Me, a screaming one year old in a crib in Mom and Dad’s room. Being cold.
Dad was hollering at Mom. Make her stop crying.
Mom grabbed me. I would not shut up. Dad threw a fit. I’ll throw her down the stairs. Then, Mom started screaming.
But Praise God He got to the top of the stairs and held me over the stairs. I shut up. It was a God thing.
I was too little to understand what they were saying. I kept dreaming this whole scene for years and I was afraid of Daddy and he never spanked me or punished me or abused me. He just yelled and I hid, but I was terrified; especially if I saw Dad in boxer shorts and T shirts.
Finally one day when I was ten or twelve, I told Mom about the dream I kept having. She said, “Jerry Dan you couldn’t possibly remember that.” But, I did remember. When I found out it happened, I faced my fear and I never had the dream again.
I remember moving from Tennessee to Georgia. We were running from the law. Back then, they arrested you for not paying bills. Dad was scheduled to go to Court. We went to Georgia—we only took our clothes. I rode on top of a box in my granddaddy Jake’s car. The boxes were stacked so high we had 24 inches in the top. Mama made a fun game out of it. She said, “we’re playing run away and hide—Adult hide and seek. Everywhere we stopped to rest, we either ate bologna, bread, and a bottle of coke or candy and coke. Daddy would spread the blanket on the ground beside the car to sleep a few minutes and we used the woods for the bathroom.
When we got to Georgia, we were able to stay in an empty house that belonged to Jake’s old girlfriend. She let us move in on a promise to pay. She liked granddaddy. We found stuff in the big beautiful house. I thought we had died and gone to heaven.
It had a winding stair case and a crystal chandelier, wallpaper, shiny hardwood floors, and big picture windows, with window seats, a hugh porch that went all around the house, and a porch swing.
Upstairs there were six bedrooms. Downstairs there was a sitting room, library, dining room, fireplace room, and a built in breakfast table. It was a mansion. Thus I learned that running away was good—changing everything was good.
Dad took me out of school and forged my last report card of that year and passed me to the next year, and no one ever found out.
My room had a green army cot to sleep on and an orange crate with a piece of wood on top served as a table. I found a broken mirror in a frame, so I put a towel on top of it to make a dresser. I also had a small chandelier in my room.
We ate out of mayonnaise lids and drank out of mayonnaise jars. We didn’t bring any dishes, glasses, pots, or pans. We ate with plastic and out of cans. We didn’t have lights or TV so I would catch fireflies and put them in a jar in my room for night light and candles. Finally, Granddaddy talked his girlfriend into turning on the lights.
Mom and Dad worked hard. They picked strawberries all day for $8.00. We would go to the grocery store and spend it on food. When Mom and Dad came home, all you could see was white eye balls. They were so dirty. Life was hard, but I loved that big old house. That lasted for three months, until the strawberry picking was finished, and Granddaddy’s romance was over. In the whole three months we were there we never paid for rent or lights; we lived like fugitives or gypsies, so we moved to a shot gun shack in Tennessee.
In the big mansion is where I met Dad’s real mom, Annie Bell. She had Fire red hair; she wore a red dress and high heels, and she was a drunk. Sad. Sad. sad. She wore bright red lipstick and had a loud mouth. When dad was three weeks old, she gave him to Nonie to raise. She threw him across the bed to Nonie, and Nonie caught him and loved him and raised him. One day when Nonie was in the house, Annie Bell came. Daddy called Nonie, mother, his biological mother he called Annie Bell.
Nonie didn’t stay long because she couldn’t stand Annie Bell, and I couldn’t either, but I loved Nonie. My happiest childhood was when I was with Mama, Nonie, and Daddy. Daddy and his real mom drank together. They took me riding and target shooting. I learned to target shoot at cans from my real Grandma, her drunk boyfriend, and my dad.
They laughed when I’d shoot but I got good. Dad and I continued going target shooting and riding in the car.
He taught me to drive when I was ten. He put a board on the gas pedal and a pillow in the seat. He drank; I drove. But I liked that I was looking after Daddy. He wouldn’t be driving drunk, somehow by some miracle, I never had a wreck or went to jail—I was spending time with my Daddy—I loved Daddy and he loved me. He loved everybody when he had liquor, wine or beer. Other times his nerves were so bad, he just yelled a lot.
The shot gun shack was very cold; it was a long wood house, where the field workers stayed. There were holes in the wood floor. Mama and I would cram rags (or anything else we could find) in the holes to keep out the cold. Mom and Dad were picking something then too. I remember that I was happy. We were together, and Mama played with me a lot, even when she was tired, as I know she must have been. We played airplane. She would lie on one of the two beds in one long room, and hold me straight up with her feet and legs, and I stretched my arms out and I was flying as long as mom could do them. When she fell over we would laugh and laugh. I helped mom cook and make our bed.
Then, we moved somewhere in Georgia. Nonie moved with us. Dad started driving a yellow cab. Nonie took me to raise and mom was sad. There was nothing she could do. Nobody told my Nonie anything. Dad didn’t make enough money for us to have our own place. So since it was Nonie’s house, it was Nonie’s rules. Dad paid her rent, which was never enough.
Nonie would not let me play in dirt, or run and play outside at all. I was a china doll. My hair was washed twice a week. I slept with Nonie. I was like a baby doll. At first, I liked it—the new clothes and all of the attention. She took me to one of the best steak houses; they served me sparkling water in a champagne glass. There I was out in an itchy lacy pink dress, drinking champagne (sparkling water) from a champagne glass, eating steak with Nonie and her boyfriend, but when I told Nonie that I wanted Mom there to, Nonie said no. Nonie and her boyfriend were laughing.
Thus I learned that drinking and laughing were what you do to really have fun.
Nonie took me to work with her. She worked at a place called Mama Loves. I carried people food and drinks, and danced on a shiny floor with music playing and everybody laughed and they’d give me quarters to play the juke box—so that I could entertain them—all that money. Thus, I learned that nightclubs and drinking were fun.
But Nonie loved me in her way. I think she thought she was protecting me from boredom at home with Mama.
I missed Mama, so I asked Nonie to let me stay home at night. She finally did—yea! As soon as Nonie’s car was down the dirt road, Mama would say, “Go,” and I’d run in the yard, mom and I would make mud pies to eat, and toss leaves for vegetables, and have a dirty wonderful time or play like we were princesses. Then, I had to get me and my hair washed, rolled, and my clothes had to be ironed and my shoes shined. Everything was always put back in order, before Nonie got home—she never like Mama, and Mama never liked her.
Nonie got sick with cancer and died. I cried for seven days and stayed out of school in bed. Mama laid with me, told me she was in heaven, Mama must have prayed for a miracle because God sent one. Daddy got up on the seventh night and walked into the kitchen, took out an ice tray; it popped real loud and woke us up. Mama said, “What are you doing?” He said getting mother some ice water. I opened my eyes and there at the foot of my bed, sat my Nonie shiny and beautiful in the white shiny lacy gown. She patted my foot and said don’t cry any more baby. I live in heaven now, and we will be back together soon. I sat straight up in bed and reached for her and she disappeared. I had total peace from then on. Dad walked down the hall to my door. There he stood at my door with a glass of ice water. I said, Hey, Daddy. He said go back to sleep baby, and he went back to his room. I know Mama prayed for me and God sent a miracle. I never cried again and I went back to school.
A big black chow dog adopted me and became my fierce protector. I was walking across the field, I stepped on a liquor bottle, and gashed my foot open two inches. I needed stitches but I never went to a doctor that I remember, in my whole childhood. Mama tied my foot literally holding the skin together and wouldn’t let me walk for days.
She would carry me outside and spread a blanket, but my books and toys on the blanket and then go back in the house while all my other friends were at school. Mom was pregnant with Gracie when she was toting me in and out. Dad was always fussing; he drank beer on weekends and argued with Mama for doing too much or not doing enough, or not doing something right. I hated my daddy for the way he treated my Mom.
At night, I would dream I shot him or stabbed him and blood was flowing and he was dead and then, mom and I would walk away, happy. This was awful, but when I had these dreams I could bear the next battle. I knew when I got back to sleep, I would get him.
He worked hard; he tried hard to provide; and Mama, through it all loved him, forgave him, catered to him.
I swore no man would ever treat me that way: yelling and ordering me around and of course my Nonie taught me that to—she would say when you grow up, you do exactly what you want to and if any man ever hurts you, you take off your high heel shoe and beat him in the head, and of course, I took Nonie’s advice because I saw the way that daddy treated Mom. They always made up, but they always yelled again, so I tried to talk mom into knocking Dad’s head off or leaving him passed out in the snow to die, but she would always drag him in from the snow when he passed out and I always told her that she was crazy to miss the chance to be free from Daddy. She always made excuses for him, and I would take my wicked little heart to bed and dream of killing Daddy; and wake up smiling. Daddy loved me, but I hated him for years.
I remember working and making money by hunting for bottles. I would walk all over the neighborhood and find thrown away bottles—treasures that made me so happy, or I would go door to door and ask people for bottles. Then, I took them to the store and I sold them to the store for three cents each. I would always buy bread, potatoes, grease, and Similac milk for Danny Boy. I always tried to help feed the family. Daddy worked hard, but he also drank, so I did what I could to make ends meet. I even stole food. I was awful, but Mama had to have food and so did we—I got too good at it.
Daddy bought groceries but it was never enough and there was no food stamps back then.
I remember taking care of my sister Gracie and Danny boy from little biddy babies. There was not any paper diapers so we had cloth ones, or pieces of sheet or wash rags. Whatever was available magically became a diaper. Mom and I washed clothes by hand and a lot of feets, I should say. She would put the clothes in the bathtub and we would get in and we’d play washing machine up and down stepping on the clothes—I remember how we’d laugh and laugh. She took our poor life and made everything OK and wonderful. Mom, was full of love, courage, and faith.
One time we moved to a big city in a basement apartment. There were huge water bugs everywhere. They sounded like marching horses for some reason. We had to move in late at night. There was one bed. It was me, my nonie, and mom. I think we left daddy but he came several days later. We stayed up all night, that night, scaring away army roaches. That night we played like we were in the army and killed roaches. The roaches were the enemy. We won the battle! Not one got on the bed, yeah!
The next day, we bought poison and wiped out the enemy completely. Mom said, Jesus will help us baby, don’t worry. Thus I learned, somebody named Jesus was a strong invisible friend and he for whatever reason, was with us. I felt better knowing that Jesus was strong, and on our side in every battle.
The only time I remember going to church with mom and Gracie was to a holiness church. Mom and I and my baby sister, Gracie, who was not walking yet, walked to church. It was white wood, wonderful church. It had a wood floor, dull paint, certainly nothing fancy, I think what impressed me the most about this wonderful place was how happy everyone was. They sang praise songs; they raised their hands, and cried and love this same Jesus that had helped us. I still didn’t know why Jesus was great. I always felt good, happy and light when I went to this church, but who was and where was this Jesus?
One night my mom went to the altar. I went with her. My sister Gracie was asleep. Mom got on her knees raised her hands and she was crying and smiling at the same time. I just stared at her. I remember thinking mom looks like a Christmas light. She is shining. I now know it was the glory and anointing of Jesus on Mom. He touched her that night. I now knew that this wonderful person called Jesus, is the only begotten son of God, and it was his wonderful spirit I saw all over mama.
I hated leaving the little church, but I knew we would move soon. We always moved. Mom kept moving boxes all the time. The job played out, or dad was fired. He got in trouble with the law; we had to move, or he just took a notion and believed we could make a better life somewhere else. Daddy tried. He really tried. The family grew, my Nonie died, so dad’s stress level grew. He loved us all, all our life. He would cry when he was talking to mama, He did not think I was listening. He would tell Mama, he was sorry; he couldn’t do better.
Mom would say, “Danny Joe, we’re going to make it. She did all she could to help Daddy. She loved Daddy. He made some awful mistakes, and bad decisions, but don’t we all mess up? I still hated him for years.
I would go hunting, fishing with him, trying to win his love. He would drink and drink, and fish. His men buds came first, but I was allowed to go anywhere dad went. Boot leg houses on Sunday, bars, or fishing. In his way, he always looked after me, Mom never worried about us.
Daddy and mama, raised us the way they was raised. I’m sure Nonie took daddy where she worked in a nightclub, as a boy, just like she did me. It was in the nightclubs that daddy learned that drinking was fun. Mom’s Mom was married to a drunk. Mom was always married to a drunk.
Women that are raised up in abusive homes tend to marry the same kind of people, unless Jesus helps them to break the pattern. I married a man like daddy once; I divorced him; I escaped; I was blessed.
We are emotionally tied to what kind of mess we were raised in, but Jesus can break us free if we let him. God help us.
Mom married Dad, he drank and was abusive, but Mom stayed with him. Her dad drank and was abusive, Delia, Mom’s Mom was a Christian who served the Lord until she died. Dad’s mom was a drunk, and dad never knew his dad. Dad was saved a few weeks before he died and baptized. Nonie raised daddy good, but the drinking, in his eye sight was fun, then?
My daddy did good, very good, considering how he was raised. He loved us and he worked hard his whole life. He made awful mistakes, but I now understand. It as a generational curse, that had to and has to still be broken off us kids. Before I was born again, I went from one marriage and drunken relationship to another. Jesus helped me to find my way out of the life I was leading. I understand where mom and dad came from. Even in all our growing up messes, Jesus was looking after us.
I remember Friday nights as being a happy time. It was pay day. We went to the store and bought hamburgers, French fries, hamburger buns, and ice cream. Yea! We watched TV and had our wonderful supper and our ice cream, on a palate in front of the TV.
We always did special things on pay day. Then, on Saturday, dad took us uptown and dropped us off to pay bills and finish our grocery shopping. I was twelve then. We all went to the Candy Kitchen: me, mom, Gracie and Danny. We bought, Pepsi floats, and candy and played the juke box. I danced—Ha! Ha! We were not allowed to dance in the Candy Kitchen, but I would sneak any way. We laughed and laughed. This was the happiest times that I remember.
On Sunday, we all rode the church bus to Sunday school and church at Faith Free Will Baptist.
My whole life I was always trying to get money for food, clothes whatever Mom, my sister and brother needed—some way, somehow—what dad didn’t get or couldn’t get, I got.
I started dating at fourteen and I got engaged to someone. He would ask me where I wanted to go. I’d tell him, the grocery store. Mom needs this and that. I’d say, we’ll just spend the money at the store for groceries for mama, and we won’t go to the movie—it was love sacrifices. We’ll just cook and eat at home and watch TV, or ride around.
Well that started a good supply of groceries coming in the house and we got Dad a six-pack. That made him happy.
He asked me to marry him. He wanted to get me out of there and take care of me, but I said no, so we broke up. I didn’t love him, but he was a very good friend of our family. Mom loved him more than I did.
My whole life was centered on taking care of everything and everyone, because it was just the thing to do. God blessed me and I did it. People gave me money, food, blankets, clothes, and they still do it today.
The older I got, the more dad drank. When I started dating, dad really got depressed. He felt like he had lost a buddy, and he had.
I got married when I was sixteen to a wonderful man. We were married for eight years, but I soon found out my wandering spirit was alive and well. I wasn’t born again, yet, so I moved from house to house, relationship to relationship, town to town, a lot of times. I didn’t know what was happening to me, I just had to go.
Finally on July 10, 1976, I gave my heart to Jesus. I was, praise God, free and born again, and my healing began.
Nonie got saved two weeks before she died. She saw two angels at the foot of her bed and two inch candles. She knew that life would be over for her when the candles burned out.
Ferocious dog tried to stop us from going to church. Gracie was sleeping in the stroller, Mama was running after a stick, and Jerry faced the dog eyeball to eyeball till he left. Ha! Ha!