Cash=Closure?

My life during this time period was like living in a reoccurring nightmare. Every day that I woke up, if I woke up at all, was physically painful. Breathing hurt. Every minute, I re-played the scenerio and hoped that minute of retrospect didn’t turn into an hour of retrospect before I could snap back to reality. The nights were the worst. All the mixed feelings flew back and forth, across and over the spectrum of emotions. I could find myself eaten up by anger, only seconds later to feel like I was drowning in grief.

As the court case unfolded, little by little, day by day, more details and questions arose each time we re-hatched the contents of the trial. If Jared was convicted (along with his other priors), he would face serious jail time and multiple charges. There would be times I wished him the worst possible sentence. I hoped he would feel just an ounce of the magnitude of pain I felt, even if only for instant. Other times, I didn’t want to hurt him or make him hate me–sick as that was, in light of all that had happened. He threatened, manipulated, lied…all of this and more to save his own ass by playing tricks with my head and appealing to my heart. What a whirlwind–like a tornado and a volcano happening simultaneously. Most of the time, it felt like I was in the middle of a crowded room, screaming at the top of my lungs…and no one looked up ever once.

 Everyone would tell me to be strong and bring him to justice. To not let him walk away guilt-free,  knowing that what he did changed my life forever. But somewhere inside of me, I was still in disbelief…utter shock and crippling dismay. I had loved him. He had loved me. Right? Right?!?

Most times however, I just wanted it to be over. I wanted to stop feeling like a shadow to this monstrosity. Of course, the talk of a cash settlement was one of the details of the case. After all, the life-light alone was 10 thousand.  Combine all the surgeries, clocked hospital hours and post-operative care, I was looking at over 25 thousand dollar bill statements–flooding my mailbox and filling up my voicemail. And this was only me! There were four other people hurt and two demolished vehicles to consider; there was an ongoing, drawn-out trial that included court costs and fees along with insurance claims from every side. Yes, a total nightmare.

I have researched many cases like this one, in which the driver of another vehicle hits someone and flees the scene, hoping to escape being caught and later arrested. I found that most often, these individuals have been drinking and are thinking only of themselves as they hit-and-run and attempt escape. Most of the time however, they are cases of two vehicles and two drivers. One driver is hurt, the other in obvious better condition to exit their vehicle and make a run for it. Maybe this is why my story is different. How could someone who loves you and is supposed to be your protector just leave you? Leave you for dead? Forget about you? Not even call for help after making the cowardly decision to retreat? Not only this…but take that un-emotion and instead of helping you, sabotage you?

The path I chose to take near the tail-end of the trial was one I think about every day. Let me re-phrase that statement: The path I chose to take near the tail-end of the trial was one I had to make a conscious effort to push out of my mind every day. I believe it was Walt Disney’s “The Lion King” character Scar who sang the words “…thinking. It’s a dangerous pasttime I know.” I don’t think that a settlement or large lump sum of cash could erase the memory and the realization of what had happened. Sure, Jared deserved to be responsible for the domino effect of tragedy he created. Either way, he was responsible. I definitely know it wouldn’t be Jared paying for the majority of the total costs of damages anyway. He’d been babied his entire life thus far by his clueless parents…and if Jared hadn’t stepped up to the plate and owned up to his mistakes by now, he never would. This denial of what he had done hurt almost as bad as the actual incident.

WHAT A TOXIC RELATIONSHIP. And this was in the middle on our timeline of being together… the beginning being seemingly amazing and the after-effect of this accident becoming a living, breathing HELL.

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on another note…

In retrospect of my most recent blog, I found this interesting podcast episode from Them-Us entitled “Separating Forgiveness from the Incident.” This link will take you to a snippet from the conversation that I found pretty interesting.

Collision.

“In life, we all have an unspeakable secret, an irreversible regret, an unreachable dream and  an unforgettable love.”

It’s safe to say that I found all of these things in one person. In one relationship, I carved out a huge part of my life and was changed completely. I became someone different. Wading through the foggy memories of my relationship with Jared  is always difficult…looking back at old photos I still have a hard time recognizing the girl staring back. Forgive me if I have to tell this story in parts; I fear that is a story with so many layers and sadly, one without end.

I truly am at somewhat of a loss as to where to begin my story about Jared. It’s imperative that you know this “story within a story” so that you may better understand me as an individual and what kind of state I was in leading up to my surreal discovery. Keep in mind, some of these memories are being re-lived and re-thought for the first time in a while…even writing some of these sentences is overwhelming and difficult for me. There are just so many details. I have begun this paragraph over five times already and I’m still not satisfied. No words can truly put this relationship into perspective. It was the biggest turning-point in my life thus far; the aftermath and the residue of my choices are still very alive today.

In my next few posts, I will delve deeper into the relationship with Jared and the effect our relationship had on my life then and today. For now, I will speak only of the core details of the accident. As simply as it can be stated, Jared and I were together for three incredible and turbulent years, all of which came to a screeching halt and major crossroads in October 2008 of the second year. It was a Thursday. Around 11 p.m., after a heavy night of partying, he plowed my truck into another vehicle after weaving in and out of six lanes, causing my truck to roll four times and land on its side. Now I know this alone should be reason enough to bid him farewell, but as you all know, I woke up in the hospital to a life-altering secret. Because of this, my other questions concerning the accident itself took a backseat. On another note, Jared had disappeared. He was nowhere to be found. People around me thought I was experiencing temporary amnesia as I kept insisting that he, too, had been in the car with me. And not only that, but was the driver. “Impossible,” the nurses told me. The police report showed no evidence of another person in the vehicle and with all the witnesses to the accident in surgery, there was no proof to my belief. It was horrible. I knew that something must have happened, and while there was a lot to sort through at that time, I could not shake fear and disbelief at the truth I knew would soon surface. It shook me to my core and I felt a part of me die in that moment. It would be almost six months before I would see Jared again.

When the accident report came through a week later, all my fears came to life. While the police report showed that I was the driver of the vehicle, the accident report listed me as a passenger. Keep in mind that I was cut from my vehicle, it being unrecognizable and in pieces. Paramedics had cut my seatbelt off coming from the right (which is the passenger side, of course) and I had suffered major injuries and blood loss from my shoulder, neck and clavicle. I was quickly lifelighted to Memorial Hermann and the police were left to write their report with the evidence that was left. They simply saw two vehicles and as far as they knew, the occupants of both were on their way to the hospital via helicopter. Listing the only known person in the vehicle, I was listed as the driver. With the two reports conflicting, I finally was able to give my account of what I knew would soon come to light. The memories came over me in waves…each time I re-told my account of what I remember happening, a new detail would flood my mind. I knew Jared had been the driver of the vehicle. I knew he had been drinking and was angry at losing his job the previous week. I knew we had argued over who was in better shape to drive us home. I knew he had been all over the road, me begging him to slow down and quit calling me names. After that, it all goes black. I wake up without him in the hospital, his phone off and his car missing from our apartment.

So let me tell you what really happened that night. At 30, Jared had hit a low point in his life. After a knee injury had taken him away from his successful job in Colorado, he progressively started to spiral downward after his move to Houston. His alcoholism had reached an all-time high; he was at an all-time low.  After the initial shock wore off from the crash, Jared made a decision that would affect both our lives for years to come. As he maneuvered his 6’5 body out of the driver’s side, he realized that the cops would be there soon to take a report of the scene. Highly intoxicated and fearful of a definite arrest, his impulse to run kicked in. Before he took off barefoot however, he took one last look at me and did the unthinkable. He pulled me, unconscious, over the center console and strategically placed my hands on the steering wheel. In his inebriated panic, he forgot a few very important details that proved to be detrimental to the later court case and trial. When the vehicle was viewed a few days later, all the pieces came together. 1) Jared had forgotten to move the seat up. He was a foot taller than me, making it impossible for me to have reached the pedals where the seat had been all the way back. 2) Two air-bags were deployed. Make-up residue was all over the passenger side air-bag; the contents of my purse strewn all over the passenger floorboard and backseat. 3) His shoes lay underneath the steering column. The most compelling evidence however, was the seatbelt that I had been wearing. Forgetting to unbuckle me had not only proven me the passenger, but also was the reason I was so badly injured. Cutting deep into my right side already, the seatbelt dug in further as he violently pulled me as close to the driver’s side as possible. These sustained injuries were what ultimately led to my need for a blood transfusion, which in turn led me to my discovery about my biological father.  

*      *      *     *     *

It must be noted that although I just recently met my biological father, I have a “dad,” the man on my birth certificate, who continues to love me as his own to this day. I also lived with my mother for the better part of my early teenage years, so I experienced all her divorces/boyfriends/re-marriages/children right along with her. It’s no joke that a few “father figures”–some good, others not so great–came in and out of my life pretty frequently. None constant, however.

Even before meeting Rob (When telling this story and in future blog posts, I find that the word “dad” becomes confusing because I refer to both of my fathers many times throughout. For understanding’s sake, I will refer to my biological father as “Rob.”), I had formed some opinions/displayed some characteristics about the opposite sex and definitely agree with the scientific research that has been conducted concerning father-daughter relations and the effects they have on the character of young women as they grow up and experience relationships of their own. Statistical information shows patterns among women who have absentee fathers and/or issues revolving around the presence/non-presence of a father figure in early years that later relate to the type of men young women are attracted to, the way young women conduct themselves in relationships, the aftermath of relationships with males that these women experience, etc.

I do believe that the absence of a good father figure in my life growing up has a lot to do with the way I find and create my romantic relationships. I also think that even though I now have a wonderful man as my father, it is too late to re-wire my heart and cognitive thought-process in hopes of making better choices. This being said, I continued to let myself be brainwashed by Jared after this horrific experience because I felt like he was the only concrete thing I knew. Sick, right? But I felt betrayed by my family and my identity was shaken. Instead of realizing what kind of man Jared really was, I lost myself in the tragedy of it all. And it was, to me, a tragedy. I held on to the pain and the confusion and the utter disbelief like I needed these things to keep breathing. People ask me everyday how I could want him in my life after all that…I still don’t have the answers. I would be lying if I told you I don’t feel a certain sting when I’m going throughout my day sometimes. I believe when you are met with such a devastating blow, it blinds you. Literally…blinds you. After that, I had nothing to hold on to in all my disbelief. All I had was the grief, the broken heart, the questions, the loss of appetite, the anger…the lies. So I held onto lies. I held onto our past because I couldn’t fathom the reality of what he had done. I held onto the memories.

……………TO BE CONTINUED.

“The Secret of the Lava-Lamp”

In my peripheral vision, I saw a flash of yellow then heard it shatter to pieces. I knew that was going to happen. Put a totally groovy lava-lamp on a shelf out of reach, add a visible, hanging cord and a over-stimulated kitten, and you have your next disaster. As I was cleaning up the mess and mourning the loss of a vital piece of my ’70s pop culture collection, I realized I had finally found the answer to the question I had been asking myself for years: Exactly what is the unknown “blob” in the lava-lamp? What is the secret of the lava that creates its own shapes and forms, each of them different from the next? As the answer became clear to me, I cannot lie and say I wasn’t a tad disappointed. All these years…

 As I search for more answers about individuals finding their birth parent(s), I stumble upon many different instances of a broad idea. Of course, discovering that you have a different biological father late in life is by no means normal, but as I reach out to others with similar stories, I’m discovering all sorts of faces to this conversation. Like all accounts, I find that mine does have a slightly different detail however; one common thread running throughout: discovering an unknown yet intimate secret. 

Some are stories from the child. Some are stories from the parent’ point-of-view. Some stories even talk about the “other parent,” the “first parent”–the men who discover, along with the child, the DNA secret kept hidden for years. As mentioned before, anger is the underlying emotion that is initially felt by individuals who make a discovery like this one, whatever side they are coming from. To quote New York Times Magazine author Ruth Padawer, “These situations are so messy that it seems the best-case scenario would be resolving these cases for every party involved… in a way that keeps the seething resentment to a dull roar.”

Finding out such an enormous secret opens up a wound that I have yet to understand; I’m hoping this research and desire to delve into the unknown proves therapeutic for me. The detail that sets my story apart–as mentioned in my previous post–is the one detail I wish to shed light on. When both the child and the parent are unknown to one another, how do you tackle this feat? I’m two years in and still don’t have the answer. I was lucky to stumble upon a story much like my own, save only the fact that the father I discovered is alive. Going only by Shallyn, a woman who discovered the truth about her biological father while pregnant, she describes her ongoing search for answers as “a shadow.”

And can you believe it? Wax. Wax is the secret of the lava-lamp. Simple and unmistakable, colored candle wax is the tubular substance that is the lava of the lamp. Upon my discovery, I told others who, like me, were disappointed in the answer. Like me, they questioned whether or not the discovery of such a fact rendered the mystery of the lava-lamp any less enigmatic. Those who had not already shattered their own were happy to finally know, while others simply refuted my finding and dismissed it. But there are many ways to treat a secret.  Like so many others, I was faced with a dilemma. I could have left the mess to harden… with  time, I could have picked off these hardened pieces that had already taken shape from the carpet. I could have made the issue about my kitten, the perpetrator of the spill. But instead, I let my instincts take over, and I did what most people would do. I picked it up. I attempted to erase all the evidence of a broken lamp and its contents from off my bedroom floor. It wasn’t until after I took a step back that I felt the consistency of “lava” between my fingers. If I had wanted to, I realized, I could take all the excess wax left behind…and make something new from it.

Although the majority of the lava-lamp and it’s contents are cleaned up, the residue is left behind. The “shadow” if you will…how did I get to this place where I am now? Dismantled and shattered, my life has taken on a new form. I fear that I may not be able to accept the change and at times wonder if knowing the secret helps soothe the reality. Had I awoken in the hospital that night to never discover the truth in question, who would I be today?

The Three-Letter Word that Changed my Life.

Many people have told me that my story could be published as the next best-selling novel. As I sit down to write this first blog entry, I imagine I am experiencing what most novelists experience when they begin to write and later produce their works of art…”writer’s block.” Where do you start…the beginning? The end? Perhaps you start in the middle. Either way, the meaning of the story runs throughout all of these parts, so I will start with a simple, declarative sentence. In 2008, after a horrible automobile accident, I discovered that I had another father. A biological father. A father different from the man I call “Dad.”

Of course, my life was changed completely and…immediately. At the time, I was 23, living in Houston, Texas and living my life the best way I could. The accident left me unconscious and probably would have killed me had the ambulance arrived any later. I was life-lighted to Memorial Hermann and the rest is history. Waking up in the hospital after such a terrible car accident was mind-blowing in itself but the discovery of this fact almost gave me a heart attack. Or a stroke. Or both, haha. I had already survived one near-death experience; this information was about to become the second…all in a 24-hour period!

The question that eats away at me is, “Why then?” I was 23, well over an appropriate age to be told something of that magnitude. I feel that had the accident never happened, I may have never known. I feel angry, sometimes so deeply that I worry that it will become part of my character, which is something I will not allow. Most stories like this one unfortunately fall under a different category; my biological father and I were the only individuals who did not know. My mother and father knew from the day I was born. Because of this fact, a flood of emotions is constantly permeating this ongoing conversation. I know I’m not alone and that the  details about my story could have unfolded in a much more disappointing way. Even still, it is surreal to me. I think it always will be.

I’m not an orphan, I’m not adopted. I’m a daughter to two fathers, one of whom I just met. There is so much to tell. The term “unbelievable” is so literal when it comes to this story and I’m still trying to make sense of it all. I wonder how many people have experienced this. I wonder if there is someone out there whose story is just like mine. I am making it my mission this semester to find out. I have exhausted the search engines and online archives for statistical information but feel  I may only be scratching the surface. We shall see….

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