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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My story, part I

Sixteen years ago, my teacher found me on the playground and told me to follow her to the office. I was 12, old enough to understand that something must be really wrong. My first thought was that my dad had committed suicide. I hardly knew anything about the changes happening in my family, but there was an understanding that things with my dad were not right. My parents had separated a couple of months before, and I was slowly learning the reasons why. That day in the Principal's office I learned that my house had exploded and been consumed in fire.

The events of the day are hard to remember, but when my family finally got together the adults shared minimal details with us. The fire had been intentionally orchestrated by my dad. Our dogs were lost in the fire, all our possessions were lost in the fire, and the house was gutted.

I don't even remember where we stayed that first night. We spent the next 3 months living with family friends. We were so blessed. Donations provided us with clothing, toys, food and places to sleep. In the summer I bunked with my friend Katie, swimming in her pool and learning to paint with her mom. We obsessed over boys and music and I had a normal break before going back to school.

That was important because as a result of my dad's behavior, even before burning our house down, I lost a  number of friends. He was horrible to other parents and I often stopped being invited to play with some girls from school and church. It's understandable, but sad.

My mom was able to buy a house near the end of the summer and we settled in before school started again. My older brother made plans to finish some schooling and go on a mission. My younger brother went to a school for smarties, and my little sister started kindergarten and asked my mom to find her a new daddy.

Going into 6th grade myself, I felt horribly awkward. I felt a lot of anger and confusion and fear. My older brother and I had been asked to testify in court against my dad, but I chickened out at the last minute. The last time I saw my dad was actually at the courthouse when he was projected on a TV screen showing the hearing inside. I had written a scathing letter and was terrified to see his reaction to my words. It was hard to understand that he wouldn't be able to do anything to me in the safety of a courtroom. Until that point, my siblings and I lived in fear of our dad. We never knew when he was going to yell, hit or completely ignore us. I once watched him hit my younger brother so hard he stumbled a few feet across the kitchen and fell against a window.

Processing all of these emotions and events made the already difficult task of entering Jr. High that much harder.

12 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh Livia what a horrific experience your family has had to work through!

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  2. I remember hearing much of this as a 13 year old and feeling just as unable to comprehend it then as I feel now. I am horrified that your father made such awful choices, and I am sad you have suffered because of it. In that way that life turns things, though, I'm glad to have had you as a friend for the last decade and a half. That doesn't happen without your family's tragedy or my parents' divorce. Funny, the way things shake out.

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  3. Oh my word, what a terrible experience that no one should ever have to go through. I had no idea your father was like that, I was always curious as to how he acted. I'm glad that you had family friends that were able to step in and help you at such a scary time.

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  4. kris, it is amazing how grateful i can be for this experience. too much good came of it for me to wish it never happened.

    although, yeah. it was pretty insane.

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  5. I had no idea about this!! I knew your parents were divorced, but I didn't know any details. It was such a horrible thing but you came out on the right side. I have to say in Jr. High I remember you always being so happy and outgoing. I'm interested to hear the rest of the story.

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  6. My eyes are filled with tears and my heart broke for a 12 year old, Livia. You are such an amazing woman and I am sure experiences such as this have molded you in to the person you are. It is so refreshing and amazinlgly wonderful to hear and see that greatness can prevail.

    I know for me some trials could have made me a different person; had I chosen a different path or coping mechanism, but it is so nice to see strength and optimism in our darkest hours. I also have come to understand, for me, that during a trial time seems to stand still, however, once I come through, am able to look back, each trial has had a significant purpose. I admire your courage to share your story.

    I am terribly sorry that children have to see and be in the center of situations such as this and have to feel unsafe in their own home, but you are amazing; never forget that.

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  7. What an amazing, resilient person you and your siblings are. Your momma must be incredible! My dad had a traumatic childhood and has really found a lot of peace in writing about it. He is preparing to publish a book, in fact.

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  8. You are incredible!! What a trial to go through.

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  9. Thank you for sharing this tid bit of your life liv. I always thought of you a strong beautiful women. You deserved so much more from your father.

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  10. Thank you for sharing something so intensely personal.

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  11. I have to admit my curiosity about those turn of events. That is horrible. I am so sorry that you had to go through all of that, but like others have said, you have become an amazing woman because of it. Thank you for being willing to share your story.

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  12. You are awesome to share this. You are just incredible in many ways.

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