Even though the story about Fudge finding my little brother had a happy ending, it was still incredibly traumatic for me. And for many I am sure. It was ‘isolated events’ like that that led me to constantly feeling ‘on edge’. It was almost like I lived in a state of hyper vigilance, always tensed up, waiting for the next horrible and scary thing to happen. I always knew that there was something lurking just around the corner, that I would need the space ship for. And I was never wrong. I had become so accustomed to tragedy and trauma, that I expected it. It’s kind of like I had bad days with some good sprinkled in. Now, as I continue to heal and grow, practicing self awareness I have good days with some bad sprinkled in. I had been so morbidly shaped by all of the events and on going stress of my childhood and the traumas that came along with it, that it had actually made me quite depressed at times. I remember sitting in my neighbor friend’s car one night, I was spending the night with him and we had made a trip to Kroger for snacks and stuff to watch movies. On our way back, his mother driving, for no particular reason I decided to tell him and his mother that “I don’t really see a point in this whole life thing, I don’t really have a reason to live.” Think about that. An elementary school child, who is supposed to be so full of wonder and imagination, with so much excitement and innocence actually thinking that he has no reason to live. How truly sad. But I supposed that is what happens when we as children have our innocence taken from us. I was subject to so much emotional upheaval, so many adult problems, so many devastating blows to my spirit had occurred at such an early age, that I didn’t really see a point. I mean, who would? If what I had seen, experienced, and been apart of was how life went, what was the point? More suffering? No thanks.
Like I said though, there were some good times sprinkled in. They were just few and far between. I remember that we were still at the Scatterfoot house. School had finished up for the day, We had literally just started the new school year. I had just had the honor of feeling recognized when my fifth grade class got to put our hand prints on the walls all throughout the inside walls of Kedron Elementary school. We were the very first “Graduates” of the brand new school and as a way to commemorate the occasion all of the students had our palms rolled with either purple or green paint- the school colors, and we had our hand prints placed on the walls for all of time. Then we had a big graduation ceremony in which we got to walk up to a microphone and say our names and what we were going to be when we grew up. “My name is Stevie Stepherson, and when I grow up I am going to be a Professional Baseball Player.” Was what I went with. Oh to be so young and naive. But anyways, that was last year, and this was now. I had just started at J.C.Booth Middle school, and I think we were about two weeks in.
We had finished up with school for the day, and we, our family had actually been having a really nice streak lately. No major blow outs, no fights, no ugly events. Life had actually seemed to be somewhat settled down. Which was nice. My guard was finally starting to come down a bit, and I was starting to relax and trust again. It felt good. I was laughing and joking with my neighborhood friends on the bus as we made our way toward our respective stops at the end of a long day of learning. We as friends were making plans to play for the afternoon, probably football out back in the soccer fields, or kickball or something. We are all a really active and sports centered bunch. It was gonna be a nice afternoon. A kid gets off the bus, and then another. And then another. My stop is approaching and I am preparing to stand up and make my way to the yellow line. As we bend the corner, of the large loop, or circle that Scatterfoot drive is, I can see that there is a large white truck in the drive way. It was parked with the front of it facing away from the house and down the hill. As we slowed to our stop, and I made my decent down the stairs, and bent around the front of the Blue Bird, I could see that it was another fucking U-haul. Ugh. Not again. Where in the world were we going now?
At least this time, I was not super worried, because I was at Booth Middle School, which covered a great deal of the city, so I was pretty confident that I wouldn’t have to be changing schools. And truth be told, I was actually kind of excited. I thought that maybe, finally we were gonna be moving out of Uncle’s house, and getting a place of our own. The thought of this made me happy. So I boogied up the hill as fast as I could to learn what was going on. Only to hear shouting and arguing before I got to the door, and see people visibly upset and crying when I entered the house. Something tells me this was not going to be good. Ugh.
“We’re moving to Indiana, Stevie.” I was told. What in the world? That was far! I certainly did not expect this. Holy shit. I did my best to advocate for us staying in Georgia, but it all fell on deaf ears. I remember walking away from my mother and relatives in the kitchen, and out to the garage to talk to my dad, when I noticed that the U-haul was already quite full. We didn’t have a whole lot of stuff, so I only assumed that the packing was pretty much done. “Are me, Luke, and Josh gonna have to share a room when we get there, Dad?”
“Well, no son, you’re not. Josh is staying here in Georgia with Grandma and Grandpa.”
The world stopped spinning. My mouth ran dry. I felt dizzy with overwhelm, and an absolute rage and heartbreak overcame my body and mind. I lost it. I absolutely exploded with sadness. Right back into the Space Shuttle I went. And what made matters much much worse, was that the packing was indeed done. We were going to be leaving within a matter of a few minutes. I would only have about a half an hour with my older brother, to say good bye. and zero idea of when I would see him again. This was earth shattering for me. I was beside myself. I cried and plead with every adult in the house not to let this happen. But it was indeed happening and happening fast. Everything was a blur. I felt so helpless and unheard. True powerlessness had overcome me and I was sad. Why was life like this?
It wasn’t long after, we had hugged and cried together and said our goodbyes. We pulled out of the driveway in the U-haul. Without another vehicle. Me and my little brother sitting in the back of the U-haul, talking to our parents through the little connecting area for the first few legs of the journey and napping off and on the whole way. We were going to be staying with another aunt and uncle, Luke and I, while mom and dad got on their feet. They would be staying in a homeless shelter in Valparaiso called the Spring Valley Center. Luke and I would be attending South Central in Union Mills. My aunt and uncle fostered a lot of kids I guess so at least I would have friends to play with when we got there. And I would get to see my Grama which I was very excited about! Where, oh where would this next season in life take us all? I had to say goodbye to Georgia and all that I had known, and hello to Indiana and all sorts of unknowns.
Once we had gotten settled in with aunt and uncle in LaPorte county, things seemed to level out quite a bit. We would talk to mom and dad on the phone often, and visit them on the weekends. Sometimes, we opted not to visit them in the homeless shelter though. They fought a a lot. Mom would blame dad for us being in such a place and back and forth they would go. So sometimes, we would choose not to go there, and sometimes we would go to Grama’s. Grama was the best. And she still is. She is such a sweet lady. She lived in this place in downtown Valpo, called the Valparaiso Women’s Club. I guess she was kind of the caretaker there. Cleaning and maintaining the place in exchange for reduced rent costs. When I would go and spend the weekend with her, I would “help” her clean the common areas and take the trash out and stuff. One day we had gotten ready to head up stairs to do the cleaning and stuff. Part of Grama’s responsibilities too, I guess was to check in on the other residents from time to time, so as we went about our business this day she would knock on their doors and say hello. There were about three floors inside this place and many many doors to knock on. So this was taking forever. We would dust the wood and wipe it with Pledge, clean the mirrors in the bathroom, and She would knock on a door. Empty a trash can, replace paper towels in the common area kitchen, and knock on a door. And on we went. We finally get to the top floor and are just about finished up with the days tasks, when we come to yet another door to knock on. We can both hear that the T.V is on inside the room, but no one is answering her knocks. She knocks again and again. Nothing. Finally, frustrated or “flustered” as Grama put it, she sets her cleaning supplies down and uses her master key to open the door. She announces that she is coming in, and as she pushes the door open, we can see pretty much the entirety of the room. It was basically a studio apartment with a closet. There was a dresser inside, a TV on top of a large desk, a tall floor lamp, and a queen size bed. And laying there, slumped over on her face, she had clearly fallen off the bed- on the hard wood floor was the first dead body I had ever witnessed. I immediately knew she was dead, and so did grama. She tried to give her attention briefly anyways, but it was obvious that she was long gone. I have learned in the years since that she had died of an overdose. How very sad. I was in absolute shock. I immediately disassociated and stuffed this one down. But the effects were there. This was terrifying. I don’t think I slept for a month. I swear man, it seemed like terror and chaos awaited me around every corner for most of my life. I almost didn’t have a choice later on in my adulthood but to laugh about all of my life’s misfortunes and adventures. This was no laughing matter though. I had no other tools or people to process it with. I just didn’t know what else to do. It was like life was just one big sick joke most of the time. And it all shaped me, honed me, and refined me into a very jaded, cynical, pessimistic, and mal adapted young man. That poor lady, I wonder what her story was, to get her to the point she had died at. That was someone’s daughter. It is so very sad. If we all only knew other people’s stories man. Maybe we wouldn’t be so quick to judge. I hope her family was able to find closure and heal from all of that.
It’s so interesting to me, how this is the year 2023 and it feels like we are in some kind of revolution so to speak. People talk about quantum leaps throughout history, like the steam engine, the combustion engine, the microwave, the space shuttle, the cell phone and micro processors. Those are quantum leaps which bring about new age for humans. And I believe that we are in the midst of a quantum leap, which will bring about a new age as we speak. The revolution, the quantum leap, and the new age that is upon us though is not necessarily that of technology like before, but it is one of self awareness and mental health and wellness. We are learning more about ourselves and from each other than we ever have before in the history of mankind. And it is really exciting. Soon we will all be so well educated on the topic of self awareness and mental wellness that we will actually be dealing with well rounded and developed, and healed human beings on the regular. And it begins with, again, exposure. Many have to be brave enough to expose our own traumas, and our own struggles, to allow others to see and feel what we went through- to gain the courage to confront their own struggles and demons, which will then spur about killing stigma of mental health issues. Going to a therapist or treatment for mental health and substance abuse issues should be just as widely accepted as going to a doctor for a broken leg. And we are fast approaching that. I really hope that someone can read my experiences and feel inspired enough to take that courageous step toward conquering their own past traumas and finally fine the clarity and peace that they deserve.
You are NOT what happened to you. Things happen to us, not because of us.