Resilience after Loss

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Katie Willman and Majd Swidan interviewed David Decker about the loss of his mother and the resilience that has led him to dental school.

While growing up in Pontiac, we had to keep our bikes inside the house because they would always be stolen from our shed or if they were out in our front yard. I also remember just always being the only white kid there. I remember being on the outskirts of friend groups and stuff because most of the time people stuck with people that were like them. Growing up in Pontiac also made me become very cautious of my money and what I spend it on. I wanted fancy clothes and shoes, but my parents couldn’t get that for me. So, at 14 years old, I started working hard, trying to afford them for myself.

The resilience I had to overcome was family tragedy. When I was 15 years old, my mom passed away on December 15, 2014. My dad was off with some other lady for about two years. My mom was stuck at home taking care of my three-year-old sister. She couldn’t get a job, but my dad was still paying the bills and stuff. My sister was the one who woke me up. I had to call 911, and by that time she was gone. It was an overdose of pills. I don’t know why, and I don’t really want to know why. I had to call my dad one day out of the blue and tell him mom died.

It was weird. Christmas was coming up and my mom wasn’t there like she normally was. We weren’t sure how we should feel. Happy? Sad? It was weird. I don’t handle my emotions very well, so I did not go to school. I started missing school because I lost the parent that told me that I had to go to school. I was less motivated and sad that my life ended up the way it did, but I dealt with everything by myself like I normally do. My dad moved back into the house with his girlfriend. We got rid of everything that my mom had, kind of like she was never here. I regret doing that because I finally realized that I won’t get any more of that because she is gone. This is a weird topic that no one talks about. We all pretend that it did not happen; it all went from mom was there, to mom was not there.

This has led to me having to grow up faster than most people. While I was growing up in Pontiac, I have kind of taken over the motherly figure in the sense that I clean up after everyone. I’m like the maid that can’t handle children. I did certain things. I started drinking and staying out as late as I wanted, but I changed and got a lot better.

Because of my mom’s overdose, I am afraid of opioids and narcotics in general. I don’t use them, nor do I want to use them. I got my wisdom teeth taken out a couple month ago, and I remember them giving me some type of pain relievers. I did not take any of them because of what happened to my mom.

I never grew up super poor. I had everything that I wanted, but there were some more things that I could have wanted like more than one bathroom for five people or having better cars. Coming from where I have been I still have a great life and I enjoy my life and I enjoy me. Now, I am going to Detroit Mercy for dental.

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