To my dad, who never knew what it was like to see him through my eyes.
A wise man once told me. "If you are walking with the man you love, he needs to walk on the outside." I remember this being pretty long conversation. I was nine when he
told me. He said, if he loves you it means he is with you. Back in the day women walking on the outside meant the women was for sale. It is also a sign of respect.
It is a sign of protection. This conversation was one of a few times that stuck out in my mind. I didn't know then how much that conversation really would mean in my
life. This same wise man once told me going to the dollar store with five dollars means I can get only four things not five. Though he always felt bad and paid my tax
so I could get five items anyhow. My first lesson in life about life. Tax. How all that math at school really was meant for the real world. I have to admit though I
have not yet had to figure out anything math wise as an adult that had letters and numbers at the same time. When sitting down and thinking about what I was going
to write about, it wasn't long before I knew, I was going to write about my father. So this is dedicated to: How I met my dad.
The first time many people see their father is right after their birth. I am not saying all get this luxury. I didn't that is for sure. I was born to a mother who had
no idea who my father really was. She "thinks" she knows. I look back on photos of her and I. Her as child, me as a child. We could have twins. So what did I get
from my father? It wasn't until I was much older that I even cared. For a long time my mother was married to a man I could have sworn was my dad. I didn't know
different. Though it is weird to say that now. How the brain can cut out bits of time like nothing. My brother and I spent the first five years of my life with my grand
father and my very young aunt. That is a whole other story on it's own and maybe you might hear of it. I can remember bits and pieces of that life. Of seeing people
sitting around a table smoking, drinking coffee. I don't remember any yelling, or fighting. I don't really remember a mom, but then again I do. I was super confused.
I thought my aunt was my mother. One day, she was gone. One day we were on a small plane. On our way back to this other lady. Who finally had gotten her act together.
Well enough that my grandfather felt comfortable letting us go back. She didn't last two years. She didn't know how to be a mom. Not a mom to two kids who really
didn't know her. I am a mother now, with a daughter who looked just like I did when I was a kid. Who acts the same way I did when I was a kid. She has severe ADHD.
When I sit back and think of all I went through so young. I hug her. I promise her to never give up. We recently saw a commercial about foster kids. She looked at
and said. "Mom I never want to go to a foster home. Promise me". I said " Honey, I promised you that 27 years ago. When I became a foster child. I tell people. I am
an open book. I am who I am today, in spite of all of that. So when did I meet my dad? The exact date to me isn't clear and if I did some research I could find out.
I am pretty I could ask him and he might know. Though hearing just how I know of it right now. Is what makes this story special.
The day the police, yes the police, came to my mother's house to escort me away. Was around Christmas time 1988. My mother ran a motel and her portion to live in was
connected to the office. The whole establishment was a large U shape. Hers being on the far left. Everyone who was staying there at the time, came out to see just why
the police had come to the manager's office. I wasn't handcuffed or anything. Though I was crying. I remember this sinking feeling. I used to have dreams that I was
trying to run away from something bad. I never saw the bad. I just knew it was bad. I also felt like a part of me was flying over head cheering myself on. Run Joanne.
Run, they are coming for you. Something was wrong though. I knew I was running as fast as I could but at the same time when I looked down on myself I was running in
slow motion. The bad, never caught me. Though this dream always left me feeling awful. Feeling like I was drowning. This dream is how I felt that day. My mother
no emotions. I was for lack of a better word. Freaking out. I couldn't understand what was going on. Why was I leaving. What did I do so wrong. Would I ever see her
again? Why couldn't I take my brother? They said it wasn't for permanent, I believed them. I didn't take anything. No clothes, no dolls, just me. Crying, sad, lost,
and drowning me. This seven year old, brown haired, freckle faced green eyed, crying little girl. Alone, just me. Man looking back it is like I am telling a story
that is not mine. I have tears in my eyes. I am sad for her. How could her mother do this to her? Why didn't her mother want her? I remember looking out the back
of the car that day. Seeing not a teardrop from my mother's eye. Who knows. Maybe she went in and bawled her eyes out. Maybe she went in and did a sigh of relief,
maybe she went in and thought about ending it all. Maybe she was numb and went in and made dinner. I will never know. My mother can't even tell you. Her story
changes a lot. That day, that very moment we drove away. It was like the innocence died. The child, or whatever child was left. Died.
Several months pass. I bounced around to a few homes. No one could find anything permanent and the homes I was in didn't do long term care. Well at least not for a
girl who was messed up and "having issues." One day I went to this office building in downtown Spokane. I sat there and waited. Story of my life. I wait. I wait for
whatever. I didn't know it then, in walked my dad. To me, he was this man who had a twinkle in his eye like Santa. You want to sit on his lap and tell him all you want
for Christmas. You trust him and you have no idea why. He had this smile that said everything is going to be okay. At this point I was used to disappointment.
While I wanted to trust him. I couldn't. I was so used to no one sticking around. I cannot tell you what we talked about that day. I cannot tell you how long the
visit lasted. I had no idea who he was or why he cared. I remember he promised to see me again. At this point I learned what a promise was.
Promise: Something adults say but have no clue if they can really hold up to their end of the deal. If the situation doesn't suit them, or if something else comes up
said promise is void and there is nothing you can do about it. Promise.
It would be four weeks until I saw him again. This time he came to whatever home I was living in at the time. I remember getting into a red truck. I didn't care where
we were going. I just felt so happy to be going. To be away from the foster life. Surrounded by kids who had the word sister attached after their fosters title. Though
were just as messed up if not worse off than I. Who had siblings of their own and would never view me as a sister. Who never treated me as such. Who couldn't imagine
a life with me in it. Who would never remember me after we parted. I was so glad to be away from that. Windows down and wind in my hair. He offered me a Mento. To him
it was just natural to be kind and to have something and not enjoy it in front of me. To offer it to me too. What he didn't know is I was used to that. So it never
dawned on me he even was eating them. When he offered it to me it was like sealing the deal on our friendship. He thought I was important enough to treat with kindness.
A Mento. Who knew. To this day, whenever I am at the checkout, I see Mentos. I grab them. I think of that moment, and every one after. How he always had them.
When I was younger I always looked at the ground. Always. When I had to go to counseling I looked at the ground. When I was walking. I looked at the ground. When I
did anything. I didn't want anyone to look me in the eye and make me cry. Even so young, crying seemed to weak in a world I was living in. I didn't want anyone to
make me feel like my mother did. I had no reason to smile either. What was there to smile about. Each day I felt like I was just surviving. I remember he would tell
to look up, to smile, to enjoy myself. For him, I might have. I had no one to impress. Until he proved his promise was different. When I knew he was coming, I would sit
for hours waiting for him to arrive. To take me away from the hell I was living in. I remember that sinking feeling like I was suffocating when the time to show up would
pass and he didn't arrive. No, not him... he promised. Please don't leave me here I would say. I would look down. Rub my eyes welling up with tears. Just as I started
to feel that I was done for. That whatever progress I had made was gone. He would show up. Late... This is when I learned that Jim was always late.
So who is Jim? Jim was the appointed Guardian ad litem from the state. These are unpaid volunteers who speak up for the kids of the state.
What I didn't learn to well into my adulthood, was that he too was once a foster kid too, and that is why he chose this. He wanted to help make a difference.
Jim (it feels so weird to call him that) was on a mission. He saw this "stone child" (as was noted in my chart,as a child who showed no emotion.) to smile again. To
like something. His mission was to show me, life is good too. He really had his work cut out for him. Have you ever seen the movie white oleander? No I was never shot.
Yes the movie has a lot of the same aspects of my foster care life. Though I was never as pretty as the actress who played Allister (I think that was her name) but
just as messed up, if not worse. Jim would come every few weeks. Which time flies. Though it didn't for me. School was torture. I wore clothes that goodwill couldn't
sell. I had no friends. Kids would go home and say. We got a new girl today, her name is Joanne. They would describe me. Their parents would encourage them to
play with me anyhow, because my parents might just be poor and it isn't my fault. So they would play with me. Then out of nowhere it would happen. I would say
something that told them I was a foster kid. They would tell their parents and that was a whole game changer. Parents didn't need to know exactly why I was foster
kid. Just that I was not someone they wanted their kid to hang out with. One day I had a friend and the next I didn't. The teasing was unbearable. Being teased for
being a foster kid was only the beginning. My name was Joanne. Though spelled Johanne. My last name Herbig. (WHO HAS THAT LAST NAME??? IT IS AWFUL!!!!) Every year,
every new school would shout Johanne (yo-han) Herbig. This was all the ammo kids needed. I was yo-han Herbig butt for years. I remember going days without bathing.
Not because I didn't want to, but because I was a foster kid who had to do what I was told, and often my own hygien was not a priority to many parents. I smelled bad
in every way. Body odor, my breath, my clothes. More ammo for kids to tease me. So weeks felt like months until Jim was back to rescue me. One kind man who knew I
needed him. Our routine turned into getting something to eat, roller skating and going to the dollar store. Remember he was a volunteer. He was just supposed to come
visit me. Make sure I was okay. He knew I needed him. To show me that innocence is in me still.
During this time, I found my voice. Not in a way that you might think. It was during this time I learned to cope with the emptiness of Jim's absence. I would take
my brain somewhere else, and sing. I would make up songs about a place with a sandy beach and blue water, and sand dollars, and water toys. Rainbows without rain.
I would make up songs about him being my dad. I didn't know he was ever going to be. I just made them up. Singing about whatever was happy and opposite of what I was
going through. I never went to the beach, I never visited a theme park, I never went to the fair, I never saw a disney movie. In fact the first movie I saw was Little
Mermaid which came out in 1989 and I didn't see it till 1990. I don't remember another for a long time. Though I can sing every word to almost every song in that movie.
I know many can, but to me, the movie has a lot of meaning that many will never truly understand. I did want to be part of that world. I wanted to look like all the
other kids. I wanted to go places and see things, and do stuff that everyone else got to. For now, I was grateful just to go skating. Just to visit the dollar store.
Just to see him.
He started greeting me with "hey kid" and a big hug. We had reached hug status. Oh how good it felt for someone to hug me. No one had given me a good hug in so long.
I think that is why I love them so much to this day. He was the first I can remember to hug me out of caring. Out of love. Not in a creepy child molester way.
In a, you got this kid. I love you. Until next time kinda way. Like, don't forget how awesome you are kind of way. I got all that from a hug. Those I truly love in
the present get those kind of hugs from me. Sometimes it is hard to let go. Sometimes I get that old sinking abandoned feeling when we part. Secretly praying,
please don't let this be the last time I see them. I had that then with him and I get that now, with my husband, my kids, my family, and my best friends. It is
like a happiness I cannot describe when we reconnect. I know it may sound strange but it is very true. With Jim, it was a moment when I didn't feel like Joanne the
weird kid. Joanne the kid who has to sing to cope. Joanne the girl who is empty and alone. Someone cared about me. That was all that mattered.
The first time I can remember seeing the fruits of Jim's labor was him getting approval for me to visit my mother. Now, he did many things for me. It is just
there was so much behind the scenes I never knew. Things could have always been worse, and maybe because of him they were not. He picked me up and I had no idea I was
going to see my mother or brother that day. I had no idea this wasn't another visit with them in a therapist's office. This wasn't another visit in a large room with a
caseworker right outside. This was different. We drove downtown Spokane and parked. It was very busy and crowed. Almost too much at the time. Sensory overload for sure.
I didn't care. I was so happy to be gone. Doing something different. I could spot my mom a mile away. I ran to her. It is weird how even though I was so angry at her
every time, this unconditional love for her was always there. Always told me this is where I am supposed to feel safe. Is today the day she was going to take me home?
Was today the day? I cannot remember if Jim stayed or if he left. That day was the saint patrick's day parade It isn't really long, and they throw a lot of candy at
you. For a brief moment. I forgot I was anything but normal. I forgot who I was. I wasn't a loser. I wasn't alone. I was loved, and special. I was her daughter,
I stopped writing just now to put on some tunes and sing. Talking about my mother always sends to a weird place. I get emotional and feel soft and vulnerable. Escaping
as a kid to sing, that never went away. I still do it to this day. Put on some awesome 80's tunes and I am free. I am who I want to be. Singing just is that amazing
to me. Who knew right?
End part 1.