I can’t believe it’s been seven years since I’ve written in this thing! To say that I’ve been busy ... is an understatement. Once I gained custody over the girls, things got a lot easier.
After graduating from high school in 2005, I went to Keiser University and earned a Bachelor degree in Business Administration. Since I already had a retail career as the Assistant Store Manager at Searle’s Department Store, that degree was enough for me. But when my boss, Mr. Searle, held a graduation party in my honor and promoted me to Store Manager, I felt compelled to keep going. So I stayed at Keiser for another two years and today, I’m graduating with my Masters in Business Administration with a focus of Leadership in Management. Stephanie and Kirsten couldn’t be prouder of me ... but truthfully, I am even more proud of them.
Stephanie is now nineteen and she’ll be a sophomore in college. She didn’t want to be close to home like me so she went an hour and a half away to the University of Miami. It’s funny. Looking back, her independence shouldn’t surprise me. I’ve always had to be responsible since our father left us, and our emotionally unstable mother followed his lead after dropping us off with her sister who dumped us at an adoption agency because her boyfriend wasn’t trying to be nobody’s daddy. I’ll admit, I still may hold a grudge towards them, but everything happens for a reason. If my father, mother and aunt didn’t abandon us like they did, we would have never been taken in by our grandparents. To know that a love exists like the kind they showed us is a blessing to be in the presence of. Not only because I got to experience what it was like to actually be a kid for a while instead of a guardian, but because for so long we felt as if we weren’t loved. Like a bunion on the foot of the family name; a burden that could be easily disposed of if you could stand the pain. But not with Grandma Aggie and Grandpa Harry; they said that as long as they were alive, they would care for us like we were their own children … because we were family, and that’s what family is supposed to do. They were two of the most beautiful people I had ever known … which might explain why they were needed in a place other than here on earth. I miss them more than words can explain, but at least we were able to feel such a love. Not only so we could not know it, but identify it and share it with people that we want to love. I guess Leah had a point.
Not too long ago, she told me that Stephanie craved responsibility because she wanted to be more like me; her big sister, a person she loved and admired. I didn’t understand it then but I do now. I have the same admiration for my grandparents, and the reason why I tried so hard to keep Stephanie from doing too much at a young age is the same reason they kept my grandmother’s illness from me; they didn’t want me to feel burdened. But it’s not a burden to care for someone when they’re struggling. It’s not a burden
to want to help share the load they carry because you love them. That’s something I had to learn and I’m proud to say that my little sister taught me that lesson.
Now, we all help each other and work together. Stephanie was a godsend when I was in college. She helped watch Kirst while I went to class and work, and when Steph started college last year, I took more classes online so I could stay home to help Kirst with her homework and after school activities. Even now that the girls are old enough to watch themselves, I still worry about them every second that they’re out of my sight ... but they worry about me also. They worry that I’m not living my life as they have been allowed to. They worry that it’ll flash before my eyes and all I’ll be able to say is that I spent my life taking care of everyone except myself. They are more mature than I give them credit for, Stephanie and Kirsten. And if you ask them, they’ll say that they learned from the best; they learned from me.
It feels like a huge weight has been lifted off of my chest. To have been able to keep us all together ... to know that all of us are okay and that even without our parents, we are never without love. We have each other and ... Brad and his family have been a great addition. Lemme tell ya ... for my first time down the relationship trail, I could not have asked for a better partner to walk it with. We’re coming up on our seven year anniversary and I have no complaints yet! I’m enjoying every minute of it. And having the two of us graduate together makes for another wonderful moment for my memory bank.
What a graduation present! Despite all of our trials, I have to say that our life is grand right now. I managed to finish school, Stephanie is growing to be a wonderful young lady (even though I’m a little worried about the whole boyfriend thing since she’s dating now), Kirsten has been and will always be the Smith family’s ray of sunshine, and Brad is an absolute dream come true. Things are nothing short of amazing.
I just hope it stays that way.