Hardships can make or break anyone. In our case there seemed to be non stop hardships, both making and breaking. Over the next few years I adjusted. To a new home, school, friends, and life. These years were tough, but I credit a lot of who I am today because of them. I really found God and Dad continued to come and go. I started realizing that it was his choices that kept us apart and not mine. Growing up is hard. I lived these years in a state of confusion.
He was broken. And I don't mean physically. Physically he had more strength than most people I knew with working legs. He was capable of lifting his entire body in and out of the tub. He propelled his own chair and really didn't like anyone pushing him around. I liked when he would sit on the couch because I could play. His chair represented fun to me. It did not for him. That's one thing I need you to hear. If this story speaks anything to you, listen to this part. His chair changed nothing for me as a daughter. His child. I didn't love him less. I didn't care that he was "different". He never understood that. He couldn't see it from my eyes. I often wonder if he had, were we would be today. Watching him overcome the obstacles made me proud. I would stand tall beside him but it wasn't enough. His mind told him the opposite. That the world was against him. That he was being punished.
Learning to live without him was hard. Mainly because he was still alive. It was a choice he made for me. I went back and forth with thoughts of anger and despair. Grieving someone who is still alive is something I don't wish for you. Let me be clear, now that he's gone, I still grieve. It didn't take the edge off going through it before. I didn't want it either time and life is unfair that way. So I learned to cope. Poorly. I put my head down and tried to find things to keep me distracted. Mostly good things, a few not good.
At 14 I made a horrible decision. A decision that landed me in juvenile hall for 96 hours and broke my Mother's and Step Father's hearts more than I will ever know.
Yep you read that right...me in jail and to boot, missing my first day in high school. He was back for the moment and I was hanging on every word. Long story short, I ran away from home. It was a brilliant plan, in my mind. I'd run away, then Dad and I would be partners in crime again. Only we became partners in crime literally. I set into motion a plan that caused my brother to do the same thing. It took years to forgive myself for that. I was gone for a few days and the plan Dad and I had made ended very similarly to that day he left me at my Granny's house. Only this time I rode in the back of a cop car and slept in solitary confinement because my cellmate wanted to cut my face off, seriously. I really thought leaving was the right thing to do. It was less about leaving where I was and more about getting back to him. Caring for him and restarting my journey to save him. This time I was released to my parents and he was gone again. What a mess huh? I learned above all that I never wanted to see the inside of a cell again. I became terrified to break rules. This served me well in years to come, but this wasn't the way I wanted to learn.
My point here is to share that his bad choices led to my bad choices. He was the adult yet I suffered the consequences. Always. It felt awful. When I was younger I didn't fully grasp consequences. Now it was painfully obvious that my actions hurt those around me, but I didn't let go. I was determined to seek him out. Somehow being left by him again motivated me to try harder. I often wondered how he felt. If he missed me. The next few years came straight out of "daddy issues" 101.
He did miss me. Missed his life. Loved us. The way he showed it was ass backwards but true. I believe in these times of complete devastation he felt all the same hard things I did. I started to distrust most of what happened around me. I felt alone and so out of place. Unwanted. I don't believe that's what he intended, but it's what happened. So, I stumbled into the most formidable years of my life as a hot mess. I didn't see him again until I graduated high school. These few years hold some of my favorite memories...and if you can imagine some of my worst too...