This is a personal story about me when I was a young girl. I am giving some background on my life back then to set the tone for why I did what I will talk about in my next post. I am not talking about this to complain. It is just a story...part of my story. This is probably where I learned compassion. It is why I don't judge people or try not to anyway. I know bad things can happen to good people. I came from a hard working middle class family. If they knew these things were happening they would have intervened much sooner.
It is also why I have such a rescuing and nurturing spirit. I know what it is like to be rescued by someone. I know how good it feels when someone else believes in you when you no longer believe in yourself. And I know how good it feels to know someone isn't giving up on you but sticks with you through thick and thin. It is probably why my husband has often in exasperation said, "Pat...you CAN'T save the WORLD!" If you want SeaSpray's attention...let her know you need help. :)
The inspiration for this post came from a post over at Jenster's Musings in which she tells a story of how when she was a teenager on vacation, she and her girlfriends went off in a boat with boys they didn't know. She's such a good story teller and had me chuckling throughout the story. :)
Except for possibly a couple of parts, my story isn't funny. It's about the desperation of a brokenhearted teenager. What is the point in telling it? Hmmm...maybe to demonstrate that we should never underestimate the determination of a teenager if they are feeling desperate. And maybe to demonstrate that even though we are brokenhearted and want things to work out our way...that maybe our way isn't the best way. And maybe to demonstrate that some prayers are better answered with a NO... which is really a blessing in disguise.
Actually...it is the APB story about myself that influenced my decision about what to do regarding our older son when at 17 he was determined to do something we did not approve of.
When I was 14, my mother could no longer afford to keep me. We also didn't get along for various reasons. I had to grow up fast and often felt like I was parenting her. She was/is a good person but at that time just did not have the coping skills or finances to raise a child...at least not me.
She and her brother had taken me and left my father when I was 3 and moved in with my maternal grandparents at the Jersey Shore. He never sent support. I only saw him twice after we left. I think the last time I saw him I was 6 and he took me to the Bronx zoo in NY. If I told you what I as an adult learned about my father you would think I was making it up.
We had a normal family life while they were still alive. Then my Grandfather died when I was 9 and my grandmother died when I was 10. I had a wonderful relationship with my mother but that deteriorated quickly between 12 and 14. She didn't drink, do drugs or run around with men. She worked hard in a donut place and John's bargain store, but didn't make enough money to pay the bills. So we went through periods of no heat, electric or food. She could have applied for welfare. I don't know why she didn't. I think it was false pride because she used to say negative things about a woman who was on welfare. That woman and her kids were warm and fed. I think the family next door to us must've figured something was wrong because they would occasionally send food over. They were Italian and boy could they cook! They had a daughter I was friends with and I never discussed my home life with her either.
My mother also never told her brothers how bad things were. I never told any friends. I lived in quiet desperation. I don't know why. Maybe I was embarrassed but I never told a soul. I didn't even tell my best friend about those years until I was 27 and then she didn't believe me and thought I was kidding. Then as I kept telling her different things she finally believed me. she told me her mother was shocked too. THAT'S how good I am at keeping secrets.
My Mother must've confided in one friend because the winter I was 13 she had me staying with a friend and her family at night. My mother and I had this love hate relationship. But after she left the friend's house, I would run to their bay window with my nose practically pressed up against the glass to watch her walk away from us into the cold and often snowy night. I'd watch until she disappeared into the darkness. My heart always felt ripped out. I felt so sorry for her having to go back to that cold empty house. She would try to heat it with the gas stove with a pan of water in it. I worried about her walking alone in the dark. And...I felt guilty...so...so guilty...that I would be warm and have food. I wanted to cry every time but I never did. None of us ever discussed it.
I was friends with the kids in the house and none of us ever discussed my home life...but they must've known. I was friends with the girls and had a huge crush on their then 17 year old brother-Tony. Actually, when I was12, he gave me my first kiss while down in their basement watching Star Trek. So we had lot's of kissing time while I stayed there. But no one ever knew. And that's all it was. I made sure my clothes stayed on. And it felt so good to me. I loved being held. I think to say I needed my dad at this time of my life is an understatement. I used to wish their father was my father. Or that some man would marry my mother and we would all live happily ever after. But that never happened.
I never invited friends in. I always went out. I would try to do things...even put wild flowers on the table in the spring. I painted the living room and bedroom by myself. But my mother didn't seem to care and she spent a lot of time in her room with the door closed when she wasn't working. So we grew apart even more. And we'd fight. I remember I would try to tell her how to handle money or what to do. We'd fight more. I am sure now it wasn't as black and white as I saw it back then. She would threaten to send me to live with her brother but never called him. I realize as an adult now...that she was probably depressed and still grieving over her parents, scared, confused, and was doing the best she knew to do.
But I didn't understand any of that back then. I began spending more and more time out of the house. Anywhere... but not home. I always felt like the girl on the outside looking in and everyone seemed to have perfect lives. By the time I was 13, I began hanging out at a bowling alley. I would even walk 3 miles in the dark to get there sometimes. And...I started hanging out with older boys who were 17, 18, 19 and into their 20s....like 27. I would even ride around with them. I was so trusting and naive.
I used to hang out with this older couple who owned the snack bar at the bowling alley. They were so nice to me and would give me free food and I would clean things for them. One night I was standing high on something to wipe down the top of their sign. When I turned around...I realized all the guys who were in the arcade part were watching me and smiling. I loved the attention. Like I said...I was so naive. I let some of them take me to the movies and my mother never knew because she worked until 2 in the morning. I was headed for trouble for sure. I KNOW I kept my guardian angel busy!
I remember a guy-Skip (also in his 20s) who managed the bowling alley said something to me out of the blue. I realize as an adult that he was trying to warn me to be careful because he probably heard the guys talking. He said, "Just remember...you don't miss what you never had." I said o.k., but I didn't know what he was talking about.
And not long after that someone else took it upon them self to give me advice. I had a huge crush on him. He was 21! (I was 14) Gary De Noia. I used to write my name with his last name when I was in school. I ran into him at the drugstore and we were sitting at the soda fountain. (Anyone remember them?) We're sipping our sodas and out of the blue he says "Remember...a guy only wants to marry a virgin." I agreed with him and I really did believe in being a virgin although at that time I thought the double standard was ok. That was the fall of 1969. He was so good looking! But I think at that time he saw me more like a kid sister. So I went out with his brother Glen. Anyway, he must've been worried about me and understandably so...but I was clueless. Gary went to Vietnam after I moved up here and the following summer I sent him some pictures that were taken of me on the beach. He wrote back and told me that his buddies liked the pictures too and that he had them pinned up. I regret that I misplaced his letters..they would be neat to have today. But I digress.
In 1969, Tony went into the army and was stationed at Fort Dix which wasn't far from where we lived. He came home on weekends and brought Brian home with him. Brian and I hit it off and so we became a weekend couple. He looked so handsome in his uniform. He taught me how to slow dance to Strangers in the Night. He was always so respectful and never tried anything beyond kissing. I lost his letters too. :(
You know what else I realize? That I was usually "the only" girl hanging out with all these guys at the bowling alley. That's because they were home with their families at night. I had girlfriends too, but that was a different part of my life.
My summers were pretty wholesome because I spent a lot of time with my summer friend who is still my close friend today. Her father was a father figure to me and Iris and I were inseparable like 2 peas in a pod, until she left to go home in the fall. She and I used to wave good bye until their car disappeared over the bridge at the end of the road. Her parents included me in everything and I believe the 3 of them profoundly influenced my life. Who knows what would've happened to me if it wasn't for them treating me like a second daughter. I never told them about my home life either. Iris was the friend that didn't believe me when I told her these things when I was 27. I can hide a lot behind my smile.
One of my 8th grade teachers commented that I was always smiling. If he only knew. Ha! Last week one of urodoc's partners saw me and commented on my smiling. That's just me, my nature I guess.
I had always wanted to be a teacher and believed I was going to be a teacher. Everyone did. But this was the time in my life that I lost my focus. I began skipping school when I was a freshman. I wasn't doing my homework. That was sooooo opposite who I was. I had ALWAYS gotten good grades until my freshman year.
I was actually a good girl. I was a nice girl. I didn't do any drugs or drink alcohol. I didn't swear and was always kind and respectful to everyone...except my mother, but I never swore at her either. And I was honest. I didn't steal. Oh and I wore hardly any make up...only a pale lipstick - sometimes and mascara...sometimes. So I wasn't at all trashy or trampy looking. More like the girl next door.
I did have a strong faith in God. I learned about God when I was 9 years old from a retired school teacher and briefly went to church. I really absorbed what was taught to me. No one in my life ever talked about God or Christian values, except this woman and my friend Iris and her mother. THANKFULLY those seeds got in there and took root. I truly believe that having that little bit of faith and Christian values instilled in me along with the good values my family taught me as a young girl is what kept me from falling into all that other stuff. That retired school teacher...Mrs Berry is most definitely one of the key people in my life who influenced it for the better. She continued to write to me up here until she died...always trying to impart more faith into me. I will always be grateful to her for that. I do still have some of her letters. And maybe it was also because I had gotten so independent that I always could think for myself and so never felt compelled to follow the crowd because I needed to be popular.
But that fall I started shoplifting. I honestly didn't want to and I never told anyone. I was actually ashamed and felt very guilty. But..I was desperate and so on 2 different nights I stole some pants and tops. (After I moved in with my aunt and uncle...she later told me she felt sorry for me because I came up with so little clothing) I really did need the clothes and I didn't know what else to do at that time. Then I decided to do it one more time while in 2 Guys. Store detective caught me. She followed me to my mothers car and she then had to come back in with us. My mother was devastated and I can still hear her say, "Ohhhh PATTY!" She looked so sad. I was sorry, afraid and so ashamed. I was also banned from the store forever.
There was one night it was so cold and there was no heat or electric and so we were sleeping in the living room trying to stay warm by the kitchen stove. There was one piece of bread left. Wonder bread. I asked my mother if she wanted to split it but she said she wasn't hungry and that I should eat it. So I did. I felt guilty about that too.
It was now early December of 69. I came home one Saturday afternoon from the bowling alley. There were some Christmas presents there. My mother said that my aunt and uncle had come down unexpectedly and brought us some Christmas presents. They were shocked at how we were living and upset with my mother for not calling.
Plans were made for them to come pick me up on New Year's weekend 1970. I was devastated and really angry. I declared I wouldn't go. I was also scared.
I totally acted out that month. I drank alcohol for the 1st time. It was 2 beers. Even though it was winter we went to hang out on the boardwalk. Then we went down onto the beach. Then on a dare...I ran into the dark ice cold ocean with my clothes on. There was snow on the beach, no life guards and I could hardly see the water. I ran in up to my waste and it felt like extreme pins and needles. I ran right back out. For the first time...I didn't come home until 2 o'clock in the morning. My mother smelled the beer on my breath. She was furious. She had me backed up against the door. We had words and she smacked me across the face. I laughed (but it really hurt) and I said, "I love you but I don't respect you!" That is the worst thing I ever said to her. I am not proud of it, but by now I was lashing out.
A girlfriend gave me a spare key to her parents house on the beach. One night while hanging out with someone I thought was a friend, I told him I had the key and asked if he wanted to go see the beach house. Of course he agreed. It honestly didn't occur to me what he was actually thinking. I didn't see him that way at all. But I was naive. We went into the house. It was a little bungalow. When we got to one of the bedrooms he was all over me...but I managed to push him away. Then he started all over again in the living room but much more insistently. I was scared but acted mad. He had me up against the door and I kept fighting him. This was a deserted beach bungalow area and there was NO ONE around. Then he just stopped and got really pissed and shouted that I could walk home. He got in his Road Runner and peeled out. So now there I was a 14 year old girl all by myself in a deserted beach area at least 15 miles from home. I walked off the little lane onto the main road but there wasn't any car insight. I was scared. I started crying but kept walking. After a few minutes he came back and I got scared again. He stopped and rolled the window down and told me to get in but I refused. He stayed driving alongside of me and kept telling me to get in and that he wasn't leaving me there. But now I was also mad at him and so kept walking. But finally I got in. We didn't talk for the entire ride home, nor did we say good bye when he dropped me off. I also never told anyone what had happened and I have know idea if he did.
I begged my mother to let me stay. I cried. I prayed. We fought. It was a horrible month. I had a horrible home life but it was all I knew and I did not want to leave. It is difficult to uproot a teenager from their peers. I felt like my world was crashing in on me.
What I didn't understand at the time is how much love it took for my mother to let me go live with someone else. She must have felt relieved in one way, but it had to hurt her too. She did her best at the time. If I could go back, I would certainly do things differently.
I cringe when I think of this stuff. I was only FOURTEEN when the really bad things started happening. And I never had any kind of sex with any of those guys...THANK GOD! Clothes were always on both of us. But the way things were going...it probably would've been just a matter of time. I might not have graduated and who knows? Maybe even worse things would have happened had I stayed there.
*I truly believe it is so very important for fathers to be role models for the kind of guy their daughter picks. They should hug and encourage their daughters and always let them know they are special and that they are loved. Then hopefully she won't go looking for love in all the wrong places and for the wrong reasons. I think my hanging out with the boys was my way of looking for my daddy's love and approval and filling the empty void. Of course they were cute too... but I think it was all intertwined.