Orphan Survival Stories Index |
NO ONE WAS EVER PROUD OF ME
Having been raised in a Jacksonville, Florida orphanage; I had never known, not one single day of what it was like to have a family. I had never known the gruff voice of a father or the tender touch of a mother. To be honest, those types of things really did not matter much to me. After all-how can one miss ice cream if they have no idea that such a thing even exists.
Everyday at the orphanage was identical to the next. Working, being cursed, slapped, kicked, locked in a dark closet and sometimes molested by the orphanage matron, or their husbands.
After years of abuse, I became afraid to speak, afraid to learn and I had totally forgotten how to look anyone in the eye.
I made my way from the orphanage to the reform school (twice). After being returned to the orphanage, I finally made my way to jail and then to prison.
Once when I was locked up in the Duval County Juvenile Shelter; this total stranger came and took me to her house for Thanksgiving dinner. I was not sure why she did this for me. Maybe she needed someone to wash her dishes or mow her lawn. But that did not turn out to be the case at all.
Late that evening, she and I were out on her front porch. We drank cokes talked for hours. Though I was afraid, how wonderful it was to feel safe, even if for just a moment or two.
After being returned to the shelter and finally back to the orphanage, my life continued to spiral out of control. Though I continued to get into trouble, there was this little bitty feeling that this woman had planted deep down inside of me. It was a very small feeling, just a faint dim light, flickering on and off, trying to survive in a heavy fog.
After being sent to prison, I continued to think about her and those wonderful small bottles of Coca Colas we shared together. After all, the only kind thoughts in my memory were those few precious moments that I had spent with her that Thanksgiving Day.
I walked out of prison on February 6, 1969, at age twenty-three and never got into trouble again.
I had no place to go, as I had no family or friends, except maybe the bums on the street who had fed and clothed me when I was a runaway boy from the orphanage.
Some years later, I returned to Jacksonville, Florida and I would occasionally drop by to see Mrs. Usher and her family. Several weeks later I moved to Brunswick, Georgia and started a small business selling wood stove and ceiling fans. When I could afford to do so, I would buy gifts for the children still living at the orphanage where I had been raised in Jacksonville.
One day I was sitting at my desk when I heard the front door open. When I looked up I saw Mrs. Usher. She and I talked for several minutes before a customer entered the store. After making the sale, I walked into the back room to get a fan for the gentleman. I listened as Mrs. Usher began talking with him. As I reached the doorway I heard her say, “That is my son, Roger. He is honest and I am so very proud of him.”
When I looked up, there sat Mrs. Usher, sixty something years old, with her feet propped up on my desk while leaning back on my swivel chair.
Unable to speak and with uncontrollable tears streaming down my face, I dropped the ceiling fan, turned and ran back into the storeroom. “How could someone make me cry without spanking or beating me,’ I thought.
For the first time in my life someone said that they were proud of me. It is a day I will remember for the remainder of my life. It was the day that she taught me that showing loving, being kind, considerate and being respectful of others costs absolutely nothing. That such things did not have to be stolen and could not be purchased at any price. That such things were free to all, just for the taking.