Why Don’t I Remember?

Now living in Arizona… at some point my mom meets the man who will end up becoming my adoptive father.  Once again, I have no memories of this time in my life – other than perhaps flashes here and there.  Or perhaps they are just memories of pictures I have seen, I’m honestly not sure.   

At any rate, they married somewhere around the time I was 4.  Then sometime around the time I was 5, he adopted me.  Apparently, I sat before the judge and said “yes, I want him to be my daddy.” 

Help me out here – do other people have memories from when they were 5?  I just have such a black hole where I feel like memories are supposed to be.

Here is what I DO remember from my childhood years. 

I lived in a very old house.  One of those old houses that makes creaking noises all night long.  The kind of house that gives you goosebumps because you feel like you are being watched all the time.  You know, the ones you would swear are haunted.  I am not entirely convinced that it wasn’t haunted.  It was actually two apartments that had been turned into one large house.  I was left there alone often.  Of course, I was terrified.  I don’t recall where my parents were or any details surrounding why I was left alone – just that I was alone, with the dog.

Now this house had two basements.  One had a large overhead door – the size of an actual door – that had to be lifted up to get into it.  It was horribly heavy.  Inside there was a steep set of concrete stairs.  I can still smell it – the smell of wet earth.  I don’t remember what was down there and something tells me it is better that I don’t.  Every time I think about that basement, my heart rate goes up.  While I have no memory of it, I have a strong intuition that that large door was shut on me and I was unable to get out.    

The second basement was much more shallow.  It was just a dirt floor – no concrete.  That basement just happened to be underneath MY bedroom.  It was covered by a large carpet – and for good reason.  This basement is where my adoptive dad grew his marijuana.  Yes, you read that right.  I had pot growing right underneath where I slept.  I was often allowed to sit on the wooden steps while he was down there “tending” his plants.  And, it is no surprise I am sure, that I was sworn to absolute secrecy.  This oath of secrecy, by the way, would continue until the day my dad died.

There is just one more thing.  Another thing that I have no actual recollection of… I have always had a very strong intuition that I was molested in that house.  By whom, I do not know, but my gut tells me that my adoptive dad was somehow involved. 

For a long time, I wanted so badly to know what that black hole in my memory contained.  What happened to me to make me the way I am? 

But sometimes those things are better left alone.  It is only recently, within the last year, that I have finally been able to let go and stop seeking answers that I will likely never get. 

Whatever happened, happened.  It cannot be undone and I will never get an apology… not this side of Heaven anyway. 

So it begins…

Do all good stories start at the beginning?  I’m not really sure that is the happiest place to start, but for the sake of chronological documentation, that’s where I will begin.

I was born 40-something-years ago in a small town in Georgia to fairly young parents.  My mother was just barely 20 when I entered this world.  I think my biological father was slightly older but truth be told, I have no idea.   

To start with, I survived on sugar water for the first several weeks of my life.  Unbeknownst to my young mother, her milk supply never came in.  Back then, for whatever reason, they believed that sugar water was an ok thing to give your infant.  I guess the fact that I even survived infancy is a small miracle in itself. 

All of my life, I have been told that my biological father was an alcoholic.  I have been told that because of his drinking, my mother divorced him but then remarried him after he promised to sober up.  As the story goes, he didn’t sober up.  My memory of this part of the story is foggy but as I remember it, we (mom, dad, and I) were at a lake and dad was drunk.  He proceeded to walk out into the water with me in his arms and lost his footing.  I am told that he went under and so did I.  Mom had to rush out into the water to save me. 

At that point, realizing dad was not going to sober up, mom found the courage to leave him for the second time.  I would have been about 1 ½ at that point. 

She packed up our belongings and moved us across the country to Arizona where my grandparents lived.  This is where my story actually begins.  Arizona is all I have ever known. 

Mind you, I obviously don’t remember any of this, but these are the details I have been told throughout my life. 

To this day, as far as my memory serves, I have not seen my biological father again.  I do vaguely remember a phone call with him somewhere around my 12th birthday but all that I remember is hearing his voice and bursting into tears.  The next memory I have is when I was 17 or so, I tried to reach out to him by mail.  I received a lovely handwritten letter back… unfortunately, it was a handwritten letter from his current wife and not him… and it included a $200 check.  Now tell me that doesn’t sound like shut up money. 

For many years I have wanted nothing more than to tell my biological father how he set me up for a life of heartache and pain.  After all, what else could possibly result from an abandonment so huge at such a young age?

My father was just gone – and I wasn’t worth following or fighting for. 

If only he said those words, would it have made a difference? 

YOU ARE WORTH IT.

This is what started it all…

I have had the pull to write my story for a very long time, but one day in particular, the pull became too much to ignore. On that day, this is what happened.

I was sharing some back and forth banter with a coworker… really I was whining. I was whining about not wanting to be pushed into project management. I have always viewed myself as a painfully shy introvert and I did NOT want any part of this project management stuff. (I’ve been at my job long enough that the financial gain wouldn’t even really matter – I am quite happy where I am at). Well this coworker proceeds to BELIEVE in me. What?

He tells me that my boss must see in me the same thing that he sees. He tells me he thinks I will be surprised at how well this all turns out.

Obviously there were more words than that – but those are the ones that stuck.

My mind was whirling all day. When I got home I just had to let it all out… so I opened up a blank word document and this is what came out:

“A culminating moment, when everything suddenly becomes clear. I can see now that I have lived my entire adult life using my past as a way to stay angry. I am everything that I hate in others. I have used my history as a subconscious way to push people away – especially men – the good ones anyways. But then again, I have spent so many years chasing after the wrong men… and now I understand it. I was chasing after those men because somehow if I could get their approval, gain their affections, then I would win – I would win the war I have fought inside me for so many years. I have been seeking my father’s approval for so many years, in so many men. And then a good man tells me like it is – is completely honest with me – and it blows my whole way of thinking out of the water. A way of thinking that I didn’t even realize I was doing. It was more of a way of being.”

Where the heck did THAT come from? That was about ten days ago. I have been bursting at the seems wanting to write since then.