in my own words...
You have no idea how much I look up to my big
brother Douglas. We didn't have the easiest time growing up and I still
really don't like to think about it much. Mom and Dad seemed to always be
working so that we could afford a roof over our heads and food on the
table. I was so young at the time that I couldn't understand why Mom
couldn't stay at home with us like all the other mothers. Granted, she
really tried to be home when we got finished with school, but sometimes she
didn't make it. There were days it would be just me and Douglas alone
together. Maybe that's why we've always been so close. He was always
around to take care of me when no one else could.
Things started to look up for us the day Daddy
came home and announced that he was getting promoted to foreman at the factory
where he worked. We knew that it would mean more money for us, but it
would also mean longer hours for him. At least Mom got to be at home a
little more instead of being at work. The good times really didn't last
long, though. Daddy always had been a little bit of a drinker, but it
seemed that once he got the promotion it got even worse. I remember
thinking that Daddy was drunk more than he was sober. Both Mom and Douglas
didn't think I knew a lot of what was going on, but I did. I saw and knew
a lot more than I let on. I knew Douglas stayed at the library a lot
because he couldn't stand to come home. When I got old enough, he would
take me along. While he buried himself in the stacks of books he liked to
read, I looked at the magazines with all the pretty pictures of ladies in
gorgeous gowns trying to sell everything from perfume to cars.
It was a really sad day for me when Douglas went
off to college. I had to be happy for him because he was getting out and
was going to make something of himself, but I found myself jealous that he was
leaving and I wasn't. I got to see him on the few holidays that he came
home, but I knew that I was on my own to deal with all the trouble at
home. Douglas told me that he was going to be a lawyer and was gonna one
day make enough money to take care of me so I wouldn't have to worry about Mom
and Dad again.
Dad's drinking gradually got worse and I could
tell that he wasn't feeling well. He had lost his job because he had
missed work one too many times for being drunk and just didn't seem to have any
interest in finding another one. That left Mom to work even harder to
provide for all of us. I could tell that the pressure was getting to
her. Then, one day, Daddy died. Mom said his body finally couldn't
take all the damage and that he had gone to a better place where he wouldn't
hurt anymore. I knew what she really meant was that he went to a place
where he couldn't hurt us anymore. As much as I loved my Daddy, really I
did, I hoped that with him gone we could have a normal life. It just
wasn't to be.
After the funeral, Mom started growing really
distant. She was working even more to support us and I was left a lot with
Mrs. Grayson across the hall. Then Mom started to forget things. She
would forget to cook dinner or she would forget when I was supposed to be at
school. Once she even forgot that I was at Mrs. Grayson's. Finally,
after she forgot to go to work one too many times, she got fired. After
that, there were days she would forget to get out of bed. I tried to
convince her to call Douglas so he could help us, but she refused. She
said that we'd be okay and she didn't want to worry him. He should have
been worried. I was. Thankfully the church down the street knew we
were in trouble and helped us out with food and a little money for rent.
Even with their help, there were some days when all we had to eat were potatoes.
I got sick of potatoes. Then Momma started getting angry. She would
get angry with everything. I was scared to even say anything to her
because I might make her mad. I knew that when I made her mad, she would
start to yell and break things. Then she started to hit me. I would
go to bed at night a cry myself to sleep and pray that Douglas would come to get
me, but he never did.
Then finally one day Momma just stopped
functioning. She just sat in her chair by the window in her housecoat and
started out the window. She'd sit there for hours and wouldn't even know I
was there. I felt completely on my own. When the lady came from
social services one day, I was so happy to see someone. We hadn't been out
of the apartment in days. Momma just didn't want to go and I was kinda
scared to leave her alone. The lady talked to us for a little bit and
left, but came back a while later with a doctor who started looking at
Momma. I heard him tell the social worker that Momma wasn't well and had
to go to a hospital. He called it a sanitarium. A few days later, to
my surprise, Douglas was home! He told me I was going to Albanyville to
live with him because Momma had to go away. I was scared for her, but I
was so happy that I was going with Douglas.
Now, I live with Douglas in a nice house and I'm
about to finish high school. I don't like to talk about what happened
during the time between Daddy's funeral and when Momma went away. I just
want to think of happy things for once in my life. I want to know what
it's like to have a boyfriend and be just like all the other girls who don't
have a drunk father and a crazy mother. But no matter what I do, I can't
help but wonder if I'm gonna turn out just like them.