FFF #29, 2015—How Tammy became Ours!
I don’t think I have ever publicly shared this story, so I think it is about time. I know when I read blogs, I can sometimes glean information that doesn’t seem to fit, so I seek the answers through some of the other blog posts the author has written. Sometimes I can’t find the information I need to put two and two together. I don’t want this to be one of those places.
Tams is the same age as Spanky and really close in age to Slim and she is the only one who we use her name and not a nick name so it is obvious something is different. Here is the story, and why it is different.
When we moved here to California, we had four children, Slim, Spanky, Scuff, Sport and were 20 weeks pregnant with Speedy. Drew was called to be the ward mission leader almost immediately upon our arrival. The stake president literally ran us down (on foot, not in his car) in the parking lot our first Sunday in the ward.
One family the missionaries were visiting and teaching had two daughters, Tammy and her older sister. Tams was six. Her father was an inactive member and her mother was the investigator. Neither Tams’ father, nor her mother were in good health. It was difficult for both of them to get around. Shortly after Ann’s (Tams’ Mom) baptism, I was called to be her visiting teacher. I visited her every month. They were difficult visits in that Tams’ dad didn’t want to give up his smoking habit and Tams’ mom was on oxygen. They had lived a rather rowdy life. Ann was trying to live her newly made covenants, but Frank (Tams’ dad) wasn’t quite ready to give up his vices.
As time went on, it was obvious Ann’s health was in a steady decline. She wasn’t going to last too much longer. We had many discussions about her plans for her funeral and what she wanted for her daughters and what plans she had in place for them. The only thing she stressed was that she wanted her daughters to be happy and successful. As probably one of her only consistent friends near the end of her life, I promised Ann that I would do whatever I could to help ensure her wishes would be met.
Tams was 10 when her mother passed away, about four years after her mother joined the church. By then, Drew was the Bishop of our ward. When their mother passed away, my sweetheart tried to make sure there were women visiting that house and checking on those girls weekly. Because I don’t know anything that is going on in the Bishop’s office, I don’t know who was asked to do what, but I do know of three women who stepped up to the plate and kept a rather consistent eye on the girls—I love each and everyone of them! (Judy Bingham, Ellen Messerly, and Heidi VanBuskirk). I know other women were asked and would not help (I do not know who they are, thank goodness!) I was kind of out of commission because Sun was just a baby (1), Speedy was three, and I was expecting Shorty, with my other four children who were 12 and under.
It was a rough couple of years. But it got more difficult when Tams’ father passed away a few years later. She was 13. At that point, I was ready to file the papers to bring those girls to my house and raise them myself. However, after many discussions with Drew and lots of prayer, it became obvious to me that the rest of Tams’ family needed an opportunity to step in and try to help those girls. Tams had an older half brother, who lived with his sweetheart and they had two children about the girls’ ages. And there was an aunt who wanted the opportunity to help out also. There were custody battles and other issues, but Tams ended up with the family and her sister went to a home that was more suited to her needs (she has some mental disabilities).
By this point in time, I was in the Young Women’s organization. As part of my responsibilities, I kept tabs on Tammy—just checking in with her periodically and seeing what she needed, emotionally and otherwise. I became friends with her family and they trusted me to help them out and check in on Tammy. Periodically we spoke of Tams’ sister and made arrangements for the two of them to spend time together. It was really difficult for me to watch because I just wanted to rescue Tammy. I didn’t want her to have to experience the life she was living with her relatives, none of whom were active members. But the truth be told, I was swimming in my own family. I realistically could not have managed Tammy’s and her sister’s needs at my house, as much as my heart desired to save them. But I could keep a watch from a distance and periodically step in and help or facilitate the help they needed, which I did.
Custody battles, lots of emotional discussions, and court appearances were all a part of this time of our interactions with Tammy and her family. Judy, Ellen and Heidi continued to be an asset and help in tending to Tammy’s and her sister’s needs.
By the time Tammy was 14, she was attending the same high school as my boys. I drove her to and from school every day. She hung out with us. Some other families also became involved in her life. She had piano lessons at the M’s. She had family home evening with the Davis’ and when ever she just needed a break from life and some space, she hung out with the Craig’s, whose children were all grown.
By the time Tams was 16, things became very strained at her home, where she was living with her half brother. Things were pretty intense and emotional. One day things blew up and Tammy left the house and walked to my house about two to three miles away. It was normal teenage drama with lots of tears and hurt feelings, but it became obvious that things were not going to be reconciled and Tams was going to need another place to stay. I again revisited the options with Drew about filing for custody and bringing Tammy home to live with us. As we prayed about it, again the answer was, “Not now. This is not for you to do.” Again, I was not happy with the answer.
Tammy’s brother came over to visit with us. He was really only comfortable with two families he knew in the church, us and the M’s. He knew Sister M because he had been the one dropping Tammy off for piano. Since we were the only two families he knew, we were the only ones he was comfortable with allowing to file for custody. Since Drew and I had prayed about it and knew the Lord didn’t want us to do it, the M’s were the only option. We called the Bishop (not Drew) and let him know of the details. He had been in the loop all along. I don’t know who spoke with the M’s or how that worked or was approached, but that was what ended up happening. Tams moved in with the M’s and became a part of their family.
That was really difficult for a lot of us. I am sure the M’s meant well, but in hopes of acclimating Tammy to their family (I am assuming), Sister M cut off all of Tammy’s interactions with the other families who had stepped in and made her a part of their families. She kind of cut off all of the support network we had built around her, which was really difficult for all of us. But due to Tammy’s amazing resilience, she still blossomed!
I continued to be Tams’ venting place. When things were stressful or she needed to talk or cry, she came to me. I had been there for a long time, watching over her and loving her and caring for her. In my heart, she was mine and I cared about her that way. It was really difficult for me when she would pour out her heart and I wanted to come running to her defense. It was usually my husband who would say, “Carin, remember you are only getting half of the story—her half.” I knew he was right, but it didn’t stop me from feeling very protective of her.
She lived with the M’s until she was ready to go off to college. When she comes home, she stays with the M’s. She loves them! That is great! It is wonderful that she has two families—us and the M’s. When we have family anything, Tams is a part of it. And when the M’s have any family thing, Tams is a part of that. We have to share her, but that is alright! After what she has been through, she deserves the love of two complete families—one with mostly sisters, and the other one full of brothers.
And that is how Tams became a part of us, and she always will be!