TITLE: My Journey to that Place Called Home
By Samuel Connelly
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There is nothing more important to a child than being Home. Home is a place of security, a place of refuge, and a place where transparency is encouraged, regardless of the things that come into view when one becomes transparent. Home is a place where a child of any age, can lay down their guards; opening all their inner doors to let go of every secret. For many people the name of their mother is synonymous with Home.
When I think of my mother I don’t think about all of those great things as mentioned before. Maybe it’s because she really didn’t get much of a chance to learn how to become those things. But I did learn a great deal from her.
When I was two years old I was abducted by my father. It was actually the first case where a parent was found guilty of abducting their own child. The laws today, which have been put in place to prevent these kinds of heartaches, literally began in the case of Connelly vs. Connelly, in a small court in south Texas. This was a historical case, which came close to turning into a case of The State of California vs. The State of Texas; even President Ronald Regan sent my mother a personal letter of condolence and congratulations after she was awarded sole custody of my brother and me.
I was six years old. All I really remember of that day was walking into court with my brother and my father. The media was everywhere. As soon as I got inside of the courthouse a woman grabbed me. She was a skinny blonde woman with big green eyes. She was crying and rubbing one hand through my fine blonde hair, the other stroked my face. She smiled, and cried. She didn’t want to loosen her grip when I was quickly pulled away and ushered into the courthouse. I watched that woman walk into the courtroom, and she kept her eyes on me. “That’s your mother.” Somebody said.
I thought that I didn’t have a mother.
The next few days were a blur; lots of testimonies, talking, questions, testimonies, talking, questions, crying, and questions again. It was really hard for a six year old to have to sit through all of that.
The last day of court change life forever. We all stood to listen to the judge talk. I didn’t understand anything that was being said except for the fact that someone was going to be awarded something. Cheers broke out over half of the courtroom, crying and cursing over the other. My father screamed and yelled at the judge, he hugged me tightly and said that he loved me more than anything in the whole world. My brother and I were crying because my dad was crying. He was crying because he didn’t get the award. I didn’t realize that I was part of that award. A couple police came and took me and my brother. My dad fought them, crying, “Don’t take my children.” Several police and security guards had to restrain him.
That day we left the court house with that woman: my new…no, not new, mother. We had a long trip from Smithville Texas to Tracy, California. During the whole trip my brother wouldn’t say a word to her. I just smiled at her as she drove, and, she just cried and smiled at me; touching my cheek from time to time, patting my head, flicking my hair, and patting my hands.
This woman, this trying-as-hard-as-she-could-to-be-Mom was broken. I didn’t understand this at the time, and this mad it even harder for me to understand why she did the things she did, and made the choices she did.
When we arrived at our new home, in Tracy, I discovered a couple more surprises. The first: I was no longer the baby. She had a son during the time I was gone. It seemed a little hard for me. Every child should have the chance to be the baby. Second surprise: My mother had married an abusive man.
The second surprise was much harder for me to receive. I had been taken from home and lived a life that changed constantly, as my father was always on the run from the police. I understood that life. Sure I was abducted; thought that I had no mother- but this was a new dark world. I didn’t know that men hit women. I didn’t know what a drunk was. I didn’t know what escaping into the bottle meant, and I didn’t know real fear until then.
For the next several years I would come accustomed to being shut in our bedroom, with my older brother and new little brother where we would hold each other, and cry as sounds of my mother being slapped, furniture being knocked around, cursing, accusations, and the thud of my mother’s body being knocked against walls, while her sweet broken voice would weakly say, “Everything’s ok, boys. Mommy and Daddy are just fighting, it’s ok.”
Several times I came home from school and found my stepfather sitting in his recliner, drinking a beer, watching football, and munching on a salt sprinkled tomato. “There’s my football player.” He would say to me, and I would set my backpack on the table next to a fistful clump of my mothers beautiful blonde hair. One time, while my little brother and I hid in the bedroom, my older brother snuck into the kitchen and called the police. “My stepfather is beating my mother in the bathtub. Please hurry before he kills her.”
He was arrested, a few times. She let him come back to her, every time.
As I got older things just got worse. He worked somewhere (I never knew what he did, because I didn’t care) and we went to school, and my mother worked as a waitress, with bruises. She never called in, even when he had pulled her earrings out, even with big black eyes. Life was about survival for her. She worked full time, came home and cleaned, and made dinner, and pleased him, and got beat, and kissed us every night and told us she loved us.
One day he hit my brother, knocking him through a glass coffee table. My mother picked up a large porcelain eagle from the mantle and hit him in the head. He fell to the ground and yelled, “I’ll kill you.” She raised the eagle again. He jumped up and ran to the bedroom, with her on his heals. “You’re a crazy woman! I’ll kill you. You’re crazy!”
“You hit my son!” She was hysterical, insane, and powerful. “I let you beat me, and use me, and hurt me, but you touch my kids, and you got something else coming! Oh God help me, you got something else coming!” He slammed the bedroom door and started pulling stuff down in the closet, looking for his hunting riffle.
My mother, who was only wearing a white lace nightgown, which was stained with fresh blood from her ear and nose grabbed my. “Out of the apartment, boys, he’s getting his gun!”
“Is he going to kill us, mom.” One of us cried.
“He won’t touch a hair on your heads.” She said, hurrying us down the two flights of stairs. We ran frantically to a friend’s apartment a few sections over. The woman took us into her living room.
“What is going on?” The woman said. “Did he do this to you?”
“Oh I did it this time. He’s got his gun. I’ve got to get out to the street. The police should be on their way already.” She gave us kisses and said it would be alright and ran in the opposite direction from the apartment.
I remember just sitting with my older brother, holding his hands with my eyes closed. The woman was holding my younger brother while he was crying. She called the police. “Get here fast, my friend’s husband beats her all the time. He’s got a gun and has threatened to kill her this time.” The police were on their way. I just breathed as quietly as I could, waiting for the sound of a gun blast. I was scared to for her, and at the same time I knew that she would be safe in Heaven.
He went to jail, and when his father heard about what had happened he came to California from Hawaii to be there to pick up his son when he got out of jail. My mother promised us that she would not let him come back this time. I don’t think any of us believed her, but it felt so good to hear. I prayed that night that he would not come back, and my prayer was answered.
My mother did, eventually, fall in love again. We moved in with him and his two kids. He really did love her, and they got married. Unfortunately, at that time, I couldn’t bring myself to give him a father’s place in my heart, I couldn’t even accept giving him a mother’s-new-husband place in my heart. At some point, and I am not sure when, my mother and new stepfather became Preachers. They had not gone to school for it, and it didn’t seem that we were too involved in our church, but there you have it, I was an over night preachers’ kid- a P.K.
We moved to Renton Washington and lived in some apartments. My parents started having church on the apartment club house. Mostly kids came, and a few adults. I just could not grasp all the change.
As I grew up and started junior high school I struggled with every friend, and every relationship I had. My older brother left home and joined the military and this left me feeling alone. I had my younger brother, who I loved more than anything, but I was the older brother; a protector. I had no one real friend. Every time did get to know someone, my parents moved. We moved a few times a year. I hated it.
We moved from California to Texas, and lived all over that state. Then we moved from Texas to Washington. I got to spend the next couple years in Renton, Auburn, The Highlands, and a couple places I can’t remember the names of. We moved from Washington back to California; I thought we were going to move to Oregon next, but Portland didn’t quite meet our ministry needs.
The night that we were supposed to load up the moving truck and kiss Washington good-bye I ran away from home, with my girlfriend, Shari Taylor’s little brother Shad. That attempt failed horribly. We were so…pre-teenage boys with pre-teenage boy fantasies. The plan was to collect money from Shad’s newspaper route, catch a greyhound bus to Hollywood, and get adopted by Kim Bassinger. Honestly. An hour later Shad’s mom was picking us up at a church parking lot.
When I walked into my house at 3am my stepfather was lying on the couch, covered up. He opened his eyes and sat up. After stretching, he stood up and started walking down the hall towards the bathroom. “We’ll load the couch in the morning; there is a pillow and blanket on your bedroom floor. We’ll be leaving in, oh,” looking at his wrist watch “four hours. You’re mother doesn’t know. She left ahead of us with your grandpa and brothers. We will talk about this in the morning.”
The next day we drove from Renton to Oroville California. Over the next four years my parents built their church, I got to spend two and a half years in the same school while moving from Oroville, to Paradise, to Magalia, to Oroville again, to the Lucky-7- Ranch, which was owned by very good friends of the family.
The church grew; people were coming from all over the United States and even other countries. My Mother and stepfather started to be invited to other countries to preach. They took off to Sweden, Africa, and when in the States, toured America. Crazy things happened too. I saw amazing things in their ministry that could only be explained by God, but I couldn’t understand how.
In 1996 my parents moved to Wichita Kansas. I had been pulled out of school my junior year to be in their ministry. Life was crazy. Everything was upside down, nothing was actually ever finished and we just started new lives, in new places, with new people, gaining new problems, without ever allowing any kind of closure for the ones we left behind. I finally realized that I didn’t have a clue as to who I actually was.
In 1997 my Mom and stepfather decided to move back to Oroville California. I couldn’t do it. I decided that I facing the street would be better than being trapping in this cycle the rest of my life. They were not too happy and it was really hard parting ways but I had to. At eighteen I was half a country away from family with no place to live. I was lonely, angry at life, and felt as if I was not good enough for anyone.
I quickly found myself doing what my mother did, the year my father abducted me: I started living life in survival mode. I became a fighter. I fought my doubts, my fears, and my nights of loneliness. I picked up the Bible and started reading instead of picking up girls and doing other things.
I got a job. I got a place to live, by myself. I started attending church where there were other people my age. I got a car. One year and two days after I had moved to Wichita, I started dating the Preacher’s daughter. On July 11, 1998 I married her and that’s when I began to learn lessons from my mother’s life. I started to understand why she worked so hard for us, why she took the beatings to keep a roof over our heads. She didn’t consider her own life anymore; she had to survive, so that we could survive.
In 2000, my son was born. It was the most amazing and terrifying thing that could have happened to me. Part of me was explosively happy; the other half was frightened beyond words. I had heard that your fathering skills come from what kind of father you had. Since I didn’t really get a good chance to have a relationship with my father, and the only other example I had was that of a drunken wife beater, and then, a good man that I didn’t allow to get too close, I looked at that tiny little life in my hands and just wanted to cry.
In 2005 we had a daughter; I began to understand more of what happen to my mother when we were taken. I thought what if my kids were ever taken from me. What would I do? I would go insane. I would flip out. I think that that is what happened to my mother. When I thought about our lives that way, it made more sense.
I could not justify many of my mother’s decisions, but I could see why she made certain decisions. I was bitter, for years, at how she seemed to love my little brother more than my older brother and me, but I understood. I hated that my mother took that abusive man back so many times when he was only going to hurt her again, but I could see that she was fighting to have some kind of normal life. My mother broke when she lost us, and too much changed in her life while we were gone to ever have it back. There would be no ‘perfect’ home for us anymore, yet she was trying in the only way she knew how; trying to create a perfect picture. She was a Mom, and even if a mom breaks, they never stop doing their best to create a family, even if their view of ‘family’ is no longer a recognizable picture.
I experienced loneliness, dysfunction, fear, brokenness, and the effects of divorce- three times over. These gave me a very vivid picture of what I do not want in the lives of my children. I learned how to fully cherish my wife by seeing how one was completely torn down.
I see the importance of quality of life. I didn’t have a father to do all those great things that fathers do with their sons and daughters, so I make sure to do all those things with mine. I learned the necessity of compromise in a marriage, having boundaries when in disagreement, and never going to bed angry with each other. I learned that you must hold tightly those you love, yet don’t hold so tight that they cannot go and discover who they are. I also discovered that my wife and I have the amazing and awesome task of raising our children to leave home, not to be who we want them to be. Raise them so that they can easily walk out of my home ready for a huge world. I learned all of these great things from mom.
There is nothing more important to a child than being Home. Home is a place of security, a place of refuge, and a place where transparency is encouraged, regardless of the things that come into view when one becomes transparent. Home is a place where a child of any age, can lay down their guards; opening all their inner doors to let go of every secret. I have finally found home and, in spite of the journey I had to take to get here, the lessons I learned from my mother have made me a better man.
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