I’ll never forget. That day feels as though it were yesterday, yet in reality eleven years have passed. But still…I remember, I remember it all. The way mom beat Johnny against the doorpost, his two year old heart-wrenching screams. The police sirens. The flashing lights. Mom’s grimace as she turned and scowled at us while the police led her hand-cuffed to the patrol car. That was the last time I saw her.
In a blur of events, I found myself in foster care. In court, my mother, who was a drunkard and a drug addict, claimed she no longer wanted me and my brother. My heart trembled when I found out that she had willingly signed over her parental rights. Big tears welled up in my eyes and spilled down my cheeks. I was confused. I was hurt. I didn’t understand. I remember thinking, “Maybe she is a bad mom, but she’s still my mom. How could she desert me like this?” I remember crying myself to sleep for weeks and weeks. In my first foster home, I was hard to manage. Having just lost my mom and having never known my dad, my seven year old heart bled with abandonment, resentment, and bitterness. In school, I continually fell further and further behind and took to bullying other kids. At home, I was cold, nasty, and destructive. Originally, my foster family tried to be understanding, but I guess I was just too much. After a few months, my foster family decided they couldn’t deal with all my “junk” anymore and asked for me to be removed from their home. Sadly, they had fallen in love with my lovable, smiley, big-blue-eyed brother and began the steps towards adopting him. I masked my feelings behind a tough act, pretending not to care, but the truth was I did care. Deep inside, I was hurting terribly. I remember the last time I saw Johnny. The day was dreary. Rain poured down from the sky, trying to outdo the flood of wounds and pain in my heart. As I stumbled toward the car with the caseworker, determined not to look back, Johnny dashed out of the house, down the white steps, and across the black-top driveway to me. He dug his arms into my legs and clung to me with all of his might. “Don’t leave me!” He pleadingly cried. Looking back, I wish I would have whispered, “Okay. I’ll stay with you.” But I didn’t. Instead I detached his little arms and stared down into his sad, round eyes. The sorrow in his rain drenched face nearly melted some of the ice that had begun to form on my heart but at that moment I heard the screen door screech open. I knew Mrs. Lorry was watching us. In that instant, all the resentment and antipathy came rushing back. Obdurately, I squared my shoulders and angrily pointed at the woman standing on the porch. “You either come with me or you stay here with her.”I nearly spit the last word out. Johnny followed my finger with his eyes. He then grabbed my hand and tried to pull me towards the house. “No!” I screamed. “They don’t want me here. Don’t you understand? They’re not my parents and they’re not yours either!” The screen door closed with a bang. Startled, Johnny dropped my hand. He glanced towards the house and then back at me. His forehead crinkled into lines and his eyes dropped to the ground. “Fine,” I said defiantly. “Abandon me, just like mom and dad.” I darted to the caseworker’s car and clumsily climbed in. As we turned out of the long driveway, I caught a glimpse of Johnny in the car’s side mirror. He stood there soaked and helpless. I now wish I would have jumped out of the car and returned to him, but I didn’t.
By the time I turned eleven I had bounced in and out of three foster homes and was living in my fourth. Because I had crossed state lines and since Johnny’s adoption had been a closed adoption, I had completely lost all contact with my little brother. School continued to be a struggle. I remember the loneliness of the first day of middle school. Sitting alone at lunch, I purposely stared through anyone who approached me. I didn’t try to make friends. “What’s the point?” I remember thinking. “I probably won’t be here next year.” Don’t get me wrong, I feverishly longed for friends but I was scared to open my heart, or be vulnerable, and then get hurt again, so instead I locked up and built a protective wall around myself.
Over the course of the next two years I bounced through more foster homes and when I reached thirteen, my caseworker shook her head and mournfully said, “We’ve run out of options.” She dropped me off at a group home for hard to place foster children. It was a dreary, dismal place which held a gloomy, forlorn air. I remember the disheartening welcome I received from one of the kids who lived there. With a cruel nod he mocked, “Happy dooms-day. Once you land in this place you’ll never have a real family. This is the system’s last resort. It’s where all the “problem kids” go.” Outwardly, I coldly shook off his words as if they didn’t bother me, but deep down they fiercely gripped me. Stifling my tears that night, I buried my head in the strange, new pillow. “Oh!” I cried inwardly. “Why? Why? Why?” The hopelessness of my situation closed in and the tears I believed had dried up long ago continued to flow. At that moment, I had just one wish. I wished someone would hug me…yet I knew the boy was right. This was the last resort for “hard to place kids”. I knew I would never really be loved. Upon reflection, l think I could almost feel the pounding of hammers in my heart as my wall of protection continued to isolate me. My miserable feelings swirled round and round inside of me and out of sheer emotional exhaustion I fell asleep.
By fifteen, any last, clinging hopes of ever being blessed with real friends or a real family had entirely vanished. My wall of emotional protection had grown to such an extent that I fatally doubted anyone would ever be able to break through. Continually, I became more and more torpid, irresponsible, detached, and despondent. I was my caretaker’s least favorite and I almost delighted in being so. I viewed my life as an utter wreak so I seriously didn’t care what I did. I now see giving up was stupid and cowardly. I should have pressed on, or something, but I didn’t.
Like most other older foster kids, my eighteenth birthday was a huge event. Because my caretaker was so relived to finally have me out from under the roof, or so I thought, a party was thrown in my honor. To spite everyone, I didn’t show up. Fearing an awkward goodbye the next morning, I snuck out into the darkness the night of my birthday. I remember my final look back at that bleak house. Memories came rushing back in heavy torrents. Missed birthdays, disappointments, failures in high school, my non-existent diploma…the weightiness of it all nearly made me stumble. But what I remember the most is the knowing that I could never return to that house or any I had ever known.
It’s now been six months since my eighteenth birthday. I live on the dangerous downtown streets, which are infested with rats, germs, criminals, and gangs. Everything is dark and dirty. The whirling, churning recollections that have haunted me these past few months have confused me and yet I’ve emerged with a fervent passion to turn my life around. But it’s all over now. I’m sick. I’m dying. I know it. I just wish that sometime during those hard, harsh years I would’ve let someone through my wall or that someone would have helped me tear it down, but now it’s too late.