It was wintertime and I was sitting in front of our old wood stove, trying to keep warm. I was 10. We lived without power and heat that winter and dad was cooking our supper on the only thing we had available. Thank goodness for the wood stove though, because without it, I honestly don’t know how we would have been able to eat.
My dad has suffered from alcoholism for as long as I can remember.
It has taken over his life, controlled him and sometimes made him a monster.
I love my dad, but I still remember living without power for months, going to school embarrassed, and taking care of my little brother when my dad was drunk and my mom was stuck working two or three jobs.
I remember getting dressed in my room when I heard the screaming. I combed my hair and tried to drown out the sounds. My parents were fighting again, something I had become used to at that point. My brother was only four or five years old at the time and together we crept down the stairs but couldn’t move from the last step.
I watched my dad shove my mom. She fell and hit her head against the washing machine and as she fell she caught the side of my dad’s face with her nails and left a bleeding gash.
I remember looking at my little brother at the moment. His eyes were filled with tears and he just looked at me so confused and so heartbroken.
That was the last day I ever saw innocence in my brother’s face and the first day I promised myself I would be different. I would try to protect him and I would never live the same life I did growing up.
Sometimes I look at my brother. He’s a smart kid, but he doesn’t know it. I remember the first time I ever held him. He was my entire world. When he yawned he opened his mouth so wide it almost scared me, but it was cute. My brother was so tiny back then, he was so innocent and he was untouched.
Now when I look at my brother, he’s six-foot-four and handsome. He’s 16 and suffers from mental illness and depression. And he’s bullied because of it.
He lives with my dad I think because deep down he feels this urge to take care of him. To be there for him, because my dad has nothing left. I used to be exactly like my brother, too.
My dad has pushed every person that has ever cared about him away, and my brother has been caught in the middle since we were those small kids sitting at the edge of the stairs.
Every day I find myself looking at people. Wondering who they are, what kind of person they are, how they act or how they don’t. Sometimes it’s awkward. I find myself sitting in loud crowded places, and sometimes I just stare. I think, and when I come to, someone is often staring back. This person is a stranger, someone I don’t know, yet I find myself searching for answers. I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m curious. I want to know about them. I want to be able to understand where they’ve come from. Because I want to know if their life was as hard as mine and I pray that it wasn’t.
Every day I struggle to be the best person I can and it hurts me when I see people complain about the littlest things, judge others, and forget to enjoy the gifts they have been given in life.
I have too struggled with mental illness, but I have overcome it. I would never wish it upon my worst enemy, yet I see my little brother fight a battle with himself every single day because he is not able to overcome our past the way I have.
I grew up faster than I wanted to, but I did it because I needed to. I did it for my mom, my brother, my other siblings and even my dad.
Sometimes I wish I would have been a kid longer, but I don’t regret anything I’ve been through. What hurts me more is seeing my brother, someone I love so much, hurting more every single day.
Still, sometimes I wish I could be that little girl again. The one who used to run around outside on hot summer days with her siblings and have the time of her life. The girl who sang at the top of her lungs and wasn’t afraid of what anybody thought of her.