Women's History Month: Lorrie Bailey
By: Lorrie Bailey
My life has been interesting to say the least! If you recall that film where the child was raised in an abusive household with alcoholic mother and the father who kept his head down, went to work and only interacted after given orders to “punish the kids” from the mean, drunk mom? That was my every day until the age of 16. It wasn’t until I was into my 30’s when my father retired that we built a relationship where I was able to see that perhaps I wasn’t adopted (as I had always hoped). Dad was into his 50’s and finally able to let his guard down to laugh and love his family. Today I am nearing 60 years old and reflect on my life often. There have been tumultuous struggles, some self-inflicted, but most seemed just out of the blue. My greatest learning in this wild ride of life is you cannot be prepared for what life throws at you. You have to deal it with as it comes and not worry about the ‘what ifs’. I chose to not ask “What’s next” because those times I force life, future trip and try to solve the future before it unfolds the result is rarely a positive outcome.
Perhaps in part to the Jerry Lee Lewis era my parents didn’t question how inappropriate it was for a 16-year-old to leave home and get married, yet they let it happen. I knew I had to escape that abusive home because I wasn’t sure I’d survive otherwise. So, at 16, marriage accomplished my mission to get out, but that also meant I needed to earn money, quick. In high school I went to beauty school as a vocational class. Cosmetology became a 30-year career that allowed me flexibility to later raise 3 children. Presumably, first marriage did not last. But, I was independent and strong, being in a dysfunctional home, you learn to survive at a young age. I kept my ears open and listened to people, I became very empathetic and knowing what people wanted or needed became my Super Power.
Sometimes those traits you learn in a crazy household you keep for life, to feel sorry for others, even when your backyard is a mess. For better or worse, I am a giver. A quality that I appreciate, but today recognize that there are people who will take advantage of that. Back then I didn’t know that unless a conscience effort is made to keep negativity away then we will continue to draw behaviors in that are familiar, even if they are not good for us. My 1st husband was nearly as mean as my mother, thus, to protect myself I had to learn to be independent and on my own at 17 yrs. old. By the time I was 20, I bought my first home, a little condo and it was perfect.
At 22 years old I found myself pregnant with a precious baby girl that we all know now as Lindsay (Bailey) Johnson. The biological donor (my boyfriend) decided he didn’t want to be a father, so it was just me and Lindsay for a couple of years. Raising a child on my own while working a full-time job was incredibly challenging. This is where I learned the power of building a network of good-hearted people. Lindsay’s babysitter quickly became a dear friend, and practically a second mother to her. It truly takes a village to raise children and I thank God I had one around me to help.
In 1983, I opened my first Hair Salon. Looking back, I realize I had no sense of what was involved and no fears to hold me back. Working sometimes 70 hours per week, I had a one year old on my hip and a pair of scissors in my hand. My motto became “Better to try and fail, then fail to try”. My babysitter became my receptionist. So, Lindsay came to work many times with us. Being a social network that a hair salon is by nature. You certainly learn a lot from talking to others. Work was also my salvation. I laughed, I cried with these people. They were family. They respected my decision to raise my child on my own and supported us.
When Lindsay was two years old, I remarried the man that she calls her Dad, Greg Bailey. Greg adopted Lindsay, and we had two boys together, Shaun and Cory. We had the 1980’s American Dream – kids, house, dog. Greg and my personalities were so very different – him, laid back and content, me intense and driven – that combination was a not a good mix. After six years of forced effort we realized our relationship was not built on admiration or communication, thus we divorced.
Some of the best times of my life was after I ventured out as a single parent with a 4, 5 and 8-year-old. I was more worried about my kids having a good time and enjoying life than anything else. Maybe a bit of guilt overreacting to the circumstances, but I think they have good memories from our adventures. One of the good memories I do have from my childhood was camping. So when my kids were little, I bought a pop-up camper and off we went. Being an Elvis fanatic my whole life, on my 30th birthday I wanted to go to Graceland. Newly divorced and ready to have some fun, I asked a gal that had always helped me with the kids to come and help me wrangle them in on this trip. We had a blast, so that lead to more adventures. I didn’t haul the pop up anymore, I found that pretty stressful. Most of the campgrounds we visited had little cabins we could rent cheap so from then on we traveled that way. Niagara Falls was about 4-5-hour trip and there was a campground within an hour. We had so much fun there and went many times. For weekend jaunts, we would go to a campsite near our home that had an indoor pool. When I needed to do bookwork for the business, we grabbed our swimsuits. They played in the pool while I worked at the table.
Into the 1990’s I still owned my business and worked a ton. Then on one of my rare Mom’s Night Out I met husband #3. He had 2 children of his own and we blended beautifully with the kids. His son and my middle boy became instant friends. This man made me laugh and that is exactly what I needed. Unfortunately, after a couple years I began to see signs that follow problems with alcohol in our marriage. Being all too familiar with the lows, I refused to raise my children in a toxic household and packed our stuff and moved on. Now with 3 teenagers who were trying to find themselves here I was alone again. Yet, I did everything in my power to ensure that my kids did not have to move out of the good school district where they had friends and played sports. I was soon able to buy a home of my own and we were happy again.
As many of the bumps that had already occurred in my life to this point were not nearly as jolting as August 25th, 2000 when my youngest son, Cory at 13-years-old was hit by a car while riding his bicycle. Cory’s injuries were staggering, and life long. He broke his left leg and lost 3 inches of bone, they used an Ilzarov device to grow it back, shattered his right hip, and crushed vertebras in his neck. The most unfortunate injury is one that was not uncovered until many years later, a Traumatic Brain Injury. How quickly everyone’s life changed. And, something like this does affect everyone even if you aren’t living the same house, you can’t always be there for other kids and their needs. I was fortunate and the other 2 were a little older. But, honestly those first couple of years after the accident, their needs were definitely pushed to the back burner quite often.
Cory was unable get out of bed let alone go to school. So, I had no choice but to be his nurse, Mother, friend and Teacher. We would have the occasional tutor sent by the school district, but 2 hours twice a week didn’t quite get it done. To make this matter worse I trusted his Doctors and the 1000 milligrams of Vicodin 3 times a day that they prescribed Cory. I thought they had his best interests at heart, and I certainly didn’t want to see my son in pain. Although Cory’s physical injuries began to heal over time it became clear that he was dependent on Oxycontin at 18 years old. By the time he was 19, the Traumatic Brain Injury was discovered. One symptom of this injury for Cory was that he no longer had coping skills and couldn’t control his emotions or impulses. The executive management portion of his brain had been damaged. He was a 14 year old trapped in a 21 year old body.
From the age of 19 until 25 Cory lived in various institutions for brain injuries. In these intuitions there was a broad spectrum of how serious some injuries were. Cory was classified as “highly functioning” and if certain criteria were met then, he was allowed to live on his own.
At this age Cory was sober and I believed him that he was ready to live in a small condo without supervision. Over the next three years there were struggles, but he was trying. He had a job in design, a field that his natural talents could be expressed. I worried though, that if anything happened to me, how he would manage. Sadly, on July 2nd, 2015, Cory was 28…I no longer needed to worry about that. He decided to text and drive while going around a curve. He crashed through a guardrail and hit 2 trees before his life ended.
My heart will never be the same. Nearly five years later I’m starting to feel like my old self, but losing your child is something a parent will never fully recover from. I think about the joys instead of the sadness. I’m grateful for the blessings I have been given. My grandchildren, my kid’s marriages and their happiness and successes. My own career success now as a real estate agent. It’s these things keep me going.
Life has been tough, but always interesting! I have learned so many things along the way and eager to learn from all the things to come.
Namaste to all,