Previous | Orphan Survival Stories Index | Next
IV'E NEVER BEEN HOME
I remember, when I was 12 years old, the day that the police dragged me by the legs, screaming and crying, out of the orphanage gates and carried me off to the juvenile hall.
I also remember being driven out of the Florida School For Boys at Marianna (reform school) at the age of 14 and knowing that there was no place on this earth for me to go.
That same thought also occurred to me the day I walked out of jail, the day I was discharged from the army and the last time when I was released from prison on February 6th, 1969.
From the age of four till the age of 19, I always lived in some type of an institution, cell, cage or facility.
Even today, at 55, I do not have any idea what it is like to walk into a house where there is a mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather, cousins, nieces or nephews. Without sitting down with a piece of paper and making a detailed diagram, I cannot even tell you where these people fit into the family structure.
I will never forget walking out of those various institutions and realizing that it made no difference whether I went north, east, south, west, up or down. There was no one for me anywhere, any place or any direction.
Why did I constantly get myself into trouble with the law? I guess it was because when an individual has no place to go and has to live on the streets, you are placing yourself in a very ‘visible’ situation. You are constantly walking around looking for food and trying to survive as best you can. In my particular case, I did not try to better my living conditions, or myself, because the situation I had worked myself into was better than I had ever had it before, in my entire life.
Eating out of garbage cans and sleeping in dumpsters is not a bad way of life, if one does not know that there is something much better. At least under those conditions, I was somewhat free, though I was scared 99 per cent of the time. Not just of the police, but of certain unscrupulous individuals who also lived on the streets, who like to take sexual advantage of young boys and girls.
As I look around my own home today, I can still see evidence of what happened to me yesterday, as a young boy. My pantry has more than 1,000 various types of canned goods, which are all lined up with the labels facing forward. My garage is packed from the floor to the ceiling with every conceivable type of camping equipment known to mankind. My 1986 Chevrolet van is set up to be 'lived in' should my 'normal life' ever fall apart. It is clear to me now that my never having a real home or family will forever make me feel like an outsider in the real world.
As an author, I have traveled all over the United States and Canada, and I have eaten in some of the best restaurants in both these countries. However, I would feel no shame whatsoever, if I ever had to return to the streets and had to dine from the dumpster once again. That was the one place where north, east, south and west all came together for me at ‘my home.’