Through My Eyes

September 6, 2008
Part One: My life
I was about eight years old when things started, actually it was even before that but it wasn’t until I was eight that I really started to understand things. I guess I always was a writer even when I didn’t know it and because of my need to write things down my dad found a paper I had written on how I missed him. And to be honest I did miss him, of course it was slightly embarrassing to hear him read it at the breakfast table that morning, but he worked long hours and the time we spent with him was limited. Looking back now I should have went to him and explained how I felt, but that was the kind of person I was back then. Quiet, hiding, very lost in who I was. Of course that version of me lived on for almost seven years after that day at the breakfast table. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I finally started to find myself again. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before the losing and the finding of myself I was part of a happy family, a “normal” family as it is often called today. That was many years ago though, when my mom and dad were together. When I only had one sibling and we got along. Tabernacle. That is what my family calls the house we used to live in, The Tabernacle House. My dad built that house and it wasn’t my first home and it certainly wasn’t my last. However it was my brothers’ first home and that made it special because we have a lot of great memories there. We had a lot of great years before all the mess came. There was the time my dad built a volcano with us and the time we died Easter eggs with him while my mom video caught it all on film. All the Christmases and Easters. All the birthdays and Halloweens and first communions. The first and last time we truly were a family. A happy family. But that was then and this is now. Things are different now.
My mom lives in Medford and my dad lives in Ventnor. Did I mention that? They’re divorced now. My dad has a girlfriend who lives with him while my mom lives with my and my siblings. Money can be tight sometimes with my mom. She works long hours and sacrifices everything for us kids. Our house in Medford is on the smaller side, not to say it isn’t nice. While my dad’s house in Ventnor is on the bay and there are two boats attached to the deck. Because my parents are divorced now and they both are busy people, my sister’s childhood is far from what my own was. Everything was done for us and handed to us. Mia though, she’s on her own. At six years old she has more common sense then any kid her age I know. She does need help some times but with so much going on at my house she learned to fend for herself. Like I said before, life is very different now from what it used to be. Even our attitudes. I think a little part of all of us long for what we used to have and the emotion that comes through is angry. I don’t think all of us really know where that attitude is coming from but I do. They need time to figure things out, I understand. It took me up until two years ago to realize I even had things to work out, but I did and I still do. If you don’t let go of the past you’ll never get to the future and you’ll defiantly never live in the present. So while everyone in my family may think everything is how it’s supposed to be, there’s still a part of them not ready to let go. Not ready to let go because maybe they think their memories are going to fade if they do. Or maybe they think it’s wrong of them to let that part of their life go. Trust me tears can still come to my face thinking about certain things, but that’s ok. I’ve learned to accept the situation as painful as it may be on some days and move on with my life.
When I was eight I remember standing at the kitchen table next to my dad who was sitting in a chair. Even when I was younger my dad used to tell me things as if I was an adult and I didn’t really mind but sometimes it was hard to understand what he was saying. That particular night in the kitchen he told me something I will never forget. He said, “one day Gina me and mommy are going to get divorced.” Now at the age of nine, or at any age for that matter, no child ever wants to hear that their parents are eventually going to get divorced. Especially not from their mom or dad because that makes it all the more real, but because I was maturing even at that age I understood that a divorce was probably the best thing for my family. That said, a couple years later on Easter morning mom and dad were at in again. Fighting, fighting, fighting. I think somewhere in their hearts they loved each other. I know that today there is still a special place in each of their hearts for the other one, but like in most relationships their love could not compete with the other things in their lives. At some point you have to step back and evaluate the situation. In my family’s case (my dad having known years before) divorce looked like the best way out. They weren’t happy and we weren’t happy. But that’s not the whole story behind their divorce. Let my take you a couple more years into the future.

The year that proved to be one of the toughest years of my life was the year when I was between nine and ten. Here’s why: my dad opened a Salad Works in New York City. He checked the place out he took both of his brothers-in-law to see it. They had experience in the business because they own many stores themselves. The deal was made, the business opened and the year progressed on. That year I have to admit is a kind of fog in my head. Seeing as I was so young not everything made sense in my mind, some things I still don’t understand. There are so many versions of this story but let me tell you what I know. My dad’s business went under. It closed up shop. He went to court, lost and the bank took our house. During this time my grandfather (my mom’s dad) had pancreatic cancer. Now because our house was taken away, my dad, always thinking ahead of time, had been building a house in Southampton. So off to Southampton we moved. It was a beautiful house, with a front porch my mom loved. In the back me and my brothers built a tree house with my dad and next to it there was a huge hill we could go sledding down. Southampton was my sister’s first house. She was born in April 2002, but not before my parents decided on a divorce. And even though my dad was there when my sister was born and was there when we took her home from the hospital I will not forget the weeks that came after that. He started coming home only a couple nights a week or just to pack a bag. I watched him, in heartbreaking pain, pack his bag and leave. I never thought my heart would heal and it still hasn’t fully. That might have been one of the hardest things to see. Before he left the house for good he used to get up super early and leave for work and for whatever reason I always heard him getting ready. When I finally heard his truck start up in the driveway I would jump out of bed and run down the stairs to the front windows. His truck would be moving down the long driveway and I would follow it window to window, waving and blowing kisses. My dad would stop in the middle get out of the truck and I would unlock the front door, grabbing him in a huge hug and planting kisses on his face. “Have a good day, I love you baby.” “I love you too daddy, see you tonight.” Those mornings I will never stop missing, not for as long as I live. Sometimes I still wake up early yearning for one more day of looking out the windows, my eyes following the truck as it moved further away until it stopped and my dad got out. I woke up every morning just to kiss him goodbye and tell him I love him. Something I’ll never get to do again.
Our house in Southampton went up for sale. When it finally sold my dad was already a ghost in the house. He didn’t live with us anymore and to be honest I don’t really know where he was living at the time. My mom found a house and my dad walked through it with her. She decided to buy it and we started to pack. I remember when we moved into the new house. It was exciting because it was a new place and we were all young so the fact that daddy didn’t live there didn’t really cross our minds until years later. When the years later came and I started to realize what the reality of everything was, I was crushed. I missed my dad, I wanted him to come home at night and tuck me into bed. I wanted to see him sitting at the dinner table and hear his voice when I got home from school. But he wasn’t there and I soon began to take extremely close notice to it. I eventually pushed the feelings down so I didn’t have to deal with them and I could move on with my life, but being a kid I didn’t realize that one day those feelings would eventually surface again. As I got older I began to develop a serious form of social anxiety. It started right after the Christmas of 2005. We had just gotten home from Disney World and we were opening presents since we weren’t home for Christmas. My mom got out the video camera and at first I didn’t even seem to notice but the second the camera turned to me I had an anxiety attack. Screaming and crying, while my sister who was three at the time was so excited about something she got that she was trying to show it to me. I was so upset about the camera that I yelled at her. To this day I have still not forgiven myself for that. I don’t know if I ever will. Time passed and I got worse so my mom took me to see a therapist. I went to her about twice a month and then she decided that maybe I should see a doctor about taking medicine. So I did and the process began. For two years I was on and off medication and in and out of therapy. Eventually sometime in my early high school career the doctor decided I should try stopping the medicine all together. Again I followed his advice, while still going to therapy and my freshman year of high school went smoothly for the most part. I really don’t know what happened that summer before sophomore year but those old feelings started to surface. Maybe it was just time I dealt with them. But they were there and I didn’t know what to do with them. So I again tried to ignore them. This time it didn’t work. I went back to school that fall and needed to go back on medication for my anxiety. Between the stress and school and those feelings I was having, I just couldn’t deal with everything with out having a panic attack. I made it through that year with a lot of bumps in the road but on the way I met some pretty amazing people.

First, there was Elizabeth H. Followed by Scott H and Sean S, and of course the Stephens family. A friend asked for my help one day. Could I stay after school with her to fold cards? Sure. So after school that day I walked in to classroom D102 where I met Elizabeth and Scott. These two teachers, along with a small group of students were folding cards made by Sean Stephens. Not five minutes after I walked in the door I found out who Sean was. Sean is a 21 year old who has severe autism and gastrointestinal problems. He has his good days and bad, and I’ve seen him on both. Sean creates cards that can be sold for money to help with his treatments. The money made from his cards goes into an account called Sean’s Cure and used when his family needs it. Because Sean’s autism is so severe he had his own room at school where he spent his days with Elizabeth and Scott. I’ve never in my life met two more dedicated people. I’ve seen them at their best and I’ve seen them when they’ve had a bad day with Sean. I’ll never forget the day I walked in and the two of them were leaving school early. I’ve never seen them more exhausted than that day. Despite this they didn’t give up on Sean. They were back every day ready for a new challenge, ready for whatever came their way. After that first afternoon that I volunteered to help I feel in love with all of them. I started going to Sean’s room when ever I had a free period so I could spend time with him. The more I was in there the more Elizabeth and Scott learned about me and I learned about them. I began to confide in Elizabeth and when she wasn’t busy with Sean she taught me the secrets of life. She has made me a better person, a happier person. When I first went to her I was so hurt I didn’t think anybody could fix me but she got my started to the road to recovery. She has so much faith and hope and she doesn’t give herself enough credit for all she’s done for Sean and his family. Scott is another one who doesn’t give himself enough credit for what he does for Sean. I could always go to him for advice and he always had an answer. Of course when we weren’t being serious we fought over the therapy putty. Other than us, Sean had other friends that came into see him during the day. Kiersten was the one who introduced me to Elizabeth. She had been working with Sean for a while by the time I started going. Collier also spent his free periods in Sean’s room and has become on of Sean’s best friends. Of course there were others along the way that stopped by to say hello but the six of us just couldn’t get enough. Sean graduated from Shawnee High School in June 2008 but to this day the six of us are friends and we still spend time with Sean. It may not be everyday because he’s not at school anymore but nobody forces us to see him. We do it because we love him. Always have and always will.
This year I’m a junior, Sean’s not at school and Scott works at a different school in the district. Things have changed but that doesn’t mean we stopped being friends. I still see Elizabeth every day, along with Kiersten and Collier. We still visit Sean at home and as for Scott, well he manages to stay in our lives. I’m going to have a great year. I finally found a therapist I love and the medicine is working correctly. Of course there are still things I need to work on but isn’t there always something you need to work on? Elizabeth is working with kids who have a different form of autism, not nearly as bad as Sean and Scott is teaching a woodshop class at his school. With the help of Elizabeth I am getting my life back together from all the pain of the past and learning to move forward. In a couple of days I will get to start working with these new students of Elizabeth’s and I’ll love them as I do Sean. I start work in a couple weeks, now that it’s fall again and I continue to keep myself busy with after school activities. Me and my dad are turning a new page in our book and things with my mom and me are getting better. Of course there are still something I don’t understand and I don’t think I’ll ever understand but life’s too short to keep hurting about the past. I’ve got a whole life ahead of me and I’m going to do great things. I have to have faith in myself before I can make the world have faith in me. Monday morning I’ll go down to see Elizabeth in her classroom and make plans to see her when were both not busy. Then I’ll see Collier and we’ll make plans to see Sean this week. After school I’ll go to therapy and then my cake decorating class and everything will finally be falling into place. But before I stop here I want to share some of my other pieces of advice. So don’t close the book just let, keep on reading and maybe, just maybe you’ll learn something from me. Then again maybe you’ll learn something from yourself.

Part Two: Feelings on Divorce
I myself am lost on this drive called life. Do I turn right or left? Or do I have to make a U-turn? Am I going north or south? Or am I already where I need to be? You see I am the person who can listen to your story and tell you exactly what comes next and what you’re going to do. I can tell you exactly how you’re going to react and how you need to handle the situation. I can tell you if you need to turn left or right, or if you’re making a U-turn. I can tell you if you’re going north or south or if you’re already where you need to be. However, on my own drive through life, I am completely at loss.
Why? That is what you want to know, isn’t it? What if I said I don’t know why, because that really is the truth. I sometimes question myself. Why don’t I know where I’m supposed to go? How, if I can help everyone around me, can I not help myself? These are the question I’ve been struggling with for years.
I know the root of the cause. I know what caused me to swerve off this road I’m on and into the ditch. My mom and dad, my parents, my mentors, my heros, my saviors. Why did they do this to me? Why did they cause me to become so lost? I just want to reach my destination. I just want to reach a place where I can, at least rest for a while until I figure out which way I’m supposed to turn.
A lot of people ask me what bothers me the most and I never know how to answer them except to say everything. Let me give you an example. I was in the grocery store the other day with my mom. She left me in line with the cart and went to get something she forgot to pick up. As I stood in line and watched all these strangers go by me, this one family grabbed my full attention. There was a mom and a dad and their three kids. Now why, you ask, did I care what this strange family was doing? My answer to you is that I didn’t. I didn’t care how they were going to spend the rest of their day, or what they were buying, or where they happened to be going on vacation that week. I cared about how the family was communicating and functioning together. I cared when I watched the dad tell his middle and oldest child to go pick something out from the candy isle. I cared when the kids ran off together, happy they were allowed to get a special treat. I cared when I watched the mom and dad stand in line with their cart full of food next to me, waiting for their kids to come back. As I watched all this, the dad and his kids, the family, grocery shopping together, the happy faces these people were wearing, a knot came into my throat. I tried to look away, I tried not to care, because at the beginning I didn’t, but then I realized I did. I cared the whole time. Well then why did you care? That’s the question that was running through my mind. I cared because that video that is now stored in my mind of the family in the grocery store, used to be us. It used to be how my family functioned with each other. It used to be the way every Sunday morning was spent. And now, here I am standing in the grocery store with my cart thinking and yearning for one more Sunday grocery trip. Just one more, and then I find myself doing something else. Quickly sucking myself out of what I want and slipping into prayer for these children. Praying like a madwomen that this family never gets torn apart, that this family never has a problem to big they can’t handle, praying that these three little children that I don’t even know, will go through life experiencing a happy family, a happy childhood and never, ever have to hear the word DIVORCE used in their house. Because let me tell you, when your family breaks apart into tiny little pieces, no matter how old the children or child is, it’s going to create a hard, torturing, nightmare for them. Sometimes divorce is the only way and sometimes it is the better route, but if there’s a chance, if there’s a 1% chance that you might be able to work through whatever maybe going on in your marriage, please don’t give up. For your children’s sake, give it one more shot.

Part three: Strength and Pain
Today was a day that called for strength. It called for hope and faith and love. Today was a long day, filled with many obstacles. Some of which I could not fulfill. It was a day when you realize pain is never going to leave you, its always going to be close by ready to catch you at your weakest. Ready to hold you until someone comes to pull you out. I found hope today in a fictional character. She helped me see that sometimes you have to be ok with the situation whether you are or not because in the end there’s nothing else you can do. You can’t go back and change it, you can’t go back and erase it, you just have to accept it. I also learned today that it’s ok to feel the pain. It’s ok to be hurt as long as it doesn’t become a disease. As long as it doesn’t capture your true self for so long that you cant find it again, as long as it leads you to hope, because it will, through family, through friends, through images, and through speeches. Maybe pain isn’t as bad as we all think it is. Maybe it’s not bad at all. When we hear the word pain automatically our mind thinks: bad, hurt, upset. Maybe that’s one perspective of pain maybe that’s one persons look on pain that was somehow created into a domino effect. I could be wrong but pain can also be a healer. It can help you move forward in not creating the same mistakes again, in not letting yourself go in farther than is realistic for you. The world today is so negative. Maybe if we just stopped looking at the negatives of things we could see all the positives; but then again maybe not. It’s your choice, it’s your feeling, and it’s your belief.

Part four: Why
Why? Why do we experience all these negative feelings? Why do we deal with pain when were the ones who caused it? Why do we get angry at others? Why do we get angry at ourselves? Maybe because we can’t change the situation once it happens. Maybe because we know it’s how it’s supposed to play out. Maybe it’s just fate. Whatever the reason may be its there, and you can’t escape it. So don’t run. Suck it up, take a chance, work it out. Make the impossible, possible. Change the world.
Everyone has their own strength. Some people can feel their strength and know what they can handle others feel weak because they don’t know how strong they really are until they are tested. It’s hard to determine what may happen along the way, if you don’t know the route you’re walking down.

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