I love my family. I have very supportive parents and loving maternal grandparents. My siblings and I don’t always get along, but we will fight to the death for each other. And I’m not going to write about them today. Today I am writing about my family of choice.
A family of choice is a group of people you are close with, and would call family. Did you ever have a friend whose parents you would refer to as “other-mother” or “second-dad”? That is a family of choice. My family of choice is the family I have at the barn where I keep my horse.
D.J. and P.J. are two of the best people I have ever met, and they are like grandparents to me. I had known of P.J. for years, she was very well known in town for her love of horses and passion for dressage and hunt seat. I got to know P.J. and her husband D.J. over the summer when I started hanging out with A.F., a gal I had known from university and their “granddaughter”, more often. I started going over to their barn to ride with A.F. and help out.
After having only been there twice, A.F. told me that P.J. wanted me to ride one of their older horses, a mare (female) with a history of abuse who needed someone to love her. My own horses had been taken from me by my abusive grandfather, a fact that A.F. knew, and I was very excited to start riding again. I would ride Spotty, whose face is my picture for this blog, as often as I could, which ended up being four to five times a week. I went on trail rides with her, jumped her over low oxers, and schooled her. I quickly fell in love with her nervous personality. One day, after a trail ride, I sat next to D.J. for dinner. He asked if I liked riding Spotty; I said yes. He asked if I wanted to own Spotty one day and I told him, emphatically, that I would love to own her one day. He laughed and, looking at P.J., said to her that she was right. P.J. told me that when I move, which I’m planning on doing in January, that it was okay if I took Spotty with me, she was mine.
My grandfather, my dad’s dad, is a physically and emotionally abusive, sexist bastard who can’t die because he’s destined for Hell and the Devil is scared of him. My grandfather knew I loved horses and used it against me. By the time I was 17, I knew I was fat, uncoordinated, unsuccessful and a failure. I knew I would always be a disappointment to him and was not worth the time it took to teach me to ride. He would show blatant favoritism to my male cousins, who learned from him that it was okay to exclude me from the barn, and to chase me away with a four-wheeler if I came around. My grandfather would “give” me a horse, only to sell it without telling me and say that I didn’t do enough around the farm. By the time I was 22, I couldn’t take it anymore- I was either going to kill him, or I had to walk away from the horses. And I chose to walk away. It was the hardest choice I have ever had to make, and I still cry over it.
I’ve told you about my grandfather so that you will understand why I was skeptical of P.J. at first- “what does she want from me?”, “is she being serious?”, “is this really happening?” were thoughts running through my head. About a month later P.J. adopted a little mustang colt (a male baby) for a girl down the street to support her budding love of one thousand pound animals. I told P.J. that she was a wonderful person, the best kind of person, she and her husband both, and her only response was, “Someone has to go the extra mile.”
P.J. and D.J. know that I like girls, they know about my paternal grandfather, they know that I am moving, and that I love Spotty. P.J. builds my confidence, jokes with me, and has more than once tearfully told me that I will always, not matter what, be welcome in their home. She buys me gluten-free food and has said that if I ever need to, I am more than welcome to stay at her house; “Just walk in and pull out the couch, no need to call ahead.” When I grow up, I want to be just like her. She is an amazing woman, married to an amazing man, and they are my grandparents-of-choice.