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THERE WAS A TIME



I was 14 years old by the time I got out of the orphanage and 16 by the time I got out of the Florida School for Boys Reform School in Marianna.

As far back as I can remember, I do not have one single memory of being held in a mother's arms. Not one single memory of what a mother smells like or how one might sound. I have replaced those thoughts with a few things that happened in my life.

There was a time when this strange woman came to take a young, confused little boy out of the juvenile hall in Jacksonville, Florida, to take him home so he could have Thanksgiving dinner at her house, rather than be locked up in a cell.

There was a time when she called the authorities and told them she would not bring me back to be locked up like an animal.

There was a time when that same woman cried over me, all because she had to tell the police where I was after I stole some money from a local grocery story.

There was a time when I was stranded in the middle of the country. I had no friends or family and had nowhere to turn. When I telephoned, it was she who bought me a bus ticket back to her home. Never once, did she ask to be repaid.

There was a time when I graduated from Army Basic Training and had nowhere to go, until my next assignment. It was she who gave me food and shelter without charge.

There was a time when she shared her husband, her son and her daughter with me, so I would know what it felt like to be part of a family.

There was a time, sitting on her front porch, when she held my hand and asked God to let me find happiness.

There was a time (many times) when I refused to do wrong - all because I did not want her to be disappointed in me.

There was a time when I did not call her for three years, just because I had been sent to prison and was very ashamed.

There was a time when she, lying on her deathbed, asked her family to make sure I was at her funeral. She made them promise I would be allowed to sit in the front row as part of the family.

Yes, there was a time when this kind, elderly woman entered my life. Though I only stayed with them less than 90 days throughout the years, I took the bits and pieces she gave me and placed them in my heart where a real mother's love was supposed to go.

There was a time when I finally became a man. I did so, because of a woman who took the time to let me know what it was supposed to feel like to have a mother.



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