My youngest and fondest memories begin with my grandmother, my mother and myself. I knew my family was not like other families but different in a sense. At such a young age, I couldn’t figure out how my family was different but deep down I felt as if something was just not right with my family. Even sitting here now, I think back and try to figure out when I found out that my family was not like others but to this day I am not sure when it happened. All I do know is that when I found out, the biggest shock of fear would haunt me for the rest of my life.
My grandmother owned a boat and lived on the Florida east coast. It was common for my mother to drop her four children off at my grandmother’s house for the weekend so she could have her alone time. I enjoyed the thought of going over to her house because that meant we were going on the boat and the sunny, hot beach. Being the oldest of four children, I had to play the mother hen as my brothers and sister would go to the beach with me. It was a time of our lives that we felt free and did not let the little things of our lives bother us as we played in the cool, salty water.
My grandmother always had a glass or thermos of tea with her at all times…on the boat, in the house or even driving in the car. My mother never told us what was in the glass with the tea and we never thought anything of it. She seemed like a normal grandmother although she was not the type for us to sit on her lap and read to us. Life seemed very normal for us even as my mother married for a fourth time and we still had our weekly visits with our grandmother. Going on the boat became a time of our lives but little did we children know how our future would lay for us.
As I became the young age of 13, I noticed changes in not only my mother but my grandmother as well. I asked my mother one day, “Why are you always sad. When can you get out of bed and spend time with us?” She left me with the responsibilities of the house, the children and my school work was slowly being affected by the stress around me. Even my weekly visits to my grandmother seemed to be changing and we began to see a bigger change in my grandmother as well. I remember my sister asking my grandmother, “Why are you so angry all the time?” She was never able to answer but always had something negative to say to each of us children.
We later found out my grandmother was a severe alcoholic and she had vodka in her tea each time she took a sip. The violent words became common as I can recall her saying to me at the age of 14, “you will become a whore just like your mother is.” It hurt my feelings bad and I wanted to curl up in a ball and die. My mother became even sadder as time went on and eventually she was diagnosed as bipolar and schizophrenic. Her condition worsened each day till eventually she had to be admitted in the hospital.
The times we had as children were not the fondest memories of our lives. All four of the children my mother had produced had some sort of problem that some of us have overcome but we never forgot the pain that we went through as children. My brother has been in prison nine times and has fallen into the pit of being an alcoholic just as my grandmother once was. My mother must remain on medication for the rest of her life due to the illnesses she suffers on a daily basis. As children of these occurrences, we have tried to overcome the best and worst times of our lives with a sweet smell of our future and what it has to hold for us.
After years of soul searching and trying to find myself within my grandmother and my mother, I come to realize that I am my own person and love who I am and what I have become. Yes, there were times that I had to crawl out of what my grandmother and mother had made me into to but it took me moving 600 miles away for me to realize that family is part of good times and bad times. After moving away and despising what my mother and grandmother had put me through, my grandmother died without me even saying goodbye to her. I felt ashamed of myself but I did not know how to forgive the pain of my past until years later when I found God as my savior.
I eventually found myself and I am raising my children in a different manner than my grandmother and mother raised me. There are not alcohol or negative words in my life but the pain is still fresh in my soul throughout each day of my life. There are times when I want to thank my grandmother and mother for my past even though it was a bad experience because it laid the pathway for the future I have now. If it weren’t for the pain, sorrow and tears of my past, my future would not be as bright as it is today as I feel the love of my children and the grace of God’s love each day.