Giving birth made my mom really sick. She was in the hospital for weeks. I owe my life to grandmother being there. My father missing in action.
One night Gram had enough of my father’s disappearance. She went looking for him and started at his Mom’s.
None of us had any idea why my father was hiding or what he was running from, but Gram found him there on Grammy’s couch. He was just sitting there watching TV, as if neglecting your newborn and sick wife was acceptable.
She yelled at them both, telling them how ridiculous it was to be so irresponsible. The ridicule worked because after the berating he came home.
My mother began to feel better and for my family things started to improve. My mom was working, going to school, and learning to navigate the city. My Dad was trying his hardest to be successful with his businesses.
One night after showing an apartment to some potential tenants my father was robbed and pistol whipped for the few hundred dollars he had on him. He came home that night bruised and bloody.
I was still too young to remember, but they told me I could sense the trauma and lifted my little baby arms to his wounds with a cold compress.
That’s when my mom realized the danger in Harlem.
She tried my dad’s way long enough. Now it was her turn. After years of negotiations, she talked my dad into moving to the town she grew up in, St. Clairsville.
We stayed in a small house there where I made my first memories. I can remember my dad’s brother visiting, Uncle Jackie, and me riding on his back.
Next when I was 4 we moved to a nearby town called Martins Ferry where I start to recollect memories. This is where I first learned about the opposite sex, and the opposite race.
The first time I heard the word nigger was from the neighbors across the street.
They were laughing and pointing at me, calling me nigger while I played along. I had no idea what it meant. Later I asked my mom. She said it’s a mean word to call a black person.
My response, “well what’s a mean word to call a white person?”
My father was coming and going. Every morning I’d wake up and ask,
“Is Daddy here?”
“No. I’m sorry sweetheart”.
Could this be where my issues with abandonment stem from?
Possibly. But also maybe Day Care. I’d be there for 10 hours a day sometimes. No one knew it then but now studies now suggest children left at Day Care suffer from abandonment issues later in life.
Back at home there were several children in my neighborhood, most of them were older than me. A few of the girls were my age and that’s who I played with.
One of the kids who called me a nigger, told me a story about a lady on our street. He told me this grown woman let him see her breasts. I was jealous I didn’t get to.
I found myself alone with the woman’s daughter. We both ended up with our pants down.
“Oohh baby I want to kiss you”, I said.
My brain was already starting to be corrupted.
Days later I found myself playing with another one of my girl friends. At this point I assumed pulling your pants down was normal.
“Aren’t you gonna pull your pants down?”
She did not and promptly told her mother.
Her mom yelled at me wildly, saying she would tell my mom. I was terrified. I waited outside on the porch while they talked. That night I waited for the fury of my parents to erupt. I was so ashamed. But that fury never came.
I have no idea if she told my mom. I lived with that guilt throughout my childhood. I’ve since forgiven myself, understanding it was misguided human nature.
I couldn’t have been more than 5 years old but I loved Michael Jackson. His songs laid the foundation for what my musical palette is today. No one will believe this, because of how uncoordinated I am, but back then I could moonwalk. I swear.
I’ll never know how she pulled this off, but one day when she picked me up from Day Care, she had Michael Jackson tickets. Not only that, but when we go home to get ready, my dad was there!
As for the experience of the show, it was horrifying. I was scared the whole time. I guess I was too young for pyrotechnics. But creativity snuck into my subconscious. I would never be the same.
I’m forever grateful for that night. Seeing the greatest performer of all time gave me an appreciation, respect, and curiosity for the arts.
My parents must’ve had fun that night too because a couple months later my mom had a talk with me.
She asked what I thought about having a younger sibling. I told her of course I wanted one. She told me I would in fact be a big brother. I could even pick the name.
We were always in church so I picked a name from the Bible if it was a boy, Joshua.