I grew up in Toledo, Ohio. At that time, I did not realize how dangerous and filthy the neighborhoods around me were. Unfortunately, not much has changed since I lived there. Living with my parents was difficult, but I’ve learned throughout the years that living without them is even harder.
I remember, walking downstairs to the kitchen to find my parents and their so-called friends huddled around the table playing cards and drinking cheap beer. I could hear my dad’s music blasting in the background, making the walls shake; I was sure our neighbors could make out the words in every song that played. Usually it was hard rock, which my mom could not stand but my dad played it anyways. That was one issue that started fights. My mom would scream, “I hate your stupid music!” and some how it would muster into a fight about their past. It felt like everyday was the same, over and over, beer after beer, fight after fight. I knew it was the continuous drinking that started fights but I was a child; saying something wouldn’t make a difference.
The summer of 04’ my dad began to suspect that my mom was cheating on him. I remember wondering why my dad would always ask where she was. Instead of talking to her like a mature adult; he decided to do the same thing to her that she was doing to him. After months of this continuing, our neighbors began to suspect something was severely wrong. Every night they fought, the neighbors called the police. My parents were never taken away to jail, just warned countless times to keep the music low.
Quite frequently we were dragged into their fight and forced to pick a side. My dad would tell us to go to our rooms but hearing this made my stomach turn. I felt better seeing what was occurring instead of guessing from the top of the stairwell. Although, my brother, Michael, is two years older than I am, he has Down’s syndrome, which slows his learning abilities. In result of our parents’ fights, I felt responsible for my brother. I prayed every night that children’s services wouldn’t come to take us away.
It was a muggy August night when I woke up at 4 am to glass shattering. I could hear my mom yelling at my dad followed by his calm voice trying to keep her quiet. I knew he wasn’t hurting her but she liked to be dramatic. That same frightening night, the cops showed up and took me to the kitchen. I had to give the police officer my grandma’s telephone number so she could come pick us up. I remember how bad I was shaking. I couldn’t recall the number that I’d known for ten years. I wet the bed that night out of fear of my parents.
We met a woman named Adrian from Children’s services who became our caseworker. She was in charge of where we would live. She seemed nice but the fact that she took us away from our parents, made it hard to trust her. Mike and I stayed with our grandparents for about a year before Adrian told us our parents were clean. Being with our grandparents was comfortable and I wasn’t used to the feeling. By then, they had moved into a town house in Oregon, which was only ten minutes away from our house in Toledo. I was in fifth grade, going to a new school, making friends and finally feeling like a normal kid. This didn’t last long because only a short four months later did everything change. That’s when I learned that it was never the area we were living in or the people around us that was causing issues with my parents. They were mentally ill; they had become alcoholics and drug addicts. Adrian showed up at my school to take me back to my grandparent’s house. On the way, we picked up Mike as well. That was the last time I lived with my mom and dad.
They hated the fact that other people could take care of us better than they could which made them jealous. My dad decided to tell lies to Adrian, claiming that our grandpa drove us drunk. She had to do her job and take us away once again. Now that I think about it, I do remember my grandpa holding a red mug while driving us.
I never met my father’s side of the family due to a falling out before my days. His sister Julie offered to take care of us until our parents could. I knew I wouldn’t be going back. It became uncomfortable staying with her and my cousins. At first it was okay; I was thankful that I didn’t have to live with people I didn’t know. My cousins, Nick and Hailey were jealous of the lack of attention from their mom. In result, they started hitting me. Nick, a year older than me, was the worst. He did anything he could to get me in trouble. It may sound like we were just two kids that didn’t get along, but it was different. I was like his personal punching bag. I went to the same school as him too, which made it harder to be away from my parents. The fighting continued and got worse. Adrian knew the arrangement wasn’t working out.
One day Adrian came over to the house and asked me what my thoughts were on moving to Washington with my mom’s sister Amy and my uncle Andy. I loved the idea because I had known them my whole life and I trusted them very much. I agreed to live with them but then I realized she hadn’t included my brother in the move. I told Adrian that wherever I went, my brother would not be left behind.
It took about six months for the adoption to be final which required a lot of paper work and visits from caseworkers. I remember July 25th like it was yesterday. It was my first time on a plane and I was looking forward to being in a new environment with a real family. Getting off the plane was amazing. I had been used to flat land and trashy neighborhoods filled with crime. Washington looked completely different to me because of the tall mountains and water. My aunt Amy lived in Indianola, Washington, which was a small, friendly neighborhood where everyone knew each other. It included a tiny store, post office, clubhouse, and camp just for locals. I later learned that the dock was a ferry landmark in the 1920’s.
It is now 2012 and I’ve never been happier. My brother and I talk to our parents on a regular basis. Although, we live across the country we still visit them at least twice a year. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from watching the mistakes my parents made. I know I should avoid certain people and situations. I know I will be faced with challenges throughout my life, but to never give up. Family comes first. My parents lost their way and forgot.