Tag Archives: Neglect

Roaches Make Strange Bedfellows

Rusted and RuinedMy mom tried to kill herself, and was consequently deemed an unfit parent. Children services took my brother and me away and introduced us to the wonderful horrors of foster care. Luckily, our grandparents decided to take custody of us shortly thereafter, but forms and proceedings had to happen before they could take us “home,” so we were stuck in the system.

Children services decided to put us both into a group home for boys. They knew the situation was temporary, so they gave in when we begged them not to separate us. That’s how I, a girl, ended up sleeping on a couch in a group home for boys. They only let me stay there because I promised not to go upstairs where the the boys slept. I stayed downstairs, where the bathroom had no shower or bathtub, and I went without a shower for a week. But, all this was fine by me because my brother said the roaches were worse up there.

It was hard to imagine an infestation larger than the one downstairs. Roaches where everywhere. I hardly slept the entire time I was in that house. I knew the roaches would crawl all over me the second I drifted off to sleep. When the house was dark, they crawled out from their hiding places, frolicking on the counters and cabinets, tables and chairs, walls and ceilings, curtains and rugs.

I fought the urge to burn my clothes and tear off my skin every morning. I knew, I just knew the filthy creatures laid eggs under my skin while I slept. The disgusting things had crawled in my mouth while I snored. They went into my ears, ate the wax, then shit it back out. The dirt of their little bodies covered every part of me, but I couldn’t take a shower because it was upstairs with the boys’ rooms. I washed myself in the bathroom sink downstairs as well as I could, but I didn’t feel clean again until after I had taken four or five showers at my grandparent’s house.

People seem to think that foster homes are safe and clean. They think that the places are regularly inspected, the foster parents thoroughly checked. They think the system works, that it protects children. They’re wrong.

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Bad Hood

It Took Way Too Long to Take This Picture

We lived in a neighborhood where abandoned couches and soiled mattresses filled the alleys. Crack houses dotted the landscape, and we had the pleasure of having one right behind our house. Gunshots and sirens pierced the night while we tried to sleep.

We were kids, though. We thought all these things added excitement to our lives. The thrill of police rushing by, my mom yelling, “Hit the deck” when gunshots rang out, the shady people walking by while we played in the yard. It all made us feel like we were living in a gritty movie.

It was an exciting life, and we loved it until our house was broken into. It was right before Christmas while we were away visiting my grandparents. They robbers took what little we had, all the way down to the welfare butter and cheese in the fridge.

The crack head crooks were kind enough to completely wreck the house while they were there. It takes real talent to trash a piss infested rat hole of a house, but they managed it. I remember seeing all of our family pictures thrown all over the dining room floor. They were wet and curling from the beer the thieves dumped on them. All those happy memories spread out on the ancient, scratched, pitted hardwood floor. Pathetic in their ruin.

Our house was broken into again a year later. My mom had once again been carted off to the loony bin, and after a week of my grandma and dad trying to get the house key, we pulled up alongside the house only to find the door already open. Mom in the hospital, house robbed, uprooted again, no clothes, no security, no nothin’. Fun, exciting times, indeed.

Frozen Fish Sticks Aren’t Funny

Tasty Apples

My stomach was trying to eat itself, my legs wobbled, my head spun. My parents were asleep, and I wasn’t allowed to use the stove. No cereal. No bread. No peanut butter, leftovers, nothing that didn’t require cooking, and there wasn’t much of that either. I found a box of frozen fish sticks, sat on the kitchen floor, and ate them one by one. They tasted awful, shards of ice mixed with frosted breading, but I was so hungry I kept eating them.

When my parents found out about my fish stick feast, they laughed and laughed. They told my grandparents who also laughed. My goodness, it was so funny that a little child would up and eat half a box of fish sticks straight out of the freezer. They didn’t realize that I never got enough to eat. They didn’t know that my little body ached from the lack of food. They didn’t know that the tomato soup they’d fed me a few days ago was the last thing I ate.

I told my grandma there wasn’t any food at our house. She went over and looked through are kitchen. Sure enough, hardly any food. She yelled at my dad about not providing for his children. She called my mom names. When she left, my dad beat me. He screamed that I would get far worse if I ever told anyone else about things that happened in our house. I kept my mouth shut for many years after that.

Pills Aren’t Popcorn

Light Goes On Light Goes Off

My mom took epic amounts of pills. A few here, a few there, and sometimes great handfuls at once. Empty pill bottles rolled across the floor like tumbleweeds. Little orange bottles with little white lids and little white labels hid in every space of the house.

When she took her heaping handfuls of pills, she left reality behind. She spoke gibberish while stumbling around the house like a drunk three year old. She put food on the stove and forgot about it. She swallowed a quarter. She spoke to things only she could see. She got lost in her own house. When she came to the next day, she would laugh and laugh as my brother and I recounted the tales of her drugged up antics. She was a barrel of laughs, my mom.

The Cat Pee Sauna

What Smells Like Windex

The smell of cat piss was awe-inspiring. It wasn’t just a hint of ammonia in the air. It wasn’t just a smell coming from the litter box. No, this was a smell that made you question reality. It was a living smell, a sticky ooze moving over your skin. It greeted you the second you walked within five feet of the house. If you ventured inside, it jumped on you like an excited puppy. It licked your face and rubbed against your clothes, leaving its scent behind.

When the weather turned hot and humid, the house became a piss fueled sauna. The only escape was my mom’s bedroom, where a small air conditioner sat in the window. It supplied us with fresh, cool air while we slept and ate. It was an oasis where we hid ourselves away from the foul world we lived in.

Little Debris

Rainbow on the Rugs

When I was a young girl, I remember crawling on my hands and knees across the living room floor. I was picking up little bits and pieces of the debris that covered the carpet. We didn’t have a working vacuum cleaner, but I wanted that floor clean. I moved with the slow determination of a glacier. I was unstoppable, my little hands clearing away life’s rubble.

I stood panting in the middle of the room, surveying my work. My knees were gray and scratched. My hands were streaked with dust, my fingernails were black. My body was coated in a glaze of sweat and cat hair, but all that mattered was the floor looked clean.

Little Lives

Little Kitty Ear

My brother and I went down with shovels–yes, shovels–to get rid of the ankle deep piles of cat shit in the basement. My mom locked the cats down there for days with big bowls of food and water, but no litter box. We weren’t allowed to let them out unless she said we could, so they languished under our feet.

The cats would die because of fleas and filth. Some got pregnant, filling the house with pitiful kittens who never had a chance. Our backyard slowly morphed into a cemetery.

I once knelt on the floor and held a three day old kitten in my small hands. I cried as I watched it have multiple seizures. I knelt there, praying for its tiny life. My knees were breaking, my legs were numb, but it didn’t matter. Every time a seizure stopped, I was sure my prayers were being answered. As it convulsed more and more, my faith became less and less. I watched helplessly as a tiny little life ended in the palm of my hands.