It seemed like everything was going to be alright. I was home. I had a car to drive. I didn’t have any money, but we at least had a place to stay. Mina was in school. It was a start.
The trauma started to leak out of me. I had been surviving so long, it was hard to just be normal. I finally realized that if I was going to get anywhere, I was going to need childcare assistance. For that, I had to apply for cash and food assistance.
The application process was a nightmare. I had to gather all kinds of documents. It took weeks to get everything in order. Finally we qualified for food assistance, medical assistance, temporary cash assistance, and temporary daycare assistance.
The cash assistance only came to $210 a month, but it was better than nothing. I started to look for daycare for Parker. I thought I’d found the perfect place. By mid October, I’d found daycare for Parker.
The job hunt wasn’t going well and I just didn’t know how to juggle the kids and no car and all of the things that were making me a nervous wreck. Tom came back and I had to give back the car. That made things much more difficult.
Parker was not doing well. He really hadn’t said much since we’d got home. He never really got used to daycare. As time went on, he got worse. I finally pulled him out of daycare to let him heal. He didn’t really speak for the next year.
The one blessing I had was Cornerstone. The Tuesday night group was so validating. It felt good to be in a room of people who understood the struggle I was faced with. Some had been through horrors I couldn’t imagine. But we supported each other. We walked through it together.
I applied for temporary housing through Cornerstone. The process took weeks and I didn’t know if I would be accepted until 3 days before Christmas. We moved in and we all slept on an air mattress that night, but it was our own place.
We slowly put our life together. It was just the three of us now. We became a team. We could depend on each other. When I did my taxes, I got enough back to buy Auntie Jody’s old car for $500. It wasn’t pretty, but it ran.
So now I had a place to live, a car, and Mina was going to school. I was so grateful to Cornerstone for giving me this chance. I felt so blessed to have been approved for this. Mina started to do counseling at Cornerstone. Parker went at times too. But he mostly just needed to stay close to his mama.
I found a job taking pictures of real estate exteriors. I was dragging poor Parker along with me. He didn’t care though. He just wanted to be near me.
My step-mom hooked me up with a catering job. I started to do that too. I wasn’t making a lot of money, but it was something.
Cornerstone found a place for us in a townhome community. It was specifically a spot reserved for Cornerstone for someone who had been homeless before entering their program. We were the only one of all their current participants who met that qualification.
The rent at this place was based on your income. You paid 30% of your income, whatever that may be. It was perfect. We moved in right before the 4th of July. We were so happy. A year before, we had been suffering. A year before, we may not have made it much longer. But now we had it figured out.
I pieced jobs together over the next few years. My stepmother was very helpful with coming up with odd jobs. I appreciated her resourcefulness. She and my dad had helped in numerous ways. Everyone had helped a little. It was a combination of everyone’s contribution that helped us to a place where we could just relax.
I decided to go back to school. It seemed like a smart thing to do in that situation. It was rocky the first semester, but I found my feet in the second and did well. But the third semester, I had straight As.
But Patrick had been calling all along. He’d been whispering things in my ears. I wanted to be free of him, but I was afraid to divorce him. He seemed so innocent and kind now, over the phone. I think he wanted to come live with me now that I’d found a place. We were still married. Weren’t Mina and Parker his kids too?
I was feeling overwhelmed. I loved going to school, but it was a lot of work as a single mother. I’d found a part time daycare situation for Parker and it was going pretty well. But I never really had a break from that responsibility. Aunty Jody would take them once every few weeks and that helped immensely. But it wasn’t quite enough. I was so tired.
I had long since let go of the cash assistance and the childcare assistance. I’d applied for a scholarship with the county and been approved for an early childhood grant. Parker could attend part time and there would be no cost to me.
I was grateful for the food assistance. It gave us full bellies. I cooked nearly every night and we’d get a $5 Little Cesars pizza once a week to “splurge” a bit. We didn’t have a lot of money to spare. Whenever I had some extra money, we’d have a “spoil day”, where we’d get Chipotle for dinner and the kids would get to pick out a toy at the store and we’d get to go do an activity or see a movie. That didn't happen often.
It wasn’t easy, but the kids never complained. They had bikes and scooters and friends at our townhome. We had our normal way of being. I didn’t want Patrick to take all of that away from us. We’d come so far.
I drove to my mother’s grave one day. I laid on her grave and I told her all of the things that I’d been through. I told her that I was trying so hard and I needed help. It was just so much to do by myself. It was so hard to be a mom without my mom.
I went home that day and what came after led to the relationship I am so desperately trying to leave now. This time I know that I can’t compromise. I can do this on my own. I know I can. The end of this journey is so close.
I’m trying to put all of this behind me. I don’t want to be held back by my damage. I want to acknowledge it and let it go. I can let Patrick go now.