About this iReport
  • Approved for CNN

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    Posted April 10, 2014 by
    GULF BREEZE, Florida
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    In praise of “other mothers”

    "Isn't that special" - Kay DeBolt


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Tristessa says that if she had to choose one memory that best sums up her relationship with her stepmother Kay, it would be a moment from her junior college graduation. "I couldn't see the crowd clearly, but as I started my descent off stage I heard, 'Tristessa, woooo hooo!' [I] knew her voice. She was cheering louder than anyone in the whole stadium," Tristessa said. "She was always there, reliable and always cheering me on through life's journeys."
    - Verybecoming, CNN iReport producer

    My name is Tristessa Corrina, born to Paul and Linda in Peoria, IL in 1973. The first decade of my story is filled more violence, fear and trauma than I sometimes can truly recall. My parents separated and divorced several times during those years and my mother was awarded custody. She did the best she could, but suffered from her own lacking self-esteem, abandonment issues and battled with a growing bank of trauma’s. She married again and then a couple more times to men with violent and abusive behaviors, thus leaving this young girl terrified, scared and often alone. My father was in and out of my life and had remarried, but not anyone I met as I was not allowed to spend much time with him.

    At the age of 13, my mom and I had racked up possibly 20 moves or so, maybe more -some of which included her living in shelters and us at friends’ houses on couches, and she was again in another abusive relationship. By 13, I was angst ridden, depressed and developed my own abandonment issues and lived in constant fear for my life and safety. The life I knew with my mother was gory, gun-filled and always included a predator coming to get and harm us. Then, mom decided she didn’t want the responsibility of the 13 year old daughter and the next thing I knew, I was standing on the door-step of my dad’s house.

    While my time actually living at my dad’s house was technically short-lived, only a year or two, my life was forever changed by his new wife, Kay DeBolt. I can’t say I made anything easy from the age of 13 to well, that’s another story, but without the support, guidance, education, role modeling, pushing, organization, unconditional love of Kay, I know I would never had made it through my Master’s Degree nor be the well-rounded successful business woman I am today. Kay did not have children of her own, but she took me in as hers, even after she and my father divorced over 15 years ago. She has never left my side no matter how easy I made turning away.

    Kay took the time to attend all of my special events; plays, new jobs celebrations, graduations, and so forth – doing everything she could to help me learn that I was worthy of support and love and that life was beautiful. She taught me how to be a woman, how to build my confidence, how to be independent – every-baby-step-of the-way. I had a LOT of learning to do. I was a broken spirited, terrified, and very needy young girl, desperate for any attention and my path was horrifying then and even to think about now. She gave me a reason to live when I really didn’t want to and to this day, I take every chance I can to tell her how much she changed my world for the better and just how grateful I am to her. For me, I owe my life to her, my very existence.

    We are actively in touch and try to see each other as often as possible despite the 700 miles between us. She sends me cards for every holiday and has never missed a birthday. She is the kindest woman I’ve ever had the experience of knowing and I am by far one lucky lady that she’s given as much of her life, time and heart to me. Her meaning in my life is almost undefinable. Finding one picture to submit will be hard, I am hoping I can send more. I am sending a photo (from 2013). In 2013 we celebrated Forty-Schmorty and Sixty-Schmixy (her idea). We had many exchanges in emails throughout the year and a few awesome times together. It was kicked off at my 39th Birthday when she surprised me at a Brewery Grand Opening in Granbury, TX (my motorcycle was on display), then she took me to California – she always wanted to take me to Getty Center – we went, but it didn’t end there! While standing at the airport, flying non-rev, she opened her purse and said, “oh yeah, I’ve got this Disney pass, I wonder if…” this is where I rudely interrupted…”OF COURSE WE ARE GOING TO DISNEY!!!” – and so, off we went on a California tour for Forty-Schmorty and Sixty-Schmixty. I am here to admit, we cried like babies riding through “It’s a Small World”; we had no idea that it would bring so much emotion, but for her – she hadn’t been back since it opened and she was a child, and for me – it was a very special song, a dance recital age-4 when my parents were still together and I remember how wide-eyed I was then – my mom, father and I always had the connection of that song and that place in time. She and I laughed, then cried, then hugged…a moment in time to never be forgotten. (a side note, I grew very close to my father later in life and enjoyed 15 amazing years with him as my mentor and friend – he was abruptly taken from me in 2009 by a stroke. Today, my mother and I are still healing and she lives near me now, but I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention that she too has grown and contributed in my life, yet acknowledges how special Kay is to me and how grateful she is that Kay is in my life.)

    Kay, “isn’t that special”, DeBolt is my lifeline and brought me some of the greatest joys in my life and I’ve always wanted a way to let the world know how special she is, but also how one person truly can change a life. My mission in life is to help young children & teens know, they can overcome whatever life they were born into if it isn’t best. They can achieve, they can succeed, but I’ve always known with a Kay, it sure becomes a lot more manageable to tackle those tough emotional barriers that stem from abuse, neglect and violence.

    Thank you CNN for giving me a chance to shout to the mountain tops my sincere appreciation, love and respect for Kay. She is simply, amazing. You’ll have to ask her the meaning behind “isn’t that special” – I love to hear her recollect and laugh. She’s got an amazing laugh to me, music to my ears...

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