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MY BLANK SPACE


"Boys, this is your new home now. This is where you will live from now on," said the tall, black-haired woman, who was standing in front of us kids at the orphanage home.

"Will this be our home forever and ever?" asked one of the orphan boys.

"This will be your home, until you grow up and go out on your own," she replied.

"I didn't even get to tell my mommy goodbye," said the little boy as he slowly bowed his head and began to cry.

"Don't nobody love us, no way. We won't ever have the good feelin' ever again." I said aloud.

"You shouldn't talk like that, Roger. You're just a little boy," said the woman.

"But that's the truth, ain't it? Don't nobody love us kids. We won't never be able to have a mommy and daddy ever any more, will we?" I questioned.

The room fell totally silent as we orphans looked up, waiting for her to answer, but she never did. She just looked away and said not another word.

I was 6 years old when I was told that I would never again have a mother or father to love me. I'm not even sure that hearing those words from her made any difference to me, but I do know this: I knew right then and there that there would never be another hug or kiss for me. I knew right then and there that there would never be a piggyback ride or anyone to ever be proud of me.

As I sit here 50 years later, I try as best I can to remember exactly what it was I felt at that very moment, but, for the life of me, I draw nothing but a total blank. A total blank must have been what I felt at the moment she spoke those words to us orphans.

A blank space is all I was given to build a life upon. For years, I went to various reform schools, jails and then on to prison in 1965. I walked out of prison on February 6, 1969. That was the first day of my life that I was ever free of the system. I had nowhere to go and nowhere to turn. All I had was a baggy, old suit the prison gave me, $50 and that blank space I was given as a child.

I was sent back to Alaska where it was 55 below zero when I arrived. I lived for several days in a game room, sleeping behind the pinball machines. Within a week, I was broke and had nothing to eat. I asked the State of Alaska for help, but no one would help me. I begged for food from the army soldiers, who came to town on leave. Finally, I left Alaska two weeks later with $20 a man had given me.

I did as best I could to build a life with whatever I had left, which of course was that blank space the orphanage gave me.

Over the next 30 years, I was married and divorced six times and I had four children. I could never understand why the marriages would not work. I was kind. I was hard working and I was faithful. Now as I look back, I can see that all I really had to share with them was that blank space I carried inside myself. I don't suppose they will ever understand that I really did give and share with them all that I ever truly owned. My ‘blank space.’


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