The abuse by my step-father had been going on for several years. I was no longer under the allusion that it was “normal”, and I was trying to figure a way out of the situation. By Christmas, I had turned my step-father in to the police … but, the 2nd half of my 12th year wasn’t all that much better than the first half.
Around that time, a new family entered my life. Paul Checketts worked for the LDS Church’s Educational System and they had recently moved to the Bay Area for him to begin work as an institute instructor. I’ve never had a conversation with them about why they chose to settle in Newark, but I’m certainly grateful that they did. At the time, the Checketts had 7 kids — 6 boys and 1 girl. Their youngest, TJ, would be born after they moved to Newark.
Nathan Checketts, the oldest, was my age and we were in many of the same classes in junior high and high school. Paul and Ann would become fixtures of our Newark ward, including Ann becoming Young Women’s president.
After my step-father was arrested, he was also excommunicated from the LDS Church. After his excommunication, our whole family became inactive. Ann, as Young Women’s president, noticed and became interested in getting me back to church.
My relationship with the Checketts grew gradually as a teenager. At first, it was just a ride to Church when I needed it. Ann or Paul would be there a few minutes before Church started every Sunday and ready to pick me up. One week, Ann noticed that during Sacrament meeting, I mostly hung out in the foyer. Sitting in a pew by myself was uncomfortable. So, they invited me to sit with them during Sacrament meeting. One Sunday, they asked me if I wanted to come over to their house after Church and have dinner with them. Being at their house after Church was so much better than the chaos happening at my house. Me spending most of my Sundays with the Checketts became a regular thing.
Sometime along this course, Ann noticed my reading material was a bit inappropriate for a girl my age. I loved to read and would literally read anything that was put in front of me. I think the book I was reading was some sort of romance novel, which wasn’t the type of book I should be reading — especially at a church activity. Ann made a deal with me. Through the years, she had collected numerous books that were age-appropriate and also appropriate reading material for an LDS young women.
In the early years of knowing the Checketts, these were just a few of the things they did to help me. They provided a stability in my life that I desperately needed.
Over the years, the Checketts have stepped in and helped me in ways small and large.
Most specifically, I’ve spent almost every Christmas over the past 15 years with the Checketts. Christmas-time has always been a challenging experience for me. Being around the Checketts family has allowed me to forget those things and enjoy the time.
There aren’t any words to describe how grateful I am for the Checketts.