Most of a post made to the Usenet group

(Someone else asked)
> Your answer to the question is one of the best bunch of skill sets so
> far.  As a married mother of one in high school, which of those skills
> did you not have?

(Kim replied)
Hmmmmm.....At that point, I think I had all the basic "life skills", but not from choice, they came from having to learn them. I was the oldest of 8 kids with a psychotic mother who liked to go on "drink binges" about once every two weeks. She'd leave on a Friday night and not come back until 10 days later, or whenever the mood struck her - and the youngest of my siblings at that time was less than a year old and went up from there. I had to stay home from school and take care of the babies, cook the meals, pay the bills, do the shopping and keep everything running. I learned how to run a household fairly early on out of necessity. There was no one else there to do it.

And I read - a lot. It was my escape. And since I was only going to school part time - I pretty much read all of my textbooks cover to cover and did all the testsand homework assignments in the book and wrote out all the "Further questions" from the ends of the chapters to try and keep up so when I *DID* get to go to school, I wasn't so far behind. And when I did have free time or a day when my mother was home, I'd go to the library and just take books home from every section - from reference books to self help books to "how to" books to almanacs and encyclopedias. I think that's where I learned to NOT like fiction - I didn't have time for "make believe" - I read to learn so that someday, when I got out, I'd be ready.

So I learned lots of things, like there were other ways to live and that not everyone had to miss school to take care of their sisters and brothers, and not everyone got beat all the time when their mother came home, and got yelled at for not doing something the way she would have done it if she was there to do it, and not all mothers left you alone all the time. And I learned early on to never, ever depend on anyone - not your mother, not your father, and certainly not some man out of a bar - like the men my mother brought home and more often than not stole from her or left when all the money and the liquor was gone. I learned that you have to make your own way, and rely on yourself and that if you depended on someone else to do shit - even shit they were SUPPOSED to do - you'd end up disappointed with a sinkful of dishes. And I liked to make promises to myself. Like "I'm going to get the fuck out of here and I'm going to go to college and I'm going to get a good job and I'm NEVER going to treat my kids like this." And I kept all those promises.

When I had kids, I took them to all the places I never got to go - like amusement parks and camping and fairs and museums and the park and the beach and skiing, and we'd explore together and do new things together and see new places together, and we rode the ferry to New York for no reason at all, and went to the ice caves and Parc La Ronde, and walked all the way up the mountain in Battery Park to the tower, and we went to the library for "Story hour" and sometimes we'd just stay home together and we'd read and we'd play and I taught them things like how to read and how to tell time and how to add and how to tie their shoes and glue macaroni onto paper plates and how to make turkeys with your hand, and I was always there to tuck them in at night and I never left for days on end and made them take care of each other and wonder if I wasn't coming back this time.

And I made sure that my kids were never jealous of other people who had a mom and a dad and had a family that seemed to give a shit about each other, because I knew how painful it was to go and visit cousins who la-di-da'd through their happy little existence with their biggest problem in life being the decision of whether to go outside and ride their new bike or stay inside in their room full of toys. And who seemed to never appreciate the fact that their mom was home to wash their fucking laundry and no one hit each other or yelled at each other or called the kids bad names and swore all the time at them or hit them with belts and spatulas. But they seemed to never notice that I was standing there so envious and so sad that there but for an errant sperm cell, go I. And that I was crying inside because I thought it so unfair how different my life would be if I was the daughter of one of my grandma's OTHER sons. And I hated God because biologically, I was SO close to having this real family, yet so, so far away.

At my father's funeral a couple of years ago, I went to my Uncle Jack, and I thanked him. And he said "Thank you? For what, Kimmy?" (my family all calls me "Kimmy".) And I said "Thank you, Uncle Jack, for showing me when I was little that there were other ways to be a family. Thank you for being such a good example for me.I never would have known, otherwise that men could be real fathers, and women could be real mothers. I always knew that someday, I wanted my kids to have a dad like you - and a mom like Aunt Pat. I used to go to your house and always cry on the way home because I couldn't live with you, and because I didn't have a real family, like you were, and I always wondered if your kids knew how lucky they were and how much they had - and it made me sad that they probably didn't know. The memories of visiting your house represented everything in my life that I ever fought for. And one time, you called me "such a pretty little girl' and you know, I still remember that to this day, because no one else had ever said that to me."

He hugged me and said "You know, your Aunt Pat and I always thought you were so smart and so special, and now I know why.You *are* special." And that made me really happy. And I thought it was a little ironic, that here I was at my father's funeral, and I was thanking someone else for showing me what a father was.