“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked, and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”
A Piece of Me: Filling the Void
We share the need to be wanted. It’s human nature. So when we are feeling unwanted or empty, we often seek out ways to fill that emptiness. In the 1960s, my mom disappeared with the carnival. She had an array of reasons for taking such action. She was unbalanced emotionally. She felt her life was out of control. It probably was.
She was in her early twenties, with four children and a husband. She had just given birth to a gravely ill child, who was fathered by another man. She was keeping this a secret. She was forced to move to the state of Washington so the new baby could be cared for at a Tacoma hospital. Her father was dying of cancer in Livingston, Montana. She was a victim of rape. One of her children had been raped. Her life was out of control. She was overwhelmed with shame, guilt, anger, confusion, mistrust, and hopelessness. She wanted to be rid of her problems. She wanted to disappear. Like the cancerous tumor that was cut from her papa’s eye, she wanted to remove the ugly problems in her life. She was overcome with despair and loss.
She wanted to fill her emptiness and erase her mistakes. So, instead of seeking help to gain emotional balance or control, she literally walked away with the carnival. She escaped.
Having your mother abandon you makes you feel alone, lost, and empty. It tends to create a fear and emptiness, which is difficult to fill. Like my mother, many people try to fill these voids. They use sex, alcohol, food, and things to try to fill them up. However, they find that sex, alcohol, food, and things cannot fill a void.
This is a feeling we must learn to fill ourselves. I am not saying it is easy. Mothers are supposed to be there for us. A mother is that one person we are supposed to be able to count on no matter what the circumstance. Mothers aren’t supposed to just walk away and leave. People are not supposed to violate us, and it is difficult when someone dies. However, sometimes we are given gifts that help us fill these voids; it is just that we cannot always see clearly.
Even though my mother left with the carnies, life in Whitehall wasn’t all that bad; for it was during this time I bonded with my Grandpa and Grandma Parsons. Fishing and camping were regular pastimes for the Parsons clan. They were born fishermen—every one of them.
When Grandpa Parsons fished the Gallatin, Madison, and Missouri, I watched with joy as he stood in the middle of his chosen river tossing his pole. Watching Grandpa fish was like watching a ballet on the water. His toss was gentle, and when the wind caught hold of the fishing line, it danced. Then it would merge gracefully with the water with the slightest splash. Watching Grandpa fish gave me great pleasure. It filled me up.
Though Mom had walked away and emptiness inside of me existed, I never obsessed over her disappearance because I knew I was loved. Grandpa showed me he loved me, just as he had shown the grandchildren before me and his children before them. The whispers of nature, God, the angels, and my grandfather were able to help fill that void. He showed me it was my choice to fill that void. It could not be filled by anybody else but me. Ultimately, I knew my mother loved me because she left me in good hands.
And because it is human nature to want to hold on to something tangible, to help fill this need, my daddy saw to it that Santa delivered a Thumbelina doll to me for Christmas the year my mom joined the carnival. It, too, helped fill that void of emptiness. For my overwhelming connection had nothing to do with possessing a doll but wanting desperately to feel needed and wanted.
I knew the fairy tale of Thumbelina; Daddy, Grandpa, and Grandma did too. So in their wisdom, they gifted me a tiny doll-child that I wanted, that I needed to fill the void that left me hungry and aching. For I knew that Thumbelina was wanted more than anything, and when my loved ones gave me a doll with such significance, they realized that I would feel the power of being deeply loved; my spirit would be freed.