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Of all the stories I have written, this will be the hardest one of all to write, not because it is the most painful, but because I have to write it with my brain and not my heart. I cannot write this story from the heart because if I realize, even for a moment, that it were really true, it would hurt me so deeply and so badly that I would totally give up on life itself.
I had been told many, many times and for years that I was special to Mr. and Mrs. Usher. These are the two strangers who took me into their home from the Duval County Juvenile Shelter in Jacksonville, Florida on Thanksgiving Day for dinner. These are the only two people on the face of this earth that I ever trusted and really believed loved me with all their heart.
I continued to see them on and off for the next 20 years, because I moved around a lot. I never knew from one year to the next where I would be living. One year in Alaska, the next year in Canada, maybe the United States or even Mexico. But wherever I went, I could always count on that one little faint beacon of light that these two people instilled into my heart as a young teenager.
I returned to the State of Georgia with about $200 to my name and went to work for a gentleman named Cliff Corley, selling wood burning stoves in Brunswick. Within one year, I had opened my own store in Waycross, Georgia and within another six months, bought out Cliff Corley's store. I will never forget Mr. and Mrs. Usher coming to my store. Mrs. Usher put her feet on top of my desk, leaning back in the chair and told everyone who came into the store that I was her stepson and she was so proud of me. That was a feeling I shall never forget as long as I live.
(GOT TO STOP FOR A MINUTE)
Within a year, I saved a little money and started searching around for other people who I thought might need a break in life and I brought them into the business with me. Mrs. Usher had warned me that this was a bad idea but nevertheless, it is what I had always wanted to do; so I did it. I also started buying expensive tennis shoes and watches every Christmas for all the children who were still living in the orphanage where I had been raised in Jacksonville, Florida. I wanted these kids to go to school with their heads held high and not be made fun of, because of their clothing, as I was when I lived there.
One day, it all came crashing down on me and I lost everything. I decided that I was going to return to California and try to start over. I had already obligated myself to buy shoes and watches for all the children at the Children's Home Society, but I did not have any idea how I was going to do it this year.
I drove to Jacksonville, Florida to visit the Ushers and was told by Mrs. Usher that they had sold a piece of land to several doctors for a large amount of money. They planned to donate $10,000 to $15,000 to the church. I asked Mrs. Usher if there was any possibility that they would give me $300 of that church money, so I could buy the shoes and watches that I promised to the orphans. She told me that she did not see anything wrong with it, as helping children was also God's work, but she added that the final decision would be up to the minister of the Arlington Baptist Church. I cannot tell you how excited I was to hear that wonderful news. Of course, the church would give the orphans a lousy $300. Why wouldn't they? What is $300 out of $10,000 or $15,000, especially when they were getting all that money for free?
Well, the church did not agree to it and the children at the orphan’s home got nothing for Christmas. That was the final straw that killed my spirit. I have never walked back into a church for a service and I never will. I knew it was not Mr. or Mrs. Usher’s fault and I never mentioned it ever again, nor did they. But they knew deep down in their hearts that I would never recover from that experience and would never give the church another chance, and I won't.
Mr. and Mrs. Usher died some years later, which was a very personal and private thing for me. I was so afraid that the faint little light that they had placed into my heart would go away, but it never did, so I guess they must have done a good job. However, when they died, I was not even mentioned in their will. I, as a stepson was not even mentioned, I, as a person was not even mentioned, not even the name ROGER. It was like I never really existed or belonged to anyone for real. That is all I ever wanted out of life was just to belong to someone and to know that I came from someone OR from somewhere other than an orphanage.
Oh, the money would have been great. Who does not like money? But it wasn't the money in this case. It is that damn hole that was left in my heart when no one even thought about me. It was like they forgot that I ever existed. Now that they were dead, I also had to die and turn back into an orphan. Everyone else was mentioned, except me. WHY? Once again, I see that when money is involved, just like with the church, everything else important in life falls to the side, which also includes love and family. Or is it that BLOOD really is thicker than WATER?
I know I am just a greedy bastard, who does not appreciate what others have done for me - especially, when they did all that loving for free and out of the goodness of their heart. I understand that they did not have to do a darn thing for me and that they could have left me right there in that juvenile shelter to rot, but why did they lead me to believe that I was one of them when that was not really true at all? I shall always love and respect Mr. and Mrs. Usher. I shall never forget how loving and kind they were to me and that they never asked me for anything in return - that everything they ever did for me was because they were good, kind, people, who honestly cared about me.
I will forever treasure that faint little light that these two wonderful, kind and loving people placed into that special part of my heart, but I shall keep it well kept right next to and shining on that deep, dark hole that tells me I really was an orphan after all. That is the part that hurts me so badly. Please forgive me for saying this Mom and Dad Usher.