It was a time before cellphones and tablets; even a time before having a computer in every home was a necessity. A loaf of bread cost 71-cents; a small jar of peanut better was about $1. A gallon of gas was just over $1; milk just under $2.
But it wasn’t a time before child abuse and neglect; wasn’t a time before starvation.
The odd thing was: I didn’t know I was being abused or neglected. I guess I figured something wasn’t right or even normal; but still, I wasn’t 100% positive. I was punished for being bad; I didn’t know it was excessive. I was denied food; but I was told there wasn’t enough to go around, so someone had to go without. Didn’t everyone live like this? Surely my parents wouldn’t be intentionally doing anything to hurt me.
I had no frame of reference, no one to ask or talk to. Never spent the night at a friend’s house; never thought to ask about how they lived. Had no TV. People rarely came for a visit. How was I supposed to know how life existed outside of what I was told and lived?
I am not even sure what changed in my mind that made me want to leave. It wasn’t that I wanted to pursue a different life—at the time I wanted to die, not live. My focus for leaving was to die “quietly” so that the State wouldn’t know about it so that my family would still get the money each month. I figured everyone felt about me as my family did: they wanted me gone, silent, and non-existent.
I was 16, a Junior in High School.
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