June 2020 is the Female Wave of Change Story telling month: Stories matter and we want you to share yours! Today Dr Celina Pina Shemo, member of the Female Wave of Change Circle of Wise Women shares her story of Journeying Through the Heartbeats of Love
Journeying Through the Heartbeats of Love
Around 8 years old I decided that life was over. My mother and father, whom I lovingly called Papa Bear, decided to separate. My world collapsed from being an active child, high achiever and dancer. I Quit… I quit going to school every day, I quit dancing as a child performer, I quit riding my loved red bike and being silly. My life became dark. Most mornings, I sat on my mother’s cushiony flowed chair and stared out her bedroom window watching the kids going into the school building. Since my mother worked, I was in charge of my day. Therefore, I could decide whether I go to school or not. Most mornings I didn’t. Instead, crying and fearing the loss of my beloved father. He was the joy of my life.
I remember when Papa Bear was home from his work in Portugal where he built houses. We had so much fun. Papa Bear loved to cook and eat. He made me the best donuts. We would eat them all. Most weekends, we went to his workroom upstairs and made fishing sinkers so that we could go fishing. Papa Bear loved fishing. School days, we watched Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Greenjeans and laughed as Papa Bear combed my hair and prepared me for school. In the evenings, he loved to play his guitar and sing songs from our culture of Cabo Verde, West Africa. Those moments were now gone and as far as I was concerned they would never return. Needless to say, by 5th grade, with limited school attendance and effort, I was retained. Such a humiliation to my family and it broke my father’s heart.
Numb but Not Frozen
As time passed, eventually, my parents attempt to reconcile; but it didn’t work. They loved each other and remained friends all of their lives. However, my mother was a very sick women, epileptic, and was afraid to get pregnant again. She told me years later, that she wanted the divorce because of this fear. She was a loving mother but unable to parent due to her frequent seizures, nervous breakdowns and depression. At a very early age, I was her caretaker. Many nights, while lying in bed listening for the coming of her next seizure and wanting to stop it before it came. Also, vigilant about following her to break a fall, if needed. At a young age, I already understood her inability to show affection due to her illness. She tried to do her best. She always dressed me well and had my hair done. Her efforts were appreciated.
By middle school I was numb, my father was gone, living in New York, where I was born, and in a relationship with another women. I was heartbroken, but a part of me wanted to learn how it would be to have a motherly involvement. So, I gave her a shot, but it didn’t work. She was not loving. She was jealous and unable to accept me and how my father loved me. She treated me like damaged goods from an impotent environment with no social training. Although, she tried to control me and my dad’s relationship, I still visited him frequently but things were not the same. Our interactions were directed and controlled by this woman. She did not have love in her nor did she show empathy. But to be with my father was worth her wrath. However, it did take a toll on me and affected my middle school years. I rarely attended and still have no memory of going through 4th – 8th grades. I remember always dodging the truant officer and pretending that I was sick. Eventually, my mother caught on and sent me to live with my paternal grandmother, Nina, who only spoke Portuguese and Crioulo. She was my savior and I loved her so much. At night we danced and sang songs from Cabo Verde, which taught me our language. At bedtime, she told me the funniest fables of Cabo Verde and we laughed ourselves to sleep. Of course, only after praying to all the Saint and Father God. What I also loved about being with her was she always made me my favorite foods; French fries, friend dough (Malassadas) and told stories of my father. We made up songs to send to him about missing and loving him. Grandma Nina was also a furrier and made me many fur boleros and taught me to make doll clothes. Yes, in middle school I played with my favorite dolls. Especially my first doll, Wendy, who walked, talked and sang. My father bought Wendy for me on my third Christmas and I still have her. During my stay with grandma Nina, my heart began to fill and I began to feel. We created such loving and beautiful memories.
Strength in Love
Around 5th grade, my father bought a home on Martha’s Vineyard and by the middle school years I began spending summers there. My life took flight, I would do anything to be with my Papa Bear. I was even able to shut off the anguish and abuse of this woman. By high school my father decided that I was moving to attend high school on the Island. She hated this and left for six months. For the first time, in many years, my heart beat again with Love and happiness. This was confirmed when my father chose to keep me over her. The love from my father was so pure and deep that, when she returned, she could not penetrate our love for one another. Papa Bear and I continued to still make memories and these memories brought me through all my life’s challenges and into my innate gifts. Arriving as Dr. Celina Pina, trauma and abuse specialist and international bestselling author. Thank God for the love of family.
Dr Celina gave Female Wave of Change permission to share her story!