When asked about my childhood my first response is to say it was terrible and filled with violence. People usually think I am crazy because that’s what I say. I have come to believe people want you to say or mimic what they had experienced in life. People aren’t able to understand what I mean. No one can…unless they lived it. I don’t remember everything from my childhood and I have an amazing memory. Truth is I have blocked a lot of it out. It comes back from time to time in flashes or in my nightmares. In an effort to capture some of the memories I am going to just write them down in no particular order and if you don’t want to read I don’t blame you. I didn’t experience one thing that was overly violent but it was the combination of things. The Hippy ran with a tough biker gang and is and was a drug dealer. Debbie is a drug addict and ran with the party crowd. My Grandma Jane and Papa Dale lived in the neighborhood the Hippy grew up in but during my childhood it was very dangerous and violent. The Hippy and Step-Monster lived in a rough neighborhood as well. I went to private school from 1st to 8th grade (thankfully). The summer before I went to public school the Hippy insisted that I take self defense classes that focused on rape survival. It was always something when I was a kid and I became very jaded to violence. In my adult life I won’t watch scary movies – I don’t like being scared. It’s not a rush of adrenaline for me. I lived it enough. The Debbie memories are shorter and more of a blur so I’ll start with those: I remember when I was 4 or 5 being in a crowded apartment with Debbie and a lot of men. I remember standing in the kitchen and one of the men laughing at me because I wanted a cookie and he thought it was funny to place them down a dark hallway and tell me I had to get them from the Cookie Monster. I was frozen in place. Another time I remember my step-sister / cousin Rachel and I hiding in her closet because her dad was beating Debbie (I was again 4 or 5 and Rachel was 9 or 10). I remember Rachel and I sitting in the dark and her singing to me so I wouldn’t be scared at the noises. I was often terrified of Debbie’s men. I never wanted to spend the night with her but the Hippy forced me to until I woke up one night when I was 7 or 8 and she had left Niki (Debbie & Feats daughter 6 years younger than me) and I overnight by ourselves as she worked at a strip club. I was 7 when my job was to babysit Niki all day as the Hippy and my uncles moved Debbie and Niki out of Feats’ house but the Hippy didn’t arrive until after Feats arrived and poured gasoline all over Debbie’s car and beat Debbie and broke her jaw. Another reason I hated staying with Debbie was her rule that you couldn’t talk to her in the morning until the clock started with 10 (meaning 10 am) I always woke early even as a kid and I would be starving before hung over Debbie would wake and feed me. Honestly as scary as it was when Debbie was married to Ralph it was better for young Heather as Rachel would take care of me and feed me and help me go to the bathroom (I was just a little kid). I also was on my heart meds when I was a kid and they were timed. My Grandma Jane had to teach me to look at the clock and know when to take my meds and then she had to teach me how to get the liquid dosage right so I could take my meds by myself when I would stay with Debbie. I practically lived with my Grandma Jane and Papa Dale when I was young. I was never allowed to play outside by myself as they feared I would be kidnapped (in their dangerous neighborhood). The boy Nextdoor to them was older but he would climb trees with me and we would swim in their pool. When I was 10 Grandma Jane had to explain to me that I wouldn’t see him ever again because he murdered his step dad and was in prison. I spent every single weekend with my grandparents as the Step Monster and I never got along. When I was in the 4th grade the neighborhood gangs took over their streets. My grandparents had a chain link fence and their backyard backed up to the gang hangout. All day long shots would be fired towards my grandparents house so I was no longer allowed in the backyard to play. I remember one night gunshots rang out like crazy. I got out of bed looking for my grandfather because I was scared. The house was all dark and the back door was open. I walked towards the backdoor and I found my grandfather sitting outside in a chair with his gun on his lap and he was just sitting like a statue or I should say like a Marine. He whispered to me to go back to bed. He told me he sits their every single night that I stayed with them to make sure I would be safe. Eventually the police arrested all the gang members and its now a quiet neighborhood but to this day I get nervous driving to their house (the Hippy lives their now). My grandfather was an alcoholic which I was well aware of. He had a rough period when I was 8 and though my memory is foggy I remember my Grandma Jane taking me to Hobby Airport searching for Papa as someone had called her saying he had been there and was causing trouble. I don’t remember much of this but it seemed like we walked around all day and when we came home we found him passed out on his face on the living room floor. He was sober after that incident. Living with the Hippy wasn’t perfect either. I was allowed to play outside on my street when I was younger but when I became a teenager the Hippy would walk outside to watch me walk 2 doors down to my friends house. He would also watch her go home from my house. We had a crazy lady across the street that threatened to kill anyone’s dog that was in her yard so we were always scared of her. The house across the street from us was robbed a few times. My friends house two doors down was robbed several times. I was riding my bike once and the step monster was outside planting and I rode up screaming to get her attention as a male that we didn’t know was leaning over her. I screamed and he ran off. I was attacked by a loose dog once when I was playing down the street. Thankfully I was wearing one of the Hippy’s T-shirt’s and the dog grabbed the sleeve and ripped the shirt but it was too big so he didn’t get me. A teenage boy was working on his car and saw what happened. He scared the dog off; removed his shirt to cover me and carried me all the way home to the Hippy. I was no longer allowed more than 3 houses in either direction after that. My next door neighbors (Rick and Christie) had 4 daughters all around my age (Rick adopted her daughters). We would play together every single day and weekend from the sun up to the sun down. The girls didn’t attend school in our area as they used their grandparents address to attend school. When I was in the 5th grade they moved closer to their school. I still saw them on the weekends and the step monster and their mom were good friends. When I was in the 6th grade the oldest girl and Rick moved back next door (they had kept the house as a rental) and Christie and the three youngest moved to Austin. Christie sat us all down (with the step-monster) and explained to us that she (Christie) had recently developed memories of her family practicing satanism when she was a kid and when she asked her family about it they decided to make her think she was crazy. This is why she fled to Austin with the 3 youngest but the oldest was a senior in high school so Rick and Pati moved back next door to me so she could graduate with her friends. The girls visited most weekends but it was a very scary year for us all. Their grandpa would stand at the front door with chainsaws while we would eat snacks. They would play recordings of wounded animals at night and I could hear it from my bedroom nextdoor. I was happy to have my friends back but I was happy when they moved again too. It was very scary. As I grew older and started going to the mall or Astroworld or the movies or anywhere I either had to take one of my male cousins or had to go with girls and boys. Every time we would leave the Hippy would pull the boys aside and tell them that if something happened to me he would hold them responsible. It was around this time that the Hippy and my biker uncles would grab me and I would have to forcibly get away. Happened everytime I came out of my room to get a drink of water. When I was 3 or 4 the Hippy would run drills around the house and I would either have to get his weapon or hide or both. I grew up with passcodes that I had to know in case something happened to the Hippy and I was to go home with another adult. I was taught to never sit with my back to a door; to never accept stickers or flyers; to never take a flyer off of my windshield or to never park or walk near a van. When I was in the 8th grade the Hippy took me to a seminar with convicted rapist so I could hear what they looked for in victims. When I was in the 9th grade my friend was murdered and I was there. Sadly my little sister had her own violence happen around her as when she was 13 or so she and her friend discovered her friends moms dead body and they found her lying spread eagle on her bed with her throat slit. The girls jumped out of a bedroom window and ran for help. The Hippy moved to Jamaica when I was 16 and I visited him one time and one time only. During the 5 day period of my one visit – we had 4 Jamaicans try to get in his house forcibly on my first night (they had just robbed the first house in the row and his was the 3rd house). I was blocking the tv and it was nighttime. We hear a boat horn sound and the Hippy knew someone needed help. My uncle grabbed me and shoved me under a table. The Hippy did the same to the step monster and opened he door as the Jamaicans tried to get past him but he fought them off with his machete while my uncle stood over me holding his own machete. That was a Monday. On Wednesday I was walking not 10 feet behind my uncle and the Hippy on the beach when someone grabbed me by the wrist and started dragging me backwards. I screamed (as I had been taught) and the Hippy and my uncle chased him off. I was assigned a body guard that day and the Hippy kept him on for the rest of their time in Jamaica (he lived their for 10 years before he was kicked out of the country). On Thursday (day 4) the Hippy’s house was robbed while we were at the beach luckily. My uncle and I left the next day and I never returned to visit them. When I was 19 (a year before my husband and I started dating) I was living in a second floor apartment of a two story building. The complex was old and had an attic door entrance in my closet. While I was in the shower one day I hear noises. I turn off my shower and open the curtain to see my lab puppy trembling. I dry off and enter my bedroom to see attic material all over my apartment and my closet door open and my front door OPEN! I called my step-dad Danny and Debbie who came right over as they lived in the complex across the street. Danny’s brother was a police officer and he came too. We learned that an employee of the complex was up in the attic and came down through my apartment but never reported it. I was released from my lease immediately and I never lived on the top floor again! When I was 18 I lived with my Aunt Terrie and her husband. They had 3 kids (one teenager and two toddlers) and at the time had a very violent relationship. The cops were at our house almost daily. It was just more of my normal sadly. My life changed when I was 20 and began dating my husband. Those that don’t know my past accuse me of keeping my life to sheltered. Oh if they only knew why. I haven’t been to a movie since 2010 (the CO shooting) and I don’t plan too. I cannot allow myself to be a victim ever again. I am happy and content in my normal non chaotic life and it’s that way largely because I don’t talk to the Hippy or Debbie. About 15 years ago Debbie was dating this attorney. They were in Austin once and we all went to dinner but I never get attached or bond with her men. Ever. Sure enough a few weeks later I was talking to my sister Niki and Niki was telling me that her dad (Feats) had just arrived home from a weekend out of town. He had 30 messages on his answering machine all from Debbie that started the Thursday before and that Debbie was calling him as her attorney boyfriend had beat her and locked her in a closet. She remained in that closet until Feats heard the messages on Monday and went and rescued her. This is just the crazy stuff that comes to mind when people ask me about growing up or why I call Debbie by her name or about why I live such a sheltered adult life. I learned to survive as a young child. I remember being home alone as early as 8 or 9 and planning what I would do if the Hippy and Step Monster didn’t come home because they died in a car crash. I had it all planned out. I would call the neighbor to make sure I had a ride to and from school. I never worried about me not having them. I always worried about me because of them. Some people run from their families. I get that. Blood doesn’t mean you have to talk to them and I am happier when I don’t to be honest. I just can’t handle their drama. I have always said having them alive and not caring about me sucks. I don’t care what they do to you everyone wants someone to care about them. It’s not normal to not speak to your mother or father for years. It hurts. No matter what they did they are my parents but I just can’t reach out to them. This is all part of my letting go. I just hope from reading this you will get when I say I can’t chase them or that I know I am better off without them. People ask me all the time why I don’t give back to kids in need or volunteer. The truth is I can’t be around that. I don’t feel the need to give back. I survived. I escaped. I am where God wants me to be. I don’t feel guilt about how I feel either.
I should start this post with the fact that I live in Central TX and I work in Austin, TX and this week was one of the scariest of my adult life. This week was the finale of a three week terror on Austin, TX now called the Austin Bombings. My husband was out of town for work and his anxiety was high because he was not here. My anxiety was off the charts as was anyone that lives in Central TX. I can’t be the only person that feels this way either. I have never once thought that I should be concerned when I open a package on my doorstep; or check my mail; or walk down the street. I most certainly never thought I needed to learn about the importance of looking for trip wires while walking around. I have always always always remembered all the stay safe demands by the Hippy but NONE of those involved looking for trip wires or worrying about bombs. This week was the worst as it was one thing after another. Let’s go to the beginning. On March 2, a package exploded and I saw about it on Facebook as a news article. I will admit I didn’t give it much thought but I do always say a prayer for the victim and the family. A man died and other than a quick prayer I didn’t give it much thought (I can suck sometimes) but let’s be honest the media only talks about the absolutely worst things! I also doubt this went on past the local Austin news. Then on March 12 I was flying home from visiting with my husband in Utah (he was away for work). We had an amazing time and before I went to the airport in Utah my mind was filled with plane crashes. I had read that three small planes across the world has crashed so I prayed most the flight. My plane lands in Austin and I turn on Facebook to tell everyone I landed safely. The very first thing I see is breaking news that two packages exploded in Austin while I was flying home and this was at two different homes in two different neighborhoods and one person died and two had been hospitalized. Austin was under attack and nothing I mean NOTHING prepares you for that news. Other than being told that all three of these bombs are related and no suspects had been identified no one knew anything. Yes, lots of theories began speculating and going around. Some wondered if it was race related as the victims had all been minorities and all the bombs in East; Northeast and Southeast Austin. This possibly made the Texas news but I am not sure it was national coverage yet. What those of us that are not in law enforcement probably didn’t realize is that three bombings gave law enforcement lots of data. The FBI and I am sure other agencies became involved. In Texas this was the beginning of Spring Break and in Austin it was the annual well known highly trafficked SXSW two week technology; movie and music festival with celebrities making appearances and almost every bar or venue having some sort of live music each night and almost every company in Austin hosting SXSW events. Basically the city is overcrowded with a million events and we have a psychopath trying to blow us up. After March 12th everyone in Austin was talking about it. Law enforcement gave guidelines on what a suspicious package looks like and told everyone to call 911 if they think they have a suspicious package. Parents instructed their kids to not touch any packages. Offices shared messages with their employees on what to look for to determine if a package was suspicious. Coworkers started telling everyone in the office when they expected packages to arrive. Then on Sunday March 18 (after two of the prettiest perfect weather days we have had in 2018) two young men are walking, before dark, along a sidewalk in a large very active and outdoorsy Southwest Austin neighborhood and a bomb exploded injuring both of them. They hit a trip wire and their lives are changed forever. APD; FBI; ATF; TX DPS; TX Rangers; and bomb K-9 units from surrounding cities all arrive. The Calvary is now in Austin. We had over 500 additional law enforcement arrive at the call that Austin is under attack (by Monday the number was 500+). The Travis Country neighborhood was put under lockdown. It was now dark outside shortly after the bomb exploded and law enforcement did not know if this was one trip wire or several. Sleeping didn’t happen for anyone in Central TX. One of my coworkers lives in the apartments next to Travis Country and she received a notification to remain indoors no matter what until given the all clear and to call 911 if she needed to leave and she would be escorted by police. I work in Human Resources and I have 4 office locations in Austin. I immediately start running through possibilities of who could be impacted. Other companies did the same. Schools start announcing closures as Monday was to be their first day back from Spring Break and they wanted their campuses checked for bombs. No one knew what the actual target or plan was as the Sunday, March 18th trip wire bomb was in Southwest Austin in a non-minority area. Now two white males have been injured. This is no longer an attack on one specific person or house or race. This is an attack on ANYONE! Law enforcement starts spreading the message that this is targeting anyone random and we all started to learn about trip wires and that they can be as small and hard to see as dental floss. People in the affected shelter in place area started alerting their offices and others that they are sheltering in place. The first message was to remain indoors until 10 am as law enforcement needed daylight to really be able to check that neighborhood. The neighborhood is close to my office but not really so I and those that could headed into work. The second I exited for the Main Street that my main office is located near I received the shelter in place message. I still went to the office as I knew I would not be passing or interfering with the investigation. My coworkers all received the same message. Not much work happened on Monday as it was very hard to concentrate. Austin bombings now are national coverage. No family called to check on me. Not the Hippy or Debbie or my sister. Not my in-laws – literally no one. My husband said maybe it’s not on the news (but it was). Those that follow me on social media knew I was alive and I called my mother in law several times but no one in my family follows me on social media and most of them don’t have social media but they are all news junkies and they live in Texas so they heard. I was terrified to check the mail at work on Monday. I didn’t want to walk at lunch, which is a normal nice weather break for us, as I was scared of hitting a trip wire. See this bombing was in Southwest Austin and I work in West Austin. The local media had also put out an article sharing that they had driven by the first three locations (the fourth was on lockdown) and they had discovered that all three homes that had been targeted had an even number address…and so does my office and I work in a house!!! I drove home Monday north on I35 and once I hit Round Rock and Georgetown I notice that I see police vehicles parked along I35 before every single exit on both sides of I35! Tuesday morning Central TX wakes up to learn that a 5th (yes the 5th) bomb has exploded but this time it was a package at a FedEx location not far from Austin and the only information that law enforcement was sharing was that it was shipped from an Austin address to an Austin address and that it exploded on the conveyer belt and miraculously no FedEX employees had been injured by flying shrapnel but one woman was injured from the blast (I believe she had a concussion). The bomb exploded around midnight on Monday night / Tuesday morning which was just around 24 hours since the trip wire bomb and that bomb was less than a week from the two package bombs and those were 10 days from the first. This has escalated rapidly by the 5th bomb at FedEx. I am late to work Tuesday as I cannot shut the news off. Everyone in Austin is now in a zombie yet panic state. I am driving to work and all of a sudden realize I am surrounded by FedEx trucks. In my mind I can just imagine them exploding. I haven’t slept since Saturday night as I have started having nightmares from my childhood and wake every hour. Tuesday all we do is have the news up – Facebook feeds; Twitter; watching our phones. Businesses and individuals stop accepting packages. In fact I received an expected package on Monday night via DHL and the driver asked me if I would accept it before he even took it out of the truck. He said a lot of people started refusing them. I wished him to stay safe and thanked him for asking me. Salvation Army announces early Tuesday they are stopping all acceptance of donations. Apartment complexes are announcing they will not accept packages for residents and are locking mailboxes. Around 8 am on a Tuesday a breaking news announcement states that FedEx has found a suspicious package at another warehouse location of theirs but this one is next to the airport which is IN AUSTIN! That’s now two FedEx locations that have bombs. Then around noon (Tuesday) law enforcement announces that the 6th bomb was recovered at the FedEx near the airport INTACT! IT DIDN’T EXPLODE! Everyone in my office meeting felt the first sense of hope at this news. This had to be good news right?!? Around 2:00 on Tuesday; law enforcement announces that both FedEx packages had been shipped from Austin to Austin addresses and that they had both been shipped from a third FedEx location off of Brodie right next to the neighborhood that had the tripwire bomb on Sunday. This news is received with hope that they catch the guy but with fear as this location that received the packages is frequented a lot by coworkers and I have even used this location. It just brings it all crashing around you that this is random and targeted all at once. In fact one of my close friends tells me she was in that third FedEx location the day before!!!! During the course of a one hour meeting on Tuesday all our breaking news alerts go off again. This announcement says that a Whole Foods Store on Brodie lane (close to the third FedEx location) is being cleared and the bomb squad has arrived due to a suitcase being found). No bomb false alarm but everyone is on edge. The next day in Austin (Wednesday) is the start of the Dell Match Play Golf tournament and traffic is historically horrible so we all decide to work remote the rest of the week (and I’ll admit I was very fearful as our office is in West Austin and the media had made an announcement that law enforcement believed West Austin was the next target). Tuesday evening I am talking on the phone to my husband who is giving me his travel plans as he is flying home Wednesday and watching the evening news waiting for an update on the bombings when all of a sudden on live tv news they announce another explosion happened at a Goodwill near the third FedEx location and this is announced as the 6th explosion but bombs 7 and then 8 as they believed a secondary bomb has been discovered. My phone texts start going off as one of my friends nieces attends school two doors down and she needed to talk as this is OVERWHELMING. In less than 48 hours Austin went from having 3 package bombs within 10 days to now the announcement of 5 more in less than two days. On live tv you see the Calvary (APD; FBI; ATF; fire trucks and ambulances) arrive and it was amazing to see. While watching I felt safer and protected but fear and worry at the same time! I also realized at this point Austin is getting way to good at responding to horrible attacks. Not too long later (I had just told my husband that he should call an Uber to drive him North on Wednesday as the airport was south and the bombings are all happening south and west of us) and ATF announces that this Goodwill explosion listed as bombs 7 and 8 is not related. They did say they feared a copycat (later they state that someone had donated old military momentos and it exploded when handled. Not a copycat but at the time we did NOT know that). I did not sleep hardly at all Tuesday night. I always wake around 3:30 am (7 days a week) but my lack of sleep had me waking around 2:30 am. I look at my phone that is filled with breaking news. I turn on the news to the announcement that the bomber just killed himself with a bomb! All the media is reporting live from the location along I35 which is a major interstate that runs north south. The press conference is live around 3:30 or 4 am and I was so proud to see the Austin Interim Police Chief Brian Manley and the Austin Mayor on the scene in Round Rock just north of Austin. These two easily could have held their press conferences later in Austin but no they both got out in the very early hours and drove to the scene to check on their officers and talk to the people of Central TX. It seemed unreal. How could it all of a sudden be over? Interim (we need to drop this and make him Chief) Chief Manley told us that they had the bomber as a person if interest for several days now. However once the 6th bomb (the one that didn’t explode) was recovered the person of interest became the suspect and he was tracked down in Round Rock at a hotel. He then explains how they wanted to take him alive but that while waiting for tactical to arrive the suspect left in his vehicle and SWAT followed (in two unmarked white vans). The suspect is driving on I35 towards Austin and the vans crash into him and get him off the freeway. As SWAT is approaching, the suspect, the suspect sets off a bomb killing himself. A swat officer also fired on him but they believe the bomb killed him. It’s over is all anyone listening hears but then law enforcement (all of them – APD; FBI; and ATF) all say in their briefings that they do not know where all the suspect went in the last 24 hours or how many bombs are in circulation so still be vigilant. So now it’s over but almost scarier as a bomb could go off and we have no suspect to chase. Traffic is insane Wednesday as 135 is shutdown most of the morning. Wednesday afternoon they release the bombers name and he is a 23 year old white male that lives with a black roommate and the roommates are not suspects (so he doesn’t hate minorities). The bomber lived in a small town between Austin and Round Rock called Pflugerville (we also lived in Pflugerville for 12 years). They recovered a cellphone video that the bomber did stating that he regretted going to FedEx that he believed they were on to him and that he planned to go inside a McDonald’s and blow himself up when he believed that law enforcement was getting close. He also said he was not motivated by hate and that he picked the victims randomly and that he intended to do several more bombs and the police found evidence that he was looking up addresses in Austin and Cedar Park (another Austin suburb / town). The bomber did say he is not sorry and he called himself a psychopath. I think we can all agree on this. I am SO thankful to law enforcement for crashing into his vehicle all the while knowing the possibility of him carrying a bomb. Later Wednesday as law enforcement went over all the contents of the bombers home and watched his video confession they announced that he described all 7 bombs and all had been accounted for! It’s over. It’s really over. Now I am so happy to see this city thanking our law enforcement. Businesses are putting “Thank You APD” on their outdoor signage. The Austin Rodeo recently had 50 law enforcement agents attend for a thank you ceremony. A local Austin movie theater is giving all first responders free admittance until April 25th and yet not one member of my crappy family checked on me. I am grateful for every “stay safe message” I received from my BFF and my father in laws girlfriend sent me a message asking me to come stay with them but no one in my family ever cared. I tell you. When you are in crisis remember those that do check on you! You will quickly see who is really in your corner! Thank You to all First responders!
March 4th is a crappy day on the calendar for me. 3.4.1994 my friend was murdered and the Hippy lost his mind. I am not sure if it was a teenager dying; or that both of the Hippie’s fathers (he was adopted by his step-dad as a boy) had died six months prior or if it was his birthday approaching (41) and he decided to have a mid-life crisis and change our entire lives on a dime but all those things happened at the same time and was pretty much the end of my relationship with the Hippy as he sold all his businesses; told his 16 year old daughter (me) to find a place to live (he didn’t care where) and told his wife to go or divorce him and he was in Jamaica not two months later. He was gone for 10 years and that’s a different story 🤦♀️! Fast forward to 2000 and I am just married (10.10.00) and my 16 year old sister (Debbie and Feat’s daughter) is pregnant. My last step-dad Danny finally divorced Debbie as he could not deal with her drug usage and cheating on him any longer (he held on for 9 years). Debbie and Niki are living in an apartment and Debbie is partying it up (worse than when she was with Danny). Debbie was practically living with her dealer and 16 year old Niki is dealing with a new place to live; Danny gone; and she is pregnant. Debbie wanted my husband and I to adopt the baby and we did talk it over. Ultimately we thought it would be best for Niki to not know where the baby was living and we feared it would be salt in Niki’s wound. I had learned about Gladney (adoption center in TX that’s huge and well known) from my Home Ec. teacher in High school (strangely she comes up again later…). Debbie told Niki she was putting this baby up for adoption and since Niki was a minor that’s how it was going to be. Debbie ships Niki off to Gladney in Dallas, TX and enjoys her kid free life. Niki is not there but a week or two. She hated it. She was miserable and not making friends. Feats (Niki’s dad) rode his Harley from Houston to Dallas and picked Niki up. This is probably the first time he stepped up for Niki. However, Niki was taken back to Debbie and Feats put the fear of himself in Debbie to allow Niki to stay. Actually, it was also because now Gladney was going to pay all Debbie’s bills that got Niki back in the house. Our aunt Terrie also stepped in and helped Niki a lot emotionally and mothered her throughout this process. Niki was due late March 2001 and by the winter of 2000 had picked a family. One day Niki was talking to the adopted parents (Niki wanted an open adoption) and the adopted mother told Niki that they planned on naming Niki’s baby “Suzy”. Niki called me at work crying. She was crying so hard that it took me a few minutes to calm her down so I could hear what her problem was. The second Niki heard the name was Suzy she knew she had to back out from that family. It was a sign to Niki that this was not the right family as I was supposed to be named Suzy when I was born (Suzi Suzuki technically). I tell Niki to call her counselor at Gladney and she did. In the mean time I tell my husband what has happened and he mentions that one of his co-workers has expressed an interest in adopting Niki’s baby (Travis and Yvonne). Travis and Yvonne had no kids (at the time) and had a failed foster adoption in WA (state gave the baby back to the drug addict / jail serving parents) so he only was willing to do a closed adoption. However he was willing to keep the name Niki is giving her which is Audrey Nicole. My husband and I talk about this because it’s not us adopting but we would still know her and see her and maybe that would be ok with Niki. Not ten minutes later Debbie calls me and says she knows a couple that will pay for Niki’s college. I tell Debbie in plain terms (ok they were ugly) that I was not letting Debbie anywhere near this adoption as Niki’s baby is not for sale to the highest bidder. Niki wants an open adoption and Travis wanted a closed one so that conversation ended in January of 2001. Meanwhile, Even with all the above changes in Niki’s life (in a very short time) once she started showing she was forced to change high schools to the one in the district that the pregnant girls attended. Oddly this happened to be the high school I attended and the pregnancy teacher was my Home Ec. teacher (Peggy) and even though Niki and I have different last names and we are 7 years apart, the teacher figured out that Niki was my little sister. Peggy (the teacher) took Niki under her wing and Niki even dates her son Matt while she was pregnant. (The babies’ dad lied to his parents saying Niki was not pregnant with his child and he and Niki broke up early in her pregnancy. They had dated since the 7th grade and Niki is a freshman at this point). Once Debbie finds out she cannot sell Niki’s baby for her interest she kicks Niki out again but Peggy (the teacher) takes Niki in. Niki now is as homeless as I was when I was 16 (crazy). Peggy encourages Niki to reach back out to Gladney. My aunt Terri and I step in to help Niki with her decision as she has less than 2 months at this point. Niki decides that she wants a family not in TX. All she keeps telling me is she does not want to walk the mall one day searching all the young kid faces for her daughter (I was very impressed with my little sisters logic to be honest). Niki picks a family in February of 2001. They live in NY and have 27 adopted people in their family. Something about genetics that they all agreed to only adopt and not have biological children. The father was a basketball coach and worked on wall street and the mother was a teacher (I think). They bonded with Niki instantly and everyone loves them. They flew to TX to meet Niki and my aunt Terrie (I live 3 hours from Niki so I was not able to take off work and attend). They tell Niki they will name her Keri Lynn and that is a sign for Niki (in a good way) as Terrie’s middle name is Lynn and Audrey will still have an aunt Terrie as the dads sister is Terrie. We are not able to know their last names but Niki loves them. Gladney starts the paperwork and they head back to NY. Gladney installed a phone in their home and Niki talked to them daily. They asked Niki all kinds of things about her and her family so they could tell Keri (Audrey) as she grew up. The evening of March 3rd I get a phone call from my aunt Terrie that it’s time. She has Niki back in Labor and Delivery and Niki wants me. I am 3 hours away and we had my step-son that weekend. I tell Terrie I’ll leave at sunrise and drop Garret with his mother and I’ll be there. Niki labors through the night. We leave Austin at 6 am and meet Garret’s mom and then drive the extra hour to the hospital. My father-in-law beat me to the hospital as he adores my sister. We walk in and I walk into a landmine of news from Gladney. They had discovered that Niki was not my sisters legal name. Neither was Nicole Marie which was Niki’s name, or so we thought…you see Gladney uncovered the truth and that was that Debbie never bothered to name Niki so here Niki is in labor with the adopted parents flying in and she is told her name is actually Girl Of. That’s my sisters name! I mouth off with “pick a name then. Let’s do this and you can be whoever you want”. Debbie is furious with me; with Gladney; with the world actually. Debbie leaves as do my husband and father in law as it’s lunch time. I was planning on eating too but the nurse announces that Niki must have been waiting on me because as soon as I arrive it’s time. The door is locked and in stays our aunt Terrie; Niki’s boyfriend (not the baby daddy) and me. Ok and all the staff and Niki of course. I stood at my sisters feet and saw Audrey Nicole enter this world and take her first breath. My aunt and I are crying as we watch Niki hold her baby knowing she is giving her up. The hospital knows this is an adoption and they change their protocols and allow the family in right when Niki is decent and give us time with Audrey before taking her back to be cleaned up. We all held her (well Debbie left so not Debbie). Audrey Nicole was born on 3.4.01. I have a video of all this that Ross keeps under lock and key. TX adoption laws (in 2001) required Niki to keep Audrey in her room for 72 hours and Niki had to leave the hospital before handing Audrey over to the adopted parents. 3/7/01 Gladney took Niki to take photos with Audrey and my aunt Terrie was with Niki when she handed her child over. I again was unable to get off work (I now have a boss that would never put me in a position to work over being with my sister). The open adoption was for pictures on Keri’s Birthday for the first 5 years and then when she was 13 she was to be told by a 3rd party she was adopted and if she expressed an interest in meeting her birth mother they had to make that happen. Also, if she needs an organ or is hospitalized for more than 24 hours Gladney is to be contacted and they will call me. I promised my sister 17 years ago I would never change my phone number. Audrey just turned 17 this year and I pray she has an amazing life. We know she has at least one sibling as a little boy appeared in the yearly photos when Keri was 3. Niki had another baby two years later, Blake and when Blake was 6 months old she and Audrey’s dad got back together. Niki and Billie married 3/17/06 and have three other children together Averi, Paige and Gavin. Niki was finally legally named Nicole when she was 30!
Well 2.14.18 came and went. Last year I put it in my head that if the Hippie could pick a day to pass it would be 2.14. Not because we know that as Valentine’s Day but because that’s his lucky number. He used 214 for everything. Years back he told me he would only pay for my wedding if it was 2.14 so of course on 2.14.98 I almost married a terrible guy but I called the wedding off the summer before. I have huge abandonment issues. I probably have more issues than that because hello, have you read about my childhood?!? I don’t trust people. I am pretty sure I will be murdered in some horrific way (ok yes all murder is horrific). The last ten years or so I learned all these are due to his choices and I won’t chase him and beg for attention. He chose to turn my life upside down when he told me to find a new place to live when I was 16 because he wanted to move to Jamaica and become a full on drug Lord. I cannot tell you how many of my friends’ families took me in. I always had food and a place to sleep but it was a very strange few years. The terrible man I mentioned above was my version of escape but when you are raised with as much violence as I was, then you do not see the signs “normal” people might see. Some people think the step-monster was good for me but she was probably more toxic then the Hippie and Debbie. I once found a diary from when I was 8 or so and I was writing about lying on the living room couch watching the step-monster have a full melt down and she was throwing kitchen knives at my dad and they stuck in the wall. We no longer had a kitchen clock because she threw that at him and it shattered. Yes, with all this going on little Heather is sitting on the couch writing in her diary or reading a book because this was our normal! I don’t remember why she slapped me when I was wearing braces but the wire on my braces came loose and cut my cheek. I had to go to the Ortho to have it fixed and I still have a scar on the inside of my cheek to this day. It took me years to realize that my childhood was effed up because again it was my normal. I have seen the Hippie maybe 10 times since he was kicked out of Jamaica in 2005. I hurt for him because he’s my dad and I know he did the best he could. I know he loves me but he never chose me. He never chose to protect me from the step-monster. He was so focused on someone kidnapping me (ok again in his defense Debbie’s step-dad did make a threat) that he never thought to look at what the violence around us was doing. I laugh when I think back to when my husband and I first started dating. He has a “typical” family even though his parents divorced when he was in college; everyone gets along and loves each other. No drugs. No violence. Ross and I had only been dating six months or so and in this six months my 13 year old sister and her friend discovered her friends’ mothers body after she was raped by her boyfriend and her throat was slit. The girls walked right in her bedroom after being in the house about 30 minutes eating breakfast. Then the day before Valentine’s Day (1999) my sisters dad was shot five times at point blank range (he is still alive). Ross quickly got a glimpse of craziness. Even with this craziness Ross used to push me to interact with my family because simply they are family. Fast forward twenty years and Ross wants them no where around any of us. They are selfish. They are all toxic and still I hurt for the Hippie that he is sick. I cannot go to him. I cannot chase him because in the end he is still going to die and that will hurt me worse if I grow close with him again. If he wants to talk to me he will have to call me.
I don’t have a health update on the Hippy as we have not spoken since August 2017. My FaceBook On this Day is currently having me relive all the details of the Hippy’s surgery and recovery. Sometimes it makes me sad that this is all I have. Yes, I could call him but he could call me also. I am sure anyone reading this thinks I am a horrible cold person but I ask you to not look at this through your lens but through mine. I did not have a loving supportive family unit. The Hippy raised me and then kicked me out when I was 16 because he wanted to chase a dream. He missed my high school years. I was not able to attend college right after high school because of his decision to leave and live in Jamaica. He chose drugs over his child. He missed my wedding. He missed my first college graduation (ok he attended the second but for five minutes). He never had a Funeral for my grandmother when she passed away and she was my everything. I regress, here we are a year later and honestly I am cold and emotionless. Of course I wish him well but I also know that having your parents alive and not interested in you or your life makes me long for them to be gone so I no longer feel abandoned each time I think of them. Again, not really an update at all.
I haven’t written in a while because I just haven’t had anything to say about the Hippy. I know he’s alive and needs more surgeries as I talked to him in August around Hurricane Harvey as he lives in Houston. It was a short call but I learned he was dry and that his surgery was being rescheduled. A week or so later I spoke to him again and learned that the Step-Monster had her hip replaced and that he is very angry with me. See he had learned that I refer to my step mother as the step-monster and was blown away that I would do that. We exchanged heated words along the lines of me asking him how on earth he can act like he didn’t know this as I have done this since I was a teenager. He then said for the first time he was angry that I hadn’t come to see him. I reminded him that I didn’t believe he wanted me to based on all our conversations we had when I was a kid. I also told him I don’t want to see him like this and ruin my good memories of him. I told him that to this day my first thought I have of my Papa Dale is my grandmother calling the house when I was 15 and screaming into the phone saying “where’s Pat” because she was hysterical from finding my Grandfather’s dead body because he had killed himself that day (he was terminal and couldn’t take it anymore). Almost 20 years later and I can still hear her perfectly and only because I answered the phone that day and she was too hysterical to call the cops instead of my dad. I never spent the night at their house again and last year was the first time I had walked in to his old bedroom again. After listening my dad told me he understood and didn’t really say much else. The entire conversation sucked and I deeply regretted it. The only good part was the Hippy saying I didn’t have to refer to the step-monster as “Mom” anymore. This has always been an issue since I was 3 years old. Actually what he said was that I am not good enough to call her mom because I don’t appreciate her but whatever. He refuses to see any side other than hers. He refuses to see why it’s messed up that I would get in trouble for saying she was my step-Mom or refer to my actual mother as my real mom or by Debbie which is her name. I was just a kid. We hung up and I told myself that may be our last call ever. I felt like we had closure. A few weeks later my husband and I where staying the weekend at my husbands sisters house and I had a long conversation with her husband (my brother-in-law) about the Hippy. See we where in Houston and David was shocked I wasn’t going to see the Hippy. I told him all this and he said “so you still blame him from your childhood” and he also felt I was selfish for not going to see him. We talked all night about it and I said I wasn’t angry but maybe I am. I haven’t ever been angry about him leaving for Jamaica. I haven’t ever been angry that he only met my husband one time before we married and didn’t come back until my 5th anniversary. I am sure I sound angry but I’m not. However, I am angry about how my grandmother died and he never had a funeral. I am angry at how he trashed her memory. I am angry he chose my step-mother over me. None of this is why I won’t see him. I truly believe deathbed wishes and confessions are for the dying – not for the living. I for all the reasons above won’t allow that to be my last memory of a father I loved dearly who left when I was 16. Today I am probably the only person in my family that will stop and think about my Grandmother but she was my everything. I have her most prized possession Barney, her shitzu and he is almost 10 years old and every time he gets his bath I take a deep sniff and I feel like I am 5 again and at her house smelling the fresh smells of bathed dogs! Happy Birthday in Heaven Grandma Jane!
This week is the 18th Anniversary of my Open-heart surgery. I have mentioned it here a few times off and on but I waited till this week to write the entire story. Obviously the Hippy, Debbie and I have different versions and well the beginning is from their point of view…
Time to go way back to April 8, 1978 when an 18 year old Debbie, married to 25 year old Pat (aka Hippy), gave birth to their first child, in Houston, TX. Unbeknownst to them their brand new baby was very sick. All seemed normal until my 4 week check-up. Debbie took me to my first pediatrician appointment with Dr. Truitt. Debbie had no idea what to expect but she did think it was strange that the doctor was listening so intently to my heart. Without saying a word Dr. Truitt leaves the room. A few minutes later he walks in with two other doctors who each take turns to listen to my heart. They all three step out and a while later Dr. Truitt walks back in the room with a note that lists the name Texas Children’s Hospital. Dr. Truitt tells Debbie he doesn’t know what he hears but he knows it’s not right. His colleagues all agree and they have already called the hospital and Debbie is to take me right then. Debbie is able to call the Hippy and relay all this information. Debbie has not lived in Houston even a year so the Hippy sent one of his Hot Shot drivers to pick us up from the pediatricians office and take us to the hospital. Debbie walks into the hospital with me and says a nurse immediately took me back. It was hours before the doctors spoke to her. They ran an EKG; Echocardiogram ; X-rays and bloodwork. Since it was Friday they told her the results would be back Monday and they made her an appointment to come in with me and they said to bring her husband. They had told Debbie I may be a little listless all weekend so she wasn’t really surprised when I slept a lot and didn’t really eat. Monday morning they took me to the appointment at Texas Children’s Hospital where they were told that I was in heart failure and they would need to keep me in the hospital for testing and monitoring. I was in the hospital for two weeks. During this time Debbie and the Hippy met some of the greatest heart surgeons in the US. Dr. Cooley and Dr. McNamarra. I was diagnosed with a Left Congential Heart Defect with a small Aneurysm of the membranous septum. (Left VSD with an aneurysm that was partially blocking the hole). I was placed on a digitalis (medicine) and that day Debbie was told I would never run; play; or come off my meds. My grandmother would later joke that her dog and I took the same meds but his were cheaper at the vet. I was released from the hospital in May 1978 to a very disheartened Debbie and Pat. They had no money. No insurance. No idea what to do with a baby much less a very sick baby. The Hippy also felt very trapped. He had already planned to leave Houston but realized this day he was forever stuck because of me. My heart was so enlarged, due to being overworked pumping my blood as the oxygenated blood was flowing through the hole and mixing with the deoxygenated blood, that I had to eat baby food till I was almost three. I was two when I had my first heart Catherization (the doctors needed to get measurements inside my heart of the blood flow and the size of the hole and aneurysm). Luckily Texas Children’s Hospital is a teaching hospital and they had a program that allowed for me to have free healthcare if my case was followed by the lead doctors and their students. Every summer I would have a full day appointment with Dr. McNamarra and about 10-15 students. I would have an EKG; X-ray; Echocardiogram and spend time in an examining room with Dr. McNamarra and his students. I was lucky to have Dr. McNamarra until he graduated me out of the program when I was 18. One of my greatest memories of him was his talking to the step-monster (Debbie never took me) and I was supposed to be jumping up and down. I being a kid would notice he wasn’t paying full attention and I would slow down. He would just move his hand in a motion that told me higher! I was taken off the digitalis when I was 8. Dr. McNamarra (and students) attended my volleyball games when I was in middle school. I was so embarrassed that mid-game I would be called off the court and he would listen to my heart (as did all his students) and then he would nod his head at my coach and they would send me back in! I had the full name of my heart Condition memorized by the time I was 5! Anytime I was not in the care of family the Hippy would send a signed letter instructing emergency personnel of my condition and giving authority to treat me. It also had the phone number of Dr. McNamarra and later his cell number! I had some difficulty creep up in the 7th grade so Dr. McNamarra wanted to do another Heart Catherization but by this time I was also on Debbie’s health insurance and they required that I be insured for a year as I had a pre-existing condition. So when I was 16 (9th grade) I had my second heart Catherization. This Heart Catherization was traumatizing to me! I was babysitting for a family in our neighborhood and the step-monster had learned that the father was studying to do Heart Catherization at you guessed it Texas Children’s Hospital and again I was in the student program. I was terrified that he would be present BUT I am glad he was. This is the first major surgery for me as a teenager. I remember being wheeled into the OR. The nurses transferred me from the gurney to the table. I clearly remember looking around at all the people necessary for surgery.I remember them opening the curtain to the gallery so all the students can observe (think Grey’s Anatomy). I remember talking to the man I babysat for. Then the nurses completely undress me to prep me for surgery (remember I am 16!). If you are not familiar a Heart Catherization is where they inject a camera into your artery in your groin (while you are asleep) and the camera let’s the blood take it all through the heart. I remember waking up and telling my parents all about this and the Hippy signed me out of the student program. Also, the Hippy would never willingly allow me to have open-heart surgery as he didn’t want me to have a scar. Due to my parents being unwilling to sign off the hospital had a panel of 100 doctors and experts that would review the case and if they decided that surgery was necessary a judge would rule that I would have surgery. However everytime my case was presented it was pretty much 50/50 of doctors that felt it was life threatening and those that said to continue to monitor. This was the case when I was 16. The Hippy moved to Jamaica that summer so I was not seen at 17 but when I was 18 Dr. McNamarra had his nurse call Debbie and request to see me one more time. I went in by myself and met with him. We did all the usual testing EKG; Echocardiogram; X-rays and this time a stress test! Dr. McNamarra kept detailed notes of every single visit and would mail copies to my pediatrician and to the Hippy each time. I was given my full heart record when I was 16 and the Hippy moved to Jamaica. Wouldn’t you know it I lost it. It’s no where to be found!! When I was 21 I got very sick. I gained a lot of weight and my nails had started turning bright smurf blue. I was at work one day and looked down and saw my blue nails. My boss looked over and said “if you need to go to the doctor go!” I called Debbie and Ross (my husband who I had only been dating about a year). Neither answered so I drove myself to the ER (7.15.99). While I was in the ER being ignored by doctors and told that I was hyper ventilating, Ross was being laid off from his job of 5 years (Compaq Computers did a big layoff that day). I went home and quickly focused on Ross (the doctors had said I was fine). A few days later I talked to Debbie and told her what happened. I was still very blue and it was a very hot summer. Debbie made me a doctor appointment with her family doctor who had at least treated me for step throat before and had a copy of my heart records. I drove myself and ran into a friend of mine in the parking lot (her kids daycare was next door). Holly went to the doctor with me and I am so glad I was not alone! The doctors (several different ones again) said that I had developed a reverse shunt and that the blood was basically pumping the wrong direction. My oxygen level had decreased to about 40%. They sent me home and said they would send my records to a cardiologist (since Dr. McNamarra had died). Holly followed me to my apartment and we hadn’t even sat down when the cardiologist office called and said to get there NOW! I call Debbie who wanted Holly to bring me to her house and get her (her house was on the way to be fair). We walk into the cardiologist office. It is packed. People are waiting everywhere. Debbie sits me down and gives them my name. We wait only a minute and a full staff came out to the lobby and stick an oxygen measuring thing on my finger and start listening to my heart. I met the cardiologist in the middle of the waiting room and he announces to all that I am his emergency and it would be some time. The echocardiogram becomes available and he stands in the room watching the echo live (usually the doctor reviews it later). He leaves towards the end and once I am dressed I emerge. Again I am in the middle of the doctor office and he tells Debbie I need surgery immediately. I start crying (I am 21 after all and this is all of a sudden and very scary. My dad is in Jamaica and until this moment he had made all my healthcare decisions). The nurses are all on different phones trying to get me a surgeon immediately. I am very overwhelmed. Well immediately turned into two weeks. My surgery was rescheduled 4 times with 4 different surgeons at 4 different hospitals while I sat home with a very nervous Ross and a scared 4 year old Garret (step-son). Debbie was honestly amazing through all this. She called my dad in Jamaica and told him to come back and to NOT bring the step-monster and for the only time in my life he left her for me! The delay was due to the insurance (I had my own this time as I was employed) requiring that a pediatric surgeon perform the surgery even though I was 21 and they had some difficulty getting this done. One hospital /non pediatric surgeon offered to do my surgery for free and my insurance company told Debbie If I did that they would not insure me for the rest of my life! So I waited at home for Debbie to call me. My surgeon was picked on 8.8.99 (my dad and step-monsters Anniversary and also my little sisters birthday (Debbie’s daughter)). On 8.9.99 I had my 3rd Heart Catherization and I was supposed to have surgery 8.10.99 but I got bumped again because the surgeon wanted to meet me first and the surgery was scheduled for 8.11.99. On 8.10.99 we met with the surgeon and my now husband hated him on sight. Ross wasn’t happy that my surgery was pushed for this meeting and he spent less than 3 minutes with us. We also walked St. Luke’s (connected to Texas Children’s Hospital) and met with my surgery team and had all our questions answered so it was a good visit. My surgeon was Dr. Ott. As he was running away from our meeting Ross asked him how big my scar would be (this was the Hippy’s issue). Dr. Ott with his hand on the door to exit turned back and said “4 inches”. Surgery day arrives – 8.11.99. I wake very early and shower with the soap I had been instructed to use. Debbie actually arrived on time and took me to the hospital. I had a brief panic when I signed all the forms and almost walked away but an awesome nurse brought me meds that caused me not to care. I have no idea what really happened that day. I know the waiting room was filled with Debbie and the Hippy’s friends. Aunts and Uncles all came. Ironically one of Ross’ uncles mother had surgery at the same time and Debbie and Ross’ uncle became smoking buddies outside. The surgeon told Debbie that I had the largest hole he had ever seen; also my scar was exactly 4 inches! I remember waking in ICU that night and seeing Ross who told me that he couldn’t bring 4 year old Garret so he had left him at his moms house. I had told Ross I was in pain and he quickly got a nurse who explained that I was on a morphine pump and that I had no clue. Thursday morning I woke in ICU to an early visit from the Hippy. The nurse had just taken the tube out my my mouth (throat tube) and it was the first time I really woke as when I saw Ross the night before it was very fuzzy. Debbie says that the day of surgery she could only get my eyes to open when she said “Ross” or “Garret”. My ribs had been sawed in half and then wired shut so I really couldn’t / shouldn’t move without being very very careful. Thursday in the ICU brought me several visitors (Debbie and my last step dad Danny) and later Ross and his aunt and uncle. I was moved to a room Thursday night and I was told that I would start walking on Friday and when I walked a mile I could go home. No one stayed with me at the hospital. My dad and his friends came by and Debbie left with all of them to go eat. Ross was home with 4 year old Garret but Ross’ dad worked the 3pm to Midnight shift and came every night to see me and bring me a strawberry milk shake! I remember hearing lots of screams that night and telling him that I thought someone died. He responded with “probably”. Friday was my first day I could get up and I walked a mile that day and was discharged the next morning 2.5 days after having open heart surgery! I had to have help at all times as I could not sit up or lean back at all by myself as my ribs and muscles had been cut and I couldn’t risk breaking a wire and puncturing my lungs. I was instructed to cross my arms over my chests and let whomeever was helping me lean me forward or back. It was definitely a helpless feeling and a perfect trust exercise that lasted for 6 weeks. That was a long summer. Ross didn’t look for a job until I went back to work and his mother paid all our bills so he could stay home and take care of me. The Hippy went back to Jamaica right away and once my situation was no longer dire we did not see or talk to Debbie again. It was Ross and his family that nursed me back to health. Sadly the saga did not end with my surgery. Approximately 12 weeks after my surgery I started turning blue again. I went back to the cardiologist and once again I was rushed into an echocardiogram. This time the doctor comes in and looks at the screen. His response is “shit” let me say that’s not something anyone wants to hear and not someone who just recovered from having their ribs sawed in half! The next day has me in the operating room again but this time for a TEE which is a procedure where they put you under and send a scope down your throat to see the heart. The doctor believes I popped a stitch and that it may heal on its own. Meanwhile I told him there was no way I was having surgery again. This is the day that Ross was called about the job in Austin and we decided to move. I saw a few doctors in Austin in early 2000 but nothing seemed to be of alarm to anyone. Everyone had hoped that the new hole would close if the septal wall could strengthen. In 2001 I started getting very blue and had trouble breathing and I also found myself back at a cardiologist office having the test run – EKG; Stress Test; X-rays and my 4th Heart Catherization. It was at this time the cardiologist sat Ross and I down and dropped the bomb that the only recommendation he had other than do nothing was a heart transplant. He explained that the open heart fixed the major problem but that you cannot repair a muscle that has been overworked for 21 years. The damage was done and was permanent. Ross and I talked about it for weeks. We also prayed about it and we went back and told the doctor we opted to do nothing. That is exactly where I am today at the age of 39 – 18 years later. I have a full life and I have taken up cycling and I am riding at least 70 miles each week on my mountain bike.
It’s been a real long time since I have posted. The truth is I don’t know how my Hippy is doing. I called in May and left a message on his home phone and called his cell. No answer and no call back. I called in June and left a message on his home phone and called his cell. No answer and no call back. I did text him on Father’s Day and he responded with a thank you which is a small miracle because he calls texts “emails”! I called yesterday and left a message at home and called his cell. No one answered and he didn’t call me back. I finally texted his best friend aka Uncle Glen yesterday and he told me that he spoke to my dad an hour prior and for me to only call the cell. This doesn’t worry me. This doesn’t concern me. Truth is I lost my dad when I was 16 and he moved to Jamaica. He wasn’t here when I was navigating the perils of high school. He wasn’t here to meet anyone I dated. He wasn’t here when my grandmother asked me to drop out of high school and get my GED because she needed me to work. He wasn’t here when I met my husband. He did come back when I had open heart surgery (for another post) but he called collect on my 21st birthday. He wasn’t here when I got married. He wasn’t here for our wedding reception and the step-monster refused to bring my grandmother because she is a vindictive bitch. He wasn’t here when I turned 30. He did show up when I graduated with my bachelor degree but of course missed my graduation when I received my associates degree. He is not here. My grandfather always said no news is good news so I am guessing his health is ok or maybe one day I’ll get a letter from the step-monster. Who knows. However what my Hippy taught me at an early age was that I am strong enough to be on my own and he taught me to Let Go. I found this today and just love it.
I came by my love of animals via the Hippy and Grandma Jane and Papa Dale! The Hippy never once told me “no” I couldn’t have an animal – most likely because my grandparents never told him “no”. When the Hippy was a boy my grandmother got a Double-Yellow Head Parrot that she named Chew Chew (because he chewed everything up). Parrots live 70 years on average and usually only bond with one or two people in their lifetimes. Chew Chew chose my grandmother and my dad. Papa used to swear that Chew Chew would go out of his way to seek my grandfather out and bite him every single day! Chew Chew’s cage was always in the kitchen and my grandmother never clipped his wings. When she was home his cage was always open and he was flying freely throughout the house. Over the course of his life my grandmother had several different dog packs and Chew Chew knew all their names and never mixed them up. Before I was born Chew Chew called my grandfather “Dale” but anytime I was around he would call him “Papa”. Chew Chew would even play hide and seek with you. My grandmother has a kitchen cabinet that refused to stay open and anytime you opened it the cabinet would close (the hinges didn’t work right). Well, if Chew Chew was not sitting on top of his cage; or on top of the refrigerator dropping dog bones to the dogs; or in my grandmothers office on top of her filing cabinets all you would have to say is “Chew Chew where are you”. If you listened you could hear him respond “I’m hiding and what sounded like a giggle” (he loved getting in that cabinet and having it shut the door on him). Every single time the Hippy would visit my grandmother Chew Chew would get very excited to see him UNLESS he was holding me! Chew Chew was incredibly jealous of me and as a small child I was terrified of him! My grandmother has pictures of me running down the hall screaming because Chew Chew was chasing me but in reality he was slowly doing a bird walk after me! One day the Hippy was trying to show me how nice Chew Chew was (so I wouldn’t be so scared of him) but he was holding me at the time. The Hippy walked over to Chew Chew and puckered his lips for a kiss (something the Hippy probably had done a thousand times at this point). Chew Chew runs over and bites the Hippy splitting his lip open! This did not help me think Chew Chew was super sweet by the way! Kids really only hear things they understand and it wasn’t till I was a teenager that I figured out what Chew Chew was saying whenever he would see the Hippy enter my grandmother’s kitchen via the garage and then walk outside. Anytime the Hippy did this exact pattern Chew Chew would say “wanna smoke a joint”! Apparently when my dad was a teen he would lean into Chew Chew’s cage and say that everytime he would go outside to smoke a joint! Chew Chew also caused lots of problems when I was a baby. When I was one or two my grandparents went to their house in Mexico for a month or so and naturally my dad took Chew Chew while they vacationed. One day Debbie had me down for a nap and she was cleaning the house with the windows open. Debbie didn’t trust Chew Chew as much as my grandmother did so she didn’t let him fly around the house all day long. Chew Chew being so smart quickly learned that when baby Heather cried everyone came running so Chew Chew learned to mimic my exact cry and he did this whenever he wanted something and I was around. Debbie walks into the kitchen and sees 3 little old ladies trying to look into her kitchen window and they are whispering and pointing because what they can hear a block away is a baby screaming when in reality it is a bad tempered parrot who wants his way! Debbie told the Hippy all this when he came home that night and after he quit laughing he devised a plan. He moved Chew Chew’s cage outside that everning and I was playing in the yard on a blanket. Eventually everyone on the block stopped over to see me and they would see Chew Chew and the Hippy would tell the story of the badly behaved bird that could mimic the babies cry! Debbie said you could see the relief on all the neighbors faces! When I was 12 or 13 I let Chew Chew out of his cage at dinner time while my grandmother was cooking. (He had routines for different times of the day). In the evening (when my grandmother would come home from work) he would feed the dogs treats. I open the cage and Chew Chew would fly to the top of the fridge and he would lift the lid off the glass cookie jar (held dog bones). He would call each dog (by the correct name) and he would take a bite of their dog biscuit and drop it to the dog (my grandmother had tons of photos of this). On this day the cookie jar was low so he reached in and fell into the jar! My grandmother turns off the stove, grabs the cookie jar, and we head straight to the vet. The doctor had to sedate Chew Chew and break the jar to get him free. My grandmother never replaced the jar and I swear he missed it after that! Chew Chew was around for my entire childhood and I was supposed to inherit him (I loved him dearly). Sadly one day when I was 20 he pulled a feather in the night (normal) but this time the blood didn’t coagulate and he died. I am still very sad by this.
I spoke to the Hippy finally. The real shocker is he answered when the step-monster was home (she even cleared her throat once and he still didn’t hang up with me)! He said he is starting to feel a little better since his radiation treatments ended several weeks ago. He saw his doctor this week and he wouldn’t give me an exact weight number but said things like “it comes and goes” and “it’s more or less that” when I asked if he still weighed 107 pounds (he is six feet tall). I had Barney (my grandmothers dog that my husband wanted to take in after she passed away) in the car with me as I was talking to him while driving to work so he asked about Barney and we discussed him most of the conversation. I did ask him if he knows when the doctors will perform another CT scan to check his tumors. He said he thought it would be end of May or beginning of June but to his knowledge it is not scheduled yet. He went on to explain that his doctors (VA Hospital) are not in a super hurry to check on the tumors because once they discover it has progressed to the brain they are done with treatment (at least that’s what they said in the beginning of all this). I know a lot of people may not understand how disconnected my dad and I are but right now I have never been so happy that we are. I have always believed that people know certain things and he knew that he neeeded to raise me to be strong and independent. Moving out at 16 was not crazy to me or to anyone that knew my family. Having my dad gone for 10 years was not strange. Marrying a man my dad had only met one time two years prior was not strange. It was what it was! I still pray for peace every day for my Hippy!