I was getting dressed for school one morning. It was cold out, wintertime, but I can’t remember quite when. Another row had taken place, I don’t know what about, the subject doesn’t matter. Rows were common in my childhood home; but then they are in most houses with teenagers. But it wasn’t the row in itself that caused me to leave home. The row was the last straw in years of neglect and sadness.
That morning is just a blur now, the only thing left of it is the memory of needing to get out, whatever the cost. I walked out, got on a bus, and went to my older sister’s house.
Sheila, my sister, had two children of her own, not much younger than me. Sheila, a practical woman, contacted social services to see if they could help. I’m sure the thought of taking a teenager into an already stretched household horrified her – it would me. The whole situation came to a head when the man from social services said I’d be placed into a foster home. My sister stepped in. She couldn’t bear that her little sister would be taken into care, so she allowed me to live in her home. I did so throughout my A’ Levels. I worked too, and doing a part-time job helped with the family finances, and meant I had some money of my own. At the time, student grants were available from the government. That financial help, along with the emotional support from my sister and brother-in-law, gave me the tools to go to university.
The second time my sister saved me was a few years later when I became homeless. I had returned to my family home, aged 21, with a small baby and a partner. It didn’t work out, more rows, more anger. I walked out again. The three of us ended up in friends’ houses, sleeping on sofas. But my baby became ill with a chest infection. My sister, always a strong and articulate woman, helped me navigate a complicated social housing system and quickly helped me find a council flat.
My sister is dead now, she died way too early. But she left a massive legacy. Without her initial help and then her help to find my little family a home, I am not sure how my life would have turned out. I am now a director of a software company and my daughter is a nurse working for the NHS. It sometimes just takes a single kind person to save you.