December 09, 2020Hiding In Plain Sight

Babies having babies ...

My mom and dad both came out of seriously chaotic and traumatic backgrounds. They met and married very young at 14 and 17. Neither of them had an education past the ninth or tenth grade. I was born when my mom was only 15. A year later they had a boy who was severely mentally handicapped, but he didn't survive infancy. Four years later my brother was born. He also was severely handicapped, but he survived and lived until his early 20's. A decade or so after my brother was born, we adopted my sister. And this was our family.

I had a great childhood. Both my parents were funny, especially my dad. They took good care of us. I have lots of good memories of good times. My favorite and earliest memory is a particular trip to Pensacoloa Beach and my first dip in the ocean. I was really young, because I wasn't big enough to not get knocked over by the waves. This beach is one where you could wade out half a mile from shore and still the water was only waist high. My daddy was standing way out there fishing when he snagged a sting ray. I still have the picture of him in my head hightailing it back to the beach, rod held high, the sting ray leaping (or getting pulled!) out of the water. He looked like a sea monster was chasing him! Too funny!

But having a handicapped child is not easy. Mom stayed at home with all of us and taking care of my brother 24/7 while dad worked 2 jobs to keep us afloat. Looking back, I cannot fathom the emotional and financial stress they were under. My brother passed away when he was 24 or so, and I'm sure they were still paying off debt from medical bills long after.

All that extra stress on top of the stresses of normal everyday living adds up to a tense household. Loving and safe, but tense nontheless. Throw an exceptionally sensitive little artist in there and she's going to find ways to protect herself ... like retreating to her room. Nobody snaps or yells at you in your room. It's safe and quiet in there all alone with your books and music and art. Nobody much noticed or cared. And into my teens I was still getting away with it, not because nobody cared, but just because they were busy with weightier problems.

And I was no problem, because when I was out of my room, I was the model kid. Straight A student. Did what I was told, when I was told. I'd like to brag on me and say I was really smart and a good kid. And maybe I was book smart, but I wasn't socially or emotionally smart. I had trained myself to read a room and the people in it and immediately become who I thought they wanted me to be. It was how I kept me safe, because when everybody's happy, nobody's yelling.

My teachers adored me. When I began working, my bosses did, too. My parents bragged on me and paraded me and my latest art projects out in front of friends and family. I really hated that. I worked hard at staying in the background and not attracting attention to myself, and that broke my cover. But I endured it like the compliant that I was. And of course they never meant anything bad by it – they were proud of me – the problem was in me.

My teen years were hard. A teenager is supposed to be getting prepared to go out into the world. All those rumblings inside are supposed to rise up to cause them to challenge and engage the system and venture out into the world to make their own way as adults. But when all those rumblings rose up in me, it was scary! I wasn't going to rock my system and cause trouble. No way! I had trained myself to avoid trouble at all costs. Very unhealthy on all levels, but I was blissfully unaware and just kept on doing what I had always done to survive.

After high school, and a year's worth of graphics training at a local technical school, I began my work career in the printing industry. I was still living at home, holed up in my room. I was 19. And finally beginning to get a little restless and curious about the big world out there. Thought I was all grown up, but, of course, that wasn't true.

I didn't date. I didn't know people. I had a couple of good girl friends, but after graduating, we all went our separate ways. My only social life was with a youth group at church and there were no guys there. We had always attended church. And though I would've told you then that I was a Christian since about age 9, I really doubt I had much of God in me. I had a lot of religion, but I doubt seriously I actually knew God.

But even a goody-2-shoes gets bored just working and going to church. I didn't drink or go out to bars. So one day I went to my art teacher from the technical school and asked him for a suggestion of a class to take at the night school there. Something that would be legitimate for an artist to take, but, really, I just wanted to meet some nice guys. I figured somebody working a day job and going to school at night might be a responsible and upstanding individual! He suggested I take a drafting class. So that's what I did ... and met my husband, Bill, who was teaching the class!

Just for fun, I have to tell you ... I began taking the class during the summer quarter, making my ususal A's, because despite the immaturity, I really am smart, you know!! In November we began dating and my A went down to a B. The following spring we got engaged and it dropped to a C! And it was time to get out before that stinker flunked me! No favoritism! he said! Pooh! But, I did learn to draw perspectives! And I found a guy!

Now if anyone else was telling this tale, I'd be thinking maybe that's not too smart ... coming out of a life in a lonely room and straight into marrying the only guy you had ever dated ... but after 46 years, I think maybe we just might have a chance of making this thing work ... if he behaves ... we'll see ...

I said earlier that I didn't know God. Without realizing it, I had something even better ... God knew ME!! I wouldn't know it until years later, but meeting and marrying Bill was the first big step God took in healing me and helping me to finally grow up. I was so immature and naive, who knows what trouble I would've found had I went wandering out into the big, wide world. Maybe I would've done just fine, but I suppose it doesn't matter now.

I had found a safe, calm spot in the world. Only I hadn't found it ... it was where God deliberately placed me. And then He went to work in my life before I ever even knew Him, and our love story began. But He wouldn't make His presence known to me until a few years later when the most painful tradgedy of my life happened ...

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  • Dixie says:
    2020-12-10, 05:05:40
    Page 2!
    I was getting into it when you ended. Just like Hollywood.

    Love it!
    God Bless!
    Gotta' keep you on the edge of your seat, Dixie!!- Sherry A Mitcham
  • Kathy says:
    2020-12-09, 13:08:23
    Beautiful story. I knew there was something special about you when we met..... our stories are very similar. ( being the “model child” because who wants to be with a “trouble maker”?; being shy, quiet and somewhat withdrawn; knowing “about God” before knowing Him.....). We are very special, aren’t we?
    I think so! We're special because we are His!- Sherry A Mitcham
  • BILL MITCHAM says:
    2020-12-09, 12:32:21
    Yes, we are!- Sherry A Mitcham