I like to say I was raised by wolves but we all know that isn’t true (Debbie hates when I say this)! The truth is I was raised by bikers; hippies; criminals; and lots of very good people that took me into their lives and hearts at various times throughout my life. Birth to sixteen I had my dad but unfortunately he married my step-monster when I was three and she intentionally made my life suck. I spent almost every weekend with my paternal grandparents and lots and lots of time with surrogate family members (sometimes actual family but they played a deeper role for me). The Hippy knew I needed maternal love and never got in the way of that for me. Since the step-monster was incapable and Debbie wasn’t really capable either (drugs; non-maternal instincts; life choices; whatever) the Hippy would do all in his power to encourage those that wanted to – the main person being my “Aunt Terrie”. Terrie was Debbie’s best friend from my earliest memory. I have no idea how they met or when they met mainly because I never asked. Terrie has always been my mother figure and the main reason I have any Debbie memories at all. I was born 2 days after Terrie’s 18th birthday and she is 11 months younger than Debbie so the Debbie was too young to have me argument (you know she was too young to be a mother) never worked on me as Terrie did just fine mothering me! Terrie forced Debbie to attend my school plays and graduations (she attended as well). Terrie even had to badger Debbie to attend my College Graduation which proves some thing’s just never change. Any time Terrie called the Hippy to see me he made it happen! Terrie’s oldest child is three years younger than me and three years older than Niki. When I was 9 or so (Brandon was 6 and Niki was 3) Debbie and Terrie took us to the Astrodome (huge facility) for a car show. Terrie had stepped away for a few minutes and Debbie then went off with some guy or something leaving me in charge of Niki and Brandon (remember I am only 9). I am not sure why I wanted $5 so badly but it may have been to ride the carnival rides and Debbie kept saying no (Terrie tried to not overly interfere when Debbie was around). Well I get it in my head to sell my cute little sister. I really don’t remember the details but some guy walks over to Debbie and Terrie and tell them that I am offering Niki up at $5. He thinks it’s funny (and probably sad but remember, I am 9) and gives me $5 and then takes all of us to the carnival! We even got to keep Niki (who by the way hates this story)! I was a junior bridesmaid in Terrie’s wedding and when I moved in with Debbie and Danny (my last step-dad) after my dad left for Jamaica (I was 16/17) I saw Terrie daily. I would walk / drive to Terrie’s every day after school and eat since Debbie never sent me to school with money and I didn’t work as I was Niki’s after school babysitter. Terrie’s Nanny (she had two very young kids at this point) would have lunch ready for me every day at 3:30 and I would play with the babies before I had to go home and watch Niki (she rode the bus and didn’t arrive till 5). I lived with her for about a year when I was 18 and she has always been the second person I reach out to for any nurting (my husband is the first). When I texted her about the news of my Hippy slowly dying her response was “whatever you need I am here”! It’s also important to note that after the car show incident the Hippy never sent me without money again!
I hate even thinking of my Step-Monster even as I write this but I feel an explanation is necessary. I was 3 when the Hippy married Lynn in August of 1981. My dad had custody of me and she had never had kids even though this was her 4th marriage. Her and I never got along. Never. My dad and I already had a very tight bond and she has forever been jealous of that. Add in the fact that she requires me to call her “mom” which I never wanted to do and the second I turned 18 I stopped (this has caused a lot of problems in our family unit). When I was little she tried hard to brainwash me into saying she was my mother. I would get corrected if I even mentioned “my real mother”. Lynn would tell my teachers I was crazy and making it up. I was taught to call my actual mother by her name “Debbie” which I still do to this day. When I was 18 my Uncle Glen and I visited them in Jamaica (they moved when I was 16) and I called her Lynn and we ended up in a fist fight as she reached out to slap me and I stopped her! My Uncle Glen told me recently that was his proudest moment watching me stand up to her. My refusing to call her “mom” cost me my dad at my 30th birthday party as he was forbidden to come because Debbie was there as was my husbands family. Lynn refused to bring my grandmother to our wedding reception (my dad was in Jamaica but she was in Houston visiting). Some would say I should just make my life easy and give in but I just can’t. It’s not in my DNA to do that! Several years ago my doctor was having me compile family history of the women in my family. I called my Grandma Jane and she gave me tons for my paternal side. I hung up and was on the phone with Debbie, getting her side, when the other line clicked. I answered knowing it was Lynn and the first thing she said was “you hung up before getting my family history”. I couldn’t help myself – I literally laughed in her face and said “we aren’t related no one cares” and I hung up on her. Debbie and I had a laugh over that one! This one issue is so deep in our hatred but we have others. I was not allowed (per Lynn) to talk to my dad when he got home until she had the first 30 minutes with him (this was the response to me running outside to greet him when I saw his car)! I was told that I could not have a tv in my room because she didn’t. The Hippy laughingly responded to that with “of course you didn’t because they didn’t exist”. He only calls me when she is not around. I am used to this. He is used to this. It sucks but he made his bed a long time ago and with his health declining I am just not going to stress him out and cause him any grief. I had him first. She will have him last! He was still mine longer!
I called and talked to my dad this morning. He sounded very down and tired. They have added 5 more treatments so today is 20 of 35. He does get his hearing aid today which I am hoping will cheer him up. His weight is holding at 107 (he is 6 feet tall). I can tell when Lynn (aka Step-Monster) walks in. He virtually shuts down on me and just ends our call!
I am not sure how most kids get their first cars but I knew that I was getting a Mustang convertible as early 2 years before my 16th birthday so we never had a car discussion. My dad had a friend, Valerie, that had a 1984 red mustang convertible with a white top. She had told my dad once (several years before my 16th birthday) that her plan was to keep the car 10 years (1994 when I turned 16). It was like a sign to the Hippy. He told Valerie that day that he would buy the car for me and he did. He brought home my car two weeks before my 16th birthday! The Hippy and my Uncle Glen spent an entire Saturday washing and waxing the car (and fixing various little items as it was 10 years old). I tried to watch them but it made me so tired I went and took a nap (I was still depressed from my friend dying the week before and didn’t have much interest in anything). I wish I had a picture of this car. It was so cute. My school colors were red and white and my mustang was red with a white top. The Hippy washed my car every single day when he got home from work! It’s fair to say he loved this car too! April 8, 1994 I turned 16 and the Hippy took me to get my drivers license after school! The Hippy is HUGE on birthdays. In fact he would celebrate my birthday for 2 weeks (the week preceding my birthday was the last of’…you know the last Monday I was x and the week following my birthday was the first Monday I was x etc). He always wanted me to skip school on my birthday but I never did. Like I said I went to school because I wanted to but I never had to go. Note: as an adult I have taken off work every single birthday that I can (which is most of them). On my 16th birthday the Hippy decided to renew his license with me as his birthday is May 1 and his was expiring then. This decision while very cool at the time was probably a HUGE mistake for him. In August of 1994 I sadly get into an accident that totals the Mustang. The next week, as the Hippy is going to look at a new car for me, he gets into an accident and totals his truck! (Note that at this point in 1994 the Hippy is only home every 6 weeks for about 2 weeks as he has already moved to Jamaica). In November, that same year, I got a ticket for speeding near my school (not in a school zone). I am terrified to tell the Hippy and Step-Monster! My dad was always strict about my whereabouts and this only increased when I received my license. I had a perimeter I was supposed to adhere to as well as the rule of not driving with the top down, in the Mustang, after dark and I had a car curfew. I could stay out later but I couldn’t be driving! My step-dad’s brother was an officer assigned to the area around my school and the Hippy even had him watching for me (he pulled me over a few times as well). The day I received a ticket I was REALLY hoping it was my Uncle Jared but it wasn’t. I was freaking out and rehearsed with my friend all the way home. I have always believed that honesty is the best policy so even though I hate the step-monster I immediately told her about my ticket. She grounded me on the spot! Not long after telling the step-monster I see the Hippy pull into the driveway. I run out the door and I am standing next to his car by the time he parks it. He knows something is up but he waits for me to speak. The second he opens the door I tell him that I received a speeding ticket after school. He doesn’t say anything but hands me a green piece of folded up paper. I had no idea why he was handing me a piece of folded up paper when I just told him this HUGE violation of our driving agreement! I must have asked him why because the only thing he says is “open it”. I do and I start to read that the Hippy got a speeding ticket the SAME DAY! See my ticket was blue and I had no idea they come in different colors! The Hippy gets out of his car and hugs me while he laughs that we have been struck by the DMV curse again! We walk into the house together and at the sight of us laughing and hugging the step-monster loses her mind! She is screaming. She is throwing things. She is having a full on temper tantrum. The Hippy tells her to settle down and says they need to talk (he received his ticket early that day and even though he spoke to her several times he to was too scared to tell her!)! I am sent to my room but as loudly as she was yelling there really was no point. While all this yelling is going on my best friend arrives with Casa Ole take-out to cheer me up. The Hippy has always had a soft spot for her and never cared if she came over (plus I only lived at home on the 2 week stretches he was home and when he was in Jamaica I stayed at her house anyways). Tara tells me that the only part she heard (of their discussion) was the Hippy constantly saying that he couldn’t punish me when he did the exact same thing (he is very big on fairness). Well they finally agree on a suitable punishment and call us into the living room (ok they called me but no one was surprised when Tara went too). The Hippy does all the talking and is very careful with his words (or at least I interrupted it that way but like I have said the Hippy and I are in total synch). The Hippy begins with his punishment which was that he would have to pay for my ticket and any fees to take defensive driving (ok this is dumb as he wouldn’t allow me to work during the school year so of course he is paying)! He then states my punishment but what he says is “Heather your punishment is you cannot drive your car for two weeks”. It takes me less than a second to see through that (remember the Hippy lives by the mantra that rules are made to be broken). My keys are on the table where I was told to leave them when I confessed to my ticket. I reach over and take my keys and hand them to Tara. Tara reaches into her pocket and hands me her keys! Problem solved. Heather would not be driving the Blazer for two weeks…he never said that Tara couldn’t and besides he would be gone in a week anyways but we still knew we had to deal with the step-monster so I held my breath! The Hippy sees this and lets out the loudest laugh! He claps his hands and declares “problem solved”. I am surprised the step-monster didn’t have a coronary at that exact moment! Two weeks later I was driving my Blazer and Tara had her car back and all was right in the world of Heather again! I bet the step-monster is still pissed about this!
When I was 3 the Hippy started teaching me about gun safety and self-defense. We would practice evacuation drills as well as hiding if someone broke in the house. We did this several times a week. In fairness Debbie’s step-dad/adopted father had threatened to kidnap me in a very graphic letter to Debbie. My grandfather was not a good man as he had molested Debbie for years thus causing her to run away from CA at the age of 15 and she met my dad in Reno, NV shortly after that! The Hippy had guns all over the house and he named them after Disney characters and taught me the locations of each. Part of our practice drills was him saying a name and me running to get it or in some cases it was alerting me to go hide in the pre-determined location. My closet had a panel in it that he cut out and cleaned up for me to hide behind. Dumbo was the name of the handgun that the step-monster carried in her purse and I knew to never ever put my hand in her purse no matter what (unless I was to get Dumbo for my dad). When I was in the 4th grade I was playing in the front room of our house (it really connected to the main living room and breakfast room) and my dad and step-monster where in the living room not even 30 feet away (the living room faced the back yard). It was dark outside but still early in the evening. My dad noticed a very bright spotlight shining directly in our backyard. He hollers at me to come to his side. He opens the door and sees it’s a police helicopter. He yells for my step-mother to get his gun. The Hippy and I walk to the front room and see about 4 police cars outside our house and we can see officers running towards our gate. The step-monster does as she is told and blacks out the house so the Hippy can see what’s going on outside. I am told to go stand by the step-monster,at the back wall of the living room, and my dad is standing at the glass doors (doors open) holding his gun. We see everything as the helicopter is practically on our roof and the entire yard is lit up. My playhouse was in the far left corner of the yard and then we had several large bushes/tree things/shrubs that spaced out the length of the back fence. One officer approaches the shrub next to the playhouse (he was alone at the time as the Calvary was searching the front of the house/ street). All of a sudden a man jumps up from the shrub and grabs the officers nightsick and starts to beat the officer. The Hippy is jumping in and out of our glass doors (open) saying “should I shoot him” (bad guy beating officer) over and over. All of a sudden the officer and the bad guy fall through our fence into the neighbors yard. Now the Calvary arrives (all with their guns drawn) and the Hippy points to the neighbors yard and yells “they went that way”. The officers kick another hole into our fence (instead of walking 30 feet to the current hole) and we hear gunshots. One officer comes to sit with us and take our statements. We learned that the bad guy was apprehended and he had robbed a jewelry store at Sharpstown mall (three blocks away). My bedroom was in the back of the house and I slept with all the lights on in my room for months after this!
When I was in the first grade our next door neighbor, Rick, married Christi and he adopted her 4 daughters (Pati 4 years older than me; Belinda 2 years older than me; Natalie is my age; and Margie 2 years younger than me). Natalie and I became immediate friends (literally when they exited the car in the first five minutes) as did Christi and the step-monster (this still shocks me as Christi is so nice). Not long after the girls moved next door the step-monster accepted a job as a Bookkeeper for Tanglewood Homes Assocation. The only-drawback to her new job was that it required her to work late every Monday night (past my bedtime). The week leading up to the very first Monday night the Hippy was feeling confident. He picked me up from school; I started my homework as soon as we arrived home (my routine as neither the Hippy or step-monster cared about school); I had a snack and waited for the girls to get home (next door) so we could play before dinner time and bath and bed. Well everything was running swimmingly until the Hippy got me out of the bathtub. Here is little Heather soaking wet from head to toe and the Hippy freaks out as he has no idea how to do my hair so it looked nice the next day for school. He decides it’s time to phone next door and beg Christi for help. He calls Christi and of course she tells him to send me over as her girls are in the process of their bedtime routine. He dresses me (my hair is soaking wet) and carries me next door and passes me off to Christi. Christi dries and styles my hair; I have dessert with the girls (they only had one bathroom so their nighttime routine involved dessert while the girls rotated through their baths) and then we all settle into Pati/Belinda’s room while Christi reads us stories and we calm down for bedtime. Once all her girls are in bed she calls the Hippy to come get me and tells him he just needs to have me brush my teeth and put me in bed! Sometime during the week Christi talks to the step-monster and all decide that going forward I would spend Monday evenings with the girls and Christi would take care of bath and bedtime routines. She even bought me a toothbrush for their house and she would call the Hippy each Monday after I feel asleep in Natalie’s room and he would come get me and carry me to my bed! This went on for years (even after I as old enough to do my own hair it was just our new routine)!
My Hippy would always tell me that he would see me in 20 minutes even if he was an hour across town. I have absolutely no idea why but my Aunt Rhonda also would say the same thing to my step-sister/cousin Rachel so maybe it was a Shepherd thing! When I was 7 or 8, Debbie and Niki shared a very small apartment in Northwest Houston. I lived with my dad and step-monster in Southwest Houston which was about an hour from Debbie and Niki. One weekend my Hippy had dropped me off at Debbie’s so I could spend time with her and Niki. Niki had a small room off of the living room with a Jack and Jill style bathroom with Debbie. If Debbie had a boyfriend I would sleep either on the couch or on Niki’s floor but on this occasion I was able to share a bed with Debbie. Sometime in the late evening I woke up (no idea what woke me either) and I couldn’t find Debbie anywhere. I walked the entire apartment and like I said it was small so I should have found her. I was scared so I called my dad (luckily I knew my home phone number). My dad answered the phone and I told him I couldn’t find Debbie (this just seemed crazy to him so he told me to put the phone down and go look around and report back). I did as I was told and unknown to me he was quickly getting dressed. I came back to the phone (1985 or so we did not have a cordless phone) and told him Niki was asleep in her crib but Debbie was not home. He told me to hang up and wait for him on the couch and to ONLY answer when he knocked and gave me the password. He hung up after saying “I will be there in 20 minutes” (now we all know that was a lie as he was an hour away) but regardless I did what I was told. Some time later I heard the knock on the door and he said the password. I remember opening the door and either I was loud or he was loud but at this moment Niki woke up crying. Thank goodness she waited for him to arrive too as I could not have helped her since she was in her crib and I could’t get her out at that age. My dad locks the door and goes to pick-up Niki. He asks me to show him where Debbie kept the bottles and he tended to Niki. He settled Niki back in her crib and he sent me to Debbie’s room to go back to sleep. Years later he told me that after he made sure both Niki and I were asleep he turned off all the lights and waited for Debbie to arrive. Debbie was working at a strip-club and didn’t want my dad to know so she simply didn’t tell him when he called that morning to say he was going to bring me by. Once daylight came my dad woke me up and told me to say goodbye to Debbie and Niki and we left. I did not spend the night with Debbie again for about 4 years. In fact, it was Debbie’s next husband (aka my last step-dad) Danny that insisted on reaching out to my dad to mend fences so I could see Debbie and Niki. I remember the three of them coming to our house and Danny talking to my dad (he and Debbie had only been dating a short while). My dad allowed me to leave with Danny and he made it VERY clear that I was left in Danny’s care and not Debbie’s. My Hippy and Papa Dale even went to Danny’s bachelor party and I was a bridesmaid in their wedding. Danny and Debbie divorced about 9 years later and to this day Danny and I are close! My dad has always had fond things to say about Danny as well!
My Hippy called to tell me that he completed his 10th round of radiation yesterday! He is very proud of himself. They will not do any further testing until 6 weeks after his last radiation. He is hopeful!
My Hippy gained custody of me on March 15, 1981 when I was just 3 years old. This was unheard of in the 80’s as he was only 28 years old and was unmarried. However the Hippy tends to do things unconventionally when he wants something. He has always cared for my mother, Debbie, but once I was born they realized they couldn’t make it work. I am not sure if it was the fact that they left CO / Reno communes and moved back to the real world in Houston; or if it was having a baby with a heart problem; or if it was my Grandma Jane that caused the split but regardless they divorced when I was 2 and at 3 my Hippy “forced” Debbie to give me up. Now Debbie is not a victim in this at all as she does not have a maternal bone in her body and she is very selfish. My husband has always liked the fact that Debbie at least owns up to being a crappy mother – to this day we go years without speaking and I will say this breaks the Hippy’s heart as he did all he could to keep us close. In March 1981, the Hippy was 28; Debbie was 21 and I was 2.5 almost 3 years old. The Hippy was living with my grandparents (Grandma Jane and Papa Dale) and Debbie and I lived with Ralph Shepherds’ (aka Uncle Ralph) ex-wife and daughter (the Shepherds are pseudo-siblings to my Hippy since he was a kid and Ralph is Glen’s younger brother). My Hippy stopped paying child support; stopped paying the daycare and after a few months reported Debbie’s car to the repo company as she couldn’t make the payments (crappy I know). He then sat back and waited for Debbie to call and she did. They agreed for me to live with my dad for at least 6 months while Debbie got on her feet again. Well, August 8, 1981 the Hippy decided to further ruin my life and he married the step-monster who was 11 years his senior; from a very wealthy family with roots in Houston society; and she had no kids. They get married and sue for permanent custody of me. Debbie didn’t stand a chance and the Hippy won. Surprisingly their is no animosity between Debbie and the Hippy. Debbie was not great at exercising her weekend visitation as she is a crappy mother but that never stopped the Hippy from trying to get her and I together as often as he could. I would spend my summers riding in the truck with my dad as he owned a Courier Service and later a Pest Control Company and at least once a week we would stop by and see Debbie (I learned years later that my Hippy was delivering supplies to Debbie and would go year-round even when I was not with him). Debbie has done her fair share of crap to my Hippy as well (maybe it was paybacks but who knows). She has been engaged to my Uncle Glen (Shepherd). She married my Uncle Ralph (Shepherd) thus making my cousin Rachel my Step-sister/cousin. She once married a guy to help him get his green card (the Hippy found out and threatened to turn her in so she divorced the guy before they got too far into the process). She married a biker from the club that starts with a B and rhymes with Doritos, he goes by Feats but his name is Steve. They were married for less than 30 days but lived together longer. It is with Steve that Debbie had my little sister Niki and when Niki was only 6 months old it was my Hippy and both Shepherd boys (Glen and Ralph) that came to rescue Debbie and Niki from a VERY angry Feats. I was 6.5 years old when Debbie married Feats and she had Niki. I didn’t have a room or a bed (at their house)so when I would spend the night I had to sleep on the floor next to Niki’s crib. One night I thought I heard Niki struggling to breathe so I went to wake-up Debbie. I walked in Debbie’s room and quietly called her name (I never called her “mom”). Feats didn’t appreciate being woken up and threw a boot at my head. I went back to bed (it is a miracle that Niki and I survived our childhood). On the day that Debbie had officially had enough of Feats’ crap my job was to entertain Niki (I was 7 and she was 6 months) so basically I just pushed her in the swing for hours while Debbie loaded her car with all their belongings. Feats shows up and punches Debbie (breaking her jaw) and puts gasoline all over the car and trunk. My Hippy and uncles arrive and put an end to the non-sense. Debbie and Niki moved in with my Uncle Ralph’s ex-wife and daughter (again). The Hippy loved my sister Niki (and my step-sister/cousin Rachel) and he wanted us to be close. He was never one to believe in labels as the Shepherds are just as much siblings to him as his own blood siblings. All the Hippy would ever say to me about Debbie was “please do not end up like your mother”. He said the same thing to me when I was 5 as he did when I was 16. It was not till I was an adult that I really understood what he meant.
The summer between 8th and 9th grade I pushed my Hippy’ boundaries and safety rules constantly! My friends and I would sneak out of the house and drive around in one of our parents cars (no one had a license and Houston is not the safest place at 2 am). We were dumb but just too young to know that yet! We must have done this 2-3 times a week the entire summer. I was caught twice that summer. The first time I was caught was because my friends got caught and threw me under the bus with them (we are no longer friends). The Hippy lost his mind when he learned what we did. He didn’t care about the borrowing of the cars or sneaking out – he didn’t like that he didn’t know where I was at all times. I was caught and grounded to my room with no tv and no phone. Well I hated the step-monster so the grounded to my room was like a vacation and we didn’t have cable so I didn’t really care about losing my tv but I was 15 and he took the phone away! I thought I was going to die. Luckily I loved to read (like the Hippy said he couldn’t ground me from reading) so I holed up in my room to wait out the two weeks of torture. Less than 12 hours into my 2 week sentence I hear a knock on my door (I know it’s the Hippy as the step-monster never knocked). I remember looking over my shoulder in annoyance as I was reading Helter Skelter for the millionth time and I saw the Hippy standing in my doorway HOLDING MY PHONE! I could hardly breathe but I played it cool! The Hippy holds out the phone and says “call your Papa and thank him”. I am not one to look a gifthorse in the mouth but I am very confused and ask why. The Hippy tells me that he was at work that morning and was telling my Papa about my antics. Papa told him that he better unground me immediately and that he did far worse to Papa than I could ever do to him and that paybacks are hell! Well, the Hippy took his dad’s words to heart and let me off my grounding! The Hippy closed the door and I called my Papa (I had no idea at the time it would be one of our last conversations as he died less than a month later). When I called Papa to thank him he responded with “you are welcome.” He then told me that the next time I want to sneak out of the house to do it at his house and I can just walk out the front door and he leaves his keys in his car every night! He told me not to do that stuff at my house but I can at his house anytime! The Hippy must have been one bad teenager for Papa to not even bat an eye when I started rebelling! However the rebelling streak didn’t last long and this was probably the worst thing I actually did.