because my parents decided that they were going to give me to the state for adoption if she didn’t want to, my Grandma took me when i was five years old to raise me.

i was smart but damaged, having already seen more traumatic things in five years than most people do in a lifetime, and my Grandma grieved for the childhood that i had lost and the behaviors that told her how neglected i had been.

even though they were not good ones, my parents were all that i had ever known of a mommy and daddy and so i kept expecting them to show up to see me, at least…to hug me, maybe. as time went on and they didn’t, i became even more withdrawn and sad, feeling that it was something i had done or said or deserved that had caused them to not want me. i tried to figure out the things that i could have done better, how i could have worked harder to be a good girl, so that they wouldn’t have hated me so much. i would ask my grandma, when i did chores or cleaned up messes or dressed myself, “i’m a good girl, right Grandma? if i keep being a good girl, will my daddy come to see me? do you tell him that i read good and clean up after i take my shower?”

these conversations devastated my Grandma and so she tracked my dad down and begged him to speak to me and promise me that he would come to see me. he did so, telling me that he would come on Saturday at one o’clock and that he would take me to Wal-Mart and i could pick out anything i wanted. all week, i kept reminding my Grandma of this impending visit, and telling her that i wasn’t even going to pick out something expensive…that i was going to just get something small like a stuffed bear so that he could know that i didn’t want him to buy me things but that i just wanted to see him, but that i was going to take a while to pick it out and have him help me so that we could be there for longer. these conversations broke my Grandma’s heart, and she would cry and when i asked why, tell me that i was such a good girl that it made her cry happy tears.

on Saturday at the scheduled time, i was clean and dressed in my best clothes and had begged my Grandma to braid my hair in tight braids so that my hair wouldn’t blow everywhere and get in my ice cream if he got me some (which i of course hoped that he did!!). i sat by the window watching for his El Camino to pull into the drive, telling my Grandma what animal i thought he would like for me and continually asking her for the time. at two, i was worried that he had forgotten how to get to her house and at three i was worried that something had happened to him, because my daddy wouldn’t just not come to see me when he said he would. at four, through my body racking sobs, i fought my Grandma as she tried to hold me and hid myself to reconcile this final blow.

that night, as my Grandma laid with me and tried to tell me over and over again that even though she knew that a part of me would always be broken because i believed that this was my fault, that my parent’s divorce and abusive behavior and neglect and damage done was because i deserved it, because i had been too much or not enough, that it wasn’t me. that you couldn’t earn something that the person didn’t possess to give. i believed that my daddy was a great man who couldn’t love me because i was bad…that who he was to me was because of me and not just who he was period. and when i sobbed that i wanted him to be good to me, she said something to me that became her verbal hug for me as i grew up, the cornerstone of the way that we communicated…

my Grandma gave me the words, “When someone shows you who they truly are, you have no choice but to believe them. Words are easy to say, actions speak louder.”

as i grew up, the paragraphs around these words varied, to fit friends that turned on me for girls with more money and better clothes, boys that cajoled me because i was not interested in sex, teachers that i looked up to who asked me to help the football team cheat on exams, and Representatives who tried to seduce me when i was working in the House of Representatives. my Grandma softened the blow of these experiences by convincing me that these were just situations in which people were doing me a favor by showing me who they really are, and therefore saving me the time that would be wasted in false pretense until they actually got around to saying their true motives. they were people who, while capable of misleading and deceiving with their mouths, were unable to keep their intentions hidden in their actions. and so, it became a matter of choice for me…to believe the truths presented in their actions and save myself time and additional heartache, or to choose to believe their smooth words and leave myself open for additional disappointent and hurt.

the advice “When someone shows you who they really are, believe them…” has been the best and most used of my life. it has enabled me to own my life in a way that some see as impossible, because i allow myself to believe my feelings about a person, situation, lover, boss, whatever – based on our interaction and not their promises or whispers or spin. this has saved me so much negativity over the years, and has proven itself to be true when i disregard it as well. like my Grandma herself, her advice has proven to be one of the most cherished things that i have.

i am Angie and i am living out my 30th year in Los{t} Angeles.