In high school I knew this girl. She wasn’t the smartest in the world, but she was one of the nicest people I’d ever met. She sat next to me in some of my “optional” remedial classes (woodworking crafts, pottery, individual sports, etc.) and I had to re-explain a lot of things to her (maybe that’s where my love of teaching started).
During the down-time we’d talk about home life and family. My stories would generally revolve around hick cousins doing meth and brodies; hers would almost always revolve around her dad.
Her mom left her when she was very young and her dad was the sole provider for the family of four. I guess it got to be too much for him because around the time of her eleventh birthday, he pretty much gave up. He quit going to work, signed up for welfare, and just sat in front of the TV. He soon developed diabetes, which he didn’t take care of, and lost his foot by the time she was fourteen.
It was at this point where I was a bit jealous of her: she got to have a license two years earlier than the rest of us. Later in the narrative I would find out it was because she had to get a job to help support her family.
Since she wasn’t the smartest, toward the end of her high school career she did a sort of co-op program where she would learn a trade during the school day in lieu of any supplemental classes. I think it was welding or heavy machinery or something; it was something she could make like $26 an hour right out of high school. I lost track of her about that time (I was in the college-bound track and she was in the special ed. track).
I found out a few years later her dad died from diabetes. She was 19. All I could think was “thank god.”
And here is the crux of this article: I know I sound like a monster – especially after losing my dad at a relatively young age – but the entire span of her formative years were spent taking care of a man who was supposed to be teaching her about boys and politics and sports and nature. She spent every non-school moment from ages 11 to 19 taking care of a full-grown man who was too lazy to take care of his own family.
I know it sounds awful, but what a burden that must’ve been lifted when he died (or, probably a more accurate term for it was “long-term suicide”). What a freeing moment. I was sad that she lost another parent, but I was happy that she would no longer have to be one; she could be a 19-year-old. She could be stupid and irresponsible and stay out all night and not have to worry that her dad was stuck on the toilet. Maybe all life isn’t precious; maybe the world is better off without a few people in it.
I only bring this up because she found me on Facebook the other day. She has two kids and is a mom at a time in her life when it’s appropriate.
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