I was born in 1982 to an umarried mother and a married father. Apparently, my father had told my mother that he was separated from his wife, but she found out(after getting pregnant) that such wasn't the case. He was actually with his wife when she called and told him she was pregnant. Purportedly, that's when his wife actually did leave him. My mom moved in with my father, and they were together until I was about six months old, during which time he supposedly tried to make me drink beer instead of milk, bought alcohol instead of my diapers, the standard alcoholic deadbeat dad behaviors. When my mom left him, we moved around a few times, first in with my aunt Brenda(we have a picture of my 1st birthday, where I'm eating cake batter because the electricity was turned off and they couldn't make an actual cake), then with my grandmother(Emma, from the previous posting), and my stepgrandfather, Emma's third and current husband Jim. It was during that time that my mom's younger half-brother(a different one from the Biltmore House story.... my mom has two younger half-brothers, each from different fathers) met the man who would become my stepfather, Larry. He actually introduced Larry to the family in an attempt to play matchmaker and hook him up with aunt Brenda, and tried to discourage him from dating my mom because she was a single mom. But, he became interested in her instead, and they married when I was around 2 years old. Sometime during the next few years, after lawyers and social workers, and the expenses for them, my mom and Larry convinced my father to give up his parental rights, and I was adopted, giving me my stepfather's last name. They then hid this from me for the next few years, until I was 12. Needless to say, I could write a whole host of entries on the problems that caused me in my teen and early college years, so I'm sure that will be referenced again at some point.
I was not exactly a healthy child. I had seizures which lasted until I was around 3 or 4 years old. I attribute their disappearance to febrile epilepsy, which a child eventually usually outgrows. My mother attributes it to her vows that if God took them away, she would start taking me to church. Which she did. Three times a week -twice on Sunday, and Wednesday - and Vacation Bible School. By the time I was 12, I had had seven ear operations, the last of which kept me from going deaf in my left ear. The other six were having tubes put in. I was small and underweight(still am, actually), and was born a month early, maybe a little more so.
My younger half-sister was born in 1988. The pregnancy seemed fine, however, upon her birth it was noticed that she had spina bifida, which basically means she was born with a hole in her spine. She had various leg surgeries growing up to assist with leg lengths and muscle growth, and had shunts put in to control her fluid buildup in the brain. At first she was able to walk with crutches, leg braces, and walkers, however when she was in 8th grade(my senior year of high school) she was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation, a condition which is common in Spina Bifida patients, in which brain fluids are leaked into the spine, causing mood swings, headaches, fatigue, and loss of motor skills. She had brain surgery, and has been solely confined to a wheelchair ever since, aside from her physical therapy.
I should note that my sister is fully mentally sound. In 4th grade she could read on an 8th grade level. The surgery did nothing to damage her intelligence. Her motor skills are just a lot slower now, and that's only because it took them two years to diagnose the Chiari Malformation, and therefore the damage had been done. She seems to have inherited a small bit of the family legacy, as evidenced by the interesting occasion as a child, where she named one of her dolls "Litha". According to the family, she had never heard the name before, and as it turns out, Litha is a long-deceased relative of my mom's family that she had never actually mentioned to either of us prior to this point.
My first vague memory is when we got our first dog. I remember getting him, that's about it. He was a stray, that showed up at our house. My mom's version is that I decided I wanted a dog, and so I prayed to God to send me a dog. The next day, the stray dog showed up, and when nobody answered our "Found: Missing Dog" ads in the classifieds, we kept him.
The next really clear memory I have is going to Waffle House with my (step)grandfather, my step/adoptive father's dad. I would drink a chocolate milk and he would have a coffee, while waiting for my uncle(dad's brother) to get off of work. My stepgrandfather passed away of lung cancer when I was around five, I believe while my mom was pregnant with my sister. He initially went into the hospital for some problems with his foot. I spent the night at my aunt's(dad's sister) house while my parents were at the hospital with he and my (step)grandmother, Julia. One night, I woke up from a nightmare, and demanded to go see him in the hospital right then. It took them forever to assure me that we would go the next morning and get me to go back to sleep. By the time we got there the next morning, he had already passed. Like it was yesterday, I remember the red carpets of the hospital chapel, or maybe it was the funeral parlor. I remember at the funeral parlor, being lifted up by my aunt's husband and placing a red flower(I don't recall if it was a rose or tulip) in my grandpa's hands.
Elementary school and middle school were lonely times for me. I was shy, off in my own little world most of the time. I made friends, but they were few. Because I was shy and girls tend to be more "let's start a conversation" than guys, most of the friends I did have tended to be girls(which is still the case today). This isn't as much of an issue as you get older, of course, but in elementary school, with black-and-white "the opposite sex has cooties" mindset at that age, and sucking at sports, I got picked on a lot. I remember being called a "fag" on the bus when I was around kindergarten or first grade, and having to ask my mom what that meant. I remember in middle school a kid on the bus showing me a picture of a naked baby, and asking if I liked it. I had popularity for approximately two weeks when I won the county spelling bee in 7th grade, becoming the first person in my school's history to make it to the regionals. Aside from that, I was virtually invisible. My emotional issues were exacerbated when I was told the truth about my beginnings. I further learned not to trust people when I told my then best friend what I had just found out about my past. A week later, I am approached by a girl from my class who turned out to be my biological father's niece, my cousin. I was still processing the fact that I was adopted, and suddenly I have this girl coming to me telling me how much my father loves and misses me. I became angry and depressed and argumentative. The only reason I didn't get involved with drugs or alcohol at that age was because I was fortunate enough to never have had friends that pressured me to. I buried myself in my schoolwork, becoming the model student, sitting in the back of the class trying not to be noticed. My parents responded to my anger by arguing with me, accusing me of being a bad son, accusing me of being just like my birthfather(meant to be the biggest insult possible), forced "family Bible devotionals" focusing on verses that could be used to enforce "I'm a good parent, you're a bad son, so God is punishing you", and even hints that I shouldn't have been born a time or two. It wasn't until I moved away to college that I even remotely began healing from these experiences.
My freshman year of high school, my grandma Julia died of emphysema. I remember clearly because she went into the hospital with fluid in her lungs. Like her late husband, it seemed to be a routine, relatively minor issue that doctors just wanted to keep a close eye on. But somehow I knew, I just knew, that such wasn't the case. Sure enough, within a couple of weeks, she got worse, and died in her sleep. Fortunately, this time I was old enough, and my parents had dealt with the guilt of "not letting me say goodbye to my grandpa" long enough, that I was able to say goodbye this time.
Four big experiences shaped my senior year of high school. There's the obvious high school prom. I went with a group of friends. We had to leave early because one of them, a diabetic, had a blood sugar attack, and we had to rush him home to get his medications so he wouldn't go into a diabetic coma(as it turned out, one of the security guards at the prom site was also diabetic and knew to give him enough sugar to make it home and not have to call an ambulance). Then, there's the obvious graduation, which passed without much fanfare for me. The third, was my friend Bethany's illness. I remember because it's one of the birthdays I remember most clearly. On my birthday, she was sitting in front of me in my Honors English class, and she took my hand and wrote on it "Happy birthday! I love you!". I remember feeling so wonderful because she was the only friend who had remembered my birthday, even out of my best friends who I hung out with much more than her. A week later, she came down with what doctors would later guess was viral encephalitis, which caused brain damage and wiped out her memory, and she didn't even know her own parents anymore. This resulted in some friends and I going to visit her over Christmas break, and having to introduce ourselves to someone we had known since 6th grade. And the fourth experience was my sister's brain surgery. I remember thinking it was weird how everybody else seemed to be freaking out and mortified over the brain surgery, but I was just sitting there with this attitude of "so what?". Just like I knew my grandma was not going to make it out of that last hospital visit, I knew my sister would.
That pretty much sums up my life up to college. I was going to put everything from birth up until now in one entry, but I didn't realize so many experiences would come to mind to write about. Due to length and the time, I'll sum up college and beyond in my next entry, and tie it all back together with the more "supernatural" elements of my family history and the spiritual purposes of this blog. Which actually makes perfect sense now that I think about it, because the college years where when I really started thinking about these experiences of knowing things, and trying to interpret them instead of following the family tradition of "Whoa! That's weird! Let's not do that again or think about what it is."
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