On June 3, 1995 a cute little foal was born. It also was my 18th birthday. The owner of the foal named it after me (Sadie) and thought folly would also be appropriate due to the fact that folly basically means fuck up. Sadie’s fuck up.
My whole time in foster care, my mom told me if I screwed up she always had the option to send me back to the Jamison Center. I, of course, never wanted to go back, so I was a fairly well behaved kid. However, on my 18th birthday I had plans to be wild. I had a date and then wanted to go to a party my friend was having for me. My mom told me no, I needed to be home after my date. If I didn’t want to do that, I could give my grandma my house key. So guess what I did? Turned in my key. I can still remember my grandmas face when I handed it over. It was sad.
So I went on the date. I guess. I don’t remember all that, this is what my mom told me a few weeks ago. Looking back, I do remember the guy, I have no idea who he is now, a friend from school. Afterwards we went to Cecily’sbhouse and partied. I never really drank except a sip here and there. But that night I seem to recall drinking 8 budweisers. And then…there was the goldschalger. To my recollection I drank the whole neck of the bottle. I could be exaggerating. Nevertheless, I ended up with alcohol poisoning. I was sick for a week. Living with my friend. Finishing the last week of school. Doing graduation rehearsals outside, in over 100 degree weather, in black jeans. It was miserable. But not miserable enough for me to go home.
You see. I had it all planned out. I was enlisted in the Air Force. I was due to be shipped to boot camp in August. That was only two months. Two months isn’t enough time to get into trouble and make life changing decisions that would have a lasting impact on my life, right? Ha. Right.
Clearly I am procrastinating writing about my late teens and early 20’s. Those were really horrible times in my life. I was a horrible human being who did disgusting things. I was far from the person I am now. I have forgiven myself of course, but we are our harshest critics. Tonight, I’m not quite ready to rip that scab off and discuss my shady past. So let’s talk about where I’m going.
I am on a north bound train to Sacramento to meet up with some girlfriends to run in the Folsom Blues Breakout Half Marathon on Sunday. It has become a tradition of sorts to participate in either a half marathon or full marathon with these girls once a year, no matter where we are. Last year we ran the Portland Marathon, the year before we ran the Grand Canyon Marathon. We meet up in various stages of our lives. One friend has had major life changing events over the last two years. But she still shows up, with her smile and laugh. This year, she and I are both meeting the other friend in Sacramento where she lives (or at least in that area). Free room and food. Can’t beat that. She has also had major life changes. Life happens. Good and bad. But you either go on or quit.
About 45 minutes ago, we passed the prison my son is in. He called me last night to let me know he was going to the receiving facility at Wasco State Prison. I won’t get to talk to him or visit him for at least 90 days. No matter how bad he fucks up, he is still my baby and all I wanted to do last night was hug him. Prison is big and scary. That’s my kid in there. But what can you do? “Please, no tattoos on your head or face!!” “Don’t become someone’s bitch!” “Don’t join a prison gang.” He will be in there and I will be out here going about my life. Running half marathons. Riding a train and drinking a beer. Two years from now he will be out. Life will continue as it always does. This time will pass with a blink of our eye!
I think the two glasses of wine I had earlier and the beer I’m having now is getting to me 🙂
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?
Where was my dad in all of this? Apparently he was in Klamath Falls, Oregon. My mom and he got divorced shortly after my birth. I never saw him, heard from him, got a letter, gift, phone call or even child support. They say that children can’t recall memories before the age of 3, or even the age of 7. That’s complete crap. I clearly have a memory of my father holding me above him as he laid down, much like fathers do. I remember his white shirt and beard. This “memory” can be discarded as something my very clever brain made up. However, I recounted this recollection to my mother, only I elaborated to describe the room, furniture and a distinctly recall feet walking with crutches. That was my grandfather. He died the November after my birth. My mother estimated that this memory took place in August of 1977, which would have made me two months old.
So I never had a dad. Not a step dad. Just a few of my mom’s boyfriends that came and went, never staying. I had no idea what my father looked like. In later years I would imagine that he looked like Nick Nolte. Crazy right? Nick Nolte was a pretty handsome man at one time, so cut me some slack.
It is safe to say that I have daddy issues. Boys need their fathers but girls do as well. Growing up not knowing how to be treated or loved by man, not have reassurance that I was loved, left me floundering my whole life. Look up “signs of daddy issues.” That’s me. Mostly it was fear of abandonment. He left me, so why wouldn’t every other man?
Fast forward to when I was 19. I’m jumping ahead a lot, and leaving out some details, but I will fill those in later. My youngest sister, Lacee who is my father’s youngest daughter, ran away and found my mother and I (again, I’ll give the details later). It was through her actions, that my father and I were finally reconnected. He had spent his life an alcoholic and heroin addict. He had at least three other wives besides my mother. Through him I had one other older sister and the younger sister.
We finally met around the time of my oldest son’s birth. He came to visit me. I went up to Felton, California where he was living to visit him. By this time, he had settled down. His health was deteriorating. He had osteoporosis, kidney issues and major heart trouble. He had moved into a home in the mountains and became a well known ham radio operator.
I never outright asked him why he didn’t come around. I didn’t have to. Maybe it was guilt that made him give me his reason(s), maybe he knew he may not have another chance. He told me that he and my mother could not be in the same room. She was crazy and all they did was fight. Ok. Yeah she was nuts, I get that. So I accepted that reason. Why didn’t he come get me after the fire, when I went into foster care? He knew I was in a better place, he did not want to disrupt my life (this is a bit foretelling about what happens after the Jamison Center). Again. I accepted that. It made sense to me. I understood it. It did not fix the damage that was done or did it stop any further unraveling of my life later on, but it did allow me to forgive him.
In 1999, I got a phone call while I was at work. My father had died. He had just had heart surgery. Several days later, it was evident the surgery did not cure him of his heart trouble. For not having a strong relationship with him, I sure did lose it when I got the call. I would have liked more time with him. But I am grateful for the time I did get, and the chance for a bit of healing.
“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.