Joan’s Place

December 30, 1995: Then I moved to Susan's. I was ignored, not respected, cleaned constantly and didn't eat. And now I am here. There is food here, the house is clean, but I am always watched and uncomfortable.                                                                                                                                                                

Here was with a boyfriend’s grandmother; a strong, stern, hard woman. She worked in a dental office and liked to bowl, play bingo, and smoke cigarettes. She offered me the spare furnished bedroom and bathroom on the far end of her clean and well-kept trailer. This home was a stark opposite from where I had just come from at Susan’s Place.

There were rules and expectations, like: You will not close your bedroom door, and you will eat all the food put on your plate. She scrutinized how I loaded the dishwasher one evening, reprimanding me because the rinse water wasn’t warm enough and, don’t you know how to load a dishwasher? Back to front, not front to back. I suppose I didn’t know but believe me, I have never forgotten.

I rode my boy’s BMX racer bike to school those days, even in the blistering Colorado deep freezes. Many mornings I’d watch the weather forecast frostbite risk as I zipped up my three sizes too large coat and plodded out the door.

January 25, 1996: I froze my butt off going to school and coming home. I fall every couple feet and have to walk my bike because the snow is so deep.

I tell my kids that I have honestly earned the “uphill to school both ways in the snow” tale. I have a difficult time empathizing with current childhood complaints.

I rode my bike to work as well. Biking to the nearest bus stop, I’d clip my bike to the front of the bus, then ride to the nearest stop to work, unclip my bike, and pedal the remainder of the way. The bus routes ended before my shift, so I biked the entire way home in the dark and cold.

I was proud to have a job. It wasn’t near my first, but it was the first time I clocked in to get a paycheck. I made a minimum wage of $4.25/hour, and I was happier away from Joan’s house.

January 31, 1996: Joan just blew up. She said she's kept her mouth shut about a lot of things that I do that annoy her. That hurts so much, does she realize that? 

I have no idea what I do that annoys her. I try my hardest. I walk around this house like a zombie, doing everything consciously in hopes that it is ok for her. I hang my towel perfect. I don't put my feet on the bar of the chair. I try to make my bed perfect, and speak perfect. What else can I do?

Despite the walking-on-egg-shells life, I did relatively well here. I began attending a new school and earned the most improved student. I made several friends, one whose parents became my spiritual mentors and drove me to church weekly, where Mr. C of One of Those People was the youth pastor. Again, the faithfulness of God.

Joan and I never became close but she provided a dose of structure in my unstructured life. One night she shared what a real friend meant to her: “A real friend to me is somebody who is always there for you, not somebody you just converse with.” I had a new understanding of Joan that evening and learned a valuable life lesson, that believe me, I have never forgotten.

I lived in this house for five months, then left for the Home on the Range.

May 19, 1996: I have five days left at Joan's place. Another chapter of my life will be concluded. And just as a book, I hope every chapter, even every page of my life teaches something. Living here has, as I reflect.

*Real names were not used in this post

One of my favorites while living at Joan’s Place.

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