suit yet, but by golly, we had imaginations abound. We began laying plans to run away and live off the land in the woods behind our house. Shane brought his pocket knife on our afternoon hikes after school and began marking trees we could use as potential meet up locations if, for some reason, we got split up. We practiced using our Rhodesian Ridgeback as a packhorse because he didn’t deserve that life either, but he simply was not having this mutiny. We would load him with doll clothes (in case we found an abandoned baby along the way) and bars of soap and he would plop down before he was even close to capacity. We agreed that the best way to not have our plans prematurely discovered was to start hoarding necessities little by little. Go figure the stash spot was under my side of the bed I shared with Laurel. As luck would have it, we were beginning to accumulate quite a little nest egg when one day, Detective Lisa was struck with the notion that today was the day to do a room sweep. She lifted the bedskirt in my room and stared dumbfoundedly at the random collection of household items before her. Shane had taken some initiative a few weeks prior and snagged some dog treats during a family visit to Petco, just in case we were attacked by rabid dogs in our escape, needing to win them over with wholesome snacks. Lisa now held the icing covered bones in her hand and looked at us, crowded in the doorway, for an explanation. “Uh, I was gonna eat those,” Shane said. *Facepalm*
With our escape plans having suffered a major setback, it was back to the drawing board. “Hmmm, run away?” “Nah. Too risky now.” “What about homicide?” “Now there’s an idea.” OK, we were children, we didn’t know what homicide was, but we did consider locking our parents in their room and setting the house on fire. In the end, we nixed the idea because what about the dogs and the goldfish?? They didn’t deserve to suffer because of their shitty parents!
Taking matters into my own hands one night, I decided that Stan and Lisa would be happier if I wasn’t around. I knew all the creaky spots on the way from my room in the basement to upstairs, thanks to my late night ventures into mom’s study, so it was second nature as I stole silently through the house and into the kitchen. Slowly and quietly, I held my breath as I inched open the knife drawer. “Enjoy your vacations now, mom and dad,” I thought sarcastically. Carefully, I slid the butcher knife out of its hiding place. Apparently I had a very Hollywood-esque idea of suicide, because my approach was all wrong. I pulled up my shirt, exposing my ten-year-old tummy and rested the glinting tip of the knife against my skin. Closing my eyes, I bit my lip and wrapped my hands around the blunt end of the handle, readying myself for some downright Seppuku shit. Applying pressure a little bit at a time, I quickly realized I was a spineless scum and couldn’t follow through, so I returned the knife ashamedly. I slinked back to my room and cried.
Shane on the other hand, was born with brass balls. He wrote a note to Stan and Lisa, apologizing for his existence and left them a ten dollar bill for their troubles. He ran away for a few hours, but changed his mind about it all before the sun came up. When he returned, Laurel and I were eager to hear every detail. Shane had wandered around in the woods for a while like we planned (I think he woke us up that night and asked if we wanted to come, but we thought he was joking and blew it off), but grew tired of waiting and moved on. He explored for a bit in the dark, but began to worry about the repercussions of being caught. Satisfied with the knowledge that he could get away if he wanted, Shane returned home, trashed his note, and went to bed as if nothing had happened. And nothing did happen…..this time.
Note: I know I’m writing about these topics pretty flippantly, but if you or anyone you know is struggling with feelings of depression or suicide, I know it is serious, and there are resources available below, or you can reach out to me any time if you just want to talk!