Thursday, June 11, 2009

Daddy Blues

My junior year of high school was one of the darkest years of my life. I was so depressed, I couldn't feel anything at all. I was numb.

Somehow or another, I started seeing a shrink at the Lafayette Clinic. Once a week, I'd take the bus downtown, and sit with my male psychologist.

And say nothing.

I'd just stare at the wall until time was up, answering his questions in one syllable or not at all. Then I'd walk to Greektown for a Stroh's ice cream.

It wasn't that I didn't want to talk.

It was just that I'd learned that silence was a powerful protection against Daddy's tirades. If I didn't talk, there was less chance that some innocuous comment would send my dad over the edge and into the school principal's office, where I would surely be embarrassed. Or that I'd mouth off to him and end up getting a backhand slap to the forehead.

So I developed the habits of stony silence and of tuning out my surroundings.

Along with skipping school ... often. Arriving whenever I felt like it, but staying until well after school was out ... because the school hallway was so much better than being home with my dad.

During this period of dark depression, the unthinkable happened. I got a B on my report card. In journalism. From my favorite teacher.

I hadn't seen one of those since the 5th grade, when I'd decided that if I couldn't be pretty, and I couldn't be well-dressed, and I couldn't be well-fed, and I couldn't have a mother, and I couldn't have a normal dad, and I couldn't have a normal life, at least I could be the smartest person in my school, with the report card to prove it.

Now I was out of the running for high-school valedictorian, which had always been my goal.

Things got worse in senior year, when I became a de facto only child. Alone with Daddy, with no siblings to cushion the blows. My older sister was away at college. My younger brother had visited my mom for the summer and decided not to come back. And my Best Friend, who had always lived a few blocks away, was going through her own family turmoil and had just been uprooted to a different neighborhood.

So I was dealing with my dad all by my lonesome, which also meant dealing with his Bow Wow Babes. They would raid my bedroom while I was at school and steal my stuff. Once, my purse went missing, and I eventually found it in my dad's bedroom closet.

Another time, a rash of expensive things disappeared from my room. All of my makeup, plus a $42 necklace-and-earring set I'd bought myself with money from babysitting or pushing shopping carts or shelving library books or doing office work or winning writing contests.

I was livid. My dad said he would get my stuff back, but he didn't. So I wrote him the meanest, rudest, three-page piece-of-my-mind that any angry teenager ever dared to write to her ill-tempered father.

And I asked my journalism teacher, who had a daughter around my age, if I could move in with her. She turned me down flat, but discussed my situation with the vice principal of my school. His wife worked at an agency that placed black foster kids into homes.

And ultimately, that's what I became. Two months shy of my high-school graduation and my 18th birthday, I became an emancipated minor and unofficial foster kid.

6 comments:

Retromus-ik said...

You're a great writer; I probably already said that;) I feel as if I'm reading a novel sometimes, then I remember that this is what you went through...Anywho, until next time;)

Sharon Reynolds said...

Your writing is so honest, and like the previous person said, I definitely feel like I'm reading a novel! It's really great. You're a fantastic writer. I look forward to more posts (and eventually reading your published novel!) :)

-Sharon

Rica said...

I love reading your posts. They are both heart-breaking and beautiful.

Nana said...

I definitely agree with everyone; reads like a novel... you know what I'm thinking. You should write an auto biography. I'm really sorry about what you had to go through, hun. I'm glad you're 'out' of it now.

Cheron L. Hall said...

Wonderful writing...English was my favorite subject in High School and I too was rarely there...must've been really hard going through such a tough time during your teenage years...so inspiring seeing how your life has changed such a great deal...

One of my closest friends grew up in foster care, moving from house to house...we met in college and she is now working on her Masters in Social work...it's amazing to visit her home and see her mother being kicked out before we go out because she cannot allow her to be in her home while she isn't there...her mother is still abusing drugs and through all of it, my friend has persevered and made a wonderful life for herself...

glad to know such powerful sisters...

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