I Forgive You
My love was pure
My mind was innocent
Roses are red violets are blue
You took my heart, as they took you
I went from being an innocent little girl to being the daughter of a criminal
I went from being “daddy’s little girl” to “your father doesn’t love you.”
You destroyed me
Everything I did was to prove myself to you
I got all good grades
I even spoke badly of Mom, hoping you would accept me as your little girl again
I drank like you did
I smoked like you did, so when you got out of jail you could see how much of you I was like
You are the reason I don’t trust anyone anymore
The reason I am afraid to get close to anyone
You hit my sisters and me for no reason, and then, when you woke up from your nap, You forgot why our faces were bruised,
You forgot why your handprint was imprinted on our faces
You told us you were sorry, then the next day you hit us again if we asked you why we couldn’t get out of our room
You took my childhood away
You hit Mommy in front of us and told her we were nothing
I hated the way you treated us, but I still prayed to god for you to love me
I still cared about what you thought
I still cried when they came to take you away
You went to jail, I wrote to you
You never wrote back
I’m sorry, Daddy
You walked away and didn’t come back
Was I not a good enough daughter?
Was I a disappointment?
Am I really not worth it?
When you got out you said sorry
We became closer, but only until i ran out of money
I gave you money for beer
I gave you money for cigarettes
You found another woman
Who said I didn’t deserve you
Who said I didn’t deserve to be an Abercrombie
You believed her and you stopped calling me to say goodnight
I went from being a daddy’s girl and playing catch every day with my beloved father to
Being a no good, rebellious child
I went from being Madison Rae to being whatever people knew me as…
I went from being a girl who accepted life as it was to being distraught and angry at the world
You say you didn’t do anything, but we both know that’s a lie
But somehow it’s ok
And somehow I can say I forgive you
Me experiencing you drinking 9-10 bottles of beer a day
Me experiencing you hurting my beloved mother
You breaking my heart more and more since I was 8
You made me a survivor, so thank you, Daddy
Thanks for giving up on me
Because now I know what not to do
So, Dad, I forgive you.
Theme from English B
The instructor said,
Go home tonight and write
A page tonight
And let that page
Come out of you….
Then it will be true.
I understand the way it should be…
And I understand the way it’s not.
Four white walls, two doors, my closet and my bedroom door.
A TV that’s turned on ten hours a day. Or more.
A window that is as tall as I am,
And as wide as two people lying side by side.
I stare at the streetlights just outside my window,
The only light that brightens my room.
I hear three hard knocks against my bedroom door,
But I don’t crawl down the ladder of my bunk bed.
Two more knocks,
And this time they grow louder
I sit and stare, blink once
And then simply close my eyes.
I feel my eyes puff up as I try harder to control my breathing.
I think about my life.
I focus on the good.
As I try harder and harder to think of the good,
It becomes harder and harder to breathe.
I open my eyes but my crying continues.
I cradle my knees in my arms and fall to the right,
I grab the closet handle.
I grab a life-sized stuffed bear and move it closer to me.
I lay my head on its bowling ball-sized head.
I throw my left leg over the bear’s stomach,
I cry some more.
I can no longer breathe; I pant.
My lungs hurt as my breath leaves my body.
My eyes sting as tears drip down my face.
It all feels as if there is no peace;
That my world is falling apart
This is the feeling of me feeling helpless.
I hear my bedroom door opening.
My sister rushes to my bed and hurries up the ladder
She sits beside me.
She raises her arms.
She pets my head,
Then moves closer.
I feel her fear.
I feel her heart pounding faster and faster,
She fears holding me,
Fears I will push her away.
I hear her steady breathing becoming less steady
She grabs my shoulder,
Then my head,
She gently places my head on her chest.
I hear her heartbeat accelerating,
Then slowing as I hold her tightly.
I feel her relief as I allow her to comfort me.
She brushes my hair behind my ears and kisses the top of my head.
“It’ll be okay, I’m here. It has to get worse before it gets better. This is just our lives, now. Okay? This is just what we came from. This isn’t us; this isn’t what we are. I promise.”
She whispers this to me as she holds my hand,
Kisses my forehead.
She grabs my pillow and adjusts it to the back of her head.
She holds my hand and strokes my head as I close my eyes.
I come from a place where my sisters are my mentors.
I come from a dad who didn’t have bad luck or bad timing.
I come from a dad who did drugs and left us behind to become
A bum, cigarette smoking, meth loving “Son of God,”
As he tells my sisters and me,
Expecting us to forgive everything he’s done.
I come from a career mom.
A woman who returned to college at age 34
To create a better world for her children.
I come from UCLA Family Housing.
I come from, “It can only get better.”
As all my close friends say,
But feeling heartbroken
When it gets worse.
Home is Not Smelling Cherry Pie
Home is not walking through the door and smelling cherry pie.
Home is a policeman dressed as a pizza delivery man and taking my dad “for a drive.”
At least that’s what my mom said.
Home is not coming home every day to a home cooked meal.
Home is coming home to an empty house with a microwave and bread.
Home is not a big two-story house.
Home is on the second floor with a bedroom for Mom and another for me and my sisters.
Home is not with a loving, hardworking dad.
Home is “Daddy will be back later, baby.”
Home is not with a happy, healthy mom.
Home is, “Mommy went in for surgery, make sure you save leftovers for the other two.”
Home is not a different bike every other Xmas.
Home is uniform clothes every Xmas.
Home is with a hardworking, positive-minded, cancer-surviving mom.
Home is with a drugged out, sad, dysfunctional dad
Angry at me and the world.
Home is home.
I’m Only a Child
“Your mother has cancer.”
My mother delivered this line to my sisters and me in third person. I can’t remember the exact day she spoke those words, but I remember my exact feelings.
My eyes welled up, but being afraid to hurt my mother’s feelings I tried my hardest not to cry.
When she spoke those words, dozens of thoughts and questions invaded my mind, but just as quickly my mind went blank.
I stared at Danielle, my younger sister, age four, who held my six-year-old sister Jasmine’s hand. Danielle’s other hand was balled into a fist. Jasmine had been dealing with bullies at school. Now she had this. And we all had to deal with a dad who was in and out of prison.
“How bad is it?” Jasmine asked.
“Is your hair going to fall out?” Danielle asked. And then, “Mommy, are you going to die?”
By ages 5, 6 and 7 we sisters knew how to bus from San Pedro to downtown Los Angeles where we went to an ATM machine and withdrew hundreds of dollars at a time.
We knew how to take the food stamps card across the street to buy the whole family’s weekly groceries.
Though still in elementary school, we were considered adults.
But we were only children trying to deal with our reality, being poor, white and living in a ghetto neighborhood.
What once were daily activities, like playing tag with Mommy, quickly became memories of a distant past. And Daddy’s absences, he could be gone for days or even months, became normal.
“He did meth!” my mother screamed at me.
2008. My dad was locked up for doing meth and picking up a prostitute.
I was close to my dad and it became difficult for me to accept the fact that we would never be as close as we once were.
He wrote all of us saying how sorry he has.
I wrote back in secret, but my mom always burned my letters and said they didn’t get through or they were lost in the mail.
I lost hope of ever playing football with my dad or telling knock-knock jokes.
Defending my dad’s actions and fighting with my mom over them also became the norm.
In 2008, when I was eight years old, Jasmine suddenly shut Danielle and me out of her life. She tried blocking out all the pain and discovered it was easier not to care which gave me the additional responsibility of coping with my little sister’s feelings.
“I have surgery again today.”
It’s 2010. And my mom is both a cancer patient and a student at UCLA.
My sisters and I were thrilled that she was accepted into college, but also worried because one day she collapsed walking up the steps to class.
It was also in 2010 that my mother went through chemo again.
“The first time didn’t work! Why will it work the second time?” I demanded.
I was terrified of losing her.
Earlier she had been through radiation and had an ovary removed.
The doctors were taking her apart piece by piece. And I was afraid my outgoing, single mom would die from all the surgeries, and her jobs and her school work. She was trying too hard to build a life for her daughters.
“I wish I could die!”
2012 and Danielle began suffering from depression. She was so sad from the life she leads.
“I’m so sorry, girls” my mother said, as if the cancer were somehow her fault.
“I can’t do this anymore!” I screamed at my sisters.
I wanted to die. I hate this life.
“Why us?” I asked
I feared I would lose my mother to cancer and my kid sister to darkness.
“If this doesn’t work, I can’t go on anymore,” my mother said to me one day when I met her on her lunch break.
I am 14 and I realized I would never be happy as long as my mother suffered from cancer.
I also realized that without my sisters I wouldn’t be here today.
I figured that my problem was not my mother’s illness, but the way I chose to deal with it.
My dad was in and out of prison, and Jasmine pretended I didn’t exist and Danielle lived in sadness. And then I had to take on the responsibility for my stepbrothers. I was overwhelmed and looked for a way out.
“Why are you doing this?” my mother and my stepdad screamed at me.
I was high.
I didn’t care what they said.
At 15 I started drinking and smoking to numb the pain.
I rebelled against the cancer cells growing inside my mother’s body as if they could respond to my rebellious actions.
But later in my fifteenth year I stopped the self-destructive behavior.
Today I realize that my life isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible.
I can cope with my mother’s illness. And a dad who is in and out of my life.
And yes, it’s a lot to deal with.
A whole lot for a fifteen-year-old.
I understand it could be worse, but it could also be a lot better.
Maybe one day, slowly, things will improve.
And deep down, I think they will.
Home with My Mom
As I laugh,
as I cry,
I know you always will know
that you are mine
As I cut myself
as I try to commit suicide
you show me how I’m strong
and that I should never hide
As he pulls my hair
and drives away
you are there
and there to stay
As I hit you
as I say, “I hate you,”
you laugh, then
I’m sorry I’m a disappointment
I’m sorry I get high
you try and try
and are always good to me
I laugh and leave
but never for long;
I’m not the first
to say goodbye
You’re a good mom,
You’re my best friend
I write and write
Your name will never be forgotten,
as long as I hold this pen
I am the Mother of My Mother
I am the mother of my mother
I wonder if I will ever get the chance to be a child
I hear my mother cry in pain and throw up her food
I see my mother grow thinner and lose her hair day by day
I want to be able to say, “My mother is healing.”
I am the mother to my mother
I pretend she is my child
I feel that we have grown stronger
I touch my mother’s forehead as she catches another fever
I worry that my mother won’t get the chance to see me grow up
I cry when I see my sister realize her mom’s health isn’t improving
I am the mother to my mother
I say, “You are strong enough to continue fighting.
I dream that you do not have cancer.”
I try to be a daughter, student and sister
I hope that my mother loves me enough to want to keep fighting
I am the mother to my mother.