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Coping with Change

Nothing is more important than family. At the head of every family is the father. He’s the protector, the guide, and the safety net. Whether you’re five years old or eighty-five years old, you feel the same way about your father, which is exactly how I feel too. So when my dad had to go and work on oil rigs, I felt lost, insecure, and terrified.

Without his presence I wasn’t sure what to do. I felt like something vanished from my life. He had always been there. Ever since I could remember he owned his own glass business. Even though, with his glass business he traveled all over East Texas and Louisiana, I knew that when I got home from school, a few hours later, he’d come home. He’d walk through the door, with his big goofy grin, waiting for me and my sisters to run up to him and hug him so he could scoop us up into one of his signature bear hugs, which was something that could comfort me any time, whether I was sick, crying, or angry. I could always count on him to be there. At the beginning of every school year, he would walk each of us to our class, and hug us saying, “I love you have a great first day!” I never cared what other kids would say because I knew I was lucky. Most kids didn’t have parents who would do that, and having my dad do that for me put more reassurance in my heart that he really did love me. Soon though, all that came to an abrupt halt. He couldn’t get some of his clients to pay for the job he had done for them, so soon he had to close his business. Then so he could give us a stress free life, he went to work for an oil rig company. Watching him leave that first time, at the age of ten, left me feeling lost.

I remember crying, not because he had left, but because I didn’t understand. He said he would always be there, so why had he just left? I knew he loved me, my mom and my sisters, he had just told us he did. So why would he do this? Nothing was making sense to me. I looked around and I felt like I was standing in a jungle filled with misunderstanding, panic and confusion. I knew where I had been but I didn’t know where I was going. The only trail was the one I had made. When I looked ahead of me, it was nothing but vines and dense brush. I was disoriented and confused. At one point I knew I had a guide, my father, but then out of nowhere it was like he darted off, leaving me behind. It was like this the first couple of months. I was in a rut, stuck in the place where my dad had left me. Life was going on around me, but I was at a standstill. I would see my dad every so often; he would dart back into my view just out of reach. I would call to him but every time I would get close, he was gone again. Leaving me wanting him to come back and wipe the tears from my eyes, whisper softly everything was going to be ok, that he was here now, and he wouldn’t let anything happen to me. That didn’t happen though. To him and everyone else I was, fine, just fine. I felt if I let them know how lost I was, that they would say I was weak and to get over it, everyone feels that way you’re no different. That was scarier to me than being lost, so I folded inside of myself, forming a barrier around myself.

When my dad left, everything seemed to have shifted. It was as if everything and everyone knew he was gone and couldn’t protect me, at least that's how I felt. Everything scares me, mainly because that’s the kind of person I am. The dark, scary movies, people jumping out from around corners yelling, “BOO!” all scare me. I knew though, that Dad would be there with a flashlight, let me hide my eyes in his shoulder during the scary parts, or jump out from behind me scaring the person that just scared me by yelling in his deep scary voice, “Gotcha! Now get out of here!” I could walk around, without a care in the world, not being afraid because he was behind me, buffering all that would hurt or scare me. Then one day, I woke up, feeling strangely different. I walked through the dark, like a scary movie with everything jumping out at me screaming, yelling and taking me by surprise. All I wanted do was curl up in a corner where I knew none of this could get to me. I even dreaded going to sleep now, who knew what crazy person would try and break into our house and dad wasn’t there to defend us. I became jumpy and fidgety; I would go to my room and cry because I was so scared of the bad things out there. Mom and my sisters would ask what was wrong, but I would answer the same way, “Oh, nothing, just a bad day, I’ll be fine.” Usually they would shrug and go on not thinking twice about what was wrong with me; my mom was mostly trying to keep Lenae from going off the deep end, considering she was cut out of the back pocket of my dad’s jeans. She made it more than obvious that she was miserable, where as I kept it all locked inside myself, not letting anyone in on the fact that I was terrified.

I’m naturally a worrier; when I’m not sure where my parents, grandparents, or siblings are, I go into a panicked rage. My stomach goes into a huge knot; I pace around looking out each window, waiting for their truck to into the drive, or for a phone call that will reassure me that they are all right. Ever since we lost my uncle in a car crash, my worrying had been sent into over-drive. I hated going to school because I didn’t know where my parents were at all times. If my mom was going to the store and my dad was staying at home, I always went with my mom because I knew where my dad would be, and I was with my mom so I could worry a little bit less. But when my dad left to work on oil rigs, I was sent into a worrying frenzy, my worry now being full out petrified. Oil rigs, for one, were unpredictable. In one split second, something could change and my life would never be the same ever again. I also terrified for my dad in general. He was always going from one place to another. I was frightened that he was lonely, or someone would pull a gun on him or something out of the blue would happen and either he’d be hurt or killed. Almost every waking moment, my mind was on my dad, wondering what was happening or what he was doing. All of this was building up and festering until one day, my shell finally cracked.

That day was awful. Everything I had hidden so well and worked so hard to keep hidden finally was out in the open for everyone to see. I felt raw, but also relieved that finally I wasn’t carrying this on my own. When my parents and I talked about what I had been doing they told me they had seen a change in me. I was so secretive, and kept to myself most of the time and for me that’s not normal because I love to be surrounded by family. When I talked to my dad, I would normally tear up when he would ask, “Baby girl are you ok?” I would say like a robot, like I did to everyone else who asked, “Oh I’m fine, just fine Dad.” Then there would be an awkward silence making me rush to get off the phone; I could barely get out that I loved him before I was in complete tears. They also said they had tried helping me, and get me to open up to them. When my dad would come home on his short visits, he would always ask how I was handling things, and my response was always the same as before. My dad was worried enough, so why would I make him feel bad by actually telling him how I felt? I didn’t notice any of this. I thought I had I had acted for the most part the same around them, but usually that’s what happens you become solitary when you put a shell around yourself. I look back and see what I did was bad for myself. Even though life is like one big jungle, with only the one path you’ve already made, you must learn to push forward. Sometimes you won’t have a guide, and you must make your own path. But more than likely, there’s always someone going through the same thing and willing to help you chop through the vines and get you going again. You can’t fight on your own; you can’t carry life just on your shoulders; you have other people there to help take some of the weight. That’s what families are there for.





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