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My mama, daddy and me, 24 days old
There have been 2 people in my life, who were bound by the laws of the state of Florida to take care of me. The first? Yeah, that would be my mama who had me when she was 38 years old. I did not ask to be born into this world, it was her responsibility to get me from the cradle to independence, and well, she didn’t do that.
She walked away from that responsibility; free and clear from the 4th or 4 of her children, and probably the one that needed her, and loved her the most.
I have very few memories of my mama. I do know I loved her with everything that was inside of me. She never wanted to be around us. We were always at somebody else’s house. I could take you, to this day, to the house of Henry Lee Lucas and Otis Toole. They are convicted serial killers. Otis Toole took responsibility for killing Adam Walsh. Henry Lee Lucas died in prison after admitting to countless murders. My step-sister (I barely knew her) Freda was one of those people. He dismembered her body from Texas to Florida and ultimately admitted her murder while in prison for the murders of other people. My mom used them as baby-sitters. I remember cleaning their house for $32. They never harmed me. Thank God.
The only way I got her attention was to do well in school. I hated then, and do hate now, math. She was good at math. When it came time to conquer long division, we had some quality time. I still hate long division. Thank God for calculators. Since she never wanted us around, it literally took a village to provide our needs as it pertains to food, clothes and an education. So, the village, any village, raised us. It wasn’t always a good village. Those years, some of it, if not most of it, are not appropriate for a post for the world to see. If it were in a movie you would walk out–it if were in print, you would stop reading.
Ray and Gayle Dunning were serving at Victory Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. They have 3 children of their own, but that did not stop them from giving me a place to stay and somehow get some stability in my life. I have such vivid memories of long walks with Gayle where she would listen for endless hours and advised me from bitterness to dating. She was the first person to show me what a mom is; or should be–and that description was not my mom.
When Ray & Gayle stepped in, I had a bed that was mine and an address that didn’t change. I remember my first Christmas (or maybe it was a birthday? –both in December) with them I got a bike, a pink bike, I still don’t know where that bike is to this day–but it was like giving me ounces or pounds of gold. It was mine and nobody was gonna take it from me. They filled in an important gap time for me before ultimately deciding to place me in a children’s home in Tampa, Florida. I had never been so heartbroken. And I wondered, at 15 years old, “why don’t people want me?”
This started a pattern in my life where I began to over-compensate, over-perform, strive for protection. I was in search for anything, any body that would pour into my life; and not leave me. What happened next still gives me chills to this day; as God clearly heard the breaking of my heart that hot day in June of 1987 when I arrived on the property of Faith Children’s Home.