Sunday, May 16, 2010

Escape Route

College was the first step on the escape route from my life with my hoarder father. But leaving wasn't easy... This vignette takes place after the events in my memoir Nice Children Stolen From Car. The following posts will be from that transitional time, on my way out of the hoard and into my new life.

Escape Route
copyright Barbara Allen 2010

My father refuses to fill out any of my financial aide forms for college. With his teacher's salary, my non-working mother and six kids, I'd surely qualify for some kind of assistance, but he will not even consider applying. The forms are too intrusive, he says, require too much personal information. "They want to know every pot you have to piss in," he tells me, by way of explanation; and he's not about to share his private business with strangers.

That's what he says, but I know the real story, the true reason for his refusal: several years of unfiled tax returns are buried in a pile somewhere in our house, and he isn't about to get in trouble with the IRS over something like my college education. He isn't paying for any part of my schooling anyway; he's made that abundantly clear, not a cent. So, why should he care, really, if I receive no financial assistance?

But college is my escape route to a new life, and I am determined to go, no matter what obstacles are put in my way. A state school seems to be my most inexpensive option; I apply to the one located the farthest from my parents' house. I am accepted and, by some miracle, I even luck into a bit of financial aide that doesn't require my father's imput.

I can't wait to go, but I'm nervous, too. There are so many things that I don't know, so many things that "regular" people take for granted. Like how often do you wear a shirt or jeans before you put them in the laundry? How do you DO the laundry? How do you make a bed? How often do "regular" people change their sheets?

The way I've been living all these years seems so different, so removed from normal, that I imagine the farthest extreme: sheets, for example, must get changed everyday by the rest of the world. I wonder, with considerable anxiety, how I will learn all these new things; most importantly, how I will ever keep up and blend in.

Then I find out that my best friend Rose has decided to attend the same college, and I breathe a sigh of relief. Rose is my anchor, my link to normalcy. She knows my story, but despite everything, still wants to be my friend. She is the only person I trust enough to ask these important, how-to-live-a-regular-life questions.

I ask her about the sheets, mentioning in an off-hand way what I suspect is the norm.

"Every day?" she exclaims. "You can't be serious! Changing them once a week or even every other week is just fine!"

Once a week! Every other week! I feel my anxiety melting away. I can manage that! Maybe, just maybe, with Rose by my side, coaching me, I might be able fake my new life well enough to keep my old life secret.
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