I’m going to talk about something today that is likely to make you uncomfortable. I’m going to tell you a story you’re unlikely to believe. A story of love and redemption. You will probably wonder why I’m telling it at all. Stick to the end and you should understand. But first, I’m going to tell you a little bit about where I come from.
I was born a poor black child… no wait, that was The Jerk. I am a child of 2 people who never loved each other. They married because of me. And, as the story goes, they divorced because of me. When I was 5. But that’s another story I may tell one day.
All you need to know is I didn’t start off right, but we didn’t start off poor. My father was always a hard-working, honest, angry man. My mother was always a mentally ill, love-starved, promiscuous druggie. Harsh, I know. The truth often is.
Then my parents divorced, my mother got custody of my brother and me, and we became very poor. On Welfare. And she ran away from life. Unfortunately she took us with her, at least at first.
If you’ve never been a poor child, you’ll never understand the shame and pain it brings you. Not just the hunger and lack of material things. Going to school every day in the same dirty clothes because you don’t have a washer and your mother isn’t capable of teaching you to clean, even if you wanted to.
Of learning to brush your teeth in school, when your entire mouth turned bright red with the fluoride tablets they gave you.
Of being sent to the corner grocery store with food stamps, and the hateful glares and rude remarks from other customers… “I wish I got my food for free”. If only they knew just how costly it was for a child to buy food with those horrid things. Penny candy so you got the rest back in change to buy Mother’s cigarettes, or booze, or whatever else she wanted today.
But the other side effect of my particular poverty was the utter lack of a loving parent. Not all poor kids have that problem, but more and more do every day. Dad wasn’t around (to his credit, Mother never let him be around; wouldn’t even tell him where we were most of the time). Mother never had a maternal instinct, wasn’t actually capable of caring for children.
Thus began my search for love, the end of the exposition, and the story I want to tell today.
I began my own promiscuous youth with consensual sex for the first time at 9, if consent is even possible at that age. The reason I say that is I had been molested twice before, but I barely remember either incident. My “first” was a boy of 11, and we continued for about a year.
I won’t go into all the gory details, but suffice it to say, I slept around a lot over the next couple of years, my mother encouraged it (more than encouraged it, but again, that’s another story), and I didn’t go to school much.
It wasn’t a shock when the truant officer came to my house and told me I had to go back to school. What was a shock is when my mother came home and took me to the juvenile center herself because she couldn’t handle me. The fact that she never even tried didn’t come up.
Foster homes were exactly what you’d expect from a B-rate movie. Then the group home wasn’t any better. My libido drove me through it all. And there was no shortage of men and boys waiting to take advantage of a little girl looking for love in the worst possible places. It didn’t help that I looked 16 when I was 11.
Eventually I went to live with my father, even though my mother had told me so many lies I was terrified of him. Ridiculous things looking back. But a child doesn’t know any better. Not even a “gifted” one (yet another story).
I had a number of boyfriends through middle school and high school and eventually went to college after my mother’s final betrayal (yup, you guessed it, story) and continued for more than a year.
I drank, became addicted to drugs, and had sex with everyone. I was a mess, getting messier. At one point I finally realized that if I didn’t stop I would end up just like my mother. I was becoming her more and more every day. With the help of a dear friend, I stopped drinking and drugs.
Then I met my first (dead) husband. I didn’t even like him at first, but eventually we got together. Ok, so eventually’s not the right word. We knew each other 3 months before we got married.
He had a reasonable solution to my impossible situation. I had to drop out of college because my financial aid ran out. He suggested the military where I could learn a skill and then get college for free when I got out. (Yes, that’s the way it worked back then.)
Then he made the even bolder suggestion that if we got married before I went in, I would get more money. Consequently, so would he, since he was going to school on that very same VA plan. We weren’t even supposed to see each other for 6 months and I would be pretty much gone for 4 years.
So that’s what we did. Trouble was, I was pregnant. Turns out the Army won’t let you enlist if you’re pregnant. So they shipped me home.
And there we were. Kids who barely knew each other at all. Married. Pregnant. In deep shit.
Over the next 17 years we had 2 kids and a miserable life. He became more and more of a drunk. I supported us and got fatter and fatter. And we both got angrier and angrier.
Until the night of the incident (story). Then I was suddenly a single mother. I had a decent job and 2 kids. And because of my own mental issues, no idea what to do with all the anger and fear and insanity I felt.
So I turned to the internet. This was before the turn of the century, so the internet was still pretty new. For me it was several chat rooms on AOL. I met a lot of men I never actually met. I flirted a lot and more. I “cybered” – a form of pornography I suppose, textual sex, interactive. I did meet a few of the men. My kids and I even moved in with 1 of them. That lasted 4 years, even though we broke up after 2.
I met my second husband online. We were in the same guild in a video game. He’s a fine man. A nice guy with a good heart. It took him 9 years to propose. We never lived together before marriage.
My first husband, the father of my children, died. He was living in another state and had a girlfriend. He got drunk, went down to the river, and cracked his head open when he slipped on a rock. Oddly, I mourned him. What a bizarre set of emotions that was.
And here I am now. Pretty happily married. We have problems just like everyone else. I have a well-paying job that I don’t enjoy, but it isn’t horrible anymore. People who know me now have no indication of what I was, unless I tell them. And I do tell them.
Because all that I’ve told you isn’t the whole story. As I look back on my life I can see the hand of God so clearly I can hardly believe it. All the times I should have been dead. The times I tried myself. All the turmoil and pain. It all brought me to this point and beyond.
When it all felt like it was falling apart and I just couldn’t go on, God was there, holding me. Carrying me. He loved me when I thought I didn’t deserve it. But even more than that.. He changed me. He changed my heart from an angry, hateful, darkness into love, life, and light. He made me better. He made me want to be better. Not all at once, but slowly, over time.
Because of Him I can breathe. I can love (and that’s a miracle). Right here, right now, I’m ok. And that’s enough.
I continue to tell my story so that others can see there is hope. If God can make changes in my life, after all I’ve done, he can do it for anyone.