Describe a time when you failed and how you recovered?Whoa, a question posed to me on a grant that I am working on for Geary GirlsRanch. I have been pondering my answer to this for days. I mean seriously, failed? Hmmm…I just kept thinking how hard I’ve worked to achieve success….my survival of a tragic childhood, my life growing up in the Dallas Foster Care system, my college education, my marriage of 41 years to date to the same man (I deserve an award!!…hmmm…maybe he does!!)….my 2 beautiful grown sons….my second degree and certification to become a teacher at 38 years old in which I retired from after 21 years… my book “My Five Moms” in which I shared my feelings and my story from the “perspective”of a traumatized, lonely teen even with being cared for in the best of foster homes.
My failure? As I look back on my story, my failure was my attempt to acknowledge my troubled sister. That’s right, I did not even acknowledge I had a sister. Most people in my adult years never even met Vicky. Yes, I was busy leading my “normal life” that I had worked hard to achieve. The few times Vick called me thru the years, I would not pick up or if I did, I would cut the conversation short. I didn’t acknowledge her struggles with continued abuse, low self-esteem, mental illness, depression, and trauma that continued to plague her throughout her life. I was embarrassed that I had a sister who was pretty much, indigent. I know that I was not responsible forVicky’s plight, we all were doing what we needed to do to survive and move on. I had a strong self-esteem and I continued to love myself and my life…..but what Vicky had that I did not for all those years, was a strong faith and she loved the Lord. She didn’t feel sorry for herself, she apologized for being a burden when she needed help and for the last 5 years, I tried to be a better sister. Vicky never hung up without telling you (anyone!) she loved you. She never had much conversation because she didn’t have much of a life. She always told me how “proud of me” she was. I tried to let her know that “I was proud of her” for working at Waffle House for 25 years!
She will never know how much she really helped me, how she “humbled” me with her faith and her unconditional love. I didn’t deserve it, I was more “bothered” by Vick in previous years. Her daughter, Patricia McMillan Sokolowski, who she did not raise, was more caring and understanding, always taking her daily phone calls. Kelley Geary Burks, the oldest daughter of the Geary family who took us in, always acknowledged Vicky, answered her calls and gave help when needed. My brother, Steve, gets the prize! He loved and cared for her for the past 20 years as a father and a good brother.
I thought if I wrote my book, told our story, that someone would make it into a movie (it would make a great lifetime movie!) and all the proceeds from the book and the movie would help Vicky in her later years. Susie succeeds again! NOT…
It really wouldn’t matter now. Vicky passed away a few months ago after a short battle with ALS. After all those years of struggle…she had a sad, sad life…..and a sad, cruel death. But in the end, Vick had peace. She loved the Lord, she knew she was going to be with Jay, our brother who passed a couple of years prior. She and Jay lived together for 20 years. More stories! She and I got to know each other these last five years. I listened to her stories, I listened about her struggles, troubles, and disappointments in the years since high school and foster care. What I wrote in my book I know now, hurt Vicky more than helped her. The one it did help, was me…because, yes, it was a long time coming and it was a healing process for me as far as dealing with the issues of our step mother. I imagine that Bennett, our stepmother’s son was hurt as well, since it was his birth mother and the reason we ended up in foster care.
The story I wrote, did help with Patricia, hopefully her son Gary too, one of these days, to understand their birth mother, understand her background, understand her illness. What they did not need help with understanding…is that Vicky loved with all her heart…she gave what little she had to friends and family….and most of all she understood and forgave my desertion of her. We had many discussions in the end when she knew she was dying about “purpose”. She would say, “Susie, I don’t know what purpose God had for me”. I would respond that she was part of “our story”, part of the reason for Geary Girls Ranch, part of future generations of foster kids to have what the Geary’s gave us…..a home. This made her smile, because that is all she could do in the end…blink and smile. She insisted I get a card for the nurse that cared for her and that I write “ I love you” on behalf of Vicky…of course!! Her request was to have her ashes scattered at the ranch. Patricia will make that happen. Patricia’s husband is building the first of the eight homes on the ranch and I love that they will carry on the legacy after I’m gone. Vicky was “so Vicky” in death, giving to the end, she donated her body to science and she donated her last dime to Geary Girls Ranch.
God Bless you, Vicky Black McMillan. You have so much to be proud of in your legacy.