Amanda Geisdorf, a past youth who walked through our doors 24 years ago, shared her story with us recently. She took a deep breath and told us the good, the bad, and the ugly. When we say “she shared her story with us”, what we really mean is “with bravery and love in her heart, she told her story to a huge room full of hundreds of people during the Fire & Ice Ball”. That bravery and willingness to share all came down to one thing: unconditional love. Read her story below, in her own words.
Twenty-four years ago I walked through Covenant House’s doors. Only 2 years before that moment, I was living the middle-class-white-picket-fenced-house dream. I was attending a small private Christian school, my family went to church every Sunday, and my parents always showed me love. I never would have imagined how fast my life would change.
One day I heard my parents arguing—nothing crazy—my dad announced, as if he had an audience, that he was moving out and he left. My mom went into despair and almost overnight was hospitalized. This was the beginning of a revolving door of the places I would stay throughout Anchorage.
My mother was finally given a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. When the disease progressed, she went into hospice care and I went to live permanently with my dad. Despite this life changing event that my mom was going through, my dad showed no sympathy or compassion towards the situation. He told me she was faking her illness to get him to come back. To say he was still angry with her is an understatement. His anger with her was so strong that he isolated me from her. My mom suffered alone, without me, and he used me to hurt her.
Living with my dad was difficult; we fought constantly. He made it clear that he never wanted children and that I was a burden. There was emotional, verbal and physical abuse. He would neglect me, leaving me at his apartment alone for entire weekends while he was enjoying the single life. This is when I began to run away—I was 12.
For the next four years, life was a revolving door of dad’s house, friends’ couches, and when I was old enough, Covenant House Alaska (CHA). One day I caught the bus to the hospice to visit my mom. It had been a while, too long. That day, I needed her and she needed me. Even though she was unable to speak or move, I knew she was there.
Only an hour later, I was in a fight with my dad about my whereabouts. During the argument he receives a phone call and he says to me, “your moms dead”. That was it. There was no support, love, or empathy from him. He was cruel and cold. I did not understand why. I was 13 years old when she died and I quickly bottled that sadness and turned it into anger. It did not take much for my dad to eventually refuse to speak to me and want nothing to do with me. When I arrived at CHA, I was welcomed by staff and I settled in with the structure and expectations. When you are a repeater, you wonder “who will be my case worker?” This is an important piece of your stay. Your case worker is the one that decides if you can have late curfew or not and as a teenager that is EVERYTHING.”….
To be continued in our next blog post on Monday.