Updated: Feb 19, 2020
My name is Tikila and I will be sharing my story about my family.
My story is one that I would say is complicated but positive. Even though there were some challenges in my life, I feel like I’ve seen positives in it.
As a child, I was violated sexually but never let it define me. I remember when I told my parents I learned that love is shown differently but the same. When I told my parents what happened I could see the look on my mother’s face. That feeling of more so like failure and I remember my father being the one that was more verbal and embracing. I felt love from both; I just saw it differently.
That experience was the first lesson before I even knew what love languages were. To know my parents had two different love languages. So again, not letting it define my life. It was just something I needed to share.
I was about twelve years old and so once I shared it with my family it was like a moment of breath and we dealt with it, you know, the way we were supposed to.
So fast-forward to my adult life or teen life. I have five siblings, four sisters and a brother and we always joked about having a large family.
So I'm watching my siblings, and my oldest of two siblings are a year a part and went to college and then there's a couple years in between and then my two second siblings they went to college. So, that's a new pattern. My parents don't have college education but it was kind of one of those things, you know, you go to college.
So, it's my turn to go to college.
I go to college like everybody else. Then start taking classes and then I'm flunking classes. This is not what I'm supposed to do. After a while I was like, okay, I just don’t want to go to school anymore.
I remember going to my parents and saying that I’m just going to stop going to school. My mother never judged she just said, “okay.”
I started working and then I remember a conversation with my dad saying there was a couple things that he wanted and it had to happen in this order. We were to go to college or go to the military, wait until we were 25, and then we could get married and start a family. Well here I am; I am breaking this. So over the years I just remember again my parents showing love differently.
My mother was always the reserved one but she showed it through her actions. My father was always the one (sometimes when we didn't even want it) waking us up to say how much he loved us and telling us different stories.
So I just started living life. I move to a different city and found myself working. I'm looking at my siblings who have careers but I have a job. So I live by myself, I can't survive off one job so now I have to have two. I'm struggling to make ends meet. Then I remember my father’s plan. Where do I fit in this line?
I have four siblings with a college education; my younger sister is starting college, where do I fit? Am I going to be that one, the only one that does not fit in this line?
I remember I had a friend at the time and I was talking to him about it and I was telling him, I can't support myself and do this on my own.
So he said, okay I will go with you, and I went to go see my brother. I went back to Fayetteville and ask him if I could move in, because I wanted to go back to school.
At that moment, I saw him take like a breath of fresh air. My family never made me feel less than because I wasn't going to school, but I saw a breath of fresh air and that “light,” like okay now you're doing what you are supposed to do.
So I moved in with my brother and I started the school process.
My younger sister and I are now in school. We have five years difference between us but we are going to college together. I remember saying “We will not graduate at the same time. I will graduate before you.”
I ended up having to take a semester off and so now we're literally in this together. I remember thinking, “This is not the order, I'm supposed to graduate first.” So the running joke is, we were in schools in two different cities. My graduation and hers were on the same day but I graduated at 8 in the morning she graduated at 10 o'clock in the morning.
So I was still able to say I graduated before you.
I had a fiancé at this time and he was ready to get married prior to my graduation. He said you could move here and in my mind I was thinking back to what my father said. My father said 25, then married (I'm 28 so I already passed that hurdle) but I still couldn't get married before graduation. So I graduated on the 11th and I got married on the 17th because I had to complete that order.
Now fast forward a couple more years and we had our first child.
I just remembered again wanting my child to have some of those same memories that I have I had, especially coming from a large family. I wanted her to have those memories, I said to myself that every year I'll make sure I take her back and forth to Fayetteville so she can see her family.
My daughter was about 7 months old and I remember this day, I was at work, and my siblings and I we have what we call family prayer. So every Sunday all six of us will get on the phone and we will talk to each other and we will pray and just talk about our lives because we all live in different cities.
This one was during the week, and my brother texted us and said I need you guys to call the conference line, so we call the conference line. He told us that my father had a massive stroke and they did not know if he was going to live or die. I still remember that moment sitting in my car and thinking what is going to happen.
I immediately call my husband and say I have to go home, so I buy a plane ticket, the next morning I fly home. I remember sitting in my father’s room, he was in ICU and at this moment, and he was still stroking. They did not know what the effects would be and what his life would be like. I wrote a prayer to God, and I remember asking God to heal my father; to not take my father, he needed to see my daughter live. He needed to be a part of her life, and I still have that.
So over the next couple of days we find out he is going to make it, but his life would be forever different.
The doctor said he has something called Aphasia, and that meant to us, to his life, that he knew the words he wanted to say but he lost his processing. Again, this is the man who gave me love through his words and can no longer do that.
The doctor said that he will know what he wants to say, and he's saying it in his mind but what you hear is gibberish, but he's going to think is that we’re the crazy ones, because he knows what he's going to say.
That is our life now with our father.
He regained some of his mobility but he still somewhat paralyzed on his right side. So our life now is funny, people say the best way to describe it is like playing charades. We have to guess at what he's trying to say, and it's always so hard because, again, that's the person that told me I love you through his words.
I look at my parents. They have had struggles over their lives, but they have been married (oh my gosh) 46 years.
One day my father and my mom call and my mom says “Your daddy wants to talk to you.” So we're talking on the phone and I have no idea what he's trying to say to me. I'm asking him questions blah blah blah and after about 5 minutes I said, “just put my mother back on the phone.” So he puts my mother back on the phone. She asks me two questions, asks him two questions and then immediately tells me what he was trying to say.
That showed me what marriage does and how you just learn each other. That was a lesson about family and marriage and all of that because she understood something that I would have never have understood.
Now, looking at my daughter and she's only known her grandfather to be this way and she would always ask me questions like “why can't Papa talk?” or “what happened to him?” So trying to explain that story to her was challenging.
One day last year when we had a birthday party for my mom. Everyone was talking about different things about my mother and they asked my dad if he had anything to say.
He took the microphone and without being prompted he said, “I love you.”
For me that was a moment.
My daughter she just lit up she was like “Mommy! Papa said I love you!” So for me that was my moment of God showing me that it's still there, his love is still there.
For her to be able to witness my daddy and that “I love you” through his words the way I did. That was special. Even if it never happens again.
Just the other day she said, “remember when papa said I love you.” So, that was big for her.
When I talk about my siblings, all of us handle our Father’s sickness differently. For me, because of the twelve hour drive, I only see my father but a few times a year (my father and my mother and my family) but we've always remained close. I do not think that either of us could handle the things that have happened in our lives without all of us.
It is funny, I was sending a text message to my siblings one day and we were just talking about our stories because we've all ended up at different places. Kind of the same path but different paths and just talking about how blessed we are that all of us made it through college.
We did not come from money. We grew up kind of in the projects so it wasn't the norm for us to graduate college and have Masters; that wasn't what we're supposed to do. So with all the adversities in our lives, to say that we've made it was big. Because of this, we needed a name for ourselves (and not even realizing it, the show this is us was our inspiration and I didn't even know it).
I sent my sister a text message one day and I said “I'm proud of us, the big six.” It didn't even dawn on me that they called themselves the big three but that was forever our togetherness.
I have a cup on my desk that my sister had given to us in a picture that says “the big six” and so that's our phrase.
I look at my father and how his journey has changed and how my mother and my father have had to switch roles. She's the one that has to say I love you now and give us the words because he no longer can. Over the years I just thought about how important it is to know that everybody has struggles but not letting those struggles define them.
He could have given up, he could have not tried to talk, he could have not done anything. My family could have given up, we could have put him in a nursing home but we didn’t.
If you can imagine how hard it is to try and communicate with somebody and it is forever charades all day long. It can become frustrating but the love is still there and you still make it through.
I always wonder sometimes; my dad just sits and I just see him sitting there and I wonder what is going through his mind. The sad part is, he can never tell me. How do you give words to somebody that doesn't have language?
That is one of those things that I feel like I’ll always struggle with but I appreciate that I have the big six and my mother to help me get through it.
That's my family story.
Hear the song "Love Is" inspired by Tikila's story: https://open.spotify.com/track/1f1GvImJ38G5WJGSZ5ggRp