A Grandfather’s Death and a Mother’s Drug Abuse

Humans of Venice High

Humans of Venice High is a series of photographs and personal histories, revealing the hidden emotions of subjects. Reporter Alicia Valenciana and photographer Julissa Ventureno went around the school campus, asking random students if they would mind being interviewed regarding their personal stories.

Julissa Ventureno
Roy Garcia poses for the camera during interview.

When asked what the saddest moment of his life was, Roy Garcia, a senior, answered,  “When my grandpa died a few months ago, around November. It’s because I’ve never really seen my parents that down. It was just a lot. From what I know, it was a heart attack, but they were saying that it was his third heart attack. I only met him once.”

Did you feel impacted by his death?

“A little bit because that was what motivated my dad, mostly. Then for that whole month he was really depressed. I guess it just affected my family, like the structure of it. It was a whole bunch of sadness everywhere. It was really hard to think about other things.”

“I could kind of sympathize with what they were feeling. It was hard. Normally, they were happy and everything… and that got taken away. It was hard because that was the time when I had to do things on my own because I didn’t want to stress them out.

How did your Grandpa’s death affect you?

“With my grandpa, it was a mental thing. It was when I realized that death is actually a thing. At first, I was like ‘Oh, everyone is going to die eventually,’ but when someone in your family dies, you realize how impactful that is. You don’t really think about how important the person was. You’re just like ‘Oh they’re not going to die anytime soon, so I don’t have to go see them.’ My plan was to go during the summer and go see him again, but I can’t anymore. It’s just hard realizing that someone can actually die… Like ‘who’s next?’

“Somedays it hits me, but I try to manage it. He sometimes comes back to my head, but I don’t think they would want me to be like that… like keep being down. So I try to focus on what I’m doing.”

What is your goal in life?

“To become a cardiologist is my main goal right now. Before, I started with being a doctor, but I slowly started liking more about the heart. Then with what happened to my grandpa, it was like ‘Oh, maybe if I study this, I can help other people.’

“I would help them by making sure they are healthy, basically what a doctor is supposed to do. It’s just how I was raised. Helping out people is something that I know how to do.

Julissa Ventureno
Kiana Iwata talks about her mother during the interview.

Kiana Iwata, a senior, said, “My mom… well she struggled for a long time with drug abuse and it ruined her whole life. It took her away from pursuing her education and she had a job for a while, but, you know, when you’re addicted to drugs and everything, you don’t care about responsibilities and all that.

“So, I feel like it was really hard for her to keep a job. Then she got sick, so she hasn’t had a job because of that. She had a bunch of things like she had this thing with her hands that no doctor really knew what it was, but it was from cholesterol and she had liver problems. She needs a new liver.

“I think the main thing that bothered me was that I didn’t have a normal family. I didn’t have a mom that had a job and I always wanted to know what it’s like to have a family that lived in a home where I knew my parents were never addicted to drugs and they’ve never had those kind of problems and they’re, you know, thriving with their jobs. I’ve never experienced that because I live with my grandma, you know, and I know my mom can’t support herself and that’s really bothered me my whole life.

“It sucks to know that my mom had to go through that, and living in a house where someone is addicted to drugs, you really are affected by it. You deal with it every day, so my whole childhood I always dealt with it because they’re different. I guess, I don’t know, it bothered me for a long time but I’ve gotten better at it. I forgive her for that.

“My father and my mom have been separated since before I can remember, like since I was probably one. They were together, but it was very unhealthy. Like I said, my mom was on drugs and he was as well and they both were struggling with that. It was very toxic. So, he left us when I was like one or two. He then married another woman, my stepmom, when I was like around 10 and he lives in Mississippi with her.

“But right now, he’s made up for his act, he’s made up for the past. I’ve seen him a lot and he stays with my grandpa sometimes down the street from here. He’s not really in the picture, but I don’t judge him for that because it was very unhealthy – the relationship. It’s better that they weren’t together.

“In elementary school, I didn’t really understand the whole drug thing and I didn’t want to admit it when I got older, so it really affected me. Like in sixth grade, I wanted to move with him and be with my dad.

“I always wanted that family where… I was just really jealous of my friends… they’d come home and have a mom and dad. I never knew what that felt like ever.

“I spent my first Christmas with him this past year. But now it doesn’t really affect me because I’ve been able to survive without a father and I don’t need one. My grandma is my dad, you know.

“I never thought about doing the things that my parents did because I knew that I would never want to really put my kids through that. I never want to get addicted so when I get pregnant or want to raise a family, I’ll be able to. I promised myself I wouldn’t let myself get addicted or involved in something I knew I wouldn’t be able to get out of.”

Interested in reading more Humans of Venice High? Check out our Instagram @humansofvenicehigh for past and exclusive stories!