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My name is Isaiah Jamal Borgum. I was born in Sioux Falls South Dakota on January 25, 1989 to a woman named Pamela Marie Borgum—my father unknown. When I was born, my mother and grandma were trying to figure out what they should name me. They had many ideas, but the most consistent name they kept coming back to was Isaiah. At that time the Pastor from our church always came to the hospital to bless the families before the new baby went home. When Pastor asked what my name was, my mom and grandma said that they weren't sure. Pastor said "I think Isaiah Jeremiah is a nice name." My grandma and mom looked at each other in amazement because Isaiah had been the named they had thought about the most. Strange, they thought, how even the pastor proposed that they should name me Isaiah. So that became my name—Isaiah Jamal Borgum.
I wasn't the only one born into this family. On October 23rd 1990 my younger brother Seth William Benjamin was born. He is something else. We still do not have the greatest relationship in the world. In fact we barely have a relationship at all. Growing up we would always fight. We'd have arguments to the point we would want to kill each other. We absolutely couldn't stand each other, and we really don't know why. That's just the way it was. We were two totally different people and couldn't see eye to eye on anything at all. We had one thing in common, though, and that was our mother. You see, we are not full brothers. He is my half brother—same mom but different dads. Never the less he is still my brother. Everyone would say "Isaiah, you should love your brother. You should be a good example for him, show him right from wrong." I know that's what you're supposed to do for your younger brother, but for some reason I couldn't. It was just too hard. There was something inside of me that honestly didn't care if he lived or died. I know it was wrong but I couldn't help it. We just had a really bad communication system between us. When he was little, Seth was always good.
I can't forget about my little sister, Jazmine Marie, who was born February 10th 1992. She was the apple of my eye and my everything. She means the world to me, the only girl in my life who never hurt me and was always there for me no matter what. I don't know what it is, but we have a bond that could never be broken. We just had something between us that couldn't be touched by anyone. Our relationship was amazing, considering that fact that she and Seth were full brother and sister, sharing both the same mother and father. To her I wasn't just a big brother, I was her hero and could never do wrong in her eyes. I did my best to be an awesome big brother to her—the best that I could have been. We would talk about everything, together while Seth would be outside playing. I chose to always be there, to hold her and do whatever she asked of me. She was my best friend. I was her hero, but little did she know she was my hero.
Growing up wasn't like the typical childhood that most kids got to experience. There were a couple key factors that made my childhood extremely hard: my mom and sister were both sick, and we lived on welfare.
Life for my mom wasn't easy. It seemed as if we would always move from place to place, never staying at one location too long. That was hard on me because I was always going to different schools and having to meet and make new friends. I would have enjoyed staying at one school, one home, and not having to move as much. Now I'm not mad about that because moving from school to school and place to place gave me the opportunity to meet new and different people, for which I am thankful. So even though the changes of school and place were hard on me, I can't complain because of the good learning experiences I gained.
Even with all of the moving around and the sickness, I remember great times. My mom did the best she could to provide for me and make sure I had everything I needed. I'm grateful for that. I did most of the stuff that kids did like going to the park and hanging out with friends—all of that good stuff. It was just different though knowing that something was wrong with my mom. Yet when I was living with her, we had a great time. One of my favorite things about her was she made sure we had video games to play. Another one of my favorite memories was watching WWE, or back then when I was little it, was called WWF. Mom would let me watch that on the bedroom floor of her room where I would fall asleep once the show was over. I thought that was the greatest. Even though I was so young, my mom would allow me to watch that show. My grandma really didn't like WWF, but she still made sure that we went got to see the show live at the Arena together. Another crazy thing my mom allowed me to do was watch the Chucky movies with her and my brother's dad in the living room. I remember my brother and I lying on the blankets on the floor while they sat on the couch watching movies. Seth and I would be really into the movie even with all the blood and crazy little doll that would kill people. My mom would let us watch that kind of stuff. I'll never forget that about her.
My Mom never allowed us to give her an attitude or act up. She would have none of that. She was a really strict. If you did something she didn't like or approve of, she would let you know about it, so, growing up I got a lot of soap and hot sauce in my mouth because of what I said. Mom would also take off her shoe and spank us. Mom would punish both Seth and me, but Seth was more obedient, and I was rebellious. It seemed as if I got punished the most because I wouldn't obey her. My mom just wanted to make sure that she did the best she could to discipline us and make sure that we turned out alright. Now that I'm older and look back to reflect, I understand why, but at the time, her discipline didn't make my bother or me very happy. It made us very upset. Being disciplined was just a learning experience, but I didn't like that she was so strict. If you did something wrong she believed you had to be taught a lesson.
She was also a neat freak. Mom had our clothes very well organized. When she put them away, she would make sure that the outfits were matching in the drawers. Seth and I would always have to do chores every day and always have to clean up after our self. If we didn't, we might not have been able to play our video games or watch TV. Even worse, we might get that soap or hot sauce in our mouth. We pretty much did whatever she demanded or asked of us. I can't be mad at her because she was strict because that helped me become the individual I am today. I have followed in her footsteps as far as the neatness is concerned. You ought to see my room. There is a place for everything and everything is in its place.
One thing I won't forget were the holidays that I shared with my mom and all the rest of my family. They were the best. When the holidays came, each one was special. I loved Christmas with my mom and family. On Christmas Eve we would go to my Grandma's house to eat a special meal that she would fix. (My Great-Grandma was Norwegian so we had traditional Norwegian foods.) Church was always important, so we would go to the Christmas Eve family service, eat supper, open a few presents, then go home for bed. Before going to bed, we would put out milk and cookies for Santa like everyone else. The next day when we would wake up, we'd all run to the tree and open up our gifts. I would never be disappointed because my mom would make sure that I had everything I wanted. I don't know how she did it, since we lived on welfare. She always made sure we had all the gifts we asked for on Christmas.
Easter was another great holiday. With our family's belief in God our celebration always had church involved. On Good Friday we would go to the family services after which we would go to Grandma's house to dye Easter eggs. Every Easter we would wake up at the crack of down and look and see what the Easter Bunny left us. We would then all go to church together. I didn't always enjoy that, but I knew that it was very important so I didn't complain. After Easter Sunday services we would go to Grandma's house for Easter dinner. In the afternoon the adults would hide the Easter eggs outside for all of us kids to find. It was an exciting time.
Another great holiday was Halloween. Mom always made sure we had cool costumes to wear. Grandma would always fix a special Halloween supper for us at her house. Then we would get dressed up and go trick or treating with the family. That was always fun hanging out, bonding, and getting candy with my brother and little sister and my cousin Jordan. We got to go to one of the country clubs in town because my grandma told stories there. At the country club, we got to ride on the wagon that drove around with the horses in front, while my grandma told scary stories to the kids. They always had great food that we got to eat because she told stories for them. They had fun little games that for us to play and a really cool scary haunted house that we got to wander in and explore. After my Mom died and we were living with Grandma, and we got older, we even got to come back and help by working in the haunted house. It was so much fun jumping out and scaring people.
As my mom was growing up the only thing she ever wanted to be was a mom. That showed in the way that she loved us and took care of us. We were a close family when we lived with her. We always talked and communicated with about our days and things we did. Mom was like superwoman. She did it all, and I am to so grateful to have had her for my mom. She meant the world to me and was the best mom a person could ask for. She had incredible strength to raise three kids for as long as she did. She taught me a lot of lessons that I will never forget and built a lot of character in me which I am glad for. Because of her I turned into a great loving, compassionate, and caring individual.
Can you imagine growing up spending most of your time in a hospital visiting your mom who was very ill and lying in a hospital bed? She lay there her face extremely pale, white as a ghost and barely able to speak. You are so young, only four years old. You are overcome with the emotions of being scared, worried, and in shock because you have no idea what is happening to her. All you know is that your mom is in this place and not at home—not normal to what you are used to. Well I can imagine, because that is where I spent most of my time when I was four, five and six years old—in the hospital visiting my mom. Why was I there visiting my mom? Because she had this horrible infection called AIDS.
I don't know if you are familiar with AIDS, but if you're not, let me share with you the details. A person contracts the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which can lead to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). This illness weakens the immune system, leaving individuals susceptible to tumors, opportunistic infections and respiratory problems. You can get HIV through blood, sharing a needle, semen, vaginal fluid, preseminal fluid, and breast milk.
We became aware that my Mom was sick with this lethal infection in 1992. My Auntie Gretchen got on the internet right away to do research to help in any way that she could. It's amazing to me that my mom was one of the first cases of AIDS infection in South Dakota. I wonder now, maybe it was meant to be. It is hard to understand why such a terrible thing has to happen to a family. Maybe she was supposed to have AIDS and become one of the first people to have it so that others could become further aware of this horrible infection. Whatever the reason was, being the child of a mother with AIDS changed my life.
I was three when Mom, Gretchen, and Grandma found out what was wrong with Mom. Because of the feelings people had about the disease my mom didn't want anyone to know what was wrong with her. She made Grandma and Auntie Gretchen promise not to tell anyone what was happening to her. As best I could understand at my age, I knew that my mom had this horrible disease called AIDS. Just watching her endure all the pain and suffering she had to go though is something I will never ever forget.
Because of AIDS, my mom couldn't work. We lived on welfare, but most important, our family was really close growing up. We had to be close due to the fact that we didn't have much. I don't regret growing up that way, and not having much only made me stronger. Times were tough, but that's why we have family—to get us though the tough times that we face in life and endure. Since my mom had AIDS, most of my childhood was spent bonding and spending time with one another, being a close knit family. We had to be, since we were not sure exactly how long my mother would be alive.
My childhood was a unique one due to the circumstances I was placed in. Growing up I remember going to the hospital every day to spend time with my mom. As I entered the room and saw her laying there on the hospital bed as pale as a ghost, with tubes and IVS in her body. Seeing her like this put me in a state of shock. I was really scared as I walked to her, not knowing what was going on with her. I saw her in so much pain and hurting. I would go over to her and she would try to console me and tell me that everything is all right and would be OK ... But deep down inside I knew that there was no possible way that could be true. I would think "How could everything be all right? How could everything be ok? Look at all these people here coming in and out, tending to you, helping you, and taking care of you. How could anything be alright?" Although she tried to comfort me with her words, they just didn't help much. All I could think about was, "Here's my mom. She's the woman who gave me life." I was about to lose the most important person in my life. When I went to visit her, it got so bad that sometimes I couldn't handle seeing her in that hospital bed. I would run to the table and just hide under it and try to pretend that everything was ok. Even though it was extremely hard to go to the hospital everyday to visit, I did try to put a smile on my face, knowing that I could see her and that she had lived to see another day.
My mother had strength of a man, and her spirit was truly remarkable. She knew that she brought us kids in the world, and it was her responsibility to teach us and give us the tools to become successful in life. So that is what she did. In the few short years I spent with my mother, she taught me enough to last me a life time. She taught me about respect and to treat people the way you would like to be treated. And to be happy with what you have. She taught me that God is truly amazing and that He is our everything. She also made sure to teach me about being neat and just staying clean and making sure that we kids kept ourselves up. So even though I didn't have much time to spend with my mom she taught me tons. With her having this infection and going though all the pain, I learned a lot about strength. With her having AIDS and doing all the stuff that she did for us, I learned to never give up or to never lose hope. Always fight until you can't fight no more. And that is what she did—she fought until she couldn't fight any more.
Going on trips with your mother and your father, spending time with them, doing family things and having family events—that is the way it is supposed to be. Bonding with your mother and father, enjoying moments where you and your parents smile and talk about how your day was are what all children should experience and enjoy. As for myself, I never got to share those moments with my mom. Instead, times I spent with my mom were many sad moments, being sad and afraid of what was going to happen. I didn't know if I would get to see her tomorrow. "Will she live to see another day?" These are the thoughts that ran though my mind growing up. There were a few moments where my mother and I shared or spent time laughing about things but as sad as it was I don't think we ever laughed together. My childhood was dark and cloudy and filled with pain, pain that ran deep and filled me with anger and sorrow.
Excerpted from OBSTACLES, LESSONS, & HOPE by Isaiah Jamal Borgum Copyright © 2011 by Isaiah Jamal Borgum. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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