Archive for the ‘My Story’ Category

My father always sends me a birthday card. Typically, I glance at it and trash it. This year, the card really caught my attention — so much so, I decided to keep it. I don’t think I’ve ever kept anything my dad gave me, mostly because nothing he gave me ever meant as much to me as it did to him. In fact, nothing he gave me has ever meant anything to me. I suppose, to be unfairly harsh, it’s too little, too late.

Shortly after forcing me into his family, he presented me with a gift. I would like to describe in great detail the presentation of this gift, which clearly meant so much to him, but I can’t recall. An excited smile and wavering voice play in my memory, but it’s possible that the incident was quite serious. All I really remember is that I did not share his emotion; this gift ignited in me a different kind of emotion altogether.

I learned, after I opened the gift box, that my dad had started keeping a charm bracelet for me years and years before. Each charm represented a place his family had gone without me, and now I had beautiful reminder that I wasn’t part of their family. (Even though I didn’t want to be, of course, but I still found it rather rude.) Quite insulted by the collection of national monuments clanging about, I took it as though he was brushing aside my life with my mom — my entire childhood! It was like the little dangly pieces were dainty reminders of what my dad thought I had missed, but I felt I hadn’t missed a damn thing. I seethed with hatred; “Obviously didn’t miss me that much if they clearly had so much fun the whole time.”

I held my hatred within and thanked him, then I promptly threw the offensive collection of silver into the bottom of my jewelry box, literally burying it. My dad was clearly a complete jerk.

Now, 16 years later, I see better what his intent was. He wanted me to know that I was loved and remembered all those years.  Did his life go on?  Of course — it had to, but he never forgot his only daughter, and he was trying to tell me that.  I feel sad that I wasn’t able to see outside of my own head. I feel sad that I honestly do not know what happened to that bracelet. It’s possible that it’s packed away somewhere.  It’s more likely that I treated it as the garbage I thought it was when I moved out of his house. I really don’t remember; I only remember hating it.  If I found it today, I still wouldn’t love it or wear it, but I’d definitely keep it.  It means love, even if it doesn’t quite know how to say it.

The birthday card was much more clear:

I see a young lady
out in the world,
following her dreams,
doing good,
and making a difference.
Then I think,

Hey, that’s my kid.
That’s my pride and joy.

Happy Birthday
to a daughter
who’s so inspiring.

And loved.

And though I cannot honestly say that I reciprocate the feelings, I am learning to appreciate — and to believe — his.

This one’s going in my Life Box.

~LG

Recently, a thought popped into my head that had never visited me before:

It would have been really, really cool to grow up with a big brother.

I’ll just say it, even though it’s harsh: My mom took that opportunity away from me. Not because she never had a son, although she didn’t. No, I’m speaking of how she literally stole me not only from my father, but also from my big brother. I didn’t meet him until I was 12. By then, as it was with my father and my grandparents and everyone else “on that side,” it was simply too late*. Too much damage had been done and too much of my life had been built on lies. A sad by-product of the entire ordeal was that I lost a big brother.

I found out after I met him that my big brother is really, really cool. We’ll call him Blake, because that’s what I’ve named him.

When the police found me and sent me off with my biological father on a crisp, December evening, I was terrified. Believing that the man driving me hours away to I really didn’t know where just might pull over at any moment and rape me, I fully realized for the first time that I didn’t have a friend in the world. No one really knew me, and no one could help me. (I went to bed unmolested — as I did every night thenceforth, since my fears had been planted and nurtured by my mother — but I was still friendless nonetheless.)

I woke up the next morning knowing that I couldn’t really just stay locked in what they were calling my room. I don’t remember anything about those first conversations, because I was pretty much shut down, but I do remember bonding with their dogs. I also remember Blake. The first meeting escapes my memory, but I do have two very cool early memories of him.

  1. He took me to see Lion King. He was 19 years old, and he took his scared, sudden little sister to a kid movie. I have no idea if anyone asked him to do it, but I doubt it. He’s not the sort to really do things other people tell him to. More likely, he saw a kid as screwed up by her parents as he was, and he was giving me a couple of hours away from them. I love that.
  2. We made a song. I still have it on tape somewhere; if I found it, I wouldn’t even be able to listen to it! Bummer. He had all kinds of recording gizmos because he’s a musician, so he got a few funky tracks going, strummed his bass here and there, and we laughed, talked, and made funny noises into the microphone. All of this went down in the wee hours of the morning — again, away from the parents. I love that.

I didn’t really let him in, but I can see now that he understood me more than anyone else in the world, and I have really cherished these and other memories that followed. Man, if we’d gotten to grow up together, we would be really, really close. I miss what could have been.

.

.

.

*As a side-note, sometimes it is too late. Well-meaning people sometimes like to say it’s never too late about things they don’t understand. It is. I like my brother more than any other blood relative, hands-down.  He is my very favorite.  However, I love my mother so much more, even though I can barely stand to be in her presence. It’s complex, but it’s done. I can move forward, but I cannot undo.

The button at left links to a very cool organization. Their motto is “Helping Missing Children Recover.”  While many entities exist to recover missing children, as well they should, this organization exists to help those children — now adults — recover from what honestly amounts to child abuse.  It is entirely peopled by formerly missing children who were abducted by a parent.

It’s a unique situation, to be sure, and I’d never met another soul who shared my story until I happened upon this website a few years back. To be honest, I still have not “met” anyone else who was abducted, but reading their stories was an incredibly emotional experience for me. That night, I stayed awake until the wee hours of the morning watching video after video and reading story after story. I was stunned to hear bits and pieces of my weird story coming out of someone else’s mouth.

While I have not been an incredibly active member, I have benefited greatly from simply knowing Take Root exists. I contribute to surveys as they come along, hoping that sharing my story will help researchers, psychologists, and law enforcement personnel deal carefully with the children they return to  a “left behind” parent. One such survey came long today, and it was only one question:

How did your taking parent keep you “hidden?”

I suppose my answer to this question was the first time I ever enumerated components of our hiding strategy. I say “our” because I was part of it. My mother did ask me if I wanted to live with her or with my dad before she took me, so I was part of the decision from the beginning. You know, as much as a four-year-old little girl can be when her mother asks her a question like that.

Having told my story to inquiring minds countless times, I went about answering this question immediately and effortlessly.  Here’s my answer:

  1. We moved to another state, and moved within that state often.
  2. My middle and last names were changed.
  3. My birthday was changed.
  4. I was told that my father was abusive and that he didn’t love me, but only wanted to hurt my mother.
  5. My mother “home-schooled” me or enrolled me in extremely small and obscure private schools.
  6. I was instructed to tell people that my father died of cancer before I was born.
  7. Every bit of my fake identity was known to me.  I knew I was lying about everything, but I was told it was necessary to keep me safe.

This may come off as stating the blatantly obvious, but after I wrote it all out, I said to myself, “Wow. That’s pretty messed up.”

Indeed. But that was life as I knew it, and Take Root has reminded me that it’s perfectly normal to still be recovering from it… over 15 years after “recovery.”

Thank you, Rooters.

The Elephant Room

Posted: July 7, 2010 in Part Four, Part Three, Part Two

Dull gray.  Silvery gray.  Blue-gray.  Goldish gray.  Not gray at all.  Trunks, tusks, toenails, tails.  Everywhere.

It was a herd.  An eclectic herd so large that it needed an entire room devoted to it.  I will say that it made gift selection easy; you always knew that my mother’s mother would be delighted by any elephant paraphernalia.  (I’ll let you in on a little secret, though; she did always prefer the African elephants because of their ears.  The Asian ones just looked somewhat silly.)

You see, my family collects things.  Ridiculous, cluttery things. Here’s a small sampling from through the years:

  • Mom→Giraffes. Stephen King books.  Head vases.  Shot glasses.  Coca-Cola items.  Cookie Jars.
  • Sister→Unicorns. Holiday Barbies. International Barbies. Dragons. Wizards. Lighters. Santa Clauses.

When I was small, I liked small things like kittens and puppies.  Voilà!  I became a collector before I knew it — right down to the bedsheets.  Becoming fascinated with angels, I sat back as my family pounced on the new idea.  Oh, and I loved snow globes, which I called “shakeys.”  My grandmother seized this one before anyone else and started my collection of shakeys with angels in them. (She still contributes, in fact — every Christmas.  This is the only vestige of my “collector” days.) As I grew, I eventually collected The Little Mermaid — dolls, clothes, sheets, books, school supplies — and Elvis memorabilia.  Let’s just say my room was thoroughly decorated.

Then I moved.  I brought my things, but no one added to any of my collections anymore.  I stopped collecting, but I didn’t really notice.

When I re-entered my family’s lives after high school, I was a different person.  One does a lot of growing up between 12 and 17, and that I had.  But having not watched me grow, they picked up where they left off.  Several awkward thank-yous and an entire collection of singing Elvis ornaments later, I think they got the message:  “I’m different now.”

They have never liked the difference, I have never again “fit in,” and they have never been able to talk honestly about the obvious.  I guess my own little elephant will have to just keep following me around. (Oh, but she is an expensive little thing.)

~LG

For the beginning of this story, (and you should really read the beginning; it’s important), please click here before proceeding!

. . .

The first order of business, before moving to the ocean, was actually becoming a mermaid.  Lainie was no fool; she knew that there wouldn’t be any witches or sea-kings at her disposal.  Besides, she’d never make some stupid trade and fall into a trap.  She had definitely learned from Ariel’s mistakes.  On the contrary, Lainie knew of only One who could make her dream come true.

You guessed it from the capital letter—God.

What?  You think God couldn’t turn Lainie into a mermaid?  Then you’re a fool.  God can do anything.  Even if mermaids only exist in fairy tales, God could make one.  Lainie might just be the first.  And she aimed to ask as no little girl had ever asked for anything before.

Night after hopeful night, Lainie prayed to Jesus that she’d wake up and find fins under her sheets; she didn’t care what color.  After several disappointing mornings, she had a lot to think about.

Could God hear her?  Stupid question.  Of course He could.

Then why wasn’t He answering?  This one was puzzling, indeed.  Perhaps Lainie just needed to be patient.  God doesn’t always give you what you ask the first time.  In addition, maybe it was foolish to expect God to do all the work.  Shouldn’t she help in some way?  Everyone always says that God helps those who help themselves.

Right.  That’s it.

The following night, she lay in bed with her legs firmly pressed together.  God may have found it annoying to take two, sprawled limbs and weave them magically together while keeping the little girl asleep.  (Of course He’d keep her asleep.  Such a thing would probably hurt.)

Morning came; no fins. New idea.

Swimming!  Swimming mermaid-style, and singing “Part of Your World.”  How could Lainie have been so dense?  God wouldn’t want to have a mermaid lying in a bed.  Maybe she wouldn’t be able to breathe!

So, she swam and sang.  You know, if you could call it “swimming” when one wiggles about in a kiddy pool.  Either way, she was in the water and mermaiding as no one had ever mermaided.  Perfect setup for God to do his magic!

Nada.  She swam all afternoon, until she was all wrinkled up like prune and her mother got home from work.  Back to square one.

Forget the swimming.  If she’s swimming, she’s not sleeping, and God would want her sleeping, as explained before.  She couldn’t sleep and swim at the same time, because she was still human and could risk drowning before God showed up to do the switch.  Back to sleeping.

Listen, if God could change a girl into a mermaid, He could certainly figure out what to do with the mermaid’s breathing situation until she could be relocated to the nearest body of water.  Besides, perhaps she would be able to breathe on land!  The mermaid in the Tom Hanks movie could, and so could Ariel.  Lainie had obviously jumped to a ridiculous conclusion with the swimming thing.

Persistence was the name of the game.

And persist Lainie did.  She even got it in her head that her underwear might be a bother to God while fusing her legs together, so she tried going commando one night.  That felt really weird, and didn’t work anyway, so she just went back to regular sleeping with her legs together and praying persistently.

She kept her hope in a magical, underwater world, full of music, joy, and freedom.  Sounds beautiful, doesn’t it?

Oh, and she kept rewinding The Little Mermaid, despite the scoffers.  Give that girl any sentence from any scene, and she can recite the rest of the movie.

.  .  .

Down here all the fish is happy,
as off to the waves they roll.
The fish on the land ain’t happy;
they sad ‘cause they in the bowl.

~Sebastian the Crab

~LG

Guns ‘n’ Roses suddenly exploded into the relative silence of the living room.  Startled, Lainie jumped back from the VCR and spun around.  Mara, who had six years and eleven months on Lainie, walked with such purpose and speed that she was nearly through the living room and into the kitchen before the VCR operator had even placed the abrupt blast of noise.

As she blew by, the older sister scoffed at the Little Mermaid, who was about to delight her audience yet again.  In a similar fashion, the younger sister rolled her eyes toward the scoffer’s messy, rock-n-roll abode, and then re-focused her attention on waiting patiently for her tape to finish rewinding.

The two were worlds apart, and neither had much interest in going on holiday to visit the other.  (Truth be told, Lainie actually had every bit as much interest in her older sister as most little girls do; she wanted to be liked and accepted, and she wanted to be as beautiful, as smart, and as cool as Mara.  She had learned the hard way, however, to keep to her own world, because trying to enter a 9th grader’s world is simply futile.  Thus, she feigned disinterest.)

“Are you really going to watch that stupid movie again?  Don’t you already know every word?” Mara ridiculed, between bites on a popsicle.

“It’s not stupid, Mara, so just shut up!” Lainie countered, matching her sister’s condescending tone.  “It’s a good thing I know all the words, anyway, since I can barely hear it over your stupid music!  You’re going to go deaf one of these days, and I won’t even be sorry!”

“Whatever.” The older dismissed the younger, and both returned to the solace of their respective domains.

Just then, the VCR made that subtle change in sound, indicating that it was almost finished rewinding.  Lainie poised her finger to press “Play” once again.

It should be mentioned here that little Lainie Gallagher very desperately wanted to be a mermaid.  Ariel, without a doubt, was the most beautiful Disney girl ever sketched, but that had nothing to do with it; Lainie and Ariel looked absolutely nothing alike, so the former really had no business imagining herself as the latter.

That begs the question; did Disney ever consider a freckled princess?  Now she would be beautiful, indeed!  Shoulder-length brown hair, blue eyes, a great smile, and the name Lainie.  Perfect!

Only Princess Lainie would be a human who wanted to be a mermaid, instead of the other way around, and her mother would have no choice but to move her to the ocean once the metamorphosis took place.  What other option could she possibly have?  Let her daughter’s fins wither and flake like that naked mermaid’s tail in that Tom Hanks movie when she was really sad and swimming in a tank?  No way; that would be gross and cruel.

Lainie’s mother would simply have to take her to the ocean; there were no two ways about it.  It would be a double-bonus, since Lainie had neither seen the ocean, nor been a mermaid.

Yes, back to that.  The first order of business, before moving to the ocean, was actually becoming a mermaid.  Lainie was no fool; she knew that there wouldn’t be any witches or sea-kings at her disposal.  Besides, she’d never make some stupid trade and fall into a trap.  She had definitely learned from Ariel’s mistakes.  On the contrary, Lainie knew of only One who could make her dream come true.

. . .

Stay tuned to hear the rest of the story!  Coming next Monday!

~LG

Riding past a sprawling and impressive car dealership, a small, front-seat passenger whispered a very sincere allegiance in her heart.  Not to the dealership, mind you, but to the banner flying over it.  A steady wind unfurled the regal Old Glory as the child completed her patriotic creed. She followed her sincere pledge with a sincere prayer, making apology to God for not being in school in order to more properly honor the emblem.  To her, it seemed as much an affront to Him that she was kept from pledging her allegiance as it was a slight against her Uncle Sam.

God indulged Lainie’s concern over the cotton and polyester and comforted the little girl.  He calmed her heart and cradled the real issue in His.

– – –

The child had been in school at the beginning of the year.  On the first day, she nearly lost all manner of 3rd grade decorum when she saw that Mrs. Gannon would be her teacher again.  Unfortunately, the excitement was to be short-lived.  Lainie, Mara, and their mother had to move due to sudden unemployment.  Then, after a few weeks at a tiny, new school in a tiny, new town, they had been forced to move again—this time due to their pursuers getting a bit too close.

Cecelia had immediately enrolled Lainie in another school in a yet newer town, but it was made clear to the daughter from the very beginning that she would not be there for long.  Cee Cee’s now meager wages simply could not afford the private school’s tuition, and, being entirely too dangerous, public school was completely out of the question. Knowing the importance of education, the desperate mother devised a plan, and it became the child’s task to convince her teacher of something that would seem a little bit silly.

– – –

Apparently a normal day for everyone else, teachers and students behaved as though everything would continue to be as it always had been.  Of course, they had no way of predicting that everything would change tomorrow—at least for Lainie.  Certainly they would notice, but no immediate attention would be paid.

That’s an assumption.  Lainie would leave, and she would once again have no way of knowing if she’d be missed at this new school where she was foolishly making new friends.  Leaving her last school was hard, mostly due to the awkward and sudden circumstances.  There had only been one other child in her grade, however, so she hadn’t formed any close friendships.

Leaving the school with Mrs. Gannon was much worse; she’d been there for more than a year!  Being in another school setting eased the pain a little, even if it was only for a few days.

Lainie loved school.  But, it was time—dismissal.  “Mrs. Stivic?” the little girl began.

Understandably reluctant, Mrs. Stivic tried to dissuade her new pupil.  Lainie persisted by telling her that she wanted to look through all her new schoolbooks and show them to her mom.  Unimpressed and eyeing the clock, Mrs. Stivic relented with a wave of her hand and allowed the apparently silly child to haul the heavy load home.  The child and the teacher exchanged goodbyes, but only Lainie knew the weight of her words.

Those stolen books became Lainie’s new teachers.  Lainie became a home-school kid, and a rather independent one at that.  The books were good teachers, and it was usually easy for her to follow the directions.  Exception: fractions.  Have you ever tried to learn fractions by reading a book?

This nine-year-old did, but she didn’t learn them very well.

~LG