| This is the 352nd story of Our Life Logs |
I’ve learned when no one cares enough to keep you when you’re born or adopts you when you’re a baby, the odds are no one will care about you as you get older. I was no exception. But still, I held out hope for the longest time that someone would come along who’d love me. Maybe then I’d forget about all the darkness I had met.
Since the day I was born, January 2, 1957, I was tossed from foster family to foster family as if I were a hot potato. Fortunately, I was a dreamer—so even by my 11th foster home at the age of 9, I was still hopeful. The State of Texas placed me with a family who already had kids my age. I thought maybe the kids would want a permanent playmate since the boy was 12 and their daughter was only 8. When I first arrived, I couldn’t stop smiling because I thought that I might get adopted, but the parents never did like me much. They were supposed to take care of me, but they really took me in so that I could clean the house, cook, and do the laundry. I watched my hopes of gaining a family fade a little bit more every day.
The hope disappeared the day their 12-year-old son asked me to get the dirty sheets off his bed. Because that was my “job,” I followed him into his room, which he had decorated with Army tanks and Navy ships. It wasn’t until I was bent over his bed stripping off the sheets that I got into the fight of my life. When he tried to lay on top of me, I countered with a kick and an elbow to his gut. I was tall for my age, but he outweighed me by 30 pounds. Eventually, I couldn’t kick him anymore.
I felt him unzip his pants while he was taking off my underwear and then I felt nothing—like I wasn’t there. I went into my own world and concentrated on the Navy ship which hung on the wall beside his bed. When he finished, he told me I better not tell anyone or something worse would happen. I wasn’t even 10 years old yet.
The boy continued to rape me for a couple more years, but I think his mom finally figured out what was going on. When I was 12, she dropped me off at social services, but by then it didn’t matter to me anymore. I had no hope of ever being loved.
After that family, I was placed into a few other abusive families that showed me no love. Then, when I was just 16 years old in 1973, I went to live with an old couple. Or, at least back then I thought they were old. Mona and Dave were probably only in their late 50s, but to me they were ancient. Again, I was the cook, cleaner, and caretaker but this time there was no one in the house who wanted to harm me. For the first time in a very long time, I slept through the night without expecting to be attacked.
I got an after-school job at the local record store and I was able to save about 20 dollars. That Mother’s Day, I bought Mona a plate with pretty flowers on it. She told me she really liked it and put it in her china cabinet. Maybe Mona and Dave didn’t love me, but it was nice to know that they at least liked me.
I stayed with Mona and Dave until I turned 18. When the State of Texas quit paying them to take care of me, they told me I had to leave. I never held it against them because they didn’t have much money and they never told me they loved me. The greatest gift they gave me was that they didn’t hurt me. You would be surprised out how much it means to not be hurt or abused when it’s all you’ve ever known.
At 18, I was promoted to assistant manager at the record store and was feeling good about my future. Then, I met Logan. If there was ever a bad boy left over from the 1960s, it was him. He was the same age as me, but he might as well have been 20 years older because by the time we met, he had already been to jail, been shot at, and been homeless. I believed all his mistakes would be in the past and that our future would be wonderful because he loved me enough to change.
Logan married me when I got pregnant at 20. He also got me fired at the record store when he walked in to wait for me to close down the store one night and stole some albums while helping himself to some cash from the register. Thankfully, the manager didn’t press charges because I was seven months pregnant, but I still got fired with no chance of a reference. Logan had no job skills other than as a mechanic, but he found a job since I couldn’t. I was grateful he stayed employed until Logan Jr. was born in 1977.
A couple weeks after giving birth, I started working nights at a convenience store. I missed my baby dearly, but I trusted my husband. I don’t know why. When our baby was six weeks old, Logan Sr. was home with him on a night I was working. While I was away, Logan Jr. wouldn’t stop crying, which made his dad very, very angry.
I had no reason to suspect anything was wrong when I got back from work the next morning. Logan Sr. walked out the door and told me the baby was still sleeping. I peeked in the bassinet as I got to our bedroom and realized my son of six weeks was dead. I called the police.
I was held in jail for two weeks until they found Logan and arrested him, and he confessed to shaking the baby to make the crying stop. Back then, they didn’t know it was Shaken Baby Syndrome, or if they did, no one told me about it.
After I got back to our apartment, I saw all the dollar store baby decorations with all of Logan Jr.’s clothes neatly folded to the side of our bed and I lost it. I had never been a daughter or a sister, and I barely knew what being a wife was. But I knew what it was like to be a mother for six weeks. And at that moment I knew what it was like to be the used-to-be-mother who would gladly trade her life to feel her baby’s sweet breath on her cheek once more.
Time moved forward, but I was not participating in it. I woke up and went to work at the convenience store where no one would meet my eyes. No one I worked with knew what to say, and I was too broken to care.
One of the truckers, whose name was Steve, who always came in to get gas where I worked would try to engage me in conversation, but I never responded much. One day, it was raining really hard outside and, out of nowhere, the sun came out. Steve walked in with a dozen roses and asked me to step into the parking lot. As I stepped outside, I saw a rainbow in the stormy clouds. As I gazed in silent wonder and lifted my eyes for the first time in two years, I met Steve’s. He was maybe 20 years older than me, with gray hair and a big mustache. His face was gently lived in. When he saw I was seeing him for the first time, he smiled.
Then Steve handed me the dozen roses he held and said, “Life is a rainbow. It’s sun and rain. It’s snow and dew. Please quit wasting every moment and realize I want to spend time learning about all you want, all you are, and be with you.” I smiled back for the first time in two years, thinking maybe after all this pain, I was worthy of love after all.
And I was.
Steve and I had 20 wonderful years together. We fought, we loved, and we made two beautiful baby boys together. I had Steven in 1987 and Robert in 1991, right before we moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma. I finally had my family. Steve was loving and gentle, and I was grateful and blessed. But again, tragedy visited me in the middle of the night in 1998.
Steve and I had a full day at little league practice, and we ate hot dogs for dinner. I can still taste the chocolate milkshake I ordered with it. Steve started to complain about his stomachache almost as soon as we got home. I was convinced he had food poisoning or a very bad case of indigestion. I gave him Pepto Bismol and tucked him into bed while I got the boys showered and into their beds.
When I walked into the bedroom, I knew something was seriously wrong. Steve was barely breathing and wouldn’t respond to me calling his name. I called an ambulance and prayed to God to take me instead. I didn’t think I would survive another death of someone I loved. I guess God was busy that evening. Steve died in the hospital of a heart attack at 2:01 AM on August 1, 1998. I had found the love I always wanted then it was ripped from me. It tore me apart, and I went down a dark path.
In trying to care for my boys, I made some questionable decisions and bounced too many checks, which landed me in jail for nearly a decade. My kids were placed in foster care, and I had completely hit rock bottom. My two loves, destined for a life that I had spent years trying to forget.
Prison is what changed me and motivated me to keep the love in my heart alive. That’s when I realized that love will always find people in the most unlikely times. I didn’t have it growing up, but I found it in Logan Jr., Steve, and our two beautiful children. And if I hadn’t ever known love before? Where did it come from? I realized that I had always been worthy of love, even if the people around me were incapable of giving it.
Since I got out of prison, I made it my life’s goal to locate my boys who were put into the system. Growing up, I never had an adult who would fight for me. I was never really wanted that desperately, and because I knew that, I lost hope. If my life has taught me anything, it is that love comes around and that hope is powerful—even when the world is shaking and you’ve lost everything else. I want to be the hope for my sons. I want to make them feel loved.
This is the story of Sandy Henkle
Sandy grew up in the foster care system where she was abused to the point that she gave up on ever being loved. After her infant son was killed by her first husband, Sandy sunk deeper into despair. It wasn’t until a kind-hearted trucker, Steve, stopped into the convenience store where Sandy worked that she gave love a chance. The two were married and spent 20 happy years together, restoring her faith in love and giving her hope to last her for the rest of her life.
Since the death of Steve, Sandy struggled to make ends meet in raising her sons and went to jail in a case of fraud. While her sons entered into foster care, Sandy has not lost her hope. While searching for her sons, Sandy met a retired officer who joined her. After years of looking, Sandy and the officer became engaged, reminding Sandy that love is still alive, even in the darkest times. Her fiancé and she dedicate each night to walking the streets of Austin and passing out flyers with pictures of her sons from over 10 years ago. Her fiancé was able to get all the word out to all the law enforcement agencies to keep their eyes moving towards finding these young men. Sandy speaks to many advocacies, prison reforms, and justice coalition groups. She shares her story, so others never have to learn the lessons which came at such a high price to her. After every speech, she stops, looks around, and has hope she will find her sons in the crowd.
This story first touched our hearts on May 1, 2019.