We are all a product of our life experiences – and who we are today, is not who we were a year ago; or five years ago; or who we will be five years from now. We are evolving, changing, learning and growing. I know, from past experiences that the moments I am living in right now will change. The look of my life and my loves are constantly changing by the cruel hands of time, and fate. I have to swim hard and fast to keep my head above water, and my heart intact.
I’ve been thinking about what events have made me what I THINK is a strong, independent woman. Of course, the deaths of my beloved parents at a young age significantly impacted me. But I think there was another important event that forced me to grow up and stand on my own two feet. Perhaps now is the time to share.
I graduated from Smith College in April of my 22nd year. I spent one last summer working at the beach, before I made a hasty decision to drive to California with two people I had known for four months. I was impulsive – although I prefer the term adventurous, myself. My mother, God bless her soul, wished me well and sent me on my way with a hug and a few tears.
After landing in San Diego and living there for several months, I met an older guy we'll call Steve, who was a teacher and an incredibly brilliant man. We met at his best friend’s topless bar (I was bartending. Don’t ask.) And after a whirlwind courtship, he convinced me to marry him (I know, I know…).
During our five-year marriage we both decided to attend evening classes at a local law school and simultaneously enjoyed a rather “party-like” lifestyle. He had some unseemly connections, and I was drawn into a lifestyle that was dangerous, unhealthy and hidden from anyone I loved. My mother’s sudden death forced me to take a long hard look at the life I was living. I wanted out. However, I was far too young to do it in a mature and thoughtful manner.
One day, after Steve went to work, I packed my bags, drove to my brother’s apartment (I had convinced him to come to California. Another long story.), and he put me on a plane home.
I thought, at the time, that my mother’s many brothers and sisters, and HER mother, would welcome me with open arms.
I was wrong.
Remember when I told you that the man I married was intelligent? Well, he was also a smooth talker and could be very convincing. He had managed to contact some members of my family, and what he told them I will never know. I DO know that he managed to make ME look like the one who had a problem.
When I arrived at my beloved grandmother’s house I was met with a closed door. I was stunned. I went from house to house, hoping that someone would listen to this orphaned niece who was fighting for her life.
No one believed me.
They all thought that I had done ANOTHER impulsive thing, that SURELY it was my fault and I was the one who'd made the mistakes.
I was devastated. Utterly, and completely devastated.
Fortunately, my sister’s father-in-law lived in a nearby community, and after several phone calls, he took me in. He and his wife gave me a place to stay, never questioned why I was there, but wrapped their arms around me with unconditional love and comfort.
I spent many, many months with them, and reconnected with high school friends. I went out at night, enjoyed some of the things I had missed while I was gone. I think, in hindsight, I was desperately searching for people who would keep me sane, safe and comforted. My friends did just that, and I thank them. My brother and sister, who lived in other regions of the country, stood by me – even at the expense of their relationships with our extended family. To this day I will never be able to tell them how much that meant to me.
We spent many, many years on the periphery of our large extended family- black sheep, if you will. I don’t think the hostile part of my family truly understood the impact of their actions – they are really good people at heart. I just think they were misled and misinformed by a very smart and stupid man, and didn't realize we were three orphans desperately seeking parent figures.
It’s been over 25 years since those events, and once in a while I think about what Steve's life must be like. I know he graduated from law school near the top of his class. There, my knowledge of his life ended.
Then, out of the blue a year or two ago, one of my aunts contacted me to tell me Steve was looking for me. He had discovered a box of belongings that I had hastily left behind. She said she gave it to him, and that I should expect a call.
That made me nervous; very, very nervous.
I decided it was time for Google. One night after my family was in bed I opened my laptop and I went to work. It didn’t take me long to find out that he had been permanently disbarred from the practice of law; and not only THAT, he had been suspended many times before the official disbarment, and had been ARRESTED and convicted of manufacturing methamphetamines.
Well. Finally, after 25 years, perhaps someone would believe what I had said all along. He was a bad, bad seed – that looked good on the outside.
I don’t blame anyone for what I went through, for it truly made me the person that I am today. I am proud to say that I never, ever touched a “substance” after that plane in San Diego took off to carry me home. (Well, except perhaps a touch of vodka.)
I love my mother’s family because they are my blood- and they are good people. They just weren’t able to see my side of the story. I was impulsive as a young girl, and perhaps I reaped what I had sown.
And as for that phone call? I never received one from HIM. I HAVE, however, received NUMEROUS calls from creditors looking for him, and for the money he owes them. How they got my number, I do not know.
Yep. Just when I hope his name won’t come up, it still does. Now instead of fear and regret, however, that name evokes in me pride that I had the courage and fortitude to rectify a bad decision, and create a better me.