Mikhial' Story

I grew up in the woods of Wakefield, New Hampshire with my older brother, Jacob. My father
was a drywall/construction worker who made decent money but was absent much of the time while my mother stayed at home. My parents had started a small homestead shortly after I was born that was literally no more than an ice shack and a large chicken coop. Our road was half a mile long and impassible in the winter, so we had to carry supplies and groceries by sled to the homestead. Eventually they turned the chicken coop into a sort of cabin, which I stayed in for the next 16 years... In that time we did not have plumbing or proper heating. For the first five years we hauled water from a spring in Maine to drink and have something to wash dishes with. Occasionally we would heat some water on the stove and have a make-shift shower.
There was no septic or toilet, so we used an indoor bucket that my father or brother (later myself) would haul about 300 yards to a pit and dump. In the winter the buckets would often freeze and be left until spring outside our door... The winters in NH can often reach negative fifty degrees, so heat was always always a struggle. We had a wood stove but the shack was not well insulated and we had to supplement with space heaters, often resulting in electric bills over $1,000. After five years, an edition was built onto the shack to provide a separate bedroom. My mother, brother and I shared this room while my father lived in the ice shack. It was around this time that my mother became depressed and mentally ill. She began hoarding things and animals, and drinking. She often fought with my brother and became verbally and physically abusive to us both. We built a well and finally had a sink and a shower, but still no toilet and the water would often freeze for weeks at a time. I was now 6 years old. My parents decided to home-school us, but my mother was usually too inhibited to teach anything. She would forge my yearly assessment tests to avoid getting in trouble with the state. I received little to
no education throughout my childhood, so I taught myself everything through books (I love to read). Jacob and I received frequent verbal and physical punishment from my mother until he couldn’t take it any more. He left when he was twenty. Jacob is 12 years older than me, so I had many trials yet to face. When I was eight years old I was diagnosed with turrets syndrome. At the time it was quite severe and my mother was convinced she could cure me by depriving me of certain foods. I was not allowed to eat any kind of red meat, poultry, wheat, corn, dairy, some vegetables, beans, some fruits, etc. I lived for three and a half years on rice, fish, nuts, some fruits and vegetables, and sugar. When I was twelve my mother finally gave up and I could eat normal food again. As I mentioned above, my mother was a hoarder and her obsessions grew out of control over the years while we lived in the shack. The most animals she had at one time was 13 cats, 4 dogs and 3 birds... in a one bedroom shack. Eventually she collected so much stuff that we could barely move around our house. Her possessions began to hide the animal feces and we were now living in filth (we still had no toilet). When I was thirteen, my father was diagnosed with stage four lymphoma. He could no longer work and the full brunt of household chores fell on my shoulders (including bucket duty). My mother’s psychosis worsened and I was forbidden from seeing family members or most of my friends. At 14, my father was still in chemo therapy when my mother pushed him over the edge and he
left. I was alone with my mother in the shack. I had no connection to the outside world and I would usually go between 1-3 months without seeing another living soul. We had fallen into severe poverty and our electricity was shut off in the middle of January. Our pipes burst and we no longer had running water. In the spring the leaks and filth spread and the house
became a breeding ground for black mold. Walls that were once white turned black, and I woke each morning coughing up blood. At Sixteen I finally had the means for some independence and got my license. I spent most of my days volunteering at church so I wouldn’t have to be at the property. My mother hated that I was not home but she was either to drunk or inebriated by pills to fight. I was seventeen when I finally gave up trying to help my mother. I met Brionica at church and she helped give me the strength to leave. I got my first apartment in Ossipee, NH; a drafty mobile home in the woods. It was old and hard to heat, but to me it was paradise.

My mother was eventually evicted from the property and it was sold for back taxes. The shack
was demolished and I am comforted to know that a healthy family is now living there in a beautiful house.. one I often dreamed of but never had.

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Habitat For Humanity of Taos

Website inspired by our friends at Habitat for Humanity Anchorage