Oh Donna, Oh Donna

four girls with Donna 84'I don’t really remember my freshman year, it all blurred by, but I do know I was busy, but alone. My older sister was in her senior year and all the fun that went with it, and my younger sister spent a lot of time away from home. Since my best friend moved away, I spent more time with my friend Donna. Her family was really good to me. They took me with them anytime they went somewhere; camping, fishing, church, grandparent visits, work, you name it I was there. In fact some of my favorite memories were with Donna and her family. At anytime throughout the year we were finding things to do.

Wintertime on the eastern plains meant snow, cold, blizzards, sunshine, sledding and igloo making. Donna’s dad was really good at engaging us in outdoor fun. He found this old hood of a pickup that he put a seat on and he pulled us around by his pickup when it snowed. It was great fun (most of the time) as long as he stayed on the road, and we couldn’t steer this old hood, so when we went into the deep weeds we got smacked in the face. Anyone knows that when your face is cold, weeds really sting! One time I was on a rail sled and steered right into Donna and she went sideways and hit a mound of snow and went airborne-man she was so mad at me-especially when she saw her dad and me laughing at her!

Spring on the ranch meant the snow would thaw, and the little waterin’ hole would fill up and we would go fishing. We never caught anything, but we nearly died! (Not really, but as kids we thought we were gonna). He were walking around the pond contemplating life and who was going to marry one of the “Johnson twins” when Donna said “STOP”! I thought she was telling me to stop talking, but she saw something I didn’t; I had walked right over a sleeping coiled-up rattlesnake-and he was right between my legs!! I couldn’t move, I froze. All the sudden we hear a little noise that ended up being the rattle at the tail-end of that snake. Donna screamed “RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!!” We ran as fast as we could, screaming all the way up to the house thinking that the snake was in hot pursuit!! When we finally go in the house and on her bunk bed we looked back, no snake. Whew!! I think we laughed for days over that one.

When the weather looked like it would hold (no more freezes) the bull got moved to the pasture next to the mile-long driveway. Now, anyone who has ever been close to a bull knows that all those “Bugs Bunny” cartoons where bulls paw the ground, stomp their hooves and blow snot are all true! We used to have to walk down Donna’s driveway off the bus, right on the other side of the bull pen. If we were lucky, “Ferdinand” would be in the other side of the pasture, but sometimes he would be near the driveway, and we would have to walk parallel to him. I didn’t believe Donna when she said he would come after us if we look at him, so I tried staring him down. After all, there is a fence between us right??? Wrong. He started pawing the dirt, snorting his snot all over the place and started making the “bull noises” (just like on Bugs Bunny) and started charging…all of the sudden those three strands of barbed-wire fence seemed like cooked spaghetti… I screamed bloody murder and ran as fast as I could to the barn, where I jumped through the split-rail fence and hid behind the old tractor. All the while Donna was yelling “I TOLD YOU SO!!!” So much for my stare-down contest, Ferdinand 1, Heather 0.

Donna’s parents were determined to save us, and I went to church with them often. Their church was very cool to me as they weren’t afraid of standing up, raising their hands, or singing funky songs- I loved it-at least I think I did. Surely it wasn’t that after church we used to stop at The Village Inn for strawberry pancakes! (Don’t judge me!). We stopped one Sunday at Donna’s grandfather’s house, and this I will never forget. There was a strange-looking young guy there, and we were told not to talk about him to anybody, and he didn’t want anyone to see him through the windows. He came from Cambodia (remember The Killing Fields movie?) and somehow he escaped the Khmer Rouge occupation. Grandpa was keeping him safe, and they were trying to find his family, but so far no word. We prayed for him right there in the living room, I never did that before and I didn’t even really know we could. As much as I can remember, the family never made it out. I felt very sad for him and I prayed that his life could be better in the USA.

I had other friends that I spent time, but some of the parents of my friends didn’t like my family much, and I knew that Donna’s family never said no to me spending time with them. Donna and I didn’t always get along, we fought like sisters, but we would always make sure we were together if there was a threat of snow or school cancellation. The sad part of it all was that we were not talking when she moved away. Donna used to talk about moving, but we never believed her; I lost touch with my friend, and her wonderful family. No Facebook, no email, no cell phones back then.

I looked for my friend for years, and I finally found her in 2009. The early morning drive into Denver to meet them all was very magical for me. God made a beautiful sunrise for me, and all I could sing was “How Great is our God!” For 60+ miles through my tears…I don’t think they understood how much they all meant to me, but I sure did tell them. It was amazing catching up, and spending the time with them all. Our next meeting was cancelled out as a blizzard hit and I was stuck and Donna was stuck 70 miles away.

Recently I was driving to Colorado from the east coast when I got a Facebook message from Debbie, Donna’s oldest sister. Donna was succumbing to her struggle with alcohol (just like my mom). I will never forget that drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains in Kentucky when my phone whistled the message. I’m on my way! Please tell Donna I am coming…but I was a day late.

Donna, I really wanted to say “good bye” to you this time, I believed you this time, I just didn’t make it.

I sat with Donna’s mom at the funeral, and rubbed her back. I stood up and shared some stories from when we were kids in hope that her children and grandchildren could know how much fun and happy Donna and I were as kids. I got to meet her children, and her grandchildren, they were all beautiful. After the service (and the food) Donna and I made our final trip out to the ranch, and I spread her near the culvert where our names were still spray painted (although somewhat faded).

Rest In Peace my dear friend, and tell my mom I love her.

Year 1983

Throughout my life I had a love/hate relationship with my mom.  I always felt like my older and younger sisters were closer to mom, and that she would rather spend time with anyone else but me.  I loved my mom, and I think I was somewhat resentful of her drinking.  I used to pour the liquor out of the bottles and then fill them back up with water and food coloring.  I would take beer out of the refrigerator and hide it in my room, and drank it whenever I wanted to.  My mom never called me out on my antics, and I always wondered if she knew, or if she was too drunk to pay attention.  By this time she had been in and out of rehabilitation centers and I never saw a change that would stick.  She may stay away from the bar for a few days, but then she would go back into her normal routines.  I think that is why I wasn’t interested in visiting her at the hospital when she was admitted after a 911 call.

I was busy with my life, my volleyball, my cheerleading, my friends, I had no interest in visiting her at the hospital (yet again) when we had games to play.  Her boyfriend went to visit her all the time, but he had to go in the evenings as he had a business to run. I turned him down several times to go see my mom, but this time he didn’t take no for my answer.  I pouted all the way in to Denver, and didn’t say much when we pulled in.  After we got out of the elevator, one of the doctors that was attending mom stopped us from going in the room.  He wanted to give us an update on her condition before we walked in.

The doctor told us that she had deteriorated severely.  She had ripped out all the intravenous liquids (IV) from her arms, she had refused medication, and she had lost the will to live.  The doctor looked at me and said “don’t be surprised if she doesn’t remember you, and please don’t take off her restraints, she is hurting herself so we have to keep them on.”  Well this was just too much for me to handle, and I nearly fainted, the doctor walked me over near the window where cool air was blowing in.  I felt like I just got my guts ripped out of me-like someone was lying to me this whole time when I asked how she was doing.  Part of me was also feeling guilty for not going in to see her much, but part of me died inside.  We walked into her room and it was horrible.  She was so swollen up, and her restraints were around her wrists and ankles.  She didn’t know me.  I tried talking to her, trying to remind her of who I was but it didn’t work.  In fact she was calling me “nurse” in the beginning, but she did finally recognize me in the moments before we left.  I told her that I loved her, and she begged me to take off her restraints from her arms so she could hug me.  I took one off and she moved her hand over and ripped her IV out of her arm and it started bleeding.  The nurse came in right away and we said goodbye and walked out of the hospital room.

A few days later, my mom’s boyfriend woke me up at some early hour in the morning making some weird sounds and I was scared.  I am sorry to ever have thought he would ever harm me, but I really thought he wanted to treat me like Mark. (earlier posts)  I started crying and screaming “no, no I don’t want to do anything…”  He let go of my arm and said “Heather, it’s your mom, it’s your mom…we have to go!”  The hour long drive in to Denver that morning seemed to take forever.  Her boyfriend told us that my mom had a heart attack and wasn’t going to make it through the night.  By the time we got to the hospital she had been moved up to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and was plugged into so many machines.  She was absolutely swollen so badly that her eyes looked slanted and I didn’t recognize her.  My sister had to convince me it was her.  The three of us girls got to go in the room to say goodbye.  It was the worst day of my life; she didn’t respond to any of our cries, she wasn’t there when we said our forever goodbye.  Her stomach was bloated so much that she looked pregnant, her skin was so yellow she didn’t look the same.  Her entire face was so blown up that all of her features that I remembered from when I was young were gone.  After we left the room, the doctor asked mom’s boyfriend to sign the papers for the machines to be turned off.  I didn’t want them too, I wanted them to stay on so my mom could get better, but the doctor said she will not make it back from the coma she had slipped into.  We said goodbye to my mom, and I never cried so much in my entire life.  She was everything to me; even though we didn’t get along, it was the unconditional love that she had for us girls that we lost that day.  No one has ever loved us like she did.

Her funeral was held at our high school in the small gym, where we held school concerts, dances, and practices.  The gym was full of people, I didn’t even know there was that many people who knew my mom, but there they were.  We sat in the front row next to my aunts (my mom’s sisters) and my uncle Jimmy (my father’s brother).  My grandmother and grandfather on my father’s side were there too.  Even two girls from the neighborhood we lived in with my step father Chuck.

I don’t remember anything about the service, all I remember is that my mom’s casket was open.  When I saw her there she looked peaceful, but I lost it.  I threw myself on her chest and begged her to come back to me.  I sobbed and sobbed and had to be picked back off of her so the rest of the people could parade by.  I pulled two of my friends in the limousine with me to take the ride up to the cemetery.  She was laid to rest on the hill under a small tree.

I don’t know why people always have food after funerals.  It seems to me that it is torture for those who are left behind by the newly deceased.  I hated being at the dinner, it was held at the Elks Club where mom spent her nights.  All the faces of the people that seemed to stare at me, and tried to give me their most concerned look.  All the old rumors that flew around our town regarding my mother came flooding back in my head and I wanted to get out of there.  I couldn’t understand how people could talk so badly about someone, and then cry at their funeral like there was friendship there.

The rest of my freshman year was a blur.  I played my sports and did my school work, but that freedom of “unconditional love” that children get with their parents was gone.  My father never showed up for my mom’s funeral, neither did her parents.  What sort of parents don’t  show up to their own daughter’s funeral?

Of mice and missiles…

Deer Trail was a fantastic place to grow up without much supervision.  We pushed the limits of our creativity and managed to stay alive to talk about it.  I remember riding on the hood of my friend’s car going down the highway at 40mph, walking through the bonfire after consuming beer from the keg, and tipping over cows once they fell asleep.

Once we got told off by the high school secretary for not doing enough posters and flyers for our high school football team.  It wasn’t really her place to grumble at us, and we wanted to get her back.  My friend’s family owned the “Dairy King” in Deer Trail, and they just so happened to catch a mouse in a trap a few days before.  We drove up to the store and grabbed the dead mouse, and headed back to the school.  Secretly we found a place to put the dead rodent-in the secretary’s desk drawer-thinking that she would find it the next day.  That night we were in the old gymnasium decorating for a dance, and all the sudden we heard a bloodcurdling  scream.  Apparently some of the girls were up in the office working on signs to put up around the school, and the secretary went to her desk for another pen.  Without turning on the lights, she reached in and grabbed the mouse.  She screamed bloody murder-we heard it from the opposite end of the school.  My partners-in-crime and I knew what happened and bolted out of the school (think Bo and Luke Duke).

We got called in to the office the next morning and had to face our punishment.  We got the big “talking to” about how rude and mean we were blah, blah, blah and not to do it again. We decided dead rodents were not something we should use again-but man it was awesome!  Looking back we raised a lot of hell, and we broke the rules, but we worked hard when we had to.  I think the biggest rule we probably all broke was not staying away from the missile base.

I am not sure of the whole story of the missile base, but I do know that once it was finished it was deemed obsolete so it was never used.  It was the coolest/scariest/deadliest place we ever went.  We heard people used to live down there, and some stories included witchcraft.  We climbed down three or four flights of stairs into the complete blackness,  It was cold, and parts of it were flooded, but it was so cool.  We would explore different levels, and we found “death floor”, which was a floor that only had the metal framing left.  We had to walk very carefully, or we would fall into the nasty watery abyss below.  One time my boyfriend (at the time) and I went down with a small flashlight and a lighter.  We explored deep into the darkness and I was scared. My boyfriend made me use the lighter to walk through the tunnel-and I was petrified.  The tunnel was a straight shot, but there were metal braces coming out of the walls that I could have run into.  We ended up climbing through an exhaust pipe and made it back to the sunlight all covered with soot! (101 Dalmatians got nuthin’ on me!)  I never forgot that trip to the missile base, or the boy I was with, but I got him back.

I dated a guy that my foster parents didn’t like. They made it hard for us to spend time together, and I finally gave in to the pressure and we broke up.  He was a good man, and we had fun together, but he started dating some of my friends.  One night I was staying at my uncle’s house (my foster parents went off on a weekend trip) and we were driving around, drinking a little (ok a lot) and checking who was out and about.  We spotted a truck that I recognized from the years we dated, and then it was gone.  We searched all over but they were gone.  We tried going out to the fields to look for them and we hit a hare.  I don’t really know why, but we picked it up and threw it in the back of the pickup. After a few more searches, we found the truck.  They had stopped to “make out” and we pulled up on them with our lights off.  My uncle had ducked down and let my other friend drive, and we let the parked truck know we were there.  GOTCHA!  The response was different than we thought as my ex-boyfriend yelled out “How did you get that fat-ass’s pickup!”  Well that angered my uncle and he popped up and said something else back-something about kicking his ass-and my uncle got out of the pickup, and grabbed the dead hare out of the pickup bed and tossed it in the cab of the lovebirds!  We took off like a bat outta hell and laughed ourselves silly!  I wish it would’ve ended there, but our great prank fueled us into “More Beer for my Friends” and we imbibed a little too much.  I was sitting next to my buddy and he was near the door.  I told him that I felt like I was going to “blow chunks” (vomit) and he needed to let me out.  He turned and said “no you won’t” but he was wrong.  I decorated his blue jeans, t-shirt, and even his tennis shoes.  My uncle told me not to get any in his truck, and I didn’t.  It was so gross, it was everywhere, and my buddy wasn’t very happy with me.

Lesson: if someone says they are going to vomit, do not say “No, you won’t”!

Life at the shop…

My mom had a boyfriend that owned a hardware store in Deer Trail.  We moved from the edge of town into the middle of town and we were happy we didn’t have to cross the “Green Mile” anymore.  We lived in two apartments up on top of the store.  Mom and her boyfriend had one side, and we had the other.  It worked out ok, he was very nice to us, but I think we caused utter chaos in his otherwise normal life.  We had access to the store when it was closed and my mom and boyfriend went to the Elks club.

We figured out how to bend our arms up and through the pepsi machine and had pop any time we wanted.  We had all the “cool” keychains we wanted.  We had an indoor rollerskating rink, never mind all the items we pulled off the shelves on the tight corners.  We played tag, hide-and-seek, ghosts in the graveyard, and any other game we could think of that was scary at night as we couldn’t turn the lights on or we would have been caught!  And the ultimate: Sunflower seed spitting contest:  We climbed up the shelves to the top in the corner near the paint mixing machine.  There was a scale used to measure how many nails, screws, bolts, etc… and we used it to see who was the champion seed spitter.  We sat there most all day on Sundays.  I never heard from mom’s boyfriend whether he found them or not, but he had to have.  I never told him how much we appreciated living with him, all I did was find the key to his cash register and took money.  I got caught; when I got the key stuck and I broke it in the drawer.  I felt horrible and came clean when I called for help.

While we raged havoc in the store, my mom and her boyfriend sat at the bar.  We knew she shouldn’t be there, but he couldn’t stop her.  We would see them stumble home sometimes if we were still awake, and we were always scared of the stairs they had to walk to get up.  They were metal, with very little hand rail, and they were coming off of the header that attached them to the building. One night must have been worse than others as I saw my mom in a horrific state.  She was laying at the bottom of the stairs-just like she had fallen- and I screamed for help and ran down the stairs.  I tried to wake my mom up, but she was out cold.  My older sister came to help and was going to call 911 when her boyfriend came out and said to stop.  He had walked her home, but he couldn’t get her up the stairs, so he went through the back door so he could get her up some safe steps, but he couldn’t carry her so he left her there.  The three of us carried her up the stairs, and I stayed awake all night with that image of her at the bottom of the stairs.

Our side of the apartment was falling apart.  After one storm the inside of the roof in my room had fallen in.  All the drywall was all over the floor, and the saturated fiber glass was falling down too.  We managed to put some plastic up to keep things from falling on me during the night, and poked holes in places that the water was gathering and had buckets to keep the floor dry.  I hated sleeping in that room, I could hear critters scurrying above my head, and I could hear the water running through the cracks of least resistance into the bucket below.  I always thought my life would end when the ceiling gave in, and they would find me in my bed, (probably in my own urine) alone, (my sister didn’t have the same problem I had, and never wanted me to sleep with her) with critters and insulation covering me.

Yes, I think I was a bit dramatic, but that was my world.  I didn’t have people over in my room once the roof fell.  I figured they would laugh at me, and I would feel more alone and different.  I threw myself into sports, and cheerleading, and anything else I could do to keep me busy and away from home.

The image of my mom at the bottom of the stairs has stayed with me, it was an image that no one should ever see, but we all know I have been there before…

Where to go and what to say…

So, I have been in a dilemma.  The next part of my story has people who are still around, still living in the same place.  As time marched on, relationships that had broken down have been mended, and I am not too sure how to handle this.  Maybe I should have pinned a name, to be anonymous, but that is not me.  I do not want to open old wounds, but since I have started writing this blog, my nightmares are dwindling down.  As a child, my world revolved around friends, sports, cheerleading, and who the “hottest” guys were.  I know I was a handful, I know I was difficult, and I know that I was in for a hell of a time for the next 4 years.

So for those of you following this blog, I apologize for taking so long to move forward.  I have been going over and over this issue in my mind, and I do not want to hurt feelings.  I think most kids have issues with their parents, but the difference is that “most kids” understand they have unconditional love.  I felt like I had love, but if I screwed up I was out.  I remember my high school years very fondly, but outside of school I struggled, to the point I thought about ending my own life.  Thank God I was afraid of hurting myself, so my attempt wasn’t significant, and I don’t think anyone picked up on it, as I was happy at school.

I am starting this up again, it is very therapeutic for me, and talking to myself this way is better than any counselor I have ever met.  Sorry again for the delay, this is a big step for me again, and I am ready for it.

Storm cats…a lighter side

Life in the small town had its advantages.  We were not at risk of being kidnapped, raped, or exposed to drugs; but a little alcohol never hurt, right?  My mom didn’t know that concept.  Throughout my life my mom drank, but I think she used to be better at hiding it when there was accountability in the house in terms of another adult.  My older sister tried very hard for a long time to manage mom, but mom wasn’t having any of it.

I used to love pop-which kid didn’t right?  It was expensive, and we went through it like water, any kind of bubbly sugar drink and I was hooked.  Mom used to mix her Canadian Mist or Canadian Club whiskey with Squirt, have you ever tasted Squirt?? Horrible.  But, “needs/must” (as my English friends say) so if I could find a can-even Squirt- with some liquid in it you could be sure I would swig it down before my sisters could.  Yeah, this day was more of the same, I found a nearly full can, but this one was full of whiskey with a ‘dash’ of Squirt…I nearly threw it back up as soon as it went down!  My older sister told me not to drink mom’s pop but I didn’t listen to her (big shocker there) and she laughed at me, which really pissed me off, so I drank another big gulp just for spite!  I had to get her back for laughing at me, but it had to wait. The room became very wobbly and I freaked out because I thought I drank too much poison and was going to die, again my sister laughed.

It was time for some revenge.  My sister was dating a guy that worked at a gas station in town, and she was gone a lot.  I don’t blame her for being gone, as she was a teenager and probably tired of mothering two young sisters, especially me.  So, one night we got lucky and my bestie from that time got to spend the night.  It was very seldom that I had friends stay over as everyone in town knew my mother, and knew she wasn’t home, so we had no supervision.  Actually, I think this time was probably the first (and only) time my bestie got to stay.  We decided my older sister needed payback.  We dressed up in all black, put panthose over our face, and made “cat ears” out of our hair and black socks.  We had stuffed newspaper into tights for our tails, and headed out to the place my sister and her boyfriend would park.  When they pulled up, we waited until the windows fogged in a bit, and surrounded the cab of the pickup and started making noises…when they wiped away the fog, we jumped at the windows screeching like rabid raccoons!!!  We heard a “WOAH SHIT!! WHAT THE HELL IS THAT!!”  And we ran off like the dickins, laughing all the way to our hiding spot under my bunk bed, in the deep drawer, where my cat had kittens years before.  Of course my sister found us, and tried to pull me out by my feet, but I was kicking so much she finally gave up.  Good times.

My older sister spent a lot of time out of the house, (do you blame her?) so my younger sister and I hung out a lot together.  We got ourselves ready in the morning, got the school bus, fed ourselves, and basically ran around town any time and any hour we wanted to. The big problem was the ditch. We lived on the edge of town, and there was a good mile stretch where there was no streetlights, and on one side of the road was abandon/dilapidated buildings, and the other side was a ditch-a deep dark ditch-that could have monsters, robbers, or animals in it.  People didn’t scare us much out in the country, but raccoons, coyotes, rattlesnakes, and tumbleweeds made too much noise to just dismiss.  When this “Green Mile” came up we tried several different tactics to make it through, we ran, we moved to the middle of the road, we crawled (I know, I know) and even talked really loudly so the creatures who lay in wait of an ambush would hopefully scurry off.  We never were attacked by Charles Manson, or Ka, (Jungle book snake) or the giant sewer alligator I’d seen on television last year, but we also never conquered our fear of it either.

What my biggest fear was? The weather.  They say Colorado weather is “bi-polar” in the sense of it changed within minutes.  We had loads of lightening, hail, snow, and tornado storms throughout the year.  We were told not to “touch anything metal” during lightening storms, so to pass the time I took showers.  Fun fact: DO NOT take showers, or be near ANY body of water during electrical storms as water conducts electricity quite well. 😳. The blizzards are really fun, but better if you have food in the house for when you get snowed in-we had guaranteed food at school, but not much at home- and blizzards shut down the school. The Blizzard of 1982 had hundreds of travelers stranded at my school over the Christmas holiday.  The scariest for me was tornados.  We lived in a static trailer home, which turned into a tin can during tornados.  If I couldn’t find anyone to go see during a tornado watch, I would find a safe place and hide.  We had a smaller ditch next to our trailer, so I would go there, and cover myself with anything I could pull over me.  I was scared, I hated tornados more than anything (except Mark) in the world. 

The landlord family became good friends with my mom, and they were good to us.  They would take us kids with them on trips to the farm, to Nebraska, and anywhere I asked to go with them.  We were out at (I refer to them now as grandma and grandpa) the farm when a tornado was headed our way.  We all got into the basement and heard the sound of a “freight train” outside and we huddled into the room that had no windows.  We were there for what seemed like forever, when we heard grandpa say “well I’ll be goddamned! We don’t have the schoolhouse anymore”.  We ran upstairs to see grandma pointing to a single brick that crashed through the kitchen window and embedded itself into the wall, never to be moved again.  Outside, the old one-room schoolhouse was peeled like a banana and now lay inside-out over the barn.  The pop-up trailer was speared straight through by a 2×4, and the little metal whirlybird marry-go-round was gone.  That was it, from what I can remember anyway.

I remember one storm was coming that reported baseball-sized hail, and some friends from our town picked us up and took us out of harms way.  Colleen was a wonderful supporter of my mom and tried to help us out.  It was such a long night waiting for the storm, and in the morning nothing really looked different, until we got to Deer Trail.  The storm hit hard, and the town looked like it was abandoned.  Huge trees were down, shingles all over the road, debris strewn all over the place, and we couldn’t drive down many streets.  Every single WINDOW in the entire town was SMASHED!  The hail stones were the size of a softball (just smaller than a honeydew melon) and car metal was no match for the giant ice balls-utter chaos.  Thankfully no one was really hurt, and my mom’s boyfriend got really busy cutting glass.  I started “Heather’s cleaning service” and made so much money raking yards.

My childhood wasn’t always fun and games, but it was so much better in the country than in the city.   These memories are pretty light, and it feels good remembering even the little things.  I always remember those who supported us, and also those who didn’t.  All is forgiven on my side. ❤️

Mom + rehab = disaster…

🌈 Rest In Peace Colleen

A one-horse town with no horse…

Heather Freshman year* On a side note, I will change the names of people going forward.  I know those of you who know me will know who I am talking about, but this is my story and I need to be respectful of those people who didn’t sign up for this.

The year is 1978, I started 5th grade once school resumed after the Christmas break.  Bring on 1979!

The first morning we woke up in Deer Trail my mom and older sister were gone.  They left a note about breakfast, but we were alone.  This place could have been on Venus for all we knew, we saw open plains, tumble weeds, and live animals. (Outside the San Diego Zoo)  The smells were new, and we didn’t really like it to be fair, but we knew no one would find us out here.  We finally got the tv to work and we tuned in the PBS station so Sesame Street it was.  It seemed forever before my mom and sister came home with our breakfast.  We didn’t know they had to drive so far for a grocery store, but they came back with my favorite doughnuts so they were forgiven.

Our neighbors were also our landlords.  They had a little boy they called “Bud” and a baby girl that was covered in mosquito bites.  It must have been a very mild winter-or we didn’t see her much-because I remember her covered, like chicken pox.  We called her “sissy”.  They grew into an extension of my family and we spent a lot of time with them.  My mom got a job at the local “Elks” club, a perfect job for an alcoholic, but she was going to work where she wanted-and could find work- so she worked from 4:00pm every day.  We were on our own to sort ourselves out from after school, and we had the freedom to come and go when we wanted to, and our small town was safe for us to ramble.

We spent a lot of time alone, although our neighbors were right next to us, we did what we wanted.  I remember a lot of “scary” movies were coming out on television back then, and we wanted to watch them so we could talk about them the next day at school.  Once we watched “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and it was so scary!  We had pulled out the fold-out couch in the front room and we were sure there was a “body snatcher pod” underneath us.  I called my best friend for help, and she suggested “Pam” cooking spray and a frying pan.  I had to jump off the bed so they couldn’t reach me and I ran to the loo, only to find a “pod” hiding behind the toilet tank!  I sat myself on the farthest edge of the rim, with my feet up, and did my business as fast as I could!  My sister was yelling at me to see if I was still alive, and I ran back down the hall and took a flying leap back to my “death bed” without being attacked!  My mom had no clue why we were sleeping with every light on, with Pam and a frying pan!!

We were in “autopilot” for sure, but things got serious with my mom…

Back at home?

We existed in foster care for more than we should have.  The state wanted to make sure my mom had a good job, a reliable car, a clean place to live, and food on the table.  While we were in care, my mom melted down.  She did everything she could to keep us with her, and she was devasted when we got taken away.  I knew she got into a car accident, rolled her car by the Bradbury sign near Byers, Colorado, and we heard she went into a detox facility.  We finally got visitation with her on Sundays, and we went over to her new apartment.  It was nice and clean, and we even had beds.  We loved spending time with her, and we never wanted the day to end.  We watched tv with her, all snuggled in together, and when “Mork and Mindy” came on we knew it was almost time to go.  We hated going back, we hated leaving her alone.  We couldn’t be sure that she wasn’t drinking anymore, and even if she was drinking, we wouldn’t tell.

We got to move back in with my mom on Christmas Eve.  We were so happy to be back with her, even though there wasn’t any presents under the little tree she had.  There was three little presents there in the morning; I got a yellow pair of mittens, and a candy cane.  It was a great Christmas.  A few days after Christmas my mom told us we were moving, and that if police come to the door-not let them in.  My older sister and my mom left my younger sister and I at the apartment and we were supposed to start packing.

My older sister had two 45 records that I used to ask to listen to all the time-she always said “no”.  I thought that this time would be perfect to record her records onto my cassette so I could listen any time I wanted.  I recorded “Escape”, (The Pina Colada song) without incident, but when I started to record “Pop Muzic”, police banged on the door.  My sister and I stopped the record, and hid behind the chair.  They banged again on the door, but we stayed silent. We heard them tapping on the door, and then they left.  We stayed hidden for some time, and then I started my recording again while my sister kept lookout.  The song seemed to be  as long as “Stairway to Heaven”, and my sister yelled “they are home!” way before the song was over.  I decided it was in my best interest to get the record back in my sister’s room before she came in so I just ‘sang’ the last verse…”everybody talkin’ bout Pop Muzik, talk about!”  I almost got away with it until I played my cassette, and the owner of the records (my older sister) didn’t believe I recorded them off the radio.  I got caught, and as luck would have it, I scratched her “Pop Muzik” record.

There was a new eviction notice on the door, and the police had put a padlock on the door. My mom was livid!  She wanted to go over and chew the landlord’s ass for putting us in danger, but her boyfriend thought it would be better if we got our stuff out first.  We packed our stuff and put it all in the back of a horse trailer, and we pulled out after midnight- after mom put her own padlock on the door.

We found ourselves out at a ranch in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of a group of people we had never seen before.  We were all together, with mom, and these people seemed really nice.  We stayed out there for a few days, and we watched the yearly televised movie “The Wizard of Oz” and a new scary movie called “Aligator” where an alligator was flushed down the toilet and into “radioactive goo”.  The alligator grew to 20 feet and ravaged the city, and it scared me to death.

A few days later we moved to our new home; a trailer in Deer Trail, Colorado.  

We are going where, with who?

Our move from the ” pet-stealing” Reservoir out to the country town of Strasburg was confusing.  We were “city mice” and we were way out in the middle of the country.  The best thing was this KOA campground had…yep, you guessed it, A POOL!!!  ( see the theme yet?)

We had a pretty good time out there from what I can remember.  Mom got a job at the local bar and we were only a few minutes stumbling home distance.  The problem was that we didn’t want to change to the local schools, we never knew where we were going to end up and we wanted something to hang on to.  My mom would drive us early in the morning back to our schools, and my older sister would walk over to our primary school, and mom would pick us up together.  This day, no mom.  We must have stood out on the curb for a long time, as all the cars were gone from the parking lot, except one…then there was a police car, then two police cars.  Our principal was walking toward us, with a few police officers.  They asked up who was picking us up and we said “our mom is on her way”.  My older sister was trying to cover for my mom bless her, but I was pretty vocal about my frustration over my life at that moment.  My older sister told the officers that our mom told us to walk to our friends if she was later and we just forgot. The police didn’t buy it, and we were put in the back of the cop cars and off to the precinct we went.  My older sister was trying to tell us what to say, and my little sister was so scared she just held on my older sister and said nothing.

So, this part is quite interesting; social services as able to place us ALL at one house, the “Dominguezs'”.  Usually kids get split up as one family may not have room for three at the same time, so we got lucky…or so we thought.  The Dominguezes had just one boy, he was older than I was, but younger than my older sister.  We had the entire basement as “foster town” and we had a couch, a tv, and a bathroom.  Daily food was strictly macaroni and cheese, or balony sandwiches (bologna is just leftover parts of animals ground down to slabs and was very cheap at the grocery store). As you would expect, the family dined on steak, potatoes, and fresh vegetables.  It used to make me so mad watching them at and we were eating “slop”!  

Besides the uneven feeding habits, there was other issues we had.  You see, the “Dominguez son” had no siblings, so he would come downstairs with us “heathens” and watch tv.  Because we spent so much time in the basement,we kinda took ownership of it-and besides, the boy had a bigger tv upstairs and he could watch whatever he wanted to upstairs!  Well, he came down stairs when my older sister was watching her show-maybe it was “Little House on the Prairie” or ” Dukes of Hazzard”, but the boy decided he wanted to watch something different.  Well my sister was like ” hey, we are watching this channel, if you want something else go upstairs”!  So the boy didn’t like answer and somehow he and my sister got into a “pushing match”. My sister was sticking up for herself, when the boy used his weight to knock my sister over on her back.  That just “pissed me off!”  I mean, I can say or anything I wanted to my sisters, but no one else has that right.   I punched the kid square in the face and I got “segregation.”  I had a bit of a temper back then. I got stuck in my bedroom for 4 days!  No food, no macaroni, no balogna, no nothing.  I started writing songs…..I was inspired by Paul Macartney….”somebody’s knocking on the door, somebody’s ringing the bell, do me a favor, open the door, let him in…”so I was inspired to sing….” hey, ho, nobody home, let me out before I break your neck, then I will be ‘very merry’ hey, ho, nobody home, let me out!

As difficult as this is to say, I think we took advantage of someone who we should’ve protected.  I can’t remember her name, but she was a “bottom dweller” like me, but she wasn’t as “outspoken” as I was, and I am afraid I was involved in some “bad behaviour” from my side.    We used to “flick” her comb off the ledge and into the toilet.  If we made it in the target, we used to have her “fish it out”, but after I spent time with the girl, I couldn’t have her get her comb out of the toilet.   She was always so quiet and shy, I really didn’t understand.  I feel bad now, and I hope I can be forgiven… I was a kid… I am so sorry.
I ended up in “solitary confinement” so many times that I started thinking ‘big’.  

Do these experiences “shape me” or can I write my own path??  I really hated the fact that I didn’t get the “normal” upbringing.  Parents that tell you right from wrong,  how do I learn otherwise?  I am not “worthy of love”, everyone that I loved had left me, I was too young to love my sisters yet, but they were the only ones still around.  That is so deep.  I would let you down…how do I “get better?”  I was a mess by now, I fought with anyone, I got “F’s” in my report cards, I hated everyone and everything-except my friend Cori and her family.  I loved going to her house, I felt safe.  Our foster family didn’t want to wait around for my school to start after my older sisters, so they would drop us off at Cori’s house in the morning and we would take the bus together.  Cori’s parents were always so nice to us, and her mother remembered how much I loved raspberry-filled doughnuts, and she had them every morning. 

So I got in trouble for the ” brutal attack on the golden boy” and I didn’t care-at all- I was tougher than he was and I didn’t answer to anyone.  I got stuck in the bedroom again, but I didn’t stay.  I climbed out the window and went to the local police station.  I told them all about the “unfairness” that was going on, and they took a lot of notes, and them promptly called the Dominguezs to pick me up-and back in the basement I went. That happened quite a few times over the months and months we lived there.  At school I had to talk to a counselor, and again I spilled my guts.  The school had to follow up on my claims, and finally I was heard.  The state opened up an investigation into my claims, and researched others who had been through the house, they found abuse.  By the time we had moved back in with my mom, the Dominguez foster house was closed down.

Intermission….

I’ve started this blog while on holiday back in the U.K. Where I lived for 8 years of my adult life… I will be writing on the plane and will post more when I land back in the USA.

Don’t ask where I am from… that is a whole other story…😊