A Troubled Childhood: Losses, Starvation, Loneliness and Depression
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” (John 10:10a)
Everybody has a life story. Some people like it and some don’t, and some don’t care about it, but the truth of the matter is that everybody has one. You have your own life story as I have mine. I would love to hear yours, but for now, I wanted to ask your permission to share with you my life story. Also, I want to encourage you to read it from the beginning to the end as if you are going on a journey. I pray that by reading my story, you will be inspired and challenged to change the way you see your own story because things can change, and it can change for good or even for the better.
I am Valmir Pereira, proudly “Pastor” Valmir Pereira, and this is my story. I was born into a poor and very problematic Catholic family in one of the most impoverished cities in the State of São Paulo, Brazil. Poverty was not the primary cause of our family struggles. Our family problems were a combination of at least three factors: A wrong core of religious beliefs that did not offer any hope to us; my dad’s struggles with alcohol addiction; and poverty. We were a family of seven – my dad and oldest sister passed away - dad, mom, and five siblings. My earlier memories come from the time when I was about four to five years old. Unfortunately, the majority of my memories are not good, but I don’t blame anybody for that; instead I prefer to see it as part of the process of shaping my life to make me the person that I am today. Well, let me share some of my stories with you.
The very first memory: The Delightful Corn Pie that I Never Ate.
The very first memory of my childhood goes back to a night when my mom was baking a corn pie for us as something light to eat before we went to bed. I still have the delightful smell of that pie in my nose, and I remember how anxious I was to eat a slice of it. I do not remember any other type of food that my mom fixed for me during my childhood, but that corn pie is unforgettable. Although I was very excited and couldn’t wait to eat a piece of the pie, I knew that something was not going well. My mom was walking from one side to another without stopping while she was whispering a lot of non-understandable words. My dad wasn’t back home from work yet. He should have been but he was not. I knew that it was the reason for my mom’s stress. When my dad finally got home, I thought it was time for us to eat the pie, but I was wrong. My dad was drunk, and even before he stepped into our home, my mom started yelling at him and saying that he was drunk again. In seconds they were yelling at each other. I don’t remember what they were accusing and blaming one another for, but one thing, besides their arguing, I have vivid in my memories. In the midst of their conversation, I saw my mom picking up the pie, the delightful corn pie, and throwing it away in our backyard. What happened next? I don’t know! I don’t remember if I cried, I probably did… I don’t know how that night ended up. All that I remember is that I did not eat that pie, the delightful corn pie. My pie was stolen from me, not by my mom and dad’s argument, but by the devil’s actions behind it.
A Period of Losses and Starvation.
After that fateful night, my life just continued flowing like any other child. I don’t know how much time was gone until the next event that impacted my life; but I remember watching another argument between my mom and dad, and just a couple of months later we were leaving our home and moving to a different place because my dad had sold our house. I prefer to say that he had lost it for several reasons. First, he was drunk when he transacted the sale. Second, the price that he sold the house for was much less than its value. Third, he never received the total amount of money for the sale of the house. It was our first loss.
The second and the third loss that I remember happening in my childhood is directly related to my dad; however, it affected my family and me deeply. My dad used to ride a bicycle to go to work. One day on his way to work - if he was drunk or not I am not sure, but probably he was - he had an accident; a car crashed into him, and he was badly injured. My dad’s recovery took about two months, and when he got back to work he was fired. It is hard for me to describe the feelings that I had on my heart at that moment, but I knew that my family was going to face a tough time. Not too long, after my dad was fired, my family started starving. My dad losing his job was the second loss that I experienced during my childhood.
The third loss was a consequence of my dad losing his job and his addiction, and let me tell you -- that was the hardest one. Being at home all the time drove my dad into the worst of his alcoholic addiction. My dad began to drink alcohol every single day all day long. He had no time to eat anymore, and as a consequence of that, he lost his health. My dad got severely sick, living his life lying on a bed and vomiting blood several times, day and night. My mom took him to see a doctor who, after doing some exams, told my mom to keep him at the home because he would die soon; he had lost his health! At that time I was around nine years old.
That situation led my family to experience a hard time of starvation, hopelessness, and so much pain. In one attempt to fix the problem my mom decided that she was going to find a job to provide for our family. My feelings at that point were that I had lost my dad, who was dying in a bed, and now I also had lost my mom who was working in two different places - cleaning houses during the day and cleaning a hospital during the night. Although it was tough to have my mom working outside the home, it was the only way that she found to provide for her dying husband and five children. I remember my mom bringing home her meal that she didn’t eat at her job so she could feed us. How can we explain such great love? My mom will be my example and encouragement forever.
It was supposed to be just another morning in my life. I woke-up and called my mom from my bed, but I didn’t get any answer. Tears flowed from my eyes, and a deep sense of being alone broke my heart. Oh gosh, how I wish my mom were at home on that day! Indeed, that was my everyday reality. Some days were harder than others. Between the ages of six and ten years old, I experienced great loneliness in my life. My older sister and brothers were out of the home for school, my dad was lying in bed most of the time. - He didn’t die as soon as the doctor had predicted, but he was still struggling with his addiction and severe health issues – my mom was at her job, and I… I was alone!
I did not have many friends in my childhood; I didn’t want to have friends. I wanted my mom, but since I couldn’t have her I preferred to be by myself. During this time, my older sister’s friend gave her a cat for her birthday, and that cat became my best friend. Loneliness... it describes my childhood.
Being by myself for most of the time during my childhood made me an isolated, unconfident and shy child. All of these three characteristics made me become a depressed child. It was very common for me to find myself crying and discouraged. I remember many, many times waking up in the midst of the night and screaming for a long time. While I was awake, I struggled with thoughts that my mom was going to die in a bus crash while she was going to work. That thought kept me from sleep and caused anguish, fear, and despair. I have one good memory in the midst of this horrible time. One day when I was at school, I was in second grade at the time, I started thinking of my mom and I began to cry. I put down my head to hide my tears from the other kids. Suddenly, the teacher called my name, and as I didn’t respond she came to my side and noticed that I was crying. She just took me by my hand, walked me to her table, sat me on her lap, talked to me for a while and kept me with her for the whole class period. I will never forget her and what she did for me that day. Tears… fears… sadness… isolation… discouragement… a word to summarize it? Depression. I wasn’t into a deep depression, but I indeed was a depressed kid.
During the years from third to fifth grade I learned to deal with my struggles. I fought my feelings and I was able to make some friends who helped me to have some happiness. I was still struggling with loneliness, hunger and depression, but at least I was having some good times. Although things got a little better for me at that time, it was about to become worse. But that is the subject for the next post. See you there!
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