Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More Than Room and Board

My home life was often not only chaotic, but terrifying. My stepfather was a raging alcoholic. What that meant for us was sleepless nights and often emotional and physical abuse. I'm not being over the top when I say that many days I wasn't sure who would come out of my house alive in the morning light. That sounds dramatic, I know, but that was my reality. Even now, it's sort of a filmy surreal memory to me, and I've questioned how I survived it all (relatively) intact.

I know one way. I escaped.

My sister moved out at 16 to not have to deal with it anymore. I saw how she was struggling and working and not always eating, and knew that wasn't for me. Instead, I sought refuge with my friends' families.

Looking back as a Mother myself now, I'm truly thankful for those Moms and Dads that took me in. I don't remember ever once being questioned about "why" I was staying so long, or "why" my parents didn't care that I wasn't home for weeks at a time. These people welcomed me and made me feel like extended family. They fed me and housed me and took me on vacations. They never asked me for payment or rent. Trust me when I say they could have. More importantly, they never made me feel awkward about my own situation or like I needed to explain what was largely painful and unexplainable.

Some days, when my kids have had many a playdate, I sigh with relief that their friends have gone and it's just "us" again. The worry of another child's welfare ends as I close the door behind them and send them on their way.

Thankfully, there are people out there that take lost kids under their wings and help them learn to fly. They showed me what family could be and they made me feel like maybe I wasn't such a mess after all. They made me dream of the possibilities ahead. They did it all seamlessly and with tact and diplomacy.

At that young age, I realized the gift. I tried to be the model houseguest; tidying after myself and doing dishes and laundry. I was polite. I didn't take it for granted, and I certainly was aware of the need for it to continue.

The day to day reality of it all didn't sink in, though, until I had children of my own. Those families sacrificed time and money and food for a kid that wasn't their responsibility. I can't thank them enough, because the fact of the matter is, without them I'm not sure what would have happened or where I would have ended up.

I wish for kids out there to not have to live as I did. If it so happens that one seeks refuge in my home, I hope I can be as thoughtful and warm as those parents who opened their homes (and their hearts) to me.

To all of the O'Donoghues and Borts out there, I extend a huge grateful thank you. You may have thought you were just letting a teen hang at your pad, but you did so much more than that. I appreciate it and my life was changed for it. Truly.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you were able to find refuge with your friends. It is so hard to believe that in today's world that this is still an issue, and a very, very big one.

    There are however some very good people out there, and I'm glad you were able to find them.