I definitely don’t feel like an adult. Yet, in the last year I’ve been put into situations where I have had no choice but to act as an adult should.The sphere of influence of my decisions is no longer limited to just me; every move I make has effects on other people, so I’ve had to learn to tread wisely.
I wouldn’t say that my life has always been easy, in fact I can’t think of a time when things were ever working out perfectly (I imagine most people’s lives are like this). But I always had my mom to turn to. She was the back bone of my family. She managed the money, she made the decisions, and if I needed something done, she was the one that would get it done. She was loyal to my father, even after years of abuse, and she always put me and my brother before her. Last year, I was still calling her once a week to ask her if she could put money in my bank account and take my clothes to the dry cleaner.
When she died, my whole family was blind-sided. My mom had health problems, but no one imagined she was anywhere near death. It was all very sudden. One day she had a cold, and the next day she was in a hospital bed attached to more machines than I could count -at that point she was only alive because of the machines. Doctors and a social worker sat my family in a room and told us that my mom wasn’t going to make it, and if she did, she would have severe brain damage.
That was the moment when I had to step into adulthood. Earlier that year, my dad tried to commit suicide and was diagnosed with severe schizoaffective disorder. Knowing this, the social worker at the hospital put me in the position to decide how long the hospital would keep my mom on life support. Without it, she would only live an hour at the most. I put her in God’s hands and told the doctors to shut the machines off -a decision that I sometimes regret but have no choice but to live with. That whole day, I had to keep my composure and take care of my family. My brother was only 16 and my dad was in such a bad mental state that he could barely function even with my mom taking care of him. To finish off the day, when I went home to pick up my dad’s medication, there was a foreclosure sign taped onto our front door. What a way to end the day.
The following weeks were not any easier. I became the patriarch of my family. I took over all the fiances, it became my responsibility to get our housing situation figured out, and I had to plan my mom’s funeral because no one else in my family had the strength to do it. I thought about dropping out of school to get a full-time job so that I could secure more money for us. Every day, I was scared that my dad would try to kill himself again or that my brother would do something that would get him in a lot of trouble. Weeks turned into months and things never got much easier. I had to learn to juggle my school life, and I still had to carry my family on my back. Some things got fixed, but more problems took their place. Once me and my dad were able to re-finance and keep our house, we found out that he was going to be deported. He was deported, and I was stretched between school and home. My dad eventually crossed back across the border, but he was only home for long enough to see a social worker take my brother into the custody of the state on the one year anniversary of my mom dying.
It was not an easy year, but I did get a crash course in self-reliance. I learned to manage money, I learned how to organize myself -although I still have a lot to learn – and I learned that my decisions have far-reaching effects. I learned how to appreciate small things in life like a good cup of tea, a good song on the radio, and bubbles in my water. You never know when your time is going to come so you have to make the most of it. I learned life doesn’t wait for you to be ready for life to happen. Although I still feel like a kid, I have no choice but to make responsible decisions. Most importantly, I learned that no matter what happens to you, you just have to survive. Life moves on whether or not you are ready for it.
Today, I can thankfully say that things are looking a little better. When my brother was moved to a foster home, my dad and him realized that they had to get their acts together. They took a lot of responsibility for our household back onto themselves, lifting a huge burden off of me. There is still a lot of uncertainty in our lives but I have faith in God to make things work out, if not in this life, at least the next.