Never Young is a healing memoir, a story of a young girl’s life that has been shaped by heavy labour, her father’s alcoholism, hardship, loneliness, and the pain of abandonment. Despite the abuse, loss, hurt and anger I experienced as a child, I knew there is love buried deep inside each of us.
Set in a small farming community in Poland in 1960, I find myself, at the age of five, locked in a one-room house with two younger brothers, ages three and one, with the windows nailed shut from the outside and the only door padlocked from the outside. Mom has been taken away to the hospital in the big city again, this time for a long period.
As I think of her, a memory washes over me…. I’d heard a bang and crash against the tall dresser I was lying behind–my tiny bedroom space–and all of a sudden Mom was on the dirt floor with a bleeding head. As Dad stumbled back out of the house, slamming the door behind him, I ran out from my hiding spot and put a cold cloth on Mom’s head, shaking her slightly to make sure she was still alive. As I wiped the blood from above her eye, she looked at me sadly and we both cried. This time I thought I’d lost her forever…. I shake my head to clear it of the images and gaze at my brothers.
Locked in this small house, I am responsible to find a way to entertain my brothers until Dad gets home at dusk from his farm work in the fields. “Maybe today we can play with potatoes on the forks and pretend they are soldiers coming to rescue us,” I think aloud.
As I watch Dad drive away in his horse-drawn wagon, a sinking feeling of loneliness comes over me. What am I going to do with these two little boys all day long? What am I going to feed them? How can I keep them busy, especially my active three-year-old brother? I lie on the bed and cry until my eyes are too sore to see. But I know I have to be strong for them.
Feeding my young brothers and my dad is part of my daily work. Today’s breakfast will be an old potato, with milk, from last night’s supper. For lunch, we will have baby carrots that are in the bucket Dad brought from the farm last night and a jar of canned cherries from Grandma. At supper time we will have boiled potatoes and sour milk.
I am faced with constant chores like working in the fields pulling weeks, squashing bugs and watering plants, all by hand, in the fields. The work is repetitious and difficult, but it gives me an opportunity to dream of a better life. There has to be a better life out there–somewhere that has no dirt floors, no heavy labour, no constant yelling and fighting, but instead a loving family living in a home with indoor plumbing and with running water.
As I witness my Dad’s alcoholism and physical abuse of my mom, I struggle to belong and to be loved. Dad is constantly working and so has no time for us. Yet I cherish the rare moments I have with him when we go for a walk, usually after one of his violent outbursts.
And then, at eleven years of age, an incident occurs which drives me to finally get away. I am nauseated by the smell of this big-bellied, unwashed, toothless stranger who has accosted me on a country road between our farm and home. As he lies on top of me, I am terrified and believe I am going to die. But somehow I manage to escape his clutches.
I run away from home, taking a night train to a big city. On that journey, my suitcase gets switched with an identical one which belongs to the undesirable older man sitting near me on the train, who has been leering at me and conversing with suggestive language. From the train station, he follows me through the dark, unlit city streets as I search for my Auntie’s house.
Even though things in my life are difficult and sometimes dark, I continue to have a sense of optimism and a deep, abiding faith that will lead me to make peace with my past. I will discover that the truest tests of courage are the chances we take with other people as we seek reconciliation and love.
Never Young paints a picture of a life that most people in our western society have not seen. I hope you will walk with me through my childhood and experience the events that have woven my life, taking me from hardship and sorrow to a new life of hope and fulfilled dreams, rooted in God.
My Mission is to accurately and authentically share my early childhood experiences with my readers. I want my readers to be inspired and motivated to feel optimistic and enthusiastic about their lives and to have a sense of hope.