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Chapter 1

Sister Sharon’s Poem for the Story

Author’s Note

This is a work of nonfiction.  The events and experiences detailed herein are all true and have been faithfully rendered as I have remembered them, to the best of my ability.  Some names, identities, and circumstances have been changed in order to protect the integrity and/or anonymity of the various individuals involved.

Though conversations and events come from my keen recollection of them, they are not written to represent these events.  I have retold them in a way that portrays the real telling and meaning of what was said and done, in keeping with the true reality of the mood and spirit of the event.

I did not tell my sisters stories as I believe they have to right to tell their own stories if they chose to do so.

Chapter 1 – A Bittersweet Goodbye

I was just twelve years old and still mourning the death of my mother, a little over a year before, when I found myself riding down the road in a stranger’s car to another stranger’s house. I thought back to just the night before, when, in one loveless announcement, my father revealed that he was just “Dave,” and no longer my dad. Freshly torn from the arms of my sisters, I was now heading for this place called a foster home. Anything would have to be better than the past year I had endured with my step-mom, Lynn. Life was finally going to change. It could not get much worse. I was so glad to get away from Lynn and her awful games. Now she would not be able to hit me, say horrible things to me, or force me to speak awful lies about my mother. I would also no longer have to witness her beating the twins.

I was the big sister to four, and felt the responsibility to keep the younger girls safe, but I could not help them now. I was consumed with guilt knowing that Debbie and Deon, my six-year-old twin sisters, had been left behind to endure more beatings by the woman we called Mrs. Hell. During Lynn’s explosions, I prayed that God would let the girls live. I had become quite good at diverting her attention to me, and to make her hateful beatings come at me so my sisters had a chance to escape her rage. What would she do to them now that I was leaving and no one was there to be a decoy?

My older brother Rick had gone back to live with his mom the night before and my other sisters, Terry and Sharon, were being taken away with their respective caseworkers, just like me. I held my breath, afraid to make any sound as the cars disappeared in to the distance. This must be what it was like to be alone. I had not ever been without my sisters before. My heart was beating so fast I was getting lightheaded, and my face was burning with hot spots that felt like fire as I tried to stop the angry tears from coming. The lady in the front seat kept asking if I was okay as she watched me in the rear-view mirror, but I didn’t talk to her. I felt like hanging my head out the car window and throwing up.

Less than an hour ago, the three of us older sisters; Terry, age eleven, Sharon, who was ten, and I was twelve, had left the Mount Vernon, Ohio, Middle school, and boarded the bus for our thirty-minute ride home. We could only make eye contact with each other because we did not know how to talk about what was happening in our family. It was unimaginable—we had hoped it was a nightmare or a bad joke and Dad would change his mind. But he never joked. He always said what he meant. Soon we found out it was never more true. We squeezed together in one green vinyl bus seat, shoulders pressed together, and heard only silence in spite of all the noisy kids; our friends did not know anything was wrong. Most of my classmates no longer asked about the bruises or why my eyes were swollen because I had made up so many stories in the past to explain the marks, that my classmates and teachers now assumed I was just an active and accident-prone child.

The driver turned on the flashing safety lights, and pulled to a stop, the air brakes made a loud, squishy squeal, and the bi-fold door opened, signaling it was time for us to get off. We had a short walk up a hill and around a corner before we could see our house. As we approached the top of the hill, we grabbed hold of each other’s hands. The man we had called Dad all these years had done exactly what he said he was going to do last night.

The walk up the first knoll of the road was slow. What should have taken us about two minutes to the top, took about twenty. We held each other’s hands as we slowly walked up to the corner. We were totally silent in what would be our last walk together to what we knew as home. As we approached the top of the hill to turn the corner to see our house, the driveway was filled with three unfamiliar cars. Three unfamiliar women stood with their arms crossed. They were looking up the hill at us as if we were hunted animals, finally discovered and soon to be in captivity. We knew our lives would never be the same again. Our silence turned into sobs as we hugged each other, not wanting to move any closer to our house or the three strangers. Standing behind the ladies were Dad and Lynn, both sporting smug expressions. Terry leaned over and told me that she had overheard Lynn giving Dad a choice: “Either the three girls, or me.” This started a slow simmering boil of anger through me, in addition to the horror of being minutes from being separated from my sisters. Hearts pounding and our eyes full of tears, all the cars and strangers waiting to greet us became a blur in distance.

Reluctantly we made our way down the drive but Dad and Lynn stopped us from entering the house and banned the twins from coming out to say good-bye. Sharon, Terry, and I were made to stand in the driveway like criminals. Not only were we kept from sharing a parting hug with the twins, but we were not even allowed to hug each other! All we could do was share a glance of hopelessness and despair.

On the driveway next to Lynn were three brown grocery sacks with the tops rolled down. The sacks contained the things Lynn had gathered from our rooms, our only belongings with which to embark on our new lives. From each of the grocery sacks Lynn pulled our diaries and read out loud, emphasizing each ugly remark we had ever written about her. The diaries had been given to us as gifts from her months earlier. They were a place for us to release our private thoughts and feelings while we struggled through the loss of our mother, but we never suspected she would broadcast their contents the way she was doing now. She wanted to make sure Dad did not have any second thoughts about sending us away, and she was sure this display would seal the decision. She proceeded with her ranting in front of the caseworkers, who politely listened, but did not stop her because I think they did not want to cause any further delay in placing us in the new homes. They just let her have her say until she ran out of steam.

I soon realized there were three cars, and three caseworkers, in order to transport us neatly to three separate homes. Dad told us that we would be separated because “…the three of you together, are more evil than any ordinary set of foster parents could be expected to supervise.” One at a time, each caseworker called out the name of each of us she would be taking. Debbie, one of the twins, and a little rebel, ran out of the garage and pushed her way to the car I was climbing into. She had tears streaming down her face and with her choked voice asked if I would ever come back. She reached up and handed me a small mirror, she said it was a present and not to forget her. On the back was an image of Jesus holding a staff with several little lambs. I was sure Debbie would get a beating for coming out of the garage. Then she ran back and stood by Deon and they both waved as long as they could before they were ushered back into the house. The twins did not have a full understanding of what was happening. All of us girls had lost our mother, our brother, our father, and now each other as sisters.