What is expected of
Footprints in the Sand
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord,
The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”
Mary Stevenson, 1936
an "Idea Generator"?
How do I a
This book is dedicated to the older of my two sisters, Carol Joyce, who spent her entire life either on the streets of Los Angeles, or in mental institutions, and who was finally beaten to death in some dark alley in downtown L.A. at the age of 47 or so.
The L.A. Sheriff’s department never found the assailants
ccept this offer?
Table Of Contents
The Sawdust Pit
A Weekend At Home
The Other Side
Brian and Tony
Choices and Gifts
Naked, drenched with sweat, urine, spit, and tears, the roach-infested closet I was locked in became the dungeon from which there was no escape. The darkness had engulfed me to the point where I could not even see my hand directly in front of me and feared madness would finally overpower my resolve to maintain my sanity as hundreds of cockroaches rapidly scurried on every part of my trembling naked body. They were everywhere. I couldn’t see them, but I felt them all over me. They would fall from above through the black void and land on my head and shoulders, finding themselves in my ears, back, and face. I couldn’t stand up because of the wool coats hanging above me that were the breeding grounds for untold numbers of these monsters. I could only sit crouched under those coats in a continual state of horror trying franticly to get as many roaches off of me as possible. Unable to distinguish between reality and fear, I began to imagine them crawling in every hole they could find and was quickly panicking as I would slap myself in vain attempts to kill the invaders and their filth. I didn’t care if I would squash them in my ears or on my forehead, I just wanted them to stop their incessant attacks.
Suddenly, the door of my dungeon opened to expose my mother’s laughing face. Light came in from the kitchen exposing more cockroaches moving all over the floor beneath me and on my urine-drenched body as my mother stood at the closet door with full satisfaction on her face as she looked at me with pure evil knowing that I was in the process of being destroyed as anything that resembled a human being.
“You’re not so tough anymore, are you? Here, eat this. I hope you choke on it!” She slid a plate of beans and mashed potatoes across the floor and into the closet for me to eat. Inside the plate of food, I caught a brief glimpse of the familiar black lumps of dead roaches that had been cooked along with the potatoes as she calmly closed the closet door once again, allowing total darkness to return.
I moved the plate of food away from me to a corner of the closet, hoping the roaches would prefer the beans and potatoes to my body. There was no way I was going to put anything in my mouth in that hole of a closet that belonged to Hell itself. But my mother knew my thoughts.
“You will stay in there, Mother Killer, until you’ve eaten every bit of your dinner.” Her voice on the other side of the closet door calmly let me know that I had better eat what she had given me, or prepare to stay in this closet for the entire weekend.
I thought of how much I hated her as my mother’s spit dripped from my hair and onto my lap. At least I thought it was spit, since my world was complete darkness. It was hard to tell the difference between the dripping phlegm my mother had coughed into my hair just minutes before, and a falling cockroach until I slapped at that part of my body to feel her slimy phlegm that had fallen rather than the body of a roach. I felt like a wild animal crouching in this closet sitting among the filthiest insects on Earth.
I couldn’t eat the mashed potatoes and beans she had given me, for they were probably covered with roaches by now. But if I didn’t eat them, I would remain in here forever, as she had just made very clear. But there was an alternative.
I shoved my finger deep into my throat to induce choking and vomiting. After all, she had wished that I choked on the mashed potatoes when she gave them to me, so maybe she will feel victorious if I not only choked, but vomited as well. And if she felt victorious, maybe I’d be able to get out of here.
I choked and gagged, and then gagged some more. But I wasn’t vomiting. My mother heard me choking from outside, and began to laugh with Toy, my sister. My mother was beginning to feel sorry for me for I heard her tell Toy, “Maybe he’s learned his lesson. Should I let him out?”
Toy immediately answered, “No Mom! Don’t have pity on him. Just let him rot in there. He deserves it, the way he treats you.”
Again, I shoved my finger into my throat as far as it would go, and then wiggled it around to help me throw up, but still I couldn’t vomit. I just gagged and choked. Was I doomed to stay here all weekend? I didn’t give up though. I continued to have my finger in my throat and then thought about picking up a handful of mashed potatoes in that plate I placed near the corner that was probably covered with cockroaches by now. What if I just scooped a handful of mashed potatoes along with cockroaches and put them in my mouth? Surely that would make me vomit.
But the mere thought of putting a handful of mashed potatoes and roaches in my mouth was enough to induce a full fledged vomiting attack. The violent spasms of my stomach caused it to cave in as it forced dry heaves out with some stomach fluids. It felt like I had vomited my entire insides and my sounds of regurgitation sickened both my Mother and Toy.
My mother opened the closet door and said, “Okay Mother Killer, have you had enough?” I couldn’t speak, for liquids that I didn’t even know existed were dripping from my opened mouth onto my lap, while the roaches were actually being trapped in the stickiness of the vomit that dropped on them.
“You’re disgusting, you animal.” My mother was talking to me but I was still gagging and couldn’t answer. “Get out of there and go take a shower. Then sit on the steps. I don’t want to look at you.” I could barely move.
She continued, “God’s going to punish you, you mother-killer, for how you treat your mother! Just remember: every dog has his day.” She and Toy then walked off to the front room to watch T.V.
As I slowly got off the floor and walked upstairs, I said, “Thank you, Mom.” I wanted her to know how much I truly appreciated being allowed to get out of that closet.
But my appreciation did not last long. As I took that shower, I became absolutely intent upon leaving this insane asylum by going into the Army. I was only 17, and my mother wouldn’t sign papers allowing me to join. But somehow, I would manage to join the Army without her or anyone else’s help, including the help of the cruel monster of a God she threatened me with, if by some remote chance he even existed.
Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. (Romans 12:12) How much more would my soul have been soothed had I been able to truly understand this deep within my heart?
If God is good, and if He is omnipotent in his power as the Creator of our Universe, then why does He allow bad things to happen to innocent children? This is a painful question to answer by those who have experienced ugliness and perversion from those who were supposed to protect them. In fact, many have rejected the very existence of God because there seems to be no rational answer to this question. But its answer will be attempted before the end of this book, at least according to the opinion of one who has experienced enough as a child and as a young adult for this question to be pondered.
Parents have such an awesome responsibility to lovingly care and protect their children. And when they purposely and consistently bring emotional or physical pain to their children who have been given to them as gifts, it is a horror that few people can truly comprehend. But nevertheless, I thank God for allowing me to experience and survive an ugly childhood, even though I would not wish it on anyone and would not want to re-live it. For it has given me a deep appreciation of what is expected of me during my lifetime as a father. A bad childhood does not create a bad person. It creates a clear awareness of exactly what not to do, and who not to become. We all have a choice of how we behave and are not locked into behaving in the way we were raised. If we choose selfish power and exploitation of a child because we were victims ourselves, then that is our choice, not our excuse. And the uplifting effect we can have on those who may have experienced similar events in their lives may result in the saving of a life rather than in its extermination. To give hope to people who may be currently chained to similar circumstances of child abuse, past or present, or to give a certain level of understanding to others who are lucky enough to be raised in a healthy environment, is an honor reserved only to those who have survived childhood atrocities. So yes, I thank God for allowing me this honor.
Child abuse comes in many forms and is certainly not limited to the specific types described in these pages. And abusive environments are by no means limited to the socio-economic conditions that existed in the Los Angeles ghetto where I grew up. Jordon Downs Housing Projects, located in Watts, housed many loving families whose only crime was being poor. My mother’s crimes against her children had nothing to do with economics, it had to do with a conscious decision to behave inappropriately, and a refusal to seek proper help. A child abuser in a middle or upper class neighborhood could inflict just as much emotional and physical trauma on his or her children, so the fact that this occurred in Watts is in no way an incrimination of my neighborhood or our social standing. It is an incrimination of those who violate their responsibility to love and protect their children.
There are common bonds made of emotional despair, powerless frustration, and a sometimes overwhelming feeling of emptiness, loneliness, and void among abused children that transcend race and economic status. Mixed up feelings of loyalty, love, and revulsion are confusing and are not easy to come to grips with. Even many years later, as I write these words and remember and recount the incidents that follow, strong feelings of despair and inner emptiness are rekindled. While I was in the middle of writing and remembering a particular incident during my teenage years, nausea would find its way back into my throat, my heart would start to pound again, my arms and stomach would start to tremble, and a sweat would fill my fingers and hands.
The reader is reminded that this account is not meant to be a complete autobiography. Many positive aspects of my life, such as playing marbles, playing basketball, boxing, going to college, coaching, teaching, or engaging in other normal activities, have been purposely omitted. It is not my purpose to bore the reader with everyday trivia. My purpose is to enlighten the reader with those aspects of a life that are often hidden and not at all talked about. So let me emphasize that much of my childhood was fun, good, and healthy. And these things were lovingly provided and nourished by my mother, who was the same woman who, at other times, unleashed extreme emotional and physical trauma upon her children.
The underlying message of this book is to help us realize, know, understand, and most importantly, feel within every crevice of our soul, that our past need not control our present and future without our express permission. If just a glimmer of hope can be given to a young person today who is experiencing turmoil in his/her home life so that person knows that his turmoil is temporary and will not last forever, that things will be better in the future if he just hangs in there, doesn’t give up, and does what is necessary to straighten out that which is twisted, then my childhood was not in vain. If an older victim can look at his/her childhood and realize how it is affecting current relationships, and if that person will seek appropriate help and rebel against being trapped in the perpetuation of abusive behavior, then recounting my childhood was more than worthwhile. If you are reading this and feel trapped in a difficult situation, or are locked in behaviors learned from being abused, then know that your relationships, your job, your marriage, and your very future are not doomed to failure and repetition of what you have been through. Know instead that you have a kind of hope that is not just wishful thinking, but is something real and something attainable.
Not only can our ugly circumstances be overcome, but we can actually benefit from a rough beginning if we choose to learn from that beginning, rather than lean on it as an excuse for failure. Again, each of us has the choice of either perpetuating the abuse we endured or being committed to creating a normal and healthy environment in which to raise our families. Our families have the potential of being lucky enough to be with a spouse or parent who knows what it’s like to be a helpless victim and would ensure at all costs a healthy and pleasant lifestyle. Or, our families could have the misfortune to be with a spouse or parent who chooses to treat his family as horribly as he/she has treated. The choice is ours and whatever we decide, we must take responsibility for it ourselves and not blame our behavior on a bad beginning.
For a few years out of a lifetime I endured abuse at the hands of my parents, particularly, my mother. But as a result, I live every day full of appreciation and thanksgiving for clean food, a bed, an undisturbed night’s sleep, my loving wife, my Brian and Tony, and the freedom to do as I wish—within limitations, of course. How many of us look at our hand or foot every day and consider ourselves very lucky for having them? Certainly I don’t. It is much more difficult to appreciate something I have always had than it is to appreciate something with which I have gone without. I therefore truly thank God for my childhood and want no one’s pity for it. Although I would definitely not want to repeat it, my beginning has set the foundation for me to thoroughly, enthusiastically, emotionally, and sincerely love and appreciate the rest of my lifetime.
So, like the message Jesse Jackson brought in “Operation Bread-basket” when he was talking to a crowd of people living in a ghetto: “No matter how dreary the situation is, or how difficult it may be, the storm doesn’t really matter until the storm begins to get you down.” The message of this book goes even further: The storm will pass into a clear, beautiful, and sunny day. So don’t feel sorry for yourself, but rather, get up, dust yourself off, hold your head high, don’t be ashamed, learn from what you have been through, and prepare for the sunny days to come. Hope for the best, and do not settle for anything less. And, if you have the will and desire to live in an emotionally healthy home, but feel lost as to how to escape a particular rut that you find yourself in, then read on and discover for yourself that the hope within you can become reality.
Undying Hope is our best defense.
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. (Romans 15:4)