Orphan Survival Stories Index |
It was late afternoon when I arrived in Gainesville, Georgia. I had driven over six hours to see my orphaned brother, Wayne. He and I were roommates when we were kids living in an orphanage in Jacksonville, Florida. He is one of six other orphans who now sit on the board of directors for "The Sad Orphan Foundation."
About 15 minutes into our visit, I opened my briefcase and took out about 20 black and white pictures that were given to me by Spring Park Elementary School. All of the orphans living at the home had attended Spring Park.
As Wayne sat silently looking at the pictures, I noticed his eyes were starting to glass up. Slowly, he got up from his chair, turned his back to the group and leaned his head down on his arms against the refrigerator.
"You okay, Wayne?" asked Randy, another friend who was there.
"You guys just don't understand. You just don't understand," he said, his voice starting to break and crackle.
"These are my brothers and sisters. These kids are my only family," he said as he once again began to shuffle through the pictures.
I walked over to where Wayne was standing and took the pictures from his hand. I looked through the pictures, until I found the one I was looking for.
"Who is this?" I asked as I pointed to a sad looking little boy who was sitting in the front row of the Grade 3 class picture.
"Oh, God. That's me," he said.
Tears fell onto the picture as he stood staring at himself. This was the first time Wayne had ever seen a picture of himself as a little boy - a picture showing him as he looked almost 50 years ago. Once again, Wayne turned his back to the group and covered his face with his hands. The three of us just stood not knowing what to do or say.
"I'm okay now," said Wayne as he wiped his face on a paper towel. "It's not seeing myself as a little boy that makes me sad."
He held the pictures out toward me.
"Look at the pictures and tell me which are orphans," he asked.
I took the pictures from his hand and slowly began to look through each one of them.
"I really can't tell who is who," I said.
He reached over my shoulder and began to point out each and every one of the boys and girls who lived in the orphanage.
"Can't you see that it's summer time - that all the kids in each class are dressed in summer clothes, except us orphans? Can't you see that we all have on flannel clothing?"
Again, Wayne walked away from the group and covered his face.
"God! How I hated being made fun of when I was a little boy. It was because of what we had to wear," said Wayne trying to regain his composure.
I looked through the pictures and saw Wayne was correct. Each and every orphan, though it was mid-July, was dressed in flannel clothing. That was all we were ever given to wear at the orphanage. Most of the clothing was torn and ragged.
Randy and his girlfriend got up from their seats, and walked outside so Wayne and I could have a minute or two together. Wayne walked over to where his dog was and picked him up. He wrapped his arms around the dog and hugged him as tightly as he could.
"I love you, boy," Wayne said as he sat down on the couch.
I think it was the first time in my life that I ever saw Wayne cry and say the word ‘love’ at the same time.
Then Wayne whispered to his dog: "If you die before me, then I will have someone bury you with me when I die. We will be together forever."
Then he kissed his dog on the top of the head and hugged him even tighter.
Not being loved as a child became unimportant to us after we reached 7 or 8 years old. A child can only scream against the wind for so long. Then we just finally gave up and began to seek love from something that would truly love us, no matter what - our everlasting friends, our pets.