By: Lorraine Genao
“The struggles I’m facing, the chances I’m taking sometimes might knock me down, no I’m not breaking, I may not know it but these are the moments that I’m going to remember most, just got to keep going, and I got to be strong”. ~ Miley Cyrus
This might very well describe the life I’ve had…
I’m a very hard worker, technically, my husband’s secretary and office manager within our small, natural stone fabrication company. It’s not easy working with your spouse, but I’ve managed and had fun along the way.
In my spare time, not that I get much spare time, I used to love going to visit my mom (grandmother, really), whom I lost to complications caused by advanced Alzheimer’s last year. I also love to relax by spending time with my family. My two daughters and I really enjoy watching repeats of old movies, (against my husband’s wishes), but with three females in a household and one man, you can bet he will forever get the short end of the stick.
I really don’t know much about my side of the family, or my father’s side that is. It’s a very long and sad story. My parents divorced immediately after my brother was born consequently separating us. I lived with my grandparents from my mother’s side, for a while; she was a devout Catholic and the one who introduced me to the Catholic Religion and God.
As a very young child, I remember us walking in all types of weather to Church every Sunday, and thank God that her faith was strong enough to plant that little seed in me that would later enable me to weather the storms I was about to endure.
As the living arrangements for my brother and I ensued, one of my aunts was able to convince my mother, whom felt she needed to separate herself from us at the time, that my brother and I needed to be together, a gesture for which I am thankful, as siblings should be raised together, so off to my paternal grandmothers (alongside my father) house we went. I cannot quite remember my age. I must have been about six or seven at the time, but while the short time I lived there, I do recall the horror of having lived out awful conditions of different types of abuses. I had never met that side of the family and if I had, I did not remember at such a young age.
My father, the youngest of three brothers, and he and his mother (my grandmother) lived together. His mother made it clear daily that she preferred boys so I was made to feel inferior. Both my father and his mother where drinking buddies, (or should I say –“drunken buddies”?) and were very often drunk in our presence. My grandmother used to bad mouth and belittle me constantly, calling me names like “unwanted child” a, and/or simply yelling for no apparent or logical reason as well as badgering me to over eat. I suppose it amused her to watch me squirm when attempting gorge the enormous plates of food she’s serve me—I was slated to become overweight!
Alas, then came those draw out beatings. I remember us getting whipped (among other things) multiple times for no given reason from both our father and our grandmother. Lastly, I was made to endure the absolute worst and most horrific type of abuse a father could give a daughter. I remained strong, my head held high, and I learned to move forward.
Walking to church every Sunday with my brother, and other times on my own was the best part of my stay and day. I remember a feeling of tranquility, and peace, coming over me. I remember, too, the same walks with “Mami Alta” while in her care; and thinking to myself, “I’m going to be ok and safe for at least an hour or two”. In retrospect, that time, those few hours a week, spent journeying from my home to the church, became my escape, my sanctuary. It was long before I found myself more and more involved in all of the church activities I could possibly muster, and joined every church and bible study group just to stay as far away as I could from the house.
One day, after much prayer and supplication with God, my Aunt had come to visit us, and, if for a brief moment I truly believed that my prayers had been answered. Consumed with joy and relief, I ran to hug her and gave her a big kiss. “You’ve came to take me with you”? I asked. She then answered “not yet, let me talk to your father”. I was so thrilled that I followed her everywhere. I then saw her and my father walk into his bedroom together, laughing and talking, then his door closed. I sat there for what seemed like an eternity, and then decided to walk away; little did I know back then of what was actually happening behind that closed door, but can only assert that it was nothing a father should have been doing with his daughter in the next room. To make matters worse, my aunt had manages to sneak out past me, without as much as a “good-bye”. I felt my heart sink in my chest, and I was, once more betrayed and confused.
Overcome with great sadness, one day, during of my church visits I gathered all of the courage I could possibly muster up, and told a Priest, incident by incident, about what was happening in my home. He took immediate action by insisting that I not return to the home, and informed DCF (Dept. of Children & Families) due to my young age, and my circumstances. Yet, nothing could possibly prepare for I what would happen next. Although unaware at the time, I had been placed into “the system”, and was instantly made to hop around, from home to home, between family members and perfect strangers, ensuing hors on-end with drilling, court-appointed social workers, who continually made a point to most details of everything I had gone through. She then explained to me why I had to advise me that I needed to stay put for the time being, while they attempted to locate my “Mami Alta”, a process that seemed eternal.
During that time I remember a feeling of loneliness, and even began to believe what my paternal grandmother had declared over me being an “unwanted child”; yet, in time, I was finally told that “Mami-alta” and “Papi-chu” (grandfather) were found, and that the paperwork granting them custodial rights was underway. I couldn’t help but wonder what would become of my brother, I was told the social worker had talked with him, but he decided to stay. I knew deep down in my heart that our father had a lot to do with his decision to stay; then prayed for him to be safe.
Soon thereafter, I moved to Miami and was reunited with my grandparents- ‘Mami –Alta” and “Papi-Chu”, and all was well. I knew taking me in had been a tough decision for them for they had already raised several children (now adults) of their own, and had to at their age start anew with me. I immediately felt not only the love of my dear grandparents, but also, and more importantly the love of God over me and my life. You can say that the little seed that was planted in me gave me, at such a very young age the strength to live through what I lived thru and the courageous to do what I did; I Thank God and “Mami-Alta” for giving that to me.
That is why Family and believing in God are so incredibly important to me. There is a God, I’m living proof of that! He is a merciful God… He endures our pain right alongside us, and then moves in to sweep us up and make us whole again… I am whole again.
About a year and a half ago, my “Mami-Alta” passed on due to complications with her ongoing battle with Alzheimer’s disease, and I have vowed to walk in the 5k marathon in her honor, every year.
Now a proud and devoted wife and mother I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished and become. Just looking at my girls growing up beautifully makes EVERY sacrifice and choices in my life I’ve made worthwhile. I’m a very loving and caring person, worthy of great love, and love God and my family very much!
Lorraine Genao is a devoted wife mother and mother of two wonderful girls. She lives in Miami, and is an occasional contributor to INSPIRED.