"Mom I don't want hot dogs again," I said in an exasperated voice. I was sitting at the table in our crammed kitchen. My baby sister, Leah, was in her stroller next to me. The kitchen wasn't particularly memorable, even as far as kitchens go. To the left of the doorway was where my sister and I were somewhat impatiently waiting to be fed. Beneath my feet was the remnants of beautiful tile, yellowing slowly and cracked in certain places around the floor. I was used to old houses or trailers growing up. I couldn’t even count the number of times we’d been crammed into a station wagon with all of our belongings, and relocated to a new spot. With five siblings, we always had to take two trips.
"Stop crying sweetie," I heard my mother say to my little sister Leah, her voice shuddering as she said it. My mother didn't like to reveal if she was upset or hurting, but I was able to see or feel the pain. I looked back at her and saw her wiping away a subtle, silent, almost nonexistent tear. I didn't even bother to ask if my mommy was okay. "I'm fine honey," is the lie I would have received. I’d heard those words spoken countless times to my older siblings those past few years. I hated the lies, but I have to give her credit for trying to keep her pain away from us, and for trying to keep us happy even when she was depressed.
I looked at the woman who gave birth to me, standing with her back to the stove. She had decent posture but had the slouch of many years of stress and pain. Her dirty blonde, dyed hair was put up into a sloppy pony tail. Her eyes were bluish green, and despite the pain that shown in them, there was a lively quality to them. I saw life in her eyes. She was strongest woman I’d ever met in my life. I was looking at my world, my light. I was looking at the first face I saw in the morning, and the last I’d seen at night for the past four years. I was looking at my guardian angel, at my strength. I was looking at my best friend.
I knew exactly why my mom was upset, because I was upset for the same reason. It was the same reason why I bawled my eyes out in her arms before I feel asleep at night. It was the same reason that I wasn't playing with my little sister, making her smile and laugh. I wanted my father. This longing was normal in our family life. His absence affected every single one of us, apart from, perhaps, my youngest sister Leah, who was sitting next to me. Of us children, it affected my oldest sibling, Mathew, the most, but my mother took it the hardest. My parents fought on a daily basis, but it wasn't because they didn't love each other. My mother adored my father. She was absolutely, undeniably, in love with him. That isn't always enough, however, to sustain a healthy relationship. My father was an addict, his drug of choice being heroin. My dad’s greatest love in life was chasing that high. I'm not saying he didn't love my mom or us kids, but he became so enveloped and engrossed in living his life around drugs that they became his priority. I started to think about what happened the night before, what led my father to not being there that day.
"Grow up!" my mother screamed at my father. She had a look in her eyes that I assumed would make my father hesitant to fight with her… But I didn't realize that he was already involved by being high. My mom hated when he was high around us children. It was one of the only situations that could infuriate her enough to yell at my dad.
My dad was not someone that would tolerate being screamed at, whether he was sober or high - he just couldn't handle it. I'm not making an excuse for him, just creating a better understanding of who he was.
"Shut the Fuck up!" my father said. This is when Shannon ushered me upstairs to her bedroom. My older siblings always took care of me when situations like this arose. Tonight, it was Shannon's turn. She tried to keep me distracted with a coloring book, and by joking with me, but I could still hear the bickering coming up from downstairs. I still heard my mother throwing my dad out, and my dad slamming the door so hard that pictures fell off the walls.
My mother put a plate in front of me, and kissed me on the cheek. "I’ll stop making hot dogs so much sweetie." "I love you momma," I replied softly. Our doorbell rang, and I shot up so fast I almost knocked my plate on the floor. Leah’s head jerked around, causing her blonde curls to sweep across her chubby face. I ran to the kitchen door frame, paused and looked back at my mom. "Go ahead Brian," she said with a laugh. I trudged through the living room with determination written all over my face. I turned into the hallway and faced the front door. With both of my hands, I pulled the door handle down, and peered up into the faces of our visitors. There were three people hovering in the doorway. In front was a medium height lady, with black hair and glasses. She knelt down and smiled at me. "Where is your mom?' she asked warmly. Standing behind her were two police officers. I knew that from watching television at night with my older siblings.
I turned around without saying anything, and returned to the kitchen.
“Who was at the door?' my mother asked.
"Police," I said. I didn’t know what else to say. "Stay in the kitchen…" I could tell my mother was agitated. She left and I sat down with Leah who stared up at me with her captivating, beautiful blue eyes. "Don't worry baby, Momma will be right back," I said, but just them I heard a shriek from outside.
“These are my children. My life. My blood! You can’t take them from me. Please don't take them from me!" my mother cried. My little sister started crying, and squirming in her stroller. "Shhh baby," I whispered to her. I heard footsteps through the living room, and then saw our company walk into the kitchen. My mother came in behind them. Tears were streaming down her panic-stricken face. Her lips trembled uncontrollably as she muttered to herself. Her eyes were wild as she switched her gaze between Leah and I. As I gazed into her eyes, I saw pain, suffering, terror, and loss. My own lip started to tremble, and I began to cry. "Brian, you have to come with us sweetheart," the lady with the glasses said to me. I ran over to my mother, and grabbed onto her waist with as much force as I could muster. "I can’t go with her mommy," I said when she picked me up, and held me in her embrace. "You have to baby, I am sorry. I love you and all your brothers and sisters so much. I will never stop fighting to get you back," she choked out through sobs.
She let me down, and picked up my little sister Leah from her stroller. She held her close to her chest and kissed her on the forehead. I'm not sure what she said, but she spoke to Leah. She held her baby daughter’s face to the crevice of her neck, and cried silently. The lady with the glasses slid her finger into my palm and I grabbed on. I was led out of the house with my mom following behind. I couldn't keep my gaze off of her. We went all the way to the car, and my mom hugged me. She didn't just hug me. She covered me in her embrace. She never wanted to let go, but she had to. I sat in the car seat as Leah was strapped in next to me. My eyes traveled around the car, and finally of the window to my mother. I looked into her face as the car pulled away and saw her wave. I couldn't wave back. The last thing I saw as my mom grew distant was her shoulders slump, and her eyes die. The beautiful eyes that captivated my childhood, that were so full of life, were no more.
A Former Foster Youth - Brian Morgantini (firstname.lastname@example.org)