What I am about to tell you will not be from my memories but from those of my oldest sister. A couple of nights ago, we started talking about the day we were removed by Social Services over 45 years ago and placed in that shelter for two weeks. It turns out, my mother was in the hospital with kidney stones and my father had walked out on us.
Now, trust me, this was hard to accept considering my father had told me something totally different when I was about 27. Why would he lie to me? It wasn’t like I was going to go all crazy on him had he told me the truth. Who was he protecting? Me? My brothers and sisters? My mother? Or was he just protecting himself from embarrassment and humiliation?
Was my father cheating on my mom, and if so, for how long? Was having eight children too much for him to handle? Then why did he have us in the first place? It’s no wonder most children with broken homes grow up with mommy and daddy issues as an adult. We go through life spending most of our time in a therapist’s office asking questions that only our parents can really answer.
Then, when we get the courage to finally ask them, we have to wonder who is really telling the truth. Now, my father told me he was the one in the hospital when we were taken and not my mother. He told me he had a nervous breakdown because he couldn’t cope with the death of my sister, who laid lifeless in his arms.
He also explained to me that a counselor from Social Services met him as he laid in his hospital bed and that it was he who requested we all be placed in a Catholic orphanage home for a better life than he and my mother could offer. Jesus, he looked right into my eyes and told me that story with a straight and convincing face like it was yesterday.
I really felt bad as he was telling me his story… he seemed very upset. Here was a man telling me how his baby daughter died and how he tried saving her, couldn’t cope with her death, ended up in the hospital where no one knew where he was, and it was my mother who was nowhere to be found… period. That’s it, nothing else. That was the story I believed up until two days ago.
Now, my sister was 12 years old back then, so I am pretty sure she knew and remembered a lot more than a five-year-old. After my conversation with her, it was as if someone took a sledge hammer to my head and then poured salt into the wound while laughing. Only, she wasn’t laughing, and it was about to get worse.
My mother knew we had been removed from our home while she was still in the hospital. When she was discharged, she went straight to the shelter to visit us. I have no recollection of any of this, so I am still relying on my sister’s memory. My mother had picked up both my sisters from the women’s shelter and taken them home, but left the rest of us at the shelter where we were for at least two weeks.
During that time, my Aunt Dolly, my father’s sister, would stop over at my mother’s and try to convince her to place us in an orphanage so we could be looked after and have a better chance of a future than living in the projects in a poor broken home. My sister remembers the countless meetings they would have whispering in the kitchen over our future as a family.
Why was my aunt involved? Why was she so persistent in having us placed in an orphanage? Did she know something my mother didn’t? I mean, my mother knew my father had walked out for reasons unknown to her, but she really believed that he was coming back.
Apparently my mother didn’t want to make any quick decisions until my father came to his senses and returned home to save our family, but that never happened. Two weeks had gone by and my father wasn’t coming back like she had hoped for. What was she to do? She had no job and food stamps weren’t around back then, she had to make a decision and time was running out…