Things started to change rather quickly after that. My dad helped to get my mom into a battered women’s shelter and started talking to my grandma and aunts again. He never did give up Aunt Whitney as his spy and they never asked. By the time my grandma checked with Carmen it was already too late. Children’s services had come and picked up both of my sisters. Carmen felt horrible but tried to explain she was left with no choice. My grandma didn’t hold it against her.
My sisters were never my grandma’s favorite grandchildren. Let’s face it, every grandma has them. My sisters were a constant reminder to her of the pain in my family. They were the children of a man that no one ever approved of and tried desperately to be rid of. Nope, my sisters never had a chance for that spot. That spot was held by my Aunt Michelle’s daughter Cara. Even though, they were still her grandchildren and she made an attempt to get them back.
With my mom at a shelter, John missing in action and my sisters both in foster care, my dad took full advantage of the new “working relationship” he had with my grandma. She became my new babysitter and all that she asked in return was a 6 pack of beer. About 2 months after Children’s Services took my sisters, the courts deemed my mother to be an “unfit” parent and temporarily removed custody from her. Custody was transferred to my grandma, and she was told that my sisters would be brought to her apartment the next day. I had no idea that all of this was happening, so when my dad dropped me off at my grandma’s apartment one day, I was caught off guard.
There sat my sisters playing on the floor. I hadn’t seen my sisters in, I couldn’t even remember how long. They looked different. Older. Tired. And yet, there they were. I was excited, scared and nervous all at the same time. I didn’t know what to say. Did they even know who I was? And where was my mom? Was she here? In the bathroom?
No one had cared enough about how this may affect me to prepare me for what was happening. They left me scared to talk to my own sisters and half expecting my mom to walk around the corner and save me at any moment.
I didn’t say a word the entire time I was there.
During the time that my sisters stayed with my grandma, I continued to go over there when my dad needed a babysitter. The courts gave my mom a list of things she needed to do in order to get my sisters back. She had to complete the drug and alcohol program at the women’s shelter, get herself a job, and find herself a place to live that was suitable to raise children. These things seem easy enough to some people but it wasn’t for my mom. What I didn’t know is that my dad had also made a promise to my mom. He told her that if she completed the programs at the shelter and stayed away from John, we could meet in a restaurant so she could see me.
It was during these months of her working through programs that I started to get sick. I constantly had one cold or another and I was getting migraines more and more frequently. The migraines were so bad that I couldn’t function, and they were sometimes accompanied by a stiff neck. My dad was convinced that everything that was happening to me was caused by being exposed to my grandma’s apartment. She was a chain smoker and my Aunt Michelle smoked quite a bit too. They both smoked inside. Karen, even being a smoker herself, would complain about how I smelled when I returned from over there. She would make me strip down as soon as I got home and made a spectacle of throwing my clothes into the washing machine. It made me feel like part of my family, part of me, wasn’t good enough. I was dirty and looked down on. But weren’t they the ones that were sending me there?
I began a love/hate relationship with being sent to my grandma’s apartment. It was time away from home that I needed, but my grandma was an alcoholic. While I hoped she would bake with me, talk with me and make me feel better, she spent most afternoons passed out on her couch. I played in the courtyard with other kids in her building. Sometimes my cousins, who lived in the apartment complex next door, would come over to play too. I would sometimes overhear conversations about my mom and that she was doing better, working hard to get my sisters back.
I was conflicted.
I was happy she was ok. I loved her, but she had become a ghost to me. I could hardly remember what she looked like or sounded like. I hadn’t seen her or talked to her since the police came for me that day. No one ever bothered to talk to me about her and I was afraid to ask questions. I wished I could remember what she smelled like. I was excited when I heard she had visitation with my sisters. I would sit at my grandma’s dining room table and wonder if my mom had sat in that same exact spot. I would sit there trying to remember her and would get frustrated when it was difficult. The longer I tried to remember, the more my brain worked and it got me thinking.
How come my mom never worked so hard to try to get me back?
Maybe I just wasn’t worth the trouble. It seems that as soon as my mind had come to this conclusion, something happened.
I received a letter.