It has been some time since I have written with the presence of chickens in my life; it has been some time since I have really written. It is not for the words failing to be there, however a lack of time. Life has a way of catching up and taking hold. Maybe it is the change of the season, maybe it is the change of moving in with him, maybe it is the kids growing up, and maybe it is me growing up too. Time and change is the one thing that is consistent no matter what happens in our lives though. So with the addition of chickens once again into my life, our lives now, I find myself slowing and taking a look around at what is important- the balance.
This past holiday week has been one of a serious change; I did not cook for my family. I went to Michael’s parents and took my youngest daughter Irene who is seventeen in tow with us. My older children survived and did let me know it will not be tolerated again next year. They had to endure a side of the family they have not before, my daughter in-laws. No one was on time, the food was two hours late, there were no left-overs to be delved out into the various store-bought to go containers for everyone to take home never returning and the deserts were so different. Mom where were you? At least they knew where I was. I am not lost in my addiction and for that we are thankful. I digress.
The Thanksgiving feast with his parents was a bit different too. The food, the company, the conversation, the kids table. I have not had a kids table since I was a kid myself. I have always had the longest Charlie Brown table ever strewn together pushing back the television and coffee table to make way from one end of the kitchen to the other end of the living room. Those who came were always welcomed, even the family I never invited that found their way to the table from my mother’s invite. Irene sat with me and the adults. I am not sure if she wanted to sit with them, the answer was no thank you when they offered- she was fine. She is always “fine.” The “them” was the kids and Irene may have been the youngest of them all still in high school. The just graduated and off to college kids who were all very chatty with smiles and talk of the latest adventures from college to work, along with several of the very older kids with scandalous adventures of their own. I am sure the conversation was fun and exciting, it sounded that way from where I sat at least and at one point I even longed for the kids table.
Irene sat alone on the couch prior to dinner with her headphones, laptop, phone and her game just in case one died and she had no choice but to use the other. Now at the first mention I would be attending dinner with his family mine said what about Irene, I knew she would survive. No matter if she were with me or them she would be ok and the truth is with less younger toddlers running rampant around the house I knew the better option for her was with me. Why? Autism.
That one word seems to sum up so much of our lives, of hers. Of course for the added bonus we get Depression, ADHD and Anxiety because why not. Someone has to do it right? Not everyone understands this and that’s quite alright. Usually most grasp the subtle nuances Irene delivers, some do not. The way she does not look you in the eye, she does not even look your way while you may be talking to her or vice versa. There are still those that just don’t get it and “it” is the idea that she can just go jump into a conversation and start asking questions. That is not Irene. That more than likely will never be Irene either. The subject at the adult table had led to this and Michael’s brother in law insisting Irene go talk to his children at the kids table immediately because they knew everything she needed to know about math and college. Now this may be true. Once again this is not something that would be happening. Instead Michael’s sister jumped into the conversation saving Irene from embarrassment, not that anyone was aware that was happening. I was.
I had noticed Irene excused herself to the restroom. Her escape. Her refuge away from people, from loud people from nosy people from pushy people from people. Not that the adults were any of that, however I am aware of how my daughter perceives the world; how she perceives me. Her refuge. A quiet place; and this place in this house was the bathroom that I would have to check on her momentarily as to not draw attention to her disappearance. When she reappeared her face was bleeding on her forehead below the hairline and on her nose. Irene had taken away her thoughts and embarrassment by picking at herself and I am thankful it did not go too far this time. That she had the ability to stop and return to the table. I think the only person to notice other than myself was Michael’s sister Leslie; she never said a word but I could tell with a look she was aware.
College. Now all of this conversation started because my Irene is on her way, it is that time. It is the time that all parents work for, they hope for; that their child who is so brilliant and bright, so successful, so young with the whole world at their fingertips can go away to any college in the country and have any future they want and work for. In fact all day today we have spent with college applications, taking brief diversions for Christmas tree decorations and pizza not to mention a few tears with the pressure she must have been feeling to be the perfect child with the perfect grades to get into college for her pushy mother. I left her alone to answer a question and oh my goodness if I told you what she wrote I could be arrested. Her mind all I can say has no limitations, no understanding of what she says and how she says and writes it can affect her life- she has no filter. Irene with all the academic brilliance she has holds no understanding of the real world and how it works or that what she writes could limit her entrance no matter how perfect her grades are.
Which brings me to the box folder. Throughout my navigating the world and advocating for my daughter with all her disabilities learning about resources and what I need to do to ensure she has all the opportunities anyone in this world has and that includes the best college experience at the best college she can get into and grasping the fact myself that no matter how brilliant my child is the reality lies in the actuality that I cannot send her across the country because I need to be able to get to her just in case. In case she needs me, in case she melts down- just in case. That’s it. I am quite aware of the facts and they are without a doubt no matter what; Irene will more than likely live with me for her entire life. She does not have the ability to navigate the world on her own. The world is too dangerous for her to understand and she needs protection. With all her academic achievements she does not understand the value of a dollar, how it is worked for and how it spends. How she can say no and yes that might even mean with her very own body- those are my fears for my seventeen year old child who I hope one day can go away to college to earn a degree and just experience that life. For even just a moment if that’s all she gets.
The box folder is the woman who works folding boxes. She has a master’s in English literature and she folds boxes for a living part-time with an organization that sends a shuttle bus for her that picks her up in front of her parents’ home and delivers her at the end of her day back to her parent’s home. Her sister told me her parents sent her to college to give her something to do for a few years and when she was done the fact remained that all she was capable of doing with her master’s degree was to fold boxes. I am sure she is the best box folder out there!
Am I pushing her? Irene. All I want for my child is happiness. That is all. She wants to go to college, she wants to live in a dorm, she want to do things away from her mother like other people do. I understand. I want to give her all those things too; most importantly I want her to be safe. It is my job as her parent to keep her safe. I get to do that today. What a gift that I get to be present for.
The Chicken Lady
To just not want to be! Not there with him, not there with me! One more time with a busted face. In the situations that I got myself into, those one more time here I go situations. I was not a victim, I was a product of the life that I chose.
I remember though that last drive in the field with him. That out in the middle of nowhere, off the dirt road in the country farming field drive. Yep- I thought that was it. He did love me in his way and I loved him in mine. The sick individual that I was who had all but succumbed to the disease of addiction. I remember just listening to him go on and on about me of course; what I was and what I was making him do to me. What saved me that day was my God. One more time. When the farmer drove out to see who was in his field I stared at him through the truck window blankly.
Please see me is what my face said without a word. See me! You will see it one day I hope in a missing persons report, maybe on television- have you seen her? They might be able to reconstruct my body with the bones that have been found. I don’t know how long it will take them to find me, I don’t know how long it will take anyone to notice I am gone. Those are the thoughts that went through my head on that day. He did look at me, almost as if he knew what I was thinking. He drove back around and stared at us as he drove out of the field as if to say to him- I saw her.
That farmer probably would have been the only one to wonder where I was. I had been gone for so long. Gone from my family, from my children, from life. I was a shell of a human being with no spirit in her whatsoever. I had become a machine who was capable of the most outrageous sort of nonsense that always ended in pain. Pain was my friend however, it was the only thing that stayed with me throughout the years. What I knew to be true in my life. Pain.
Within twenty-four hours though the pain was just too much to bear. I could no longer hide my heroin use from him which made everything worse than what it already was. If I could just use a little more to take me away. Just one more. Just for a little bit. All the other drugs we used were ok, but not this one, not with him. As he walked around the truck telling me all about myself he never noticed- he couldn’t see. All those stashes I had, all the pills the booze the this and the that. I took it all. I just wanted to not be there. I wanted to be anywhere but there.
I was supposed to stay in the truck and not move. That was my mission while he went in real quick. It felt like forever and I was falling out. I just needed to move- my head was spinning. I made it to the corner store, they knew me well in there. I remember seeing him drive the other way- he never saw me. The last thing I remember was the clerk asking me if I was ok and the next thing I remember was her.
She asked me if I knew my name. She asked me if I tried to kill myself. I nodded yes. With tears rolling down the corner of my eyes as they are now and the ventilator tubes down my throat, iv’s everywhere I nodded yes. She bent down and whispered into my ears,”honey don’t say that, you don’t want to go where they are going to send you if you say that, I am going to ask you again.” When she did I said I shook my head no. I called him when it was time to be released but he did not answer. Of course not, he did not know the number. The only other number I knew was my mother’s.
She picked me up, it was less than those twenty-four hours again. I could barely walk and couldn’t stay awake for sure. She wanted to talk to me but that was not possible. She didn’t know. What she saw was the hospital release, with all the drugs and mom called the police. She was always calling the police on me, from the age of 13 she had been calling them. This time was different though- they took me. With all her screaming and crying not to take me, they took me. Once again that was my God. Removing me from a situation I might not walked away from.
I went down for a 45 day commitment for failure to pay child support on those children I had abandoned. Within two weeks Richard would be held up in a hotel on Richard’s Blvd. no less for a twenty-two hour stand-off with every law enforcement agency around including the ATF shutting down the local freeway. I watched this go down from my cell to the best of my ability until they took me out of my cell for that recording. He was willing to come out and surrender if he could speak to me- that wasn’t going to happen, but they were willing to relay a recording. So I did. I started it off with the gun he has is mine and any crime used with it before this stand-off was mine as well. It ended with tear gas and you can imagine the rest.
Shortly after my release that time I was introduced to detox. I needed it. It would not be my first, but it is what it is and it took what it took. I am grateful for those times in my life. They have made me who I am today. Many people I knew from those days said when they saw him on television with the stand-off they knew I was dead already. He had killed me they thought. He must have killed me otherwise I would have been there with him in that hotel room. What I know today is if I had been there- he would have.
Did I mention I married him? I did. Or at least I did just as soon as I could and that would take a little bit longer. That is not today’s story though.
Who walks away from their life? From their children’s lives, parents, family of any kind and friends? An addict does that’s who- an addict caught in the grips of addiction. What does an addict look like? Like any of us. I know because I am an addict in recovery named Christine.
Of course I didn’t start out when I was younger thinking to myself- I think I will grow up and become an addict. I had dreams as a young girl, I wanted to go to college, travel and be a teacher I remember. A third grade teacher. My third grade teacher made such an impact on me; I vividly remember making nail soup where all the students were tasked to bring in a can or bag of some kind of bean or vegetable for this concoction. What I know now is that was teamwork at its best. That was an act of all of us doing something for the common good- lunch. It also taught me that I could create something, something that tasted delicious.
By the time I was in sixth grade I was well on my way and already using something to change the way I felt. I didn’t look like it –YET. I would be able to hide my using for years to come. Things I could not hide were the self-inflicted scars on my hands and thighs. Gashes that I would gauge into myself with my own hands, clawing and scrapping with my finger nails until I bled or just couldn’t take the burning pain of flesh anymore. Pain was my friend for many years, pain was at least a feeling I could feel that took me away from feeling anything else long before the drugs ever did. Surprisingly enough no one ever noticed the sores on my body; I was always getting some scar from something I was doing so what’s another. No one really paid attention either- they did pay attention when the trouble began I noticed and trouble started happening young and wouldn’t stop until I stopped using. Imagine that.
This picture was taken after, after I had already had my children removed from me. After I chose drugs and the life that came with it over everything else. Can you tell I was so hopeless? I had come up for air a bit here so I did look somewhat cleaned up. I was just trying to hold on and smile for the camera. I was happy at that moment I am sure of it- of course I was; I was with my children. I remember we were at Mom’s house, those are her couches and that’s my Dad. Mom still had guardianship of all four of my children and dad was there helping out (they divorced when I was very young) – that would change soon. I would be arrested again and that is when the courts severed all rights to my then youngest child Anthony, not in the picture as he was in foster care; eventually he would be put up for adoption after a series of unfortunate events involving other family members who tried to keep him in the family but were addicts themselves. My oldest Niko and youngest Cassidy in the picture would stay with my mother and due to allegations the two middle children Marina and Alex would go to my ex-husband.
I didn’t know. I didn’t have any clue or idea that I would not see Marina and Alex for so long. It was just another day like any other. I was locked up on a 10 day hold, no bail. I never bailed out- total waste of money and if there was money to be had I needed it to get loaded with. However I remember being shuffled in chains to the family courthouse; I was a hot mess. The judge took a look at me and struck the gavel giving my children away. That was it- they were gone. I went back to my cell and slept. Not a care in the world. Drugs had robbed me of the ability to feel for real by then. I was emotionless and my only thought was counting down the days until my release. I had to get high, I had to get away- far away where no one knew me for a while. That was my excuse all the time, I just had to get away.
No one knew me really, not even those closest to me. At this point I had secretly given two children up for adoption deep into my addiction. One from a man named Albert whose only problem is that he loved me too much and it scared me so I left him. I would tell Albert I had a miscarriage and that the pain from that was the reason I never wanted to see him again. The other from a man who killed himself- Mike. I carried a lot of guilt from that for a very long time. Mike and I went way back, back to my runaway years- after the bust he went away for five years federal. Some people died then, some went to prison, and many I would never see again. I often thought if I had told Mike I was pregnant would he have killed himself that night? If I had let him take me would he have killed me too? If I had never given him that first one would this had happened? I mean why not celebrate after that high risk federal parole case finally closes with mounds of dope right. I remember how he said no he can’t and I did it all myself leaving him that night. It took him just a few short days to catch up to me, pass me up and get into psychosis for me to then close the door on his face that night. When they told me what had happened I just couldn’t do it, I couldn’t keep his child. Just another excuse to give away a baby that I couldn’t deny existed and no one had a clue of anyway, it was a girl.
Today marks 9 years since I walked out of the Sacramento County Jail, April 24, 2009 after serving 8 months of a year sentence. I wanted something different. I knew I was an addict now- I had evidence. Years and years of evidence. Years and years of incarceration, in some county, somewhere, always dragging me back to Sac County because I always had a warrant. I was actually supposed to be released on the April 23rd, but you know I caught an extra day. I couldn’t even stay outta trouble in jail! Had I gotten out on the 23rd who knows what would have happened- there was someone there waiting for me I might have actually went with. Instead I was released on the 24th almost missing my daughter Irene’s birthday on the 26th. I didn’t know how much extra time I was going to get- you never do. By the way that was no coincidence, that was a loving Higher Power intervening in my life one more time.
My moment of clarity happened locked up that last time for those 8 months in the county jail. I had the opportunity to see Marina and Alex again for the first time in 10 years. I was shuffled back to the family courthouse in chains. My children were now 15 and 16 years old, they were so big. Where had the time gone? It had gone the same place my spirit and soul had gone- to my addiction. When they took me back to my cell that day I had realized one thing and one thing only; I was in that same jail on that same floor 10 years earlier when the judge made the decision to give my children away. It was then when I knew I was an addict. That drugs had the power over me to turn Christine into someone she no longer wanted to be- I had surrendered.
Besides todays date my clean date, September 5, 2008; the day of my last arrest, September 4, 2008; the day I got my son Alex out of foster care at 15, February 10, 2010, my daughter Marina emancipated out of the system at 18 that December; the day I earned the right to have custody of my youngest girls Irene (who was born after all that under the craziest of circumstances that we just don’t have time for right now) and Cassidy, October 2, 2012 are some of the most important dates in my life.
I remember everything now- I never want to forget what I was like.
Life goes on and I have new dates that mean so much to me now too including good memories with those that I love and those that love me. I have my spirit and soul back, it’s been with me for some time. I am forever grateful for finding a new way to live and for that I give back what was freely given to me.
The Chicken Lady
I remember when I was young coming to Dillon Beach the first time with friends. A boyfriend in fact. A group of couples camping, I was maybe 14. Then we came often alone. Then I came often alone- after I’d run away. This place has always held a piece of my heart. Wasted youth.
Oh the parties we had on the beach, the bonfires and fun. To be so young and so in love with life; in love with him too. I remember. I still had so many hopes and dreams- school, friends, family and travel. I was 13 when I met him and almost 16 when I left him; when I left the life that I knew.
I met John on my 13th birthday in fact at the kegger my 20 year old boyfriend and I were throwing at my house. Good times. My mother had left for the evening- intentionally so I could have the party. My uncle had furnished a few extra bottles of booze; pre-mixed Long Island Ice Tea, Meyers Rum and of course my fave Southern Comfort. Yes times were different.
Bobby Scott was the older boyfriend who I would leave shortly after my birthday. I’d been in love with him since maybe the age of 9; the local charmer from Arden Manor. He used to have all the girls swooning at the swimming pool- he was a diver from the high board. Bobby was always sweet to us though and threw everyone off his shoulders into the water. He died a few years back from a broken heart in his addiction.
If you would have said I would grow up to be an addict when I was a kid- no one would have believed you. I didn’t even know what an addict was. I did though, grow up to be an addict. Yes through the choices I made I chose using over everything until I found a new way to live.
I remember coming to this beach about 8 years ago with my family and as my kids played in the ocean I laid back and shed a lot of tears for the life that I chose. How did that happen? I knew exactly when- when I ran and left him. I would not stop running for years. Sure I came up for air sometimes, but those wee brief moments never lasted long.
It was an argument with Mom that sparked it. John and her were close, close enough for her to write letters all over the state of California helping him get on with the California Department of Forestry. However this argument led to a threatening of police intervention and having him arrested for statutory rape. The man I had been with for years. The man I planned a whole lot of my life with, her too. The man that I convinced to let me terminate the child I was carrying. I wanted to wait.
His mother took that real hard, so did John. Something was different in me though. I was already using more than anyone knew and had witnessed too much. The secrets were already there. The things that I had been subjected too and seen at a young age would already mold my thinking- for years to come.
After the argument I went to John, he knew, she had already been to his work. His words, let me shower and we can go together to talk to her, we will work it out and it will all be ok. Of course I said ok. He jumped in the shower, I yelled in I was going to the corner for a pack of smokes- I never returned. Ever to him.
My sense of protection was all I had for so long. Warped I might add. I was not protected when I was young so all I had was the code that I would create- what meant something to me. To leave at all costs and protect them from her and her would eventually become me.
Well right now my grandchildren are stirring and I must get breakfast started. So far it’s ice cream and cocoa until I create a masterpiece for my family. We are at the beach house at Dillon Beach. I’ve shed a few tears this morning alone before anyone woke as I looked out the bay window clacking this out on my phone sipping my coffee in between.
I have an incredible life. I know the choices that I made have led me to the life that I have today and I appreciate it so much. I’ve learned from that little girl, I’m still learning from that little girl. The more I write the more she heals. So I will continue to write, I will continue to heal and I will continue to love my life!
Have you ever started writing a book about your life and then life shows up to remind you what your life was really like? Well that is what happened on January 6, 2018. Thankfully I have solutions for those moments, people I can reach out to, places I can go share and I no longer stay captive to those feelings. The feelings that a look can bring. The look from across the table that can take you back to the age of when you were 12. To the memories. Don’t open your mouth or say a word Christine. I look back now, I look them right in the eye. I didn’t say anything by the way, my children were at the table and I am older and a bit wiser. I choose to protect them- I try my very best to protect them; today.
My truth is I looked them right in the eye when I was 12- that might have been one of the problems. The problem for them, not for me. The them was my Mother and the visit that caused the derailment was with her sister, my Aunt Lupe who is only 2 years older than me. The simple question asked by my son at the family gathering was when was the last time you saw each-other. The last time, as we all sat and pondered from either ends of a very long table, was when I was 12. Good-times the age of 12 was for me. I was already using on a regular basis. I had a voice. A voice that I would use to never have me taken back to Yuma, Arizona again. A place I had never seen until just a few summers earlier. A place with people I never knew existed – family.
Family is a funny thing, or at least my family is. I choose to look at it that way now- funny. In actuality it is probably sad to some, disturbed to others and still others probably sick and twisted. Still to some who viewed it from the outside it was perfect and everything was in order for a single mother raising two children. It is what it is to me! It is what shaped so many areas of who I am and how I responded to life’s situations when I was younger. I respond differently now, I have grown. In spite of what happened or the choices I made I have an amazing life.
As I started to write this book I wondered to myself when I would get into the nitty-gritty. Would I write about my here and now or would I just jump in. Well that visit was enough to remind me why I am writing. This is a healing process- something no one may ever read but myself. As I type I read and re-read again and again. Is that what I want to say? Is that what I want to write? What if they read it? Who cares- it’s my story! The life that I have is a beautiful one and as I type out these words my grandson Vincent is playing on his Nintendo Switch- he just woke up and we have already decide what game I will buy him today. I am one French Press in of my favorite coffee and can see the chicken’s scratching up the leaves looking for worms.
Well it is evening now and I have had a very long day of basketball games and shopping with the grandson and daughter- now I have three grandsons here and the oldest on the way. A total of four grandsons I have so far- names oldest to youngest – Angel, Vincent, Anthony and Roman. Amazing! These boys know who I am. I am here with them, I am their Grandmother. I may not have been the best of mother’s but I am a perfect grandmother.
Now back to 12 or at least to the events leading up to 12. Imagine if you will going a long trip in a little car, mostly in the middle of the night. I was about 9 maybe? This is my recollection by the way and if you ask my mother or even my brother I am sure it sounds way better. A long ride straight through with a few bathroom breaks ending in a place I had never been before with people I didn’t know. My grandmother Virginia, her husband Toribio and my aunt as I mentioned Lupe were at the end of that road trip. We would spend a few weeks there. I remember feeling not right at a young age in this place. Could it be the way my mom was acting? Probably- Mama this and mama that. I had never seen this from my mother.
My mom don’t get me wrong is an amazing woman who did the best she could do. She came from a time though when, in my opinion, the boys were served first if that makes sense. She was raised on a farm, a hop farm in Weatland, California and was the oldest of six. I am sure that meant a lot of cooking and cleaning not just for them but the farm hands, which back in the day was the children too. Back in a day when you did what you were told and probably kept your mouth shut. Please don’t talk to me about the respect your elders time. My elders were fucked up!
On to Yuma, Arizona as a child and coffee with Michael in the summer. We were imagining remember- go back there and close your eyes. What was it like to visit at age 9 for a few weeks and then to drive back at the age of 10 on that same trip only to be left in the middle of the night with those strangers that were your family for the whole summer. You woke up to find your mother had left you. With people you didn’t know or like! With a girl, your aunt, who was 12 who certainly didn’t like you. She had her friends and things to do- summer sports and outings and you were a bother. I busied myself with swimming and TV and one day mom drove back up to get me. Let me set the scene. I can’t even almost, the tears are welling up as I type. She drove up and for the week, she sewed my aunt a new wardrobe, I got her hand-me-downs, what she couldn’t make her she bought her, I got her- hand-me-downs, then we drove home. I was happy to be home.
Age 11 you take that same drive again during the summer. Oh by the way during those summers my brother was at the most amazing summer camps I heard back at home- he didn’t have to stay because he was older I guess and could watch himself. Back in Yuma (we are still imagining but this was my reality) you wake up to the fact she left you again in the middle of the night! You cry a lot and treated not so nice because of it. You are a bother once again to a girl who was now 13 and a family who you know a bit more but didn’t care for more either. So you sit alone in one end of the house watching something called MTV. This was new to you and saved your life because you didn’t have that in Sacramento, California yet. You are now writing letters home to your best friend Jessica who lives across the street. She tells you of the foreign exchange students living at your house, in your room- more exciting times and fun for my brother.
Age 12- FUCK YOU! Let me share with you a secret- I had many. I started using at the age of 9, a young girl whose grandfather started giving her drinks sitting in parked cars; not all the time but on a regular basis. Who by the age of just 11 he tried to pull her close in that parked car to kiss her. I was old enough by 11 to know he was my grandfather, I also had enough sass in me because he was giving me more on a much more regular basis by then so I had a mouth. When he made his move and I pushed him away I had lost the trust of that man who was pretty much my father figure and something turned in me. Instead of telling my mom, who I didn’t trust because she had left me, who worked out-of-town and was never there anyway- I told that man I wanted more. More alcohol and by this time more marijuana which he was giving me too. I was all that and a bag of chips in my neighborhood! Fun times.
I would not sleep that night in Yuma. You would not leave me again! Mom taught me to drive that trip on our way, just me and her in her little Plymouth Champ 5 speed- we drove stick then people. So I now knew where I was, I knew the freeway, the streets from the freeway to grandma’s. You know you have that feeling when things happen. I saw my mom gathering things on the sly. I saw a suitcase packed, but not my things- I would not sleep. I remember sitting on the couch late into the night. I remember them sitting at the table talking in Spanish- she stopped me at a young age speaking Spanish so we didn’t have an accent and they could talk about things in front of us we wouldn’t understand. I remember the sounds of the car starting and pulling out of the driveway. I woke up. I remember running out of the house screaming down the street not to leave me, to come back for me. It was 4am and I was told to get in the house. I remember not lasting long in Yuma, Arizona again- I knew where I was. At the age of 12 I was hitch-hiking back to Sacramento, California. Needless to say they got me not far away, sent me home and I never had to return there again. It would be the last time I saw my aunt Lupe, I was 12. Until, that is, at my grandson Vinnie’s birthday on January 6, 2018 when my son Niko asked when was the last time you saw each-other.
I know what it is like to be the mother of an Autistic child- I don’t forget ever, it’s impossible. We also get the added enjoyment of ADHD, Anxiety and Depression all diagnosed and rolled up into the most brilliant beautiful 16 going on 17-year-old girl named Irene. Sometimes though I just don’t think anything of it, it’s just a day like any other day. Some days are harder, some are easier- they just blend. I can’t even imagine how hard it is for Irene though.
It has been a while since we have had a complete meltdown, they look different today. I am not sure if it’s the 3 years of Social Skills classes, the 3 different psychotic meds she’s on currently or just the fact that she is getting older and the kids don’t pick on her as much? Maybe the world is becoming softer to the world of Autism? The stares have lessened, the kids teasing and poking fun because they know if they poke just enough she will start screaming uncontrollably and then the tears start- that is fun for some to watch. Please don’t talk to me about medication on such a young girl either, I struggled with it myself considering I am a recovering addict for so long and probably added undue trauma to my child by not easing her symptoms earlier. She has made great strides with medication, especially since she was diagnosed Depressive. Prior to Social Skills and meds what it looked like for us was borderline Schizophrenia and having done the research I know we are not out of the woods yet on that one. The silent giggles and laughter to who I do not know. I try not to worry, I have faith, but I live in reality as well.
Things we get to work on, and when I say we I mean Irene and myself- her father and siblings are very much in the picture but it’s just not the same. It’s Irene and myself mostly together against the world. Sometimes I forget that – I get wrapped up in life and the things I want to do as an adult. I forget that if I am not there she is pretty much alone, the truth is that when I am there she is pretty much alone too. I have to force her out, planned adventures that must have a lot of quiet time. That sounds so much like myself I cannot even explain.
At times I forget about the crowds and the sounds- I forget about Autism and Anxiety altogether. I fail. She is not like my other children. She is special.
I recently took Irene with me to an out-of-town convention that I had worked on for almost two years. I wanted her to see the sights. I wanted her to see what her mother had done, what took me away from her and my family on late nights and all day meetings, where I had dragged her to events leading up to and what for. I wanted her to see. I failed to recognize the commotion, sounds and fear that it might cause my child- I forgot. I knew I would be paying a lot of money for banquet meals she would not eat, I was paying for her to sit with me. Irene eats about seven different things and four of those are a potato in a variety of different ways. Before the meal was over she had asked to be excused to the hotel room and at that moment I knew.
I knew she had left her earmuffs at home, she had left her headphones which are actually her security in the hotel room- she had even left her knitting and her phone was dying. These are the things that comfort her. These are the things that allow her to join in with others, but allow her to escape at a moment’s notice. These are the things that sometimes, I say sometimes, stop her from pulling her hair out or mutilating her body by picking at imaginary things that are not there- scarring herself. I cannot stop these things from happening and I know she can’t either. It hurts. It hurts me that my daughter is hurting and I can’t help her. No one can, this is just our life.
You come to grips with it. This is it. These are the things she does. Will it be forever? Will she grow out of it? Who knows? My job – to try to remind her to stop pulling her hair out in a kind and loving way that does not seem like nagging bringing her to tears. To try not to cringe when I see the gaping whole on her chest that she has gouged out because she knows if it can’t be seen people won’t stare. The truth is they stare as she is doing it. Where? In class, at dinner out, in the grocery store lines and anywhere she gets bored at. I try very hard to let it go as she is doing it because I know it upsets her. I don’t think she’s aware she’s doing it- they have just become her new mannerisms. Such as when she bounces off the walls at home down the hall or the humming when things are going really good. Those are the things I look for, the things I know that when I see and hear I know everything is alright in her little world.
The struggle. With all of that there is an even harder struggle. The struggle that she looks just like everyone else. That she is smarter than so many her age. No one thinks she is different and they suggest just let her go, go run off and hang out with the other kids. I know better. I want to let her run and go hang out. I did once- I won’t do it again. Within an hour she had shot a gun and been kissed by a boy. A boy she had never met nor seen again. A boy who could have done anything and she wouldn’t have stopped it. Would she have? I don’t know. I knew better and I fail sometimes.
How do I trust the world with Irene? The tears well up as I type these keys. My child. The brilliant young girl who has her whole life ahead of her. As she gets ready for AP exams and SAT’s I secretly wonder to myself does she understand? She has hundreds of emails and letters coming for colleges, I am not sure if she even knows what any of that means. I have to remind her and ask constantly for more information. There is no excitement, there is no “normal” joy. It’s just another day and another college- the latest from Vassar.
I am both excited and afraid. How do I let her go? Do I let her go far or do I keep her close? The truth is I know already. None of it matters because she will either do great or she won’t- just like any other kid. There are no safe guards. I hope I can find a place where she is comfortable, where she will thrive. A place that will understand and be accepting. A place where she and I both feel safe. She will need help and that is my job as her parent to make sure she gets everything she needs! I know that! She can do it!
There was a time- a time when she didn’t talk. She stared blankly into the air, defecated on herself, cried uncontrollably and was inconsolable. A time where they said things like she will never be able to live alone, may be able to hold a part-time job with assistance. Well we are way beyond those times. We have grown and these are new times. I don’t have all the answers. I am trying to catch-up myself sometimes. So when I see other people who are just like us- I smile because I know. It’s impossible to forget.
The Chicken Lady
I am currently in Redding, California having just arrived with my two best friends, it’s almost midnight. Not sure if I should rush the keys to get this started? This is Chapter One by the way.
Well it is now after 8am and I decided to sleep, once in a while it is necessary to replenish the body and soul. My best friends Andrea and Julie did deserve to sleep I felt too after the long drive in from Sacramento, they were very tired even though I did the driving. My friends had asked if they were going to be immortalized in my book, well there it is my loves. Why in God’s name am I in Redding, California? Commitments. This is my first time here, however when I told my Mother where I was headed she assured me we had driven through previously. The truth is I have driven through a whole lot of places and most I could not tell you where.
Now back to chapter one. I have given this a lot of thought as to where to start with writing a book. Do I start with my childhood? The present? The in-between? I decided to surprise myself and just let it flow.
So a bit about me. I am a very busy lady. I have a career that I love, children still in the home, several out of the home and even 4 grandson’s; one who is actually 7 today, January 6, 2018. His name is Vincent, named after my oldest and only brother who is four years my senior. I call the grandson Vinnie and last night we were celebrating at the local ice-cream shop until after 8pm- the reasons why we were driving in the wee hours of the night, well wee to me because I like to sleep. Now I also have several animals, two dogs (one is my 19-year-old daughter Cassidy’s but you know how that works), one cat and 15 chickens. Furthermore I do a lot of extracurricular activities- I am of service. Service to a fellowship that has saved my life, a twelve-step fellowship and that’s all we will call that. This means that I do meetings and give back what was freely given to me, because I appreciate the life that I live today to the fullest. Of course with the kids comes school, extra-curricular activities for them from sports to Girl Scouts, thankfully I just have one left in school with all of that stuff; but of course now we have the grandchildren to step-up with their activities and grandma cheering on the sidelines. Why not just toss some Autism in there with the youngest daughter Irene, who is now 16 and all the gifts that has to offer too.
With all that I still had time for coffee. What does that mean? Well if you read the preface you know I met a man, his name is Michael. Now I don’t know the actual day he sent me a “friend request” on Facebook, but I do remember it well. I may have actually tried to play it cool and not accept it instantly? May have? We had several interactions with comments and by April 15, 2016 a few things happened, he sent me the first of many instant messages and I texted my two best friends who are here in Redding with me now that I had met the man of my dreams who I will be spending the rest of my life with. Of course I followed that up with the fact that I hadn’t actually “met” him yet, but that we had interacted on Facebook and that was enough. You have to really know me to know how funny that is and how much I really meant it. I am a very funny person by the way! Luckily for me I would meet Michael a few days later on April 17, 2016 at a meeting and get my first hug; I know that date because I was busy getting an MRI and was late to my usual spot.
By May 23rd I felt I had enough evidence to formulate a few theories. He was single and I wanted to meet him before someone snatched him up and I sat there wondering what if. What if is huge by the way! What if I never asked? If I never asked I would never know and so I summoned up the courage to ask him if he was single. If he was maybe he might be free sometime during the summer and wouldn’t mind having coffee with me. Yes that is how it went. I asked him and because I am very busy, we are both busy people, summer seemed like it might be tangible. It also seemed far enough out that if it wasn’t viable I actually didn’t have to go. So I sat and watched him through my computer, very patiently I might add because, well it was just coffee. I can’t downplay this, I was jumping out of my skin waiting for summer to come!
As the story goes everyone has at least one good book in them. Or so I’ve heard? So I guess I am going to give it a shot. I made a commitment to myself that I would start writing, or as in this case blogging everyday on January 1, 2018- it is now January 4, 2018. Better late than never as I always say! The ridiculous thought to getting a late start would be just to wait until January 1, 2019 because I already missed the mark I set for myself, that would be my head talking. So on with the show!
I am determined to make this a love story, my love story. The journey to love myself. Christine- a Blogging Goddess; and the road that it took to get her there. This has been a bit of a twisted road and at times a not so pretty one either. One that those who have somehow been a part of my path might not actually appreciate the words that I clack away on the keys. If you heard me typing that is the exact sound- clacking. Those people would more than likely be my family by the way. For that reason and many more this will be the first entry of the New Year on my blog and the last entry delivered to my social media account on Facebook. I will unlink it after this post.
Family of course chooses to remember things in a different manner at times. A more bright and cheery picket fence, all is well on the outside don’t look on the inside manner. That is how I was raised. Hush Christine, don’t you dare! This is my recollection though, a reflection of my past. At this point I really am not sure how much of my childhood I will delve into. Let’s face it though, it is what makes us. Or it is what formed me into the woman who I have become. Am still becoming. The choices that we make from our youth will inevitably steer us in the direction we go. Whatever that direction is, either good or bad, all choices lead somewhere. Not only that, we also have to deal with the fact that sometimes “stuff” happens in our childhood that is not the norm, this said “stuff” that happens in our childhood may actually influence those same choices that we will eventually make long into adulthood. Whatever the case, I survived the choices that I made to be here today to clack these keys.
Today I am grateful that on the journey that I have taken I finally came to the realization that I am an Addict, a very grateful one. An addict in recovery. That self-realization has allowed me to grow in ways that I never knew possible. It has allowed me to live a life I have never in my younger days would have been able to dream. It has opened me up to possibilities I never would have imagined. I could go on but I am sure you get the picture. She, I, am unstoppable!
Now by this title you would guess possibly that this is a love story between a man and a woman, or whatever floats your boat. It is that as well in a way. I am in love. I have been in love before but not like this. My idea of what love looked like in previous years we will get to eventually in this saga of sorts that I plan on jotting down over the next 365 days. It has never looked like this though. Some very close to me know that I had thrown the towel in on love a few years ago, on partnership and companionship altogether in “that” way. I had grown weary of the mundane games of the opposite sex and I have never been into the same-sex. That’s not my story. Weary enough so that I shut down and closed myself off towards advances of all types. Not interested was the sign that was emblazoned across my forehead, with a smile of course. Please don’t think of me as a shrew. I had just come to the point in my life where I was very happy alone with myself, raising my two girls who amazingly enough through perseverance managed to regain custody of and still have a few years of parenting with them, being a part of my grand-children’s lives and let us not forget the dog Snoopy, the chicken’s which I have no time for all their names (yes I name them), the cat Hermes and all of the friends I surround myself with. That is the love that I had chosen to fill my life with. I am enough.
Wouldn’t you know it though, at the point in my life when my only goal was to reach 20 chickens in my flock, which ironically three years ago today on January 4, 2015, I received my first four chickens as a gift from an old friend; there he was. It was as if one day I opened my eyes and voila! No seriously that is how it went. He sent me a friend request on Facebook. Now the truth of the matter is that I may have seen his picture previously with a mutual friend. I am not sure which came first, the picture with the friend or the friend request? When I saw that picture though my heart skipped a beat. Who am I kidding it skipped several beats. It would be funny to say the rest is history but just like anything good, that took some time.
The reality is it is not the end, it is just the beginning. We just spent our second New Years together this year, this one actually in the same physical spot. Although my heart goes where he roams and boy does he travel, I manage to lead a pretty full life myself that takes me places too. We both have very full lives from careers to family and friendships; all that matters is that we have found each other. At least that is all that matters to me. So I hope if you stay with me you find some enjoyment, some wonder and some tears. As for me I will have all those things and some healing too. I hope.
The Chicken Lady
I just wanted to slip a little note in with these gifts, I hope that is OK. I hope you take the time to read it. I tried really hard to get everything on your list, I think I did. Not sure if they will give it all to you or split it among the other boys at the receiving home? I spoiled you as best as I could. If I could have walked in and given it to you personally I would have, I would have loved to meet you. Maybe one day I will?
I don’t know why you are there? I don’t know at what age your life was turned upside down? When you started to wonder why me? Why am I here? If you are thinking these things my heart goes out to you! Just like it does to the boys I gave away. The boys who I couldn’t hold it together for before they were even born.
I started picking Angels from the tree a few years ago, when I could afford to. I choose the 16 year old boys, because he was 16 when I started. When I was walking in the mall one day and saw all the Angels on the tree. A 16 year old boy jumped out at me and I was compelled to pull his name. So here I am writing a note at Christmas wishing you the best.
Hold on to this time! Look around and make some lifelong friends! It doesn’t have to be all bad. I promise if you hold out and use this time to grow, to learn what you don’t want out of life and what you do, to use the system and take advantage of all that it has to offer your whole world will open up! Look around, there is another 16 year old boy getting just as spoiled as you- two of you! One with Jordans and one who chose simple Nike’s- you are my boys! Merry Christmas wherever you are! I hope you have had the best life! It was all I could give you! Life!
The Chicken Lady
I have not had the time that it takes lately to sit and clack the keys, that’s rather unfortunate too as I have so much swirling in my head. At this moment though, I am sipping my coffee on a beautiful Sunday morning, the chores are done- which means the chickens have been fed, the dogs are outside and have eaten as well and my sewer cat is out roaming the streets somewhere in front of my home. Irene my daughter is sliding through the house in her slipper socks on the hardwood floors humming one of her favorite tunes while she intermittently hops in my bed and pulls the covers over- before she starts her routine again for another round.
This little ditty is about her, my daughter Irene, I am her best friend. I am her only friend as well. I am the mother of an Autistic child and while she may look like your average girl on the outside- she is not. More importantly you may think she is just like everyone else- she is not. What is normal for some is not for others. Irene is different. She is sixteen and has no friends but me, no real friends. No one. She is humming in her room right now, it’s the sweetest sound ever. We are getting ready to go on an outing, one she actually wants to go on, not one I have to drag her on. It is winter so she will be wearing her earmuffs, which really protect her from the sounds of the outside world. I cannot tell you how many sets we have gone through.
I try really hard to get her involved in outside activities, to expose her to the outside world I want her to participate in life one day on her own. I hope she participates one day on her own. We are in Girl Scouts, Swimming, Knitting Club, Kindness Club, and even a Youth Advisory Council. Some of those I push her into and some of those my darling daughter has chosen on her own- to my amazement. It has taken years of Social Skills classes, for the both of us, for her to come out of her shell.
She’s still there, in that shell mostly though and that’s ok. She’s in her own little world most of the time. My job as her parent, the parent of an Autistic child, is a little harder than the parent of any other child. Why? She IS different. She does not know the value of a dollar and will give it away, all of it, if I am not constantly reminding her of how to gauge her money. She does not know of friends, real friends, or those who want to be kind to take something from her. The world we live in will take it from her. It will take all of it from her if I let it- It will take her innocence.
I know I can’t protect her from everything, but I can try. I don’t go out often and when I do it’s calculated for short periods of time. I do not take her everywhere either, she doesn’t want to go and she doesn’t have to. She is sixteen now and can stay home alone, but I don’t like to leave her for long. Alone. More importantly I need to keep my eye on her when I take her wherever- why, because I am her mother. She is not your average sixteen year old girl, even though she looks the part.
Irene has shot a gun, a rifle if you will and she has been kissed; all on one outing, that I trusted the kids around us to let her go with. That I listened to those parents around me say it will be ok, she will be fine, let her go have fun. It only took one hour if that for all that to happen- her first kiss, from a boy she didn’t know and still doesn’t. From a boy she doesn’t even recall his name. That is not how I wanted her first kiss to be. That shouldn’t be how anyone’s first kiss is. I should not have found out six months later in an office where things were being discussed and words like depression and medication were being hurled around. That is how it happened though. I know better.
I was chatting with a mother last week about these very things. She knows my story because she lives it too. We get to comfort one another because sometimes people around us don’t understand, especially when she looks just like every other sixteen year old girl. She’s loud sometimes, she panics, she cries and yells; these happen much less than they did before. Now she has moved on to pulling her hair out-I don’t even think she is aware of it. Depression, Anxiety, Autism, ADHD are all wrapped up with the sweetest smile you will ever see humming the most beautiful sounds. I was meant to be her mother for a reason, I was chosen.
I started these words in the morning, but took a break to do some things she loves. We went to Apple Hill, and to a few of her favorite stores. She doesn’t even like apples, or the buzz of the place and the people around. She enjoyed today though as it was quiet and the people of the season had already come and gone; French fries and Honey Stix, that’s it, all she wanted. Sometimes I will take a drive, yes an hour away for fries and honey just to get her out of her room and the house. Today we got to enjoy the company of him, who doesn’t mind us too much either.
The Chicken Lady