IT’S A BOY!!!!

 

My first born, Hunter. This picture was taken in 2009, when he was 11 or 12 (I haven’t had enough coffee to do the math right now). I don’t have too many pictures of him. He doesn’t frequent my Facebook posts. Most people don’t know that I have a 20 year old son. Not because I’m hiding him, but because I’m not going to update my Facebook status with “Going to Pleasant Valley State Prison to see the boy today!” “Got a call from prison today!” Don’t get me wrong, those who need to know, know about my son’s story but I share it cautiously. When people ask about my kids- “Oh, what school do they go to? What sports do they play?” My normal response is usually- “Well, Arvy is excelling at football. Nicky hasn’t decided between a doctor or engineer. And Hunter, he’s on his own path right now.” How can I drop the bomb on them with “My son’s in prison.” It’s like “Oh, I have cancer.” Like I’m responsible for how they will take it. Because I don’t want to shock them or make them feel bad about asking. However, lately, I just say it. “My son is in prison.” More times than not, I get to hear about one their kid that has been down the same road, a cousin, a nephew or parent. Amazing what happens when you share  your story. Usually, you’ll find when you do that, the response is “Me Too.”

Hunter has been in prison for just over a year. We were expecting him  to get out either early next year or even in the summer. But it’s official. He’s coming home the day after Christmas. I’m excited and nervous. I miss my kid. I’m eager for him to have a new chance at life. But each time he comes home, it’s like bringing a new-born home. I don’t have clothes for him. Each time he either takes off or gets arrested, he loses everything. So we start from scratch. Will he last longer than a week out of incarceration, like last time? Will my shit get stolen….again? Will I be able to trust him? Will he get a job? Will he stick around and help me? Will this time finally be the time that he’s grown up enough to have gotten past the bullshit? Will the fact that I moved to a nice neighborhood and out of the drug infested area in which we used to live, make a difference? Will my “fancy” neighbors see him walking around the neighborhood and call security (because we live in THAT kind of neighborhood, with security, we’re legit!) saying that some thug is casing their houses? Will the parole agents come to my house and cause the neighbors to talk shit? Will I be able to afford to feed another person? Will my doors actually stay on the hinges? Will that walls stay fist-sized hole free?

So many unknowns. Sadly, my life is relatively calm when he’s jail. I’m not worrying about if he’s strung out somewhere, if he’s going to rob me, again, or if I’m going to get the call that I have to identify a body. Because that shit happens.

So, I start praying. That things will go right. That I will be able to handle this, again. That he will succeed. That we will all get along in the house. That the boys relationship finally be one of love and not hate, because the younger ones have watched Hunter destroy everything in his wake for the last 7+ years.

That I will finally be able to breathe again.

 

 

 

How I met your father

I have been very fortunate to have people in my life to help me when I needed it the most. Most of them came from my church, not my family. Strange isn’t it? I think mostly it was because my foster mom believes in tough love and letting me figure it out on my own and my bio family was in no position to help me either. So there I was, 18, homeless with no idea where to go, what to do and no life skills to even know where to start.

However, my friend Kim and her mom, from church, stepped in and let me move in with them. Kim’s mom, Donna ran an in-home daycare, so during the day I helped in the daycare. I love kids so this was no problem for me, except for the bratty ones, but I even loved them too.

Kim and I had been friends for a while, but living together did test our friendship. She was on the straight and narrow and I was the wild one. I’m not sure how either her or her mom put up with me for so long, but they did and I am grateful for that. I finally got a job at Taco Bell and soon found a one bedroom apartment. Neither lasted long. My apartment was the go-to party pad and I barely had the job at Taco Bell before I walked out on my ten minute break. Somehow I managed to keep the apartment for the next month. During that time, it was one big drunken, pot filled party. I can’t even give a clear timeline of all this. I just remember that it was May or June of 1996, because that is when I met my soon-to-be baby daddy.

I met Tim at a “party” at his house or his friends house, I’m not sure on the details. Now, just to be clear, I think you all have gathered that my decision making skills really sucked at this time (sometimes they still do). I never really thought too far ahead about the consequences of my actions, who I might hurt, or how I might even hurt myself. I also never really thought about the consequences of having sex. I had a skewed sense of love for a long time, having no real role models to teach me how to have a proper relationship. I think in my teenage mind, I thought by having sex with someone, I might get them to love me. We all know that is not how it works. Anyhow, so I slept with Tim that night and a couple times after.

I knew before I even took a pregnancy test that I was pregnant. I knew that Tim was the father, though there was a chance he wasn’t (again, I was not the best at making good choices). Let me just stop for a moment to give you girls and boys some words of wisdom that I have acquired over the years of mistakes I have made. Be picky about who you sleep with. Be careful who you make babies with. You have to deal with them forever, and so does your child. I didn’t know Tim at all. We hadn’t even developed a friendship. I know that he had a girlfriend who was on vacation at the time. Other than that, I didn’t know much.

Again, my church family stepped up to help. Not Kim and Donna this time, but Kim’s sister Tara. She moved me in, helped get me set up with insurance and welfare. Her rule was that I had to go to college and pass my classes. So I did. I took a full load of classes and passed them all, all while my baby was getting bigger and bigger inside of me. I had no idea how I was going to raise this kid by myself. I was only 19. I remember crying and crying about it to myself. I had no help from Tim. When his girlfriend came home from her trip, she of course found out what happened and that I was pregnant. She was still in high school. A month after I found out I was pregnant, she found out she was pregnant too. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t make good choices. Never the less, there we were. Somehow, she and I became friends. Though there have been times when our friendship was strained, for obvious reasons.

On February 18, 1997, the first love of my life was born. Hunter was 8 pounds 12 ounces and 21 inches long. He was absolutely perfect. I swore to him that it would be me and him against the world and he didn’t need a dad because I would be enough.  Looking back, I wish I had let Tim be more active in his life. But I think that we do the best we can with what we have at the time.

Sadie’s Folly

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.

Destinations

 

train

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 🙂

Let’s talk about ALCOHOLISM

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My grandparents on their wedding day.

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?

 

Daddy Issues

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.

The Jamison Center

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“In 1981, the A. Miriam Jamison Children’s Center was established in response to the growing number of reported child abuse cases in Kern County.”
     “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.