Updated: Jun 24
| This is the 471st story of Our Life Logs |
I was born in 1962 amid the sprawling streets of Annapolis, Maryland, and lived on its outskirts for the first 12 years of my life. Then we moved for a couple of different reasons. First of all, in that time, race was a pretty big issue, with African Americans having spent the past decade fighting for their civil rights and tensions were high in the city. As a white family, my parents didn’t want us exposed to all the violence that was occurring from either side. Secondly, we had family in Virginia and my parents wanted to be closer to them.
I didn’t mind moving to Virginia…at first. I didn’t have many friends at my school, though, I missed my aunt and uncle who stayed in Maryland. “Oh well,” I thought to myself, “It doesn’t really matter, things will be the same there as anywhere else.”
I was most definitely wrong about that. I got teased at school regularly for being a “Yankee.” It bothered me, but I was fairly quick-witted. I’d comeback with, “At least I’m not a dumb hillbilly!” This usually resulted in a fight. I started landing myself in trouble frequently shortly after we moved to Virginia. I made friends with some people you might say were a bad crowd. We were rowdy kids who would skip school and get in fights. I ran away from home a couple times because of the adjustment curve. I was just frustrated with all the newness of this and abandoning my old life.
My actions landed me in detention centers more than once before I’d even turned 14. I never did anything serious, but all my petty acting up caught up to me many times. After several trips to the detention centers, my parents decided they couldn’t do anything with me and shipped me back up to Maryland to live with my aunt and uncle.
After eight months of living back up north, my parents let me come back home. I was almost 15 at this point and was tired of all the running around and frustration. That when I met an older man, 9 years older than me. But what was age when I thought I had found the man of my dreams? He promised to whisk me away from it all and I believed him. At 15 years old, I became a married woman, ready to live my life how I wanted. Finally, I’d enjoy all the things I missed out on while living in detention centers and moving to-and-fro.
Usually, if it’s too good to be true, it isn’t true. My husband was no husband at all. He hooked me in with honeyed words dripping with sweet promises. Then, once he had me, his true colors shown and he revealed his abusive nature. Screaming, degrading remarks, and beatings were what my life with him entailed.
When I refused to take it any longer, I confided in a friend who said, “Forget him. You can stay with me as long as you need.” I was lucky to have her to help me, and I got out. Unfortunately, that didn’t turn back time, and I had to grow up fast.
After escaping the worst relationship of my life, I was ready to try again. I mean, it was the early ‘80s and by that time, I was a grown woman, after all. That was when I met the man that would alter the course of my life irreversibly. When we first started dating, it wasn’t really anything serious. We took it slow and the relationship was good. His family liked me and I liked them. It was a nice change of pace…until I turned up pregnant.
All of a sudden, I became a problem for him and his family both. He dropped me like a bad habit and refused to play any part of what we created together. What could I say? Whoops? I was crushed and confused. I couldn’t understand what I’d done wrong. It takes two to make a baby, right? Why was I the only one bearing the consequences?
“How am I going to do this alone? How can I give him a childhood when I didn’t even really have one?” The thoughts raced through my head day and night as I tried to figure out my next course of action. One thing held true through all the pain and confusion, “I can do this, I have to do this. If not for me, then for my child.” I told myself over and over. That’s exactly what I planned to do.
Nine months came and went quicker than I could’ve imagined. Before I had time to blink I had a beautiful baby boy, smiling up at me, in my arms. I named him Paul, after my father. A bundle of energy with fiery red hair to keep me up all hours of the day and night. I didn’t mind though. As long as he was healthy and happy, nothing else mattered. He was my best friend and all we had was each other. To me, that was all I needed.
It was terrifically difficult to get by raising Paul all by my lonesome. I worked multiple jobs simultaneously to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads. I worked in textile mills and cleaned houses on the side to bring in some money. I had to give part of that to babysitters, however, because my family refused to help me out and babysit every once in a while. That was terribly frustrating to deal with. I knew they had the time and the resources to lend a hand in my time of need, yet they just didn’t want to. I was reminded of how alone I was and, honestly, had been for some time.
I never really had time to do anything for myself because of work and caring for my son. Not that I minded being there for him, sometimes it was just exhausting though. There were quite a few nights that I missed meals to make sure he got to eat that night. I was doing my best to give him the childhood I was stripped of because of bad choices. Onward I fought, tooth and nail, to give him what I couldn’t have. I don’t regret a second of it either.
Along with not having time to do anything for me came the conundrum of dating. I wanted to have a relationship, to have another adult companion with whom to share my life. I mean, it’s not like you can vent to your 6-year-old, right? The ‘90s were approaching fast and Paul had practically run off every potential boyfriend I had wrangled. He had become quite the handful by this time and much harder to make behave by myself. I really felt like he could use a father figure in his life and that maybe it would calm him down to some degree. That was when I met David, the one man Paul couldn’t manage to scare away.
David cared deeply for me I know that’s why he didn’t turn tail like the others. He stuck by me and helped anyway he could. I finally felt like I could breathe again, like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. We got married in 1992 and I couldn’t have been happier. David is the only man Paul has ever called Dad and he earned it.
David tried to adopt Paul at one point, but Paul’s biological father still had parental rights and refused to sign the paperwork. Even though he had never been a part of Paul’s life, never paid child support, and never even came to see him. I don’t think I’ll ever know why he wouldn’t allow it, but it doesn’t change how my son looks at my husband.
David and I went on to build a life together and had two more children along the way. We purchased our own home shortly afterward. Raising my three children with him was so much easier than trying to go it alone. He landed a great job with a construction company where he stayed for years. This afforded me the opportunity to stay home with our children. It was a nice change of pace to not have to work long hours, day in and day out, just to make ends meet. I was finally living the life I’d dreamed of for so long. Seeing my life pan out after years of fighting my way to the top is one of the best feelings I’d experienced.
The house we purchased after we got married is the home we still live in today. We are still together and though my nest is empty now, we are blessed with eight grandbabies to keep our home warm and alive.
My life has been a battle almost every step of the way, but I never quit and I always fought like a Mother. After years of struggling and fighting, I overcame it all and I’ve never been happier. With all this in mind, always remember that no matter what your circumstance are or what you’ve lost in life, you can make it through. Just keep fighting, keep pushing, and never forget: you can do this.
This is the story of Patricia Roark
Patricia, or Trish as she prefers, was born in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1962. She moved to Virginia at the age of 12. Trish grew fast and missed out on a lot of her childhood. After surviving a very abusive relationship, she met a man that left her after she got pregnant. She fought as hard as she could to provide for him and give him the childhood she didn’t get to have. After years of going it alone she met her current husband, David, who helped her and the two built a life together. Trish has three children and eight grandchildren that all frequently come to visit her and David. Trish currently lives in her warm home with her husband and three cats out in the countryside of Southwest Virginia.
This story first touched our hearts on December 10, 2019.
| Writer: Cody Roark | Editor: Kristen Petronio |