A Family Story

When my oldest sister C. was only 18 months old in 1964, our daddy ran over her on his "dinner" break.

C. had assumed all these years that Daddy had been drinking and didn't care enough about his kids to not run them over.  In the logic and structured she had created out of the shards and scraps of her childhood, it made sense.  Our sister L. had almost drowned a few years after that because Daddy had been drinking.  And Daddy and her mama had lost custody of the kids on June 3, 1974, one day before her tenth birthday, so it made sense.  Daddy had to have been drinking.

But he wasn't.  C.'s mama, not my mama since C. is actually a half-sister, now has dementia and sometimes forgets that Daddy is no longer living.  What's hard with C's mama is that she can no longer remember who is here and who is lost.  Her timeline is all jumbled up.  On a recent weekend when C. had brought her home, she just looked at C., truly seeing her, and started crying.

"What's wrong, Mama?"
"I'm just thinking about when you were ran over as a baby," C.'s mama replied.
"But I'm here, Mama.  I'm alive.  I made it."

Her mama gave her a few details, and C. confirmed from her mama's sister that she was ran over as a baby, just as she had heard all of these years.  But Daddy had not been drinking.  Her mama and Daddy had lived next door to her aunt and uncle, and Daddy and her uncle worked together.  One day when she was eighteen months old, they came home for dinner.  And when they went to leave, Daddy didn't see C. behind the truck and ran over her.

He walked into the house cradling her in his arms.

Her mama asked, "What happened?"

"I hit the baby.  I ran over the baby."  And he cried and cried.

In my sister's words--or maybe, her aunt's words--they "threw" her into the truck and took her to what is now Conway Regional Hospital.  Doctor Bob Bannister worked on her all afternoon.  He finally came out.

"We did everything we could."  They didn't expect her to live.  Two ribs were broken, both of her legs were broken, she was broken all over.

But she did live through the night.  And after three months in the hospital, she came home.

Today I talked to C. for over an hour and learned more about my daddy and mama's marriage than I probably ever knew.

And there are other things I didn't know about my daddy, my oldest sisters C. and L., and my oldest brothers V. and D. until we talked and I learned.  Like how C. used to collect bottles and turn them in to buy food for her siblings, how she used to beg to feed them, how she did anything to take care of them and she was under the age of ten.  How Daddy used to beat up their mama but never laid a hand on them.  How she used to cry and beg him to stop.  How her mama split V. or D.'s head open with a broom handle.  How Grandma made half their clothes and all their Christmas presents, and how their other grandma and aunts made the other half, but their parents just lost them all the time.  How they moved to Florida three different times before she turned 10 to escape the law.  How they lived in mostly good foster homes, except for one, and how their foster families got them involved in activities like volleyball.  How hurt the boys were because our aunt got custody of the girls later, and they were left behind.  How V. never felt loved growing up.  How close it was between the four kids being taken away and when our daddy started a new family after their mama went back to hers.  How resentful her brothers and sister were that she finished her education and settled down.  How C. kept so much of this from them...until now, until they had to know, to make them cherish their lives before they lost them.  How she has used her childhood to move on and how theirs has held them back even though it was just a few years.  How she wanted to grow up and have things and told our daddy when she gave birth to her son that maybe he could choose to be in his life since he wasn't in hers.  And how he was for awhile...until he took another drink.  And how Daddy never bought her anything until he was with my mama before he took another drink and was sober and had a job and owned a vehicle and could hold conversations and make you laugh and laugh until you cried.

And so we pray for those that are saved, but their lives here are consumed by their demons.  And we hope for a better future and more happiness for them, but Sis and I still guard our own.

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