Mmmmm George Michael. Not to be confused with Boy George…..
When I was about 5, I was in bed, in my room that was in complete shambles. Box mattress tossed, cotton fluff torn out, clothes, paper, probably filthy clothes- who knows. But there I was looking at a calendar of cats. One particular page had a black kitten. I prayed and prayed to God for a black kitten to appear but to no avail. No black kitten came slithering into my room. So I gave God the double bird and told him “FUCK YOU GOD!!” I not kidding. Who does that shit? Certainly not 5 year olds. But I did. And that was the extent of my communication to God for a while. I visited Sunday schools here and there. A neighbor held a class out of their house one time. We made leather bracelets.
Some years after I was placed with Terry, maybe when I was 9 or 10, she met a church going lady in one of her college classes. They struck an agreement that Jenny (the church going lady), would take me to church every Sunday. Terry didn’t go. Church wasn’t her thing. However, it would become my life. Sunday school, Christmas shows, friendships, Hume Lake. I even made two missionary trips to Mexico.
I am so grateful that Terry made me go to church. I formed lifelong friendships that would eventually save my life more than once (stay tuned). My foundation in church most likely kept me from getting pregnant at 14 as well.
I haven’t been to church in a while. My views have changed a little. I’ve come to see that I don’t necessarily need to be engulfed in church to know God. But lately I’ve been feeling the tug….
Did I mention that my mom Terry had a black cat? I guess He finally answered my prayer! All in Gods timing right?
That’s me on the right. I must have been in junior high, so it was about 1989, 90 or 91. That is my cousin Debbie on the left and my grandmother Ruth. This is the family that became my family. I have no idea why my left cheek was so fat and swollen looking…
Be prepared to be bored. This part of my story is very uninteresting. There’s no horror stories of neglect and abandonment. No abuse. In fact, it was quite the opposite. My foster mother, Terry, was a part of a nice middle-class, maybe even upper-middle class family. To me it seemed they were rich. But coming from my background it wouldn’t take much to impress me. After Terry and I moved in with her mother, we all lived in a HUGE house in a fancy country club estate. It’s not huge in today’s standards, but then it was to me. I was an only child now, so I spent a lot of time exploring the trees in the backyard, climbing as high as I could. I read a lot of books. A lot. The bedtime chore of reading for 30 minutes before bed soon became an obsession. I cannot tell you how many books I read. I even tried to learn a new word a day by choosing a word out of the dictionary. And I wrote a lot. Imagine that.
My mom and I (I will refer to Terry as my mom from her on out and my bio-mom Valerie as bio-mom, it may get confusing), moved in with grandma because she decided to go back to college. She was 47. She started with her Associate’s all the way through to her Master’s in Family Therapy. She was a driven and independent woman. That may be one of the better qualities I got from her. There were many times when I would go to school with her. I spent plenty of time in the libraries at both the community college and university. Several times I would go to class with her. I didn’t realize it then what I was learning from her, independence, self-sufficiency, discipline…I didn’t realize it until my 30’s I suppose.
Because my mom had no real experience raising children, she had to wing it and also use what she was learning in all of her psychology books. Needless to say, she was strict. Overly strict. She even admits it now, that she was too hard on me. I went from no discipline to having too much discipline. And fear. She told me more than once that if I didn’t comply, I would go back to the Jamison Center. I hated that place so much that her fear tactic worked. I resented her for it. I hated her for it. But for what it’s worth, I graduated high school with out getting pregnant, so she must’ve done something right.
That is all for tonight friends. I am tired and my need for spellcheck is increasing, so I will bid you farewell!!!
Look at that sly gleam in his eye. He was a damn good-looking man indeed. And she, whew!!! She was a FOX!! This is for sure where I got my stunning good looks from. I kid, I kid. I was blessed with not being completely ugly. In fact, the whole of my family missed the ugly branch on the tree.
Both of my grandparents were rather smart as well. My grandfather, Grady Doyle Miller, was a lawyer and would later become a Municipal Court Judge here in Bakersfield. To the best of my recollection, my grandmother was a medical librarian. My grandfather went by Doyle. He and his family came from Texas. Again, this is all from memory. I have my ancestry books somewhere, I will dig them out later and give you all a full description, trust me… it is insanely interesting. My grandmother, Janette Gay Van Netta (Miller), came from Wisconsin, where her family settled when they immigrated from Norway. I used to hate my slanty, almond-shaped eyes. Then I learned that I was Norwegian and my eyes were a trait of my ancestry.
Like I have mentioned before, my grandfather died when I was a baby, so my memories of him are limited. My grandmother did not move back to San Francisco until I was about 6 or 7, so I have some memories of her. I remember that she would tickle my back and my belly upon my relentless requesting. She pulled the flathead needle from my knee when I got it lodged there whilst crawling around under the living room table. My knee was stuck, I couldn’t open or close it, until she pulled that sucker out.
I also remember her love of liverwurst sandwiches and split pea soup. I learned to love green olives from her too. She would pull them out of her drink and give them to me. Sometimes she would mix her drink with orange juice. Vodka. Bottles and bottles of vodka. My mom came home once, there was a fight and a giant plastic jug of vodka was thrown against the wall. It may have broken and spilled everywhere, or it may not have. But for drama’s sake, imagine clear liquid cascading down the wall and across the living room.
One night, she and I hopped in her VW bug to pick up my mother from somewhere (I faintly remember that it may have been rehab). We made it down the street and then ACROSS the major street, through a fence and into a building. There were no seatbelt laws then, so I hit the seat in front of me, luckily I was in the back seat and was not hurt. My grandmother’s face was a patchwork of colors the next day, maybe it was a few days later because looking back, some of the bruises were faded green when I remember seeing her after the crash.
Later she would move to San Francisco. I would visit her once. She developed Alzheimer’s, perhaps it was dementia….a result of long-term alcoholism. She died years ago. I don’t remember when. By then I was living a different life and was rather detached from that previous life.
She was not the only one who suffered from alcoholism. My grandfather was a rather famous drunk. Remember he was a judge. A drunk judge. I have heard stories about how he got picked up for drunk driving, the police who picked him up had to be in court, so they took him with them. Guess who the judge was supposed to be? That’s right. My grandfather. Now this is the story I was given. That’s not the story the newspaper gives. So who knows which is the truth?
I always knew that I had a “predisposition” for addiction. That is such a big word for an eight year old to know. But I knew it. I knew that it was in my genes. I knew I should stay away. But that didn’t keep me from my foster mother’s mom’s wet bar. I would sneak drinks of the tequila or Kahlua, filling the rest with water so no one know that I was drinking. Mind you, I didn’t drink enough to get drunk. I was just doing it to do it. Addiction would find its way to me eventually. More on that later.
As I sit here with my beer…I ponder if I am an alcoholic. I took an online quiz that told me I’m at risk. I have vodka in my kitchen. I think of my grandmother when I look at it. It’s in my genes to be an alcoholic. My grandparents and both of my parents were. Is it possible to have a drink or two and not be an alcoholic? How can we dodge what seems to be our fate? How can we stop the cycle? Or can we? Is it hopeless?
I don’t know how long I was in the Jamison Center before my soon-to-be foster mom would decide that she wanted two little blonde girls to take home. It felt like months. I suppose if I looked through the court papers, I could find out but honestly, I have no desire to dig through the court papers. You have no idea how many court papers there are!!! Duplicates even. I don’t know if this is normal or if my crazy mom just wanted duplicates of everything. Who knows?
Terry Thayer came in one day (she’s a she even though her name is spelled like a he), with the hopes of bringing home a little blonde girl. Much like “how much is that puppy in the window?” She came in looking for one “Oh! We have two!!” And left with two. So Cherie and I, who had become friends in the center and often pretended to be sisters, went home to become foster sisters. Terry was a single woman who already had one foster girl living with her. At the time, she was a real estate agent. Later she would go back to school at the age of 47 to pursue her associates and ultimately her MFT (Master’s in Family Therapy). If you know me personally, now you know where I get it from. Though my bio mom, Valerie, was a constant student as well. I went from thinking food stamps were normal to living in a nice house, with nice things, learning how to eat with my mouth closed, don’t bite the fork, cut my food right, say “passed gas” not fart, don’t ask how much money someone makes, how much they weigh and how to say “SUppose” not “I pose so.” I went from never going to school to always going to school. Reading for 30 minutes before bed, doing my homework and going from the bottom 10th percentile of my grade to the top 10th percentile. Can you say “stability?”
At first is was Cherie, Angie and myself as the only foster kids. Then more came and went. Soon it became evident that Angie’s mental issues were going to be too much for Terry to handle, so she was “returned.” Returned may be a bit harsh, but at the time, that is how it seemed to me. She needed more help then Terry could give her. I believe she went to a group home. You see, my story is horrible. There’s plenty I am leaving out of this blog, things I don’t feel comfortable discussing in this forum. However, these other girls and other foster kids have had it MUCH worse than me. Mothers who let their random boyfriends molest their daughters and sons, repeatedly. Kids so traumatized, that they rub their own shit on walls. But me, I was relatively normal. Considering. I was well-behaved. I didn’t talk back. I didn’t run away. I didn’t steal or get in fights at school. So for some reason, Terry decided that I would be the only foster kid she would keep around. Granted, everyone else wanted to go back to their fucked up homes. Some kids do that. Go back to the abuse, the filth, the drugs and the instability because it’s what they know and it’s normal to them.
I had visits with my bio mom once or twice a month. She was taking parenting classes and going to counseling at first. Sometimes she wouldn’t show up for visits. When she did, it was silly and sometimes fun. We had code words like “32 teeth” because we have 32 teeth, duh. So we would say that and it was like we were secretly saying “I love you.” I don’t know how or why but soon, I recognized that I wasn’t going to have a good life if I went back to her. My case came to a point were it was time to make a decision, try to go back to my bio mom or stay with Terry and she would try to get legal guardianship. Court day approached, and me being me, thought it would help my case to write a letter stating how I felt. I wrote it to my case worker who represented me in court because I didn’t want to go that day, I’d rather be in school.
“To Susan Gill: Would you please tell the judge that I should, and I want to be in legal guardianship. I understand that it will change the relationship between my mom and I. I don’t want to go home ever in my life. I also want you to tell the judge that I am tired of going to court every six months. I do not want my visits increased and I don’t want unsupervised visits. I don’t want to go through this year after year. I need a home and my home is with Terry.”
“Sincerely Sadie Thayer P.S. You have my permission to show this to my mom.”
“On February 3, 1986, Mercedes Glisan was interviewed at the Miriam Jamison Children’s Center. The minor stated she was frequently left unattended by her mother. When asked how many times she had been left alone during the month of January, the minor stated she had been left alone about three times. She added that her mother would leave at about nine or ten o’clock in the evening and come back at two a.m. in the morning. She stated her mother was usually at the Matchmaker Club on these occasions. When asked if she was frightened during her mother’s absence, she said she was. “
“On February 3, 1986, Valerie Glisan was interviewed at the Family and Children’s Services building. She was very emotional and agitated during this interview. She admitted leaving Mercedes alone on January 31, 1986 and on previous occasions as well. She acknowledged that Mercedes had been taken into custody in June 1985 and she had been cautioned at that time to provide proper supervision for her in the future.”
“The minor’s mother stated she was without housing or resources. She had been staying with various friends since the fire and would be unable to provide a residence for the minor. Beyond this, she indicated she would not be emotionally capable of providing for the minor. She was very confused and appeared to be incapable of planning for either herself or the minor. The appearance she presented was that of a person totally overwhelmed by her circumstances.”
“In view of the multiple parenting problems on the part of the minor’s mother and the minor being repeatedly left unattended, a petition was filed under Section 300A of the Welfare and Institutions Code on February 4, 1986.”
I know what you’re thinking. “Back in my day, we were told to go outside and not come back until the street lights came on” or “We were left alone all the time and were just fine.” I’m not sure what changed between the 1950’s and 1986, but the laws changed making it illegal to leave your children alone, unsupervised, for any length of time before a certain age. Perhaps it was because in the past it was a necessity to leave kids alone, hell, kids worked! Needless to say, it was and is illegal, as well it should be.
In the years leading up to 1986, when my mom, sister Daunya and I lived with my grandma, we were often left alone, or may as well have been. When my mom was gone, we were left in the care of my grandmother. But she was an alcoholic busy drinking her screwdrivers or martinis. Alcoholism runs rampant in my family. More on that later.
Anyhow, because I was left in charge of myself so often, I learned to be very independent at a young age. Cooked my own meals (hot dogs and mac n cheese were my specialty), dressed myself, bathed myself (I think), and got myself to school. Ok, that’s a lie. I NEVER went to school. Instead, when my mom got home from wherever she was and it was time for school, I would act like I was going to school. But really, I would wander the apartment complex until it was time to come home. Ingenious right?
Lets talk about the Jamison Center. It’s a wonderful place, helping children who need emergency shelter. If I could bring myself to do it, I would volunteer my time there. However, I can’t. Why? Because I am so fucking traumatized by my stay there that I would not wish staying there on anyone. Don’t get me wrong- they did nothing to me to traumatize me. But take the fire, add that to being ripped away from your home, not knowing what is going to happen, where you will end up, being surrounded by other kids who have faced just as much trauma as you have (leaving them really fucked up)- you will have one traumatized child on your hands.
Because my clothes burned up in the fire, I had nothing to wear. Lucky for me, they had a closet full of random clothing for me to wear. We went to school there as well. Which meant I went to school wearing donated clothing and slippers. I felt like an idiot. I felt like everyone was looking at me. Thus the foundation for my extreme insecurity was laid. I do not know how long I was at the Jamison Center, but it felt like well over month.
Mercedes Rochelle Glisan, age eight years, was taken into protective custody on January 31, 1986 by Bakersfield Police Department Officer Don Martin. Early that evening, he had been dispatched to the scene of a fire accidentally set by the minor who had been left unsupervised by her mother.
Excerpts from court documents:
Mercedes Rochelle Glisan, age eight years, was taken into protective custody on January 31, 1986 by Bakersfield Police Department Officer Don Martin. Early that evening, he had been dispatched to the scene of a fire accidentally set by the minor who had been left unsupervised by her mother, Valerie Glisan.
According to Officer Martin’s report:
“On 01-31-86 at about 1920 hours, I was dispatched to 5101 Marsha, Apt 116, in regards to a fire which had occurred there. Upon arrival, I met with Captain Gocher (phonetic) for theFire Prevention and Arson Investigation Division. He stated fire department personnel had just investigated and put out a fire in which Apt. 116 had been totally destroyed. Gocher stated through his investigation , he found that an eight year old female had been left alone at the residence. He stated in talking with the juvenile, she is constantly being left unsupervised by her mother and that the fire started as a result of the juvenile being left alone. I contacted the juvenile, Mercedes Glisan, and asked her what happened in regards to the fire. She told me that she had been left alone by her mother since about 3:30 pm. and she did not know where her mother was. Mercedes stated the power went off in the residence and it was dark, so she lit several candles inside the residence to provide light for herself. Mercedes stated she left the candles on, forgetting to blow them out and she went outside to play and then went out to a neighbor’s house. she said sometime later, she came back and saw smoke coming from the apartment, at which time a neighbor had notified the fire department who was responding to the fire. Mercedes told me that she is always left unattended by her mother as her mother leaves the apartment and goes to the Matchmaker Bar and several other places, and she does not know where her mother goes on these occasions.”
“I talked to Mercedes’ mother Valerie Glisan. She told me the reason she was not at her residence was because she had vehicle problems and her vehicle broke down on California and Stockdale. She stated she then had her vehicle fixed, at which time she responded back to the residence. She stated she does not leave her child alone but then talking with the child, she does state she is left alone numerous occasions. Valerie Glisan changed her story when I asked her again. She stated she has left Mercedes unattended several times but it is not her fault as she is always looking for work.”
Most of this is accurate. But what it fails to tell you is what really happened. My mom often left me alone. She left me alone so often that I rarely attended school and I ran amok through the neighborhood, which was nothing but apartment complexes. This particular night, as she left me, she gave me specific instructions to go directly to my friends house. Clearly, I did not. Instead, I messed around the apartment and discovered a plastic candle holder and mirror which was meant to be mounted on the wall with fake candles. I mounted them, attempting to fancy up the apartment for my mom and stuck REAL candles in them and lit them. THEN, the lights went out. I tried to check the breaker (because at 8 I was already an electrician). After I realized I couldn’t turn the lights back on, I went to my friends house, forgetting about the lit candles.
Some time later, I don’t remember how long, there was banging on her door. A man was yelling FIRE!!! and we all ran out of the apartment. I could see that my apartment was in flames and I panicked. I ran. I ran as fast as my little 8 year old legs could take me. I don’t know who grabbed me or where I was. I remember that someone told me they thought I was in the apartment and they tried knocking the door down to get me. In flashes I remember my mom came running up, it was like the movies, screaming, crying, hitting her knees in fear, anger, terror, all of the above. I was in a police car being taken away. I was so terrified, I had bitten a hole in my bottom lip.