Friday, November 1, 2013


It was 1996 and I was nine years old; I had no idea what a fork lift was.

My mother was pregnant with my sister and in her third trimester. There were phone calls, some tears, more phone calls. I think it was night time but that could be my memory associating it with the darkness of it all. My dad hadn't been home for a few days but that was the nature of working as a semi truck driver. He wouldn't be coming home anytime soon, however.

No one really treats nine year olds like real human beings. They don't consider the possibility of them going through the same anxiety of not knowing what is going on. The fear of a child is very similar to that of an adult, maybe it even has a certain rawness to it. Perhaps there was a need to feel like they needed to protect me until they knew what was going on or how bad it really was. "They" by they way, is everyone else who appeared to know something about all these phone calls. "They" is all those people who told me "I'm sorry" and "Everything is ok".

I was left behind initially. My mother, in all her pregnant glory, rushed to the hospital while I waited at home with someone who apparently had no impact on my memory. I could have very well been left home alone since that too wasn't unusual in my growing up. When I was picked up, we didn't go to the hospital. My mother told me as little as possible. She said my dad had been hit from behind with a fork lift while he was unloading his truck. She still failed to tell me what a fork lift was so I created this image of a large fork coming after my dad and attacking him in the dark. I went to school like normal going through the day as though everything was fine.

I didn't get to see my dad until after he had surgery. I didn't know what anything meant but I heard doctors say he had two plastic disks inserted in his back. "He might not walk again, let alone drive." "The chances aren't great. He'll have to do a lot of physical therapy."

I had been going through a manic drawing phase to deal with no one talking to me directly. I wanted to draw something that would help my dad walk. I had piles of family pictures but I couldn't get my mom's pregnant figure right. And it always bothered me to draw my dad shorter than my mom. I spent hours with crayons and colored pencils until I finally finished. It was a portrait of the Virgin of Guadalupe. She was everywhere in our home and I always thought that my dad looked like Juan Diego at her feet. I don't remember how much thought I had placed behind it but looking back, it was oddly significant.

The Virgin of Guadalupe is a Catholic icon of the Virgin Mary who my mother named me after. Her belt is interpreted as a sign of pregnancy and  she healed Juan Diego's uncle as a sign of who she was. I therefor wanted her to heal my father. She initially revealed herself to Juan Diego in early December and so it fit in nicely, I thought, just appear again and fix this.

The drawing was received well. There were tears, there were "thank you"s and "I love you"s. My dad came home, went through therapy and began a long painful road to recovery.

All of this was the beginning.

Since no one feels the need to fill me in on what is happening to my life I am left with attempting to figure things out on my own.

My mother had stopped working because she was late in her pregnancy. She had struggled to get pregnant ever since she had me so no risks were wanted. Our pantry at home began to shrink and meals all became incredibly repetitive. A few family friends would come over with grocery bags. Funny gifts, I thought. One day after school we went grocery shopping but we drove past our VONS. We drove a few streets over to a small store with a counter that you weren't allowed past. My mom had a list and she requested the items as someone from the back grabbed them. She asked me if I wanted cereal but they had none that I had ever heard of. I remember the cheese looked different and later found out it tasted quite odd. All of our food fit into two bags and when my mom paid, it wasn't with money.

I remember crying.
I cried at night and I cried alone. I know my mom cried too because I could hear her through the walls of our house. I cried for my unborn baby sister and I cried because I didn't know what was going on. I wanted a baby sister to love but I didn't see how you could have a child when you didn't have food.

Things can change overnight, for the worse or for the better.
Sometimes it's not always clear which one you're going through but it can slap you hard, with a fork lift. There are moments in life which you can point to and say they changed you and this was one of them. Once again, this was the beginning to a fork in the road. Everything from here on was a  choice, lefts or rights because we had had enough back; Backs hit with fork lifts, forks that haunted my dreams, forks that you used to eat with, forks in the road.

Here our story made a full circle.
Here, while my baby sister doesn't remember, we faced hunger, fear, a cold winter and what I remember as, Where three of us hardened our hearts to keep from letting it hurt anymore.

Related or not,
Here I stopped saying "I love you"
Somewhere between love and pain

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