I’m pushing into new territory in the memoir (working title You Loved Me). My father finally came to get me off the street and I met his new family, the one he left my mother and my sister and me for in 1979. When he left, my mother had a breakdown and abandoned me, forbidding me to come back home.
Moving from Altamonte Springs to Indiantown was a bit of culture shock, but it was even more difficult to go from the familiar streets of Altamonte where I had grown up, into an established home where I had little connection with my father – it felt like these new people had more of a claim on him than I did. As I observed this new dynamic it had a profound effect on me. The deep sense of the loss of my father clashed with the real-life fact that I saw Dad almost every day but could not access him in the way I needed to. This caused me to disconnect emotionally from everything around me; to withdraw into myself even though it may have looked like I was interacting. I was really hiding. It’s a survival mechanism that stayed with me.
My stepmother did not exactly embrace me with open arms. I don’t blame her for this; from my adult perspective I can understand how difficult it would have been to adjust to a panicked, streetwise, hostile 16 year old girl coming to live with you. But I can also see the enormous opportunity that was there to reach out to someone who desperately needed to be loved. That opportunity came and went. She was not capable of reaching out. I’m not sure anyone would have been up to that task. The great triumph of my life is that it really is OK. I’m OK.