I do think that when I wrote the title of this blog I must have been once again trying to be someone I have never been; brave.
When I was fifteen years old I got pregnant. I was a lost soul looking for love. As the song says, "Looking for love in all the wrong places." I had two alcoholic parents and a sister nine years my senior who was basically off at college by the time I reached ten. I'm not blaming my parents for anything that happened to me or making excuses for the stupid choices I made.
The one GOOD choice I made was to give birth to my daughter and keep her rather than do what was popular at the time, adoption. My daughter is a beautiful woman who has given me three wonderful grandsons.
Back in 1966 when I got pregnant the reaction was varied. Many parents sent their wayward daughters to "homes for pregnant girls" and some, like mine, made them a ward of the state. I was labeled a wayward child and put on "probation." I was sent to juvenile hall until I was nearly 7 months pregnant and then transferred to a state hospital where I worked in the kitchen until I gave birth.
Every day was a nightmare. I was afraid. I was alone. I had disappointed my parents, embarrassed them, and while I should have been entering my first year of high school I was locked away with other girls who had somehow broken the law. Juvenile hall was a scary place where there were very tough girls, many from the city. I was totally out of my element. These were girls who were there for knifing someone or for robbery. I arrived from my all white suburban town into a place where 9o% of the girls were black and 85% older than me. There was a bunk bed in the locked room with a small square screened glass window on the door and a window high up with bars. Maybe there was a bureau but I don't remember it. I seem to recall that all pens, combs etc. were kept in a common area not in your room. I remember that they checked your body in a personal way to find out if you had things you should not have. I remember the black girls treating their hair; a burning smell I had never experienced. I learned that if you were nice enough or quiet enough or looked down enough, you were left alone. Mostly.
When I was transferred to the state hospital I was surprised to see so many other pregnant girls and women. Some younger and a few older women all pregnant at different stages. My third day there, a girl was slashed across her back. It turned out she came from my hometown although I did not know her before we arrived at this nightmare together. Razor blades? Slashing someones back? This was where I was going to be until my baby came? I was so afraid.
Every day we were to go to "our" floor of the state hospital and take care of food trays. pass them out, feed people, wash them when done. I was in the hospital for months. As my belly grew I kept my resolve to keep my baby but as each day passed I wondered how that would happen.
While I was in the state hospital they sent me down for a teeth check and before I knew it my teeth had been pulled. Every tooth in my 15 year old mouth, PULLED. They put top dentures in but left me with no bottom teeth. Fifteen years old and I had NO teeth. There I was, pregnant, toothless and alone. It was my nightmare.
I must stop here... I want to fast forward to me now. I am 59 years old. I still had the dentures that I was fitted with back in 1966. I was able to get lower dentures and a new upper plate in 1969 but kept the upper from 1966 just in case. Just in case happened on Saturday. I was driving to Walmart when my front tooth broke out of the denture. I turned around and drove home and dug up the old 1966 plate that was hidden away, just in case. I slipped the ill-fitting dentures in my mouth after a bit of poli-grip and there I found myself looking in the mirror. These dentures are worn away..Lord knows they were probably the least expensive method the state hospital could produce. The back teeth are worn to the plastic gum and the front are very small from wear. But, they are teeth. I need teeth.
They hurt. Much like most of my life. My teeth are like me. Ill-fitting. Worn. Tired. I am ashamed of my teeth and I am ashamed to say that I have had the opportunity to change them, buy new, but hesitated because people would see me with new big teeth. I did show my husband my broken teeth and he did what I expected, chastised me for not doing something a long time ago.
These are my tears...this is my hurt. I have a feeling I don't really know how to live any other way. I will count my blessings...that always lifts me. And, I will call a dentist, on Monday. I promise to post my new smile. Authentic...Real...and Unafraid.