Orphan Survival Stories Index |
TOTALLY IN THE DARK
"You are about as worthless as they come," said the judge as I stood there before him.
I just stood there motionless with my head down, staring at the floor and not knowing what to say. Besides, what does any 9-year-old boy say when he does not have the slightest idea what all these grown-up people are talking about, anyway.
"Not only that, but I think you have grave psychological problems. What is your problem?" he continued.
"I know what those words mean, 'cause I've been told that many times before," I thought.
The part that I could not understand is why all the grown-up people I know at the orphanage, think I am different from all the other kids.
"It's true that I get into a lot of trouble when I climb trees and build army forts under the ground, stuff like that, but so do the other kids," I thought as the judge carried o, and on.
"WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?" the judge hollered.
"I don't know, sir," I replied.
"Maybe two weeks in the Juvenile Shelter will teach you a thing or two."
"What is it that he wants from me? What is it that I am supposed to say to him, to let him know I understand what he is talking about?" I thought.
I looked about the courtroom and saw the Juvenile Detention officer looking directly at me. Then there was the Clerk of Court and the woman who was writing everything down. Mrs. Winters, the head matron, was also looking at me with a smirk on her face and no one was saying anything.
"I don't know Your Judge, sir," I said.
"You don't know what?"
"I don't know what you mean."
My little mind was racing 50,000 miles per hour in my little head. I was so scared and had no idea what everyone was talking about.
"I wish they would tell me what is wrong with me. I wish someone would take the time to tell me what it is about me that makes others think I am not right in my head," I thought.
"Stop playing with your fingers," said the judge as he pointed at me.
I lowered my hands to my sides and stood there, all alone, all afraid and all scared like. My little mind just became a total blank and I fell to the floor. The next thing I remember, I was once again locked inside the wire cage, which was located upstairs in the Juvenile Court Hall building.
As I sit here writing this story, 46 years later, I now understand, somewhat, what was happening to me, as well as what the problem might have been and continued to be for me for many, many years. Even to this day, I am not exactly sure what it is (or was) that they were talking about, that I was supposed to be doing wrong.
As a little boy, I may have very well had "psychological problems." However, I certainly did not realize that ‘a problem’ even existed. How could I? I was only 9 years old. To me, I appeared to be completely normal.
The problem, as I see it now, was loneliness, sadness, distrust and depression. As a little boy in the orphanage, I did not even know what such things were. If I felt sad, lonely and distrustful or depressed, those were just normal feelings to me.
How would any 9-year-old boy know other people were not feeling exactly the same type of feeling that he was? How would he know that those types of feelings were not normal and that they are making him not only feel, but also act differently from others his same age? Had I been smart or intelligent enough to know about those kinds of things at that young age, what could I have done about it anyway?
Any mistakes made in my case were made by the adults as far as I am concerned. Grown adults concluding that a 9-year-old boy knows what he is doing, why he is doing it and expecting him to understand why he feels as he does is a crazy way of thinking. Expecting a young boy to know and understand the answer to that question is preposterous.
I am very upset that I was sent to a reform school just because I ran away from the orphanage. I am very upset that these adults made a decision in my life that started a process, which led me from orphanage to reform school, from reform school to jail and eventually to prison.
There is no doubt that I helped get myself into these types of institutions. Let there be no doubt that I knew the difference between ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ However, I can honestly say it was the adults that gave up on me. No one in authority would listen when I tried to tell them I was forced to eat human waste, made to drink urine, hung by my neck on a tree, burnt on a stove and made to take off my clothes so adults could lay on top of me. These are the people who failed, not I.
I walked out of prison on February 6, 1969, at 24 years of age. That was the very first day in my life when I could say and do whatever I pleased. I have never been in trouble again.