...Here we are, tradgey has wreaked havoc and now we attempt to rebuild.
As a young child, I wasn't privy to most details. They were ugly and confusing and not for children's ears. No one sat us down and explained any of this trauma that just occurred. At 5, I can't hardly blame them for that. "Listen baby, your Daddy has been shot multiple times, he may not make it, and if he does he will never walk again..." yeah...I'm sure you get how they skipped that part too.
However, their actions set into motion a slew of fear that reared it's ugly head in due time. Side note: When I say "them" I mean every adult in my life that knew the truth. Knew the details. They had to make a choice. Some chose for protection, some chose out of anger, some chose out of hopelessness, but it was very clear that everyone made a a choice. Except us. The kids...we were left to piece all of this together, alone. They had a chance to discuss, share feelings, build coping mechanisms. We did not. So, this is when I learned the meaning of what a big sister really means. A protector. This is when I began carrying heavy burdens. Burdens that were not mine. At 5 years old...and it would take years, decades in fact, before I started unpacking what I collected those years long ago.
In the next couple of years his external wounds healed. He grew stronger physically and we got older. During those first years of rebuilding, it appeared we could do it. We moved a few times around CO, made sure the houses fit his knew found "handicapped" needs. He went back to work, but his once vivid dreams started fading. He had a whole new routine...what once took minutes, now took hours. Simple tasks became frustrating. This is the why. When it was painfully obvious that nothing would ever be the same. I still can't imagine what he went through mentally.
He was angry often and we felt the brunt of it. Cruel words and punishments became the norm. Back then I didn't understand what alcohol was, but I began to learn the times of day it was ok to play loudly or when it was better to stay in my room. Just "being a kid" wasn't how we lived. I mean let's be real, his legs were literally taken from him in his mid 20s...years he should have been thriving, and all of the sudden he could barely perform general bodily functions without assistance. I'm not sure I'd do well in those circumstances either. Two kids, a wife, a household to support. The pressure was too much. He was cracking, but he sure tried. In those years I watched him survive. I knew his heart ached often, I wanted to help, but correcting this problem was far out of my reach. In our CO years I also learned of a sibling I have. My beautiful sister. It was confusing and wonderful all at the same time. Unfortunately this news was told to me in a moment of anger at my Dad (from a family member) and we didn't discuss her again until years later, but I dreamed of her often. I still don't know why she was kept from us. but I'll talk about that later.
The drinking got worse. His anger was taking over all of our lives. He yearned for perfection, but couldn't be satisfied. There just never seemed to be enough good grades, or completed chores to change his mood. But let's be honest that was never the issue. His dreams of our brilliant life in CO were gone...and the Dad I had known was too. So we sold everything, and I mean everything. Fresh start I assume, but as a child I had no opinion in the matter. I was up for anything that would bring his happiness back. Our family back. I'm still not attached to material things today because of this event, however, every now and then I do miss the handmade dollhouse my Granny made for my 7th birthday.
Returning to TN only brought more heartache. CO offered freedom from the cold hard truths. TN did not. He tried to find work, and family took us in. But this was a family divided. Blame had been placed and no punishment received by the guilty party of the shooting. I had envisioned returning to strength and unity only to find whispers and confusion. Why wouldn't anyone talk about this with me? Why is there so much anger? Why does everyone look at me with sadness? Questions that I wouldn't have answered for years to come.
Dad stopped trying and became reckless. His vices were taking over and he was losing his grip. Silently screaming for help, but always putting on the brave face when it seemingly counted the most. He was lost. We were lost. People wanted to help, but he was drowning and wouldn't reach up for help. I was quietly observing all of this, helpless and feeling like it was my fault. That I had failed him, you bet that's a heavy burden to carry, but I did. He and I were connected like that. And although I felt defeated, I believed I could fix it. That I could fix him. A child's mind is an incredible thing huh?
5 years into the loss of his legs my Mama Mer passed. His Momma. Sheer devastation shook our world. She was the light in the darkness for him. Always. I am 10 and overwhelmed that the one human that could still reach him, was gone. He never recovered from this loss either. In fact, it started a tailspin of bad decisions and hurtful actions. Those actions caused my Mom to file for divorce. I know she had her reasons and that is not the point here, but in my story all I could see was red. I became angry. How could we leave him? Abandon him? I could see past what he'd become when no one else could. He was still my Dad, but if we left he'd die. Literally. That was my panic, daily. It began a decade of reoccurring nightmares and fear I still deal with today. I was finally old enough to understand what was happening and I was in for more than I could handle.
My Mom moved forward with her life quickly and I wasn't interested in that. So I (not so politely) asked to leave and live with my Dad. She thought I needed a bluff called, packed up my things in black trash bags...and dropped me off at the car lot he worked at. That was that. I had gotten what I wanted, but I don't think she intended it to happen that way. To me, living with Dad meant I could care for him. That I could make sure he was ok. It wasn't an act of defiance, it was a move made solely out of fear. At 11 I cared for myself and him, walked myself to school and back, cooked my own food (when we had it) and endured things no child should see. Ever.
He was in a fog and no matter what was going on...how crazy things got, I did always know his love for me. I found it in the little things. Elvis marathons together, him waking me up at 2 AM (drunk) after making me my favorite cherry cheesecake, my first boom box, my first CDs, and a pair of brand new roller skates. None of which he really could afford, but he tried the only way he knew how. I learned about survival in that year. I watched him cry more times than I could count. Watched him while he slept countless nights to be sure he was breathing. I learned what evil looks like...it now had a face, a smell, a feeling. But...on a lighter note...what I choose to look back on now is this, I did save him in that year. I refused to give up on him. I had no business being there, but I'm stubborn and I suppose I made my point. Who else was going to do it? I thought. It only lasted a year. I would have stayed forever, but he had other plans. What began as rebuilding ended in devastation...