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Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Fostered Neglect, Part Two

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By Jedidiah Murphy

To read Part One, click here

I will not say anything negative about my time there because I was a basket case. I cannot say what would have happened had things been different so I will only talk about me and what I myself dealt with. Their was a bar in the first floor of the house and it had things in it that I thought I would try. I started drinking at tweleve and it opened the doors that I was so locked behind. I could socialize and interact with people as if nothing at all is wrong with me. I wanted so much to fit in, but stayed so within myself it was impossible until I started drinking. It provided me with a warmth that went far beyond the effect of the alcohol itself. I relaxed and for a kid who had seen the side of life I had, it was something amazing to just let your guard down some. I covered the smell with chocolate and drank anytime I could get it. By the time the parents found out, I had consumed a good portion of their booze and filled the bottles with water and tea. I downplayed the whole thing because I was scared that they would send me back and this time I would be without Donnie. They had no idea how hopelessly I was hooked before I was even sixteen years old. My father and his father and five of my direct family members all died from alcoholism. I never knew that what I was doing was going to damage the chances I would have later in life. I simply was hooked on the freedom of releasing the weights attached to my soul so that I could float about life without jumping anytime someone got too close to me or touched me without my explicit permission. Funny how people interact with others with touch and casual contact on a daily basis. I would crawl out of my skin if someone touched me. I hated with a passion being hugged or kissed. I would panic and react violently from people just playing around and it started a lot of trouble for me.

The first time I was given licks from the principal (which is what they called it when you were administered corporal punishment), I went absolutely crazy. I told him not to hit me and he grabbed me and I freaked out. I went places in my head that were irrational and it scared me so bad that I fought that man as if he was killing me. By the end of it he knew that something was not right and called my dad. That was the last time I was ever taken for licks. I did not get along so good with the mom but I loved my dad. I still do though we don’t talk at all anymore. He knew that there was more to the story but he did not want to ask me about it for fear of making me uncomfortable. I was a wreck. When people would laugh I was apt to cry, when they could cry I would laugh. I was fine when they were scared and scared when they were fine, and as much as I tried to sync my emotions with theirs it did me no good. I simply was not like anyone I knew. I was suicidal without realizing what that meant. At times I could not sleep for days on end, and started taking sleeping pills that I would steal from gas stations just to black out the world and its demons. I did not dream anything anymore anyway. There were times of humor though, so don’t think that it was all morose, though the truth is that most of it was.

An example of the crazy things that I would do is that I would sneak to the kitchen at night real late. I would tippy toe down there and stand in front of this massive double door refrigerator and open that thing and it was like stepping into the Taj Mahal, or what I would assume it must be like. The light and the cool air and all the things that I could do in there! I ate things that I had never seen. Radishes and raw cabbage, mini-carrots and mustard, because I had no idea what went with them but mustard was great. I ate green icing just by squeezing the entire tube in my mouth without realizing that it stained my whole mouth that very color. Entire packs of ham and bologna and hotdogs with onions and whatever else I could get my hands on. I did this night after night because I was not ever allowed to ever open a fridge and get what I wanted anywhere before. It was liberating to make choices about what I wanted to eat and when. I remember the night I was busted because my dad slipped up on me and stood watching me and as I turned--because I sensed someone was there--I saw him standing there in the light of the freedom that fridge represented to me. I was scared to death because I had a lime green stained mouth full of something illegal but he was not saying anything at all. I told myself, "well, at least you got to swim and eat for a while" because I was sure this was the “thing" that would get me sent back. What people don’t understand is that I woke up every day wondering if that day would be the day I would be sent back. I was never comfortable enough to relax. He told me that night that I could have anything that I wanted in that fridge and that I could get it anytime I wanted and he walked away. I was shocked. I, of course, ate nothing else but I knew that he loved me then. He got me past the fear by asking me tomake us sandwiches, and man did I. I built them and they had any number of things that did not go on any sandwich on this planet. They would be a foot tall and crazy but we ate them and I got over my fear of being unadopted and tried to settle in somewhat. 

Sadly that was all to end by the time I was sixteen, because they would get a divorce and he would leave. At this point in my life I had not had a single set of parents for more than four and a half years. I have no concept of what it means to have people that will love you your entire life. I don't have a concept of what it is to have someone that will be there for you through thick and thin or any set of circumstances. In his defense I will say that I don’t blame him at all for leaving when he did. I think just about anyone would have. At the time I was miserable with things as well, so I devised a way to get out of the situation myself. 

My parents hated one another at this point, and as tragic as that would be for some, it was so normal for me to be in some bitter storm of perpetual movement and change that I just ignored the fighting and looked for my move. I had not been happy in a long time at this point. I was drinking all the time and I was not sleeping all that much, and though I was not a drug user in the illegal sense, I was beyond the rim of fates and was so slaved to a nervous preoccupation for constantly changing inner states of being and was so hoping for a grip and a return to the forgotten sources of a normal life. The divorce was a ripple in the hurricane I had been tossed in for more than a decade by this point. It was not that I could not be affected by the change because I certainly was, it was that the change did not trump my more immediate issue. 

My dad was accused of preferring me more than his own son and it became a focal point during the divorce. I stayed with the mother and was licensed as a water safety instructor and taught swimming lessons at the house and then worked as a lifeguard in Terrel, TX. I then taught swimming lessons for the Red Cross after work at that same pool. I lost myself in just doing things and working with kids help me do that. To see the way that they just abandoned their parents and ran to me in the water was special to me then and still is today. People don’t even know that I worked as a lifeguard for a long time and in probably five different cities as a teenager. I have always wanted to help people and though I could not help myself I got lost in trying to make a difference. The money I made working I gave to the mother to save for me, and the defining moment that broke what little I had left for her was that she stole every dime of that money to get her son a new car. I went to my fathers' office and cut a deal, as two men entering a business contract would, to stay at his RV on the lake. I knew what he paid in child support and was fluent in how the system worked in broken homes. I knew that if each parent has a child the child support was canceled out. So in leaving I killed what would have been a windfall for her and saved my father a load in the process. He agreed with my negotiation and I moved into the RV.

You can imagine what it was like for me to pretty much live alone on a lake at sixteen. My father bought me a new truck when he found out what his ex-wife had done with my money and I ran that thing up and down the road sixty thousand miles that first year. I went to school like I should, and after I drank pretty much every day at this point. My dad had a girlfriend that he stayed with in another city and I had the place to myself most of the time. I slowly self-destructed even further with my addiction to drinking as a means of escaping myself. I was known as a class clown and funny guy but I was nothing but a dancing monkey. I was so used to being fake that I did not know who I was anymore. There are so many pictures of me from that time, and there I would be caught in that moment without the ability to mask the me that I kept hidden, and in all the joy and general cheer there I would be without a smile at all. I never really knew this until it was pointed out to me years later. I would say that fully 90% of pictures from then I never cracked a smile at all. It was not that I intended to be aloof, I simply forgot to smile. Most people don’t have to remind themselves to smile but I did. To be so misplaced and lost within yourself and try so hard all the time to fit in with people around you and blend in is a daily balancing act that began to drag me so low emotionally that I would simply forget there were times when smiles were expected. I was unhappy at birthday parties and Christmas, at graduation and events that everyone would be happy to be a part of. My life would flash out of control like a car hitting black ice on a bridge, and I would fight to regain control before someone saw the me that I was so intent on hiding. People asked me later in life why I did not tell anyone what was going on and it shocked me because what was I to say? Oh hey...I am a wreck and have been since I was about five. Do you think that you could fix that for me? Sheesh. I constantly worried that I would upset the balance of things and once again be dispersed. What if? That question made up of two words echoed a thousand times a day within my head.

I graduated and did well enough in school because people don’t worry about a kid so much when he does well in school. I learned that well. I was drinking and running with the wrong crowd at this point because people who drank the way that I did were not peers from school. I was arrested for theft and took full credit for it though I was only the driver during the crime. I made a full confession for my role and took my lumps and anytime in my life that I was arrested I admitted fully my role. After I got out of jail (and this time with a prison number attached) I was alone for real. I left that small town and never went back. I found my biological mother at this stage and ironically she lived across the road from Bucker Homes where we went when she abandoned us. I asked her why she did what she did and she said that she thought it was best because she could not take care of all of us anymore. I forgave her and I guess she had her reasons because my father was brutal but I resented the life her other kids had over our lives. I love them as well though we don’t talk at all anymore. Funny the gap between the half sibling and the full when you’re where I am. My mother died four months after I went to prison again. During all this change I had a little girl in 1997. I cannot possibly describe what it was like for me to have seen that little girl for the first time. So perfect and so much everything I could have ever imagined. People use moments like those to change their lives and make promises to the gods they keep. Well I did all that as well, though I had no idea how to keep a promise to myself much less anyone else. I will detail my love for my beautiful daughter in a later chapter of this story but she is still very much that beautiful baby girl. I was with her mother for years and we eventually split up. I was reckless and a drunk of monumental proportions. I drank eighteen or so beers a day and drank hard whiskey as well and at this point was down to 118 pounds. I was a slave and determined to end it all. I ended up overdosing and being taken to a nearby hospital and put on life support. I want to say this about trying to kill yourself...that was one of the hardest decisions that I had ever made and what some call a cowards’ move is anything but. The people who say that have never been there and done that. It is the scariest thing you could imagine, to be incapacitated and aware that you cannot breathe and die by suffocating while trying to call for help. It was devastating and when I came to in that hospital I was shocked and mentally rattled. I was so disoriented that I did not know who the president was and kept yelling, “I gotta go and bail hay" for some reason that I still don’t know.

I slowly came back to myself and what my family did while I was out was to get me court ordered to a treatment facility because I was a danger to myself. I stayed sober upon leaving there for 271 days. It was the best time of my adult life. I don’t recall what caused me to slip but I never again stayed sober for any measurable amount of time. I was a slave and alone in the world. I had things that people would covet and I had a job that provided for me and my daughter, but I hated life. The life I could have had was long past and the cycle I found myself in was one of old and the webs I struggled in were spun long before. The other details of my demise are for another time, but the end result is worth mentioning within the content of this article. My daughter was taken by CPS three years after I landed here because her mother was party to a murder of an ex-boyfriend by a current one. My daughter witnessed that crime and was taken when the police realized the state of the house she was living in. Her mother was hooked on drugs and she was left to fend for herself. When I found out about this I started to correspond with CPS, trying to find a solution to this problem because as you can imagine this would have been my worst nightmare imaginable. To have my daughter going in at the same age and to be locked up without the ability to get to her was crippling. In the end I cut a deal to have her placed with some friends of my adoptive family based on what my sister told me about them. Well, in order to do this I was to give up my parental rights to expedite the process, and I did exactly that, only to see her mistreated and removed. I lost my only thread to her when that fell apart. Without parental rights anymore they refused to talk to me at all. So I was locked out and away from the one person I loved most in the world. I learned that though my adoptive family claimed that they loved her that she was not blood and that was painfully obvious when the chips were down. This is a reality that a lot of adoptive kids face. Most are never really family and cannot hope to be unless you're successful. Then for sure they would be proud to make room for you at the table. By being a dysfunctional, disposable prisoner I was something far less than human, and much less than family. I don’t talk to them anymore because if my daughter who spent her summers at their house swimming and playing with their kids was not good enough then I am not either. I don’t foresee ever talking to them again and that hurts as well. I can deal with anyone and anything tossed my way but my little girl? Not good enough? Who loved Barney and Blues Clues was not worth someone stepping up when they knew what the system did to me? They had the money and they had the room but they said that they had done all that they could do. Much the same as my being on a deserted beach while they are drowning and my yelling up and down that empty beach knowing that no help would be coming is doing all that I can for them. Being a perfect swimmer but not willing to get wet for someone that I claimed to love is hardly doing all that you can do. I said much the same to them and as a result we don't talk. I would rather be alone than with people who think that love is a Christmas card every now and again.

My daughter's story is much more than anything that most people could imagine, and would end up going to Federal Court with a lawsuit filed on her behalf by Children’s Ruins Inc. They do those types of cases all the time and had never seen one likes her in all their lives. Someone close to me tried to adopt my daughter seven years ago and it was all good to go until they said that she was unfit because of her contact with me. Instead they went on to war with us for the last seven years to the tune of FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS for ONE GIRL. The lady that was trying to get her that was "unfit" is the owner of a company and was the national speaker at a conference for abused women in Washington. Had done that several times, in fact, at different places. Has been the producer of television shows and the owner of her own studio. Who has never had a criminal charge in her life. Has the nickname of "Angel" because of the things that she does for people less fortunate than herself and who has raised kids that people have abandoned her whole life. She did not come from money and she worked for many years sewing upholstery and started her own business by breaking her back as a single parent. She still took kids in. She was licensed as a therapeutic foster parent to the highest order so that she could get the most troubled kids that people forgot all about. She grew up in a mill house on the river and is self-made and someone that anyone who meets her is drawn to because of her down to earth qualities. This woman, who I love, on her own after finding out about my daughter and her plight, jumped feet first in to save her all on her own. I had nothing at all to do with it and she did not tell me till later on. Because I have a death sentence, anyone that has any contact with me makes them unfit. So for seven years we waged a war against them and they matched us dollar for dollar the whole time and most likely employed more lawyers than we did. So imagine, if we spent 400k for a girl that had a home to go to the whole time, what they have wasted keeping her away from us. The gross abuse of money and power entrusted to them by the taxpayers of this state who fund CPS and the politicians that I assure you don’t know what they spent fighting for no reason whatsoever. They cry about their budget and what they need and it is no wonder that they do with one child costing them almost a half million dollars in addition to what it cost them to house her in that system for another seven years. I am surprised that they can keep the lights on at all. 

As unbelievable as all that is, I have it all on paper. When children are forgotten and abused and get caught in a cycle that repeats itself it is detrimental to the public as a whole. My story is actually two separate but connected stories. My story and my daughter’s. Much the same but much, much worse for her. To have been wanted enough to have a war fought for you and be neglected by the people tasked with your care is an intentional injustice that is easy to see on the wording they used to describe her as "unadoptable.” How is anyone unwanted when someone is begging for that very child? Someone with the means to get her what she needs treatment-wise and who loves her as her own to this day. My daughters’ life spiraled out of control because instead of getting her when she was twelve they aged her out at eighteen and the abuse she suffered as a result left her much the same way that I was. She has a great heart and is a beautiful girl but is so lost in a world so big that she cannot see what she is doing and the consequences involved. Not because she is stupid because she is brilliant, but because she has had to fight her whole life for everything she has. We will never give up on her though, because unlike adopted love, this is something much more real because having been thrown away and given up on myself, and her benefactor having been done much the same by her mother, we will always love her and be there for her through any struggle and mistake she ever makes. We don’t have to agree with what she does or support it, but we will always have a home for her and a love that will never cease. I ended up going to four different mental institutions and lost my mind completely at one point and was lucid enough to understand that I had lost my war with myself. To be aware that things cannot be real that you’re seeing and interacting with is unique and scary at the same time. People see me today and they think I am playing when I tell them all this because I seem so adjusted at times. Well, all I can say is that this prison cell is not the worst place I have been in my life but it is for a lot of them. My story is much the same as many guys here with me. I am not the only product of the states’ failure to address the real problems that arise in foster homes and the child protective system as a whole.

Regardless of the details of this case, the systemic failure of CPS and TYC is what is what leads those same castaway children to make horrible decisions as adults. I made mistakes that I wake up to all the time. I would love to erase my presence and the problems it caused so many people. We few who have these stories change in time, but prison is what it takes sometimes for the ones that are not already dead by their own hand. I understand what I could have done differently and have regrets for wrong turns made with good intentions. I don't see life through rose colored glasses and I see the scars that I have and the ones I inflicted as well. Every event in life is boxed in by a set of facts, the truth as it were. There's the "what" and the "when" of a deed; there's the when it happened and the how it was done. It's at the "why" that we miss so much these days. Who's to say what a child like me could have been with more time and understanding, instead of bouncing around in a careless, violent, detached system? To react with blind impulse on some primal autopilot and expect to come out of that without ruining your life is fantasy.

I find myself at times replaying the struggles that led to this point in my life. I don’t care what anyone says and how often the winners say it: no one will be able to convince me that life is in itself rewarding. Life has been something far more challenging and in truth a catastrophe. To try and find some meaning out of all this is futile, because at the end of the day the arrow of time flies in one direction. I cannot more change my past than I can board a ship that left port twenty years ago. That’s reality. In my opinion we cannot escape destiny or some force set into motion long ago that resonated through time and set my life on a path so dark that I repeatedly bounced from one consequence to another. I learned that life and whatever reason there was for it was short and as fragile as a robin’s egg. At times we are not all that glad to be a part of it, as it was for most of my life. Yet through it all and the pain of broken promises, I am loved by a beautiful woman and my children. Even at my worst I am still loved. A part of me doesn't understand that but the man I used to be would not recognize the man I am today, and though I ruined so much of my life, I never set out to harm anyone. Still, today when I look out my window from Death Row to the world I am no longer allowed to be a part of, I am still very much that same five year old little boy looking for someone to pick me up and save me from the world and ultimately from myself.


Jedidiah Murphy 999392
Polunsky Unit
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston, TX 77351

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1 comment:

kerratuwe said...

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