Archive for the ‘Part Four’ 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.


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.)