As I opened my beautiful eyes on May 29, there were two smiling faces looking down. On that sun filled day in Galveston Texas, the proud parents, Phillip and Carol Thomas, starred with amazement at their first born baby girl. Both recently graduates of Prairie View A&M University, decided to tie the knot and start their family. A few years later, they decided to extend their love even more by having another daughter and a son. A short time after my brother’s birth, my father found his new love, drugs. The addiction made him unreliable and mentally unstable. Unable to maintain steady employment, he often stole from the family. The once loving father became mentally and physically abusive to each of us. As the years past, Phillip and Carol’s marital issues became unbearable which caused their divorce.
Although I lived in a broken home, early childhood was unforgettable. Being the first granddaughter of paternal grandparents of three boys, I received everything my heart desired. Having my paternal grandfather’s birthday the day after my own, allowed us to share an unbreakable bond. As the years went on, my relationship with my father became distant. During middle school, I lost both of my grandmothers. Shortly after their passing, my mother informed the family that she was battling with breast cancer. This news was devastating to the entire family. A thirty five year old single mother, often working long hours to provide for her children had faced her biggest challenge in life. Being the oldest, my mother looked to me for assistance. I became her right hand man. I was responsible for taking care of my siblings, ensuring the bills were paid on time, and maintaining the house.
One day I walked into the house to uncontrollable crying in the restroom. I knocked on the door, but the cry became harder and louder. I opened the door to my mother starring in the mirror combing her hair and clumps of hair falling into her hands with each stroke. I asked in a soft voice, “Are you ok?” She picked up clippers and started cutting the remaining hair. Through a whimper she responded “I’m fine I’m talking to God, close the door.” At that moment I realized that her condition was worse than I had imagined. Afterwards, she cleaned herself up and began to prepare dinner as nothing had happened. This encounter made me notice the beauty and strength within my incredible mother. Although no verbal conversation was spoken, I became my mother’s caretaker. Besides motherhood, this was the best role I ever experienced.
As high school approached, I noticed that I was more confident in myself and ready to face the world. In the search to find my true identity, I started dating. After years of trying to please others, I couldn’t identify myself. Years of ensuring that I maintained being an honor student, chemotherapy and its aftermath, I wanted to live a “normal” teenage life. (To anyone who doesn’t know the aftermath of a chemotherapy treatment, I will explain. In the early 90s, the treatment literally took the life out of the patient. My mother would have her treatments every Monday morning and would be sick in bed until Saturday afternoon. Sometimes the sickness would linger until the following Monday).
In 1997 a few friends and I went to a local party where I met a guy which I started dating. This guy gave me all attention that I deeply desired. I had found someone to listen. The missing shoulder to cry finally arrived, so I thought. Then the encounter happened. Changes to my body that I couldn’t explain. Constantly tired and no food would digest. Fourteen and pregnant? “Dear Lord please don’t let me be pregnant!” That was the prayer I repeated to myself every day for several months. “Maybe if I don’t think about it, it will go away” were my thoughts as I continued life. Surely this quiet and shy girl coming from a strict religious home could not be pregnant. It’s impossible; I’m too smart to be so careless. At that moment embarrassment settled in.
April 1998, Easter Day, my paternal grandfather past away unexpectedly. A few months later, my mother’s health started to decline. The family started to grow in concern, they packed us up from our home in Houston and moved all four of us to La Marque, Texas. Trying to smooth the adjustment, my two oldest cousins allowed me to hang with them for the day. “I have something to tell you” I mumbled from the backed the seat. Both responded “what is it?” Again in a mumble, “I’m pregnant.” From the front seat, both with bucked eyes screamed “what!”
“Do your mama know?” one asked. “No.” I answered with a hung head.
Ready for bashing and belittlement, I surprised with comfort and an action plan. Later that day, we approached my mother with the news. Again amazed with heartening words of comfort. A few days later I had my first appointment at six months pregnant.
August 18, 1998, my sophomore year of high school, my mother lost her battle to cancer. My meek and mild mother left this world the way she lived. Two weeks later, at the age of fifteen, I gave birth to my first gorgeous daughter, Mia’Carol. Due to dealing with the stress of losing my mother, I experienced complications and was forced to have an emergency caesarean section. The heartbreak of my mother’s death caused friction within the family. As a result, my support system became weakened. Although challenging, I graduated from La Marque High School May 25, 2001 as an honor roll student.
Because of the dissensions, I left home the day of graduation at seventeen. Living with a friend, I experience a little too much freedom. At age twenty I had a handsome son, Drelyn. Fifteen months later I had another adorable baby girl, Ayana. The struggle had then become real. Desiring a better life for my children, shortly after having Ayana I relocated to Houston.
After moving to Houston, I endured many hardships. We encountered a house fire losing everything we owned. There were times of living with others, repressions, food was scarce and the faithful disconnections. But God! Refusing to accept the adversity because of the sins of my past, I started accepting my hardships as a pathway to peace. Feeling like the women with the issue of blood in the bible, I began to press with all that was within me to change my story.
Through the years I was blessed to meet many women who’ve become mother figures. Although they will never fill the void of losing my birth mother, our bonds are priceless. All hold a special place in my heart but one has always left me speechless. I met her when my youngest daughter was six months. Immediately she stepped and was ready to tell me everything I was doing wrong. No one could understand our unique love – hate relationship. There were countless arguments and hugs. We would argue until we both lost our voices and five minutes later go shopping and out to eat together. Many fail to realize that single parents need at least one reliable source and she had become that person. She would often tell me that I was stronger than I realized. From her, I’ve learned how to enjoy life, my inter-strength, and other life skills. A few years ago, my mother figure and best friend was murdered.