I was welcomed into an already — full family in March.
Five pairs of arms welcomed me warmly. I don’t know how many times I’ve fought back tears since Gwen Saoirse and her family first offered me a room in her home.
A little more than a month after the offer was put on the table, I was in the backseat of an gigantic, expanded Ford Expedition with my gorgeous blue-eyed puppy Ginger with almost everything I owned in the trunk. Gwen and Eric Griggs sat in the front, guiding me towards a new chapter of my life.
For the first half of my life, I grew up in a single-mother household.
My mom was my best friend. We did everything together. Sure, we got into fights — but who doesn’t?
I remember when we first moved into our apartment. We swung by KFC to have our first meal in our new place. When we sat down to eat, my mom realized they didn’t give us anything to eat with. Fustrated, she piled me and the food into our small, red Camry and drove to my grandmother’s house.
I was 7 I think, and I didn’t mind at all. I loved my grandmother’s house. I had no idea I’d end up living there 4 years later.
I loved my dad to death when I was little. I loved going to see him. I remember trying my best to keep up with his long, lanky legs. I saw him smoking and the occassional can of beer, but I was blind to his addictions. He was my hero. He didn’t wear a cape, but I always imagined one flowing behind him.
It’s hard to write about my childhood because I’ve repressed the memories. Writing makes me remember. A tornado of memories flood my mind, but somehow I find the strength to keep writing — just like I’m doing now.
On October 7th, 2009 I hopped off the school bus.
My uncle was standing beside our car and my grandmother’s car was parked beside ours. My friend Shawn stopped me to tell me about a fight he’d gotten into, but something felt off. I kept glancing at my uncle. He usually smiled whenever he saw me. He was another hero of mine, but he wasn’t smiling at all.
Part of me didn’t want to go over to him. I felt like I’d done something terribly wrong. As I got closer, I spotted sadness in his eyes.
Your mother is gone. She’s an angel now.
He pulled me into a hug. He held me so tight it hurt. I didn’t know exactly what he meant, but I could feel the despair radiating off his body. It was so intense, it made me cry. I shoved him away. His sadness was too much; it was swallowing me whole.
There was my grandmother and a white woman in my living room, but I didn’t see my mother. Tears started to flow out of my grandmother’s eyes as soon as I walked in the door but she fought them. Suddenly I knew. I flashed back to the morning.
My mother didn’t wake me up for school. She’d only been home two days. The prescriptions the doctors put her on made her loopy. I woke her up, but I had already missed the bus.
October 7th, 2009 is the day I grew up. I felt it as I ironed my own shirt for school. What 7th grader wouldn’t take the chance of staying home? I don’t know what got into me, but I knew I had to go to school even though she didn’t wake me up. I called my Nana and told her. She said she’d be right over. We fought on the way to the middle school. She told me we were coming to live with her because my mother was too sick. I shook my head and told her no. My mom was recovering from surgery. She’d be back to normal soon. We’d be back to normal soon.
Reality dragged me back in. I knew what my uncle meant. My mother was dead. I was too shocked to cry anymore. The world spun violently. My Nana cried and yelled on the way to her house. I was too scared to say a word. I fought back my own tears. What was going on? What was happening?
“IT’S NOT FAIR! IT’S NOT FAIR!”
I can still hear my Nana’s wails to this day. I remember her beating on the steering wheel. I remember being scared we were going to get into an accident.
From 12 to 22, I lived with my Nana. We went through hell and back. Doctors visits, dialysis, a kidney transplant, surgery complications, and everything else teenagers go through.
On April 15th, 2019, I stepped into Gwen’s house for the first time.
The first word that came to mind was “stable.” As soon as I shoes hit the carpet, I felt surrounded by love. The kids were asleep, but Gwen’s wife had a warm, sleepy smile spread across her face.
I spent yesterday exploring with Gwen and observing the family. The kids came in from their afterschool activities and immediately get asked how their day went. They get asked about tests coming up and what happened at school. Hugs are passed around. Dogs run around getting pets from everyone.
The house itself is beautful. It’s full of nice things. It’s decorated as if it was made in The Sims 4 with some awesome creator’s content. However, I was more in awe of the intangible things. I held onto the laughter and smiles. I watched the light reach their eyes. I watched the dogs play and entertain us — well two of them.
It’s the complete opposite of how I grew up.
By no means am I ashamed of how I was raised. Every obstacle I’ve overcome helped me to become the man I am today. I’ve been through hell and back. I’ve walked through the fire with IVs and have the scars to show from it.
However, sitting at the kitchen table just watching the family interact, I couldn’t help but wonder what it’d be like to grow up in a house like this. I wondered how it would feel to come home to two parents and be asked about when my next test was. I wondered how it would feel to have siblings to fight with.
Most of my childhood and teenage years were filled with loneliness and bullying and medical problems. I still have self harm scars littering my body. I still have nightmares that are more like vivid memoriesabout getting beat up and raped. The nightmares are true recounts of what happened. They feel so real it’s like its happening all over again.
I’ve tried to kill myself three times.
When I write my LGBTQ news pieces, my voice is powerful. However, I wasn’t always the strong person people think of when they read my pieces. I spent most of my life wanting to die and not caring about anything else. I didn’t have a plan for college and a career simply because I didn’t think I could stand to live that long.
However, here I am today still typing. I’m sitting in a house full of people, dogs, and love. I’ve gone from hiding in the closet drowing in depression and holding onto my blade as tight as possible, to walking around with a new sense of confidence.
The last time I tried to kill myself was a month before Gwen offered me a room in her house. I didn’t tell anyone what I was planning. I just did it. Before I tried, I simply told people I loved them — even to people I usually don’t tell it to. I fell asleep listening to my favorite female artist Brandy and thought it’d be the last time I’d hear her amazing runs again.
When I woke up, I didn’t tell anybody anything. I acted like nothing happened. I was terribly sick from all the pills I’d taken, but I was always sick so it didn’t raise any flags. I slept for an extremely long time. I didn’t eat because I felt like I didn’t deserve food after what I had done. Soon numbness transformed into overwhelming guilt and shame.
If I hadn’t survived, I wouldn’t have gotten to experience this amazing oppurtunity.
I’m not proud of my demons, but they’re there — and I still fight them. I’m not proud of the scars I’ve left on my body, but they’re a part of me. They symbolize the war I’ve been going through just like the scars from my liver and kidney transplant does.
April 15th is now another birthday for me. Most people only have one birthday, but I have two. One of them is the day I was born, and the other one is the day I committed to living and not just surviving.