Life Will It Take Me Under!
When we are young, we dream of what we will grow up to be. Some dream of becoming lawyers. Some dream of becoming doctors. Others want to grow up to be businessmen and women. Then we experience the realities of life, with all its mountains to climb, all its setbacks and letdowns; then we wonder, “Life, will it take me under!
The story I am about to tell you, is about the bravest person that I know: my sister Kim. It began a few years ago in the summer of 1995 when I was thirteen, Kim was sixteen, and my brother Micah was seven. I often wonder what is in the mind of a person who comes back from the brink of hell. How does one begin to live again after they experience a spiritual death? How can a person find self-respect after selling the most precious thing that they own?
You see, selling your body includes selling your mind... becoming a prisoner to everything that you hate. How does a person start each day by crying because you are still alive, waking up a slave to a substance that you hate but must have? You hate yourself for not being strong enough to either end your detestable existence or strong enough to kick your habit.
I can't imagine what it is like to see people suffering daily only to wind up ending their sad, pathetic lives and you considering them the lucky ones. Imagine doing anything for an addiction and being violated in ways one can never visualize.
How do you let any man or woman have something for a price... that which is priceless? This is what my sister went through for a year and a half of her life. Kim is an example of the undefeatable human spirit. She is an example of never giving up on the promise of life assured. A life that is promised to us as our birthright, here's her story.
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The sounds of loud music is drowned out by my sister Kim's voice as she’s singing, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Shameless” by the Lost Boyz. Mama comes into the living room. “Girl, you are going to wake the dead.”
Kim dances around Mama, pretending to sing into a mic. “Come on, Mama, this is the jam!” Kim moves around Mama in smooth circular motions. Kim is a great dancer. Mama gives Kim an angry look yet, you could tell she was not mad.
Mom could never really be mad at Kim. None of us could. Kim had that effect on people; she is just naturally likable. For Mama, Kim could do no wrong; she was her golden girl. Micah and I felt the same way.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Jade Washington. I am now nineteen years old. Kim is twenty-two, and Micah is thirteen. We live with our mom, Mary, who teaches the third grade at PS 124. My dad is dead; he died nine years ago. He was a cop and was shot while trying to stop a robbery in a twenty-four-hour store.
My mom had a hard time coping with Dad's death and started drinking every day, and all night, or so it seemed. She dated a few times, but all the men she dated were either drunks or married--all were liars. Now, Mom rarely goes out anymore unless it's to work, the liquor store or out with my Aunt Sonja, who is my dad's sister and really cool.
I feel for my mama at times. I know everyone deals with death in their own way and I know she's living with a broken heart. She's an excellent teacher and would never let the alcohol get in the way, but it's got to be affecting her somehow.
My brother Micah was old enough when Daddy died to understand that he wasn't coming back; he just didn't know what death really meant. What did I even know? Good people go to heaven; bad people like the man who shot my daddy go to hell. They wait until judgment. But what's judgment? All I know is, he was here, now he isn't. I guess death is like your first heartbreak. It hurts like hell, you don't even think you can go on, then time passes, and you eventually get over it, but you don't forget. Kim experienced that with the boy Roger that lives a couple of doors away. Kim and I were so close; it felt as if I went through her heartbreaks too.
That's how I feel. I'm over my daddy's death; I just won't forget about him. Although it was Mama who kept the peace in this house, it was Daddy who brought the love. I remember Daddy used to bring me home a bag of those little candy fishes (he knew how much I loved them), the ones I hid from Kim so she wouldn't eat them all.
When Daddy would come in, I would run to him and give him a big hug, and he would say, “How's Daddy's princess? How was your day? Full of sunshine like you deserve, I hope?”
Enough talk about my daddy, it only makes me sad anyway. This story is about the bravest person I know, my sister, Kim, and her ordeal. It tells of her strength and sheer will to come back into the light of life instead of the dark place that exists for those unlucky enough to unlock its door.
I used to think Kim was a bitch sometimes, but I loved her; she's my sister after all. Don't all sisters fight at times? I'm a pain, but on purpose, because of the fact that Kim and Micah let me get to them so easily. But hey, I am cute, you gotta love me. I don't believe in the middle child syndrome. You know, where the middle child has it the hardest and doesn’t get as much love as the baby and not as much freedom as the oldest; that's a crock.
Kim had it much harder than me. She hadn't been the same since Daddy's death. Although Daddy babied me more, I think Kim was his favorite. Kim smiles on the outside, although she seems happy, I know differently. Some of Kim's fire had gone out when he died. Some of her spunk has died. But Kim's a fighter; she has the best of both our parents: Mom's strength and Dad's courage.
Mom started tutoring kids after work to bring in extra income. As a result, Kim had to make sure my brother and I were taken care of. She made sure we did our chores and homework. Kim did most of the food shopping since Mom often tutored after work and on Saturday mornings. Kim also cooked for us after school. Mom would cook on Saturdays and Sundays. Sometimes we would eat takeout on Saturdays. Mama would bring home some of our favorites. Kim loved Chinese food, Micah and I liked pizza with bacon and extra cheese.
I felt sorry for Kim because it was a lot of responsibility for a sixteen-year-old, but she never complained. During the middle of the year, my Grandmother Davis, who was suffering from old-age dementia, came to stay with us. Mama was happy.
You see, she lost her dad at an early age, and Grandma Davis raised her along with my uncle, Mark, and my aunties, Sharon and Glenda. I remember spending holidays with my grandmother. The family would get together and have dinner at my grandma's house.
Everyone would bring a dish, eat, talk, and enjoy. I remember having fun with my cousins. Those days were long gone, after Grandma Davis got sick; the family dinners stopped. My mother, aunts, and uncle had disagreements, even fights, about my grandma. As a result, the family grew apart. I think my mother missed having contact with her family.
Kim, Micah and I were at little apprehensive about Grandma coming to live with us. Mom told us not to worry. She assured us that we would be okay.
“It will be good to have your grandma here with us.”
Grandma Davis came to live with us on a Friday afternoon. When we came from school, she was already all moved in. I hadn't seen my grandmother in about nine months, and I wasn’t prepared for how she had changed.
The grandmother that I remembered was strong and full of life. The woman with us was a shadow of her old self. My mom beamed as she said, “Come here, Jade, and welcome your grandmother to our household.”
“Hi, Grandma, Welcome to our home.”
“Hello, my dear, thank you,” replied Grandma.
“Kimberly and Micah will be home shortly” Mama told Grandma.
“Jade, keep your grandma company while I take some of her things to her room.” I felt at a loss as what to say. Grandma broke the awful silence by asking “how my day was at school”.
“Fine, Grandma. You know school's school, you do your time and keep your mouth shut.” I meant it as a joke, and to my surprise, Grandma got it.
As usual, Kimberly and Micah came in arguing. Kim and I took turns picking up Micah from school.
“Hello, Kids,” Grandma said
Both Micah and Kim turned around to face Grandma with a startled look just as Mama came into the room. “Kids, Give your grandma a healthy welcome.” Micah hurriedly gave Grandma Davis a hug. Kim embraced her more slowly. Grandma smiled softly and asked what happened at school that upset them. Kim and Micah replied the usual: teachers getting on your nerves or the pain-in-the-neck classmates.
One evening, Mama came home and told us that she had placed an ad in the daily paper to rent our upstairs apartment. She said that the money from tutoring was not enough and even with Grandma's social security check, money was still in short supply. So she decided to rent the upstairs apartment.
She told us that means that people will be coming by, and she wanted the house to be clean at all times because after they viewed the upstairs apartment she would invite them downstairs for tea or coffee and an informal interview.
We had a very nice brownstone. It was built in the 1800s, although it’s now a historical landmark, Daddy had it completely renovated a year before he died. Downstairs, contained three bedrooms, a large kitchen, a nice-sized living room and a long hallway next to our bathroom that led into the backyard.
Mama, Micah, and Grandma's bedrooms were downstairs. Kim and my bedroom are upstairs, and the third level was the apartment for rent. Mama, and Daddy said that they would never rent out the upstairs apartment, which had two bedrooms a small bathroom, medium-sized living room, and a small kitchen. The reason that they did not want to rent it was because Daddy said he didn’t want the headache of tenants who never valued someone else's property.
Daddy said that if
any of us kids ever needed a place after we were grown, it would be there for
us. I know that renting the apartment was a hard decision for Mama to make;
however, I’m sure it was absolutely necessary. I’m sure she felt that she had
no choice. Jade wished she could do something to help her mother with money.
However, mama wouldn’t let her get an after-school job. Mama always said our
studies came first.