RAISING OTHER FOLK'S KIDS 1

 

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RAISING OTHER FOLK'S KIDS 1

RAISING OTHER FOLK'S KIDS 1

BY

CASSANDRA MCCLINTON

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CHAPTER 1

DEALING WITH DEATH

Standing in the long but thin window looking out at the snow as it glistened from the distant sunshine. As I looked out of the window across the street as I talked to my mother-in-law on the phone, I waved at her from across the street as she stood in her doorway chuckling about the content of the conversation that we were having. Chatting about the church folk and how they act. We laughed so hard at a situation that was going on at the church that we both attended. It was such a silly issue that I had to deal with and she was keeping me straight by encouraging me to stay prayerful and focused on the right thing. Because there was so much of the wrong things going on within the organization with the pastor and the choir unit and the fact that I would not allow the pastor to point blame at me because he was messing over the women and their lives from within the church across the pulpit when he would so willingly discard them when he would get done using them for the sole purpose of his amusement. Those were some tough times for me being the leader of the closes thing to that man—the choir.

I laugh at that conversation to this day. But then at the same time, my mother-in-law broke down the conversation when she asked me just out of the blue, how to perform a breast exam on herself just to be cautious of breast cancer. She revealed to me that she thought that she had a lump in her right breast but she wanted to be sure that she was doing the exam correctly. I was so afraid that she would find something wrong. We know before anyone does that there is just something that is not right with our own bodies. And by her being in tune with herself, she already knew. This was a horrible revelation for me because my mother-in-law was just like a mother to me. Just the thought of her having to go through the things that most cancer patients go through just to grab a hold on the little life that they may have left while going through all of the harsh treatments that may or may not work for them in the first place. But she was certain that she felt something during that breast exam and that was the beginning of the horrible reality that she may not be with us long.

There were so many things to consider as we both discussed her options. I wanted so desperately to change the conversation but I knew from my job as a Certified Nursing Assistant the very horrors of dealing with dying cancer patients whose families had just sent them to the nursing home that I worked, to die. I guess some folk cannot handle dealing with that cancer circumstance head on so they deal with it sideways. But how ever people choose to deal with it that is solely on them. However, I chose to deal with it head on. That was the woman that I could tell things to that I felt like my mother could and would not ever understand. And she loved me unconditionally. There was literally nothing that I could do that would make her hate or judge me. When I would be wrong, she would simple tell me to get it together girlie and hug and kiss me and tell me that she loved me. Her biological children could not understand our relationship. But she did not care how they felt about it. This angered her daughters more than it did her other two sons. The son that I was married to, loved the fact that me and his mother were close and did not care about the flack that he would catch from his five sisters. Hell he did not deal with the flack anyway, I had to. But it was all good because I loved his mother so dearly. She was not just my mother-in-law, but she was my best friend and my support system when I really needed someone to talk to and to confide in. She used to ask me why I never borrowed any money from her and I would tell her that I didn’t need anything. Even if I was broke, I would not borrow any money from her. Not because I thought that she would act funny or anything but because of the fact that so many people, mainly her children and her grandkids, were always asking her for money and I did not want to add to her stress by being in the number. My mother always taught me to be independent and to always make sure that I had everything that I needed to survive life even if it meant that I had to spend my last dime doing so. So even when me and her son and my children would have to live with her, I always gave her money for staying with her. Even though she would try to refuse it, I would not stop trying to give it to her until I made sure that she had taken it. Moma always said that when you reside in someone else’s house that you are to make sure that you have paid your way. Simply because some people may offer you room and board and say that it is free until you get yourself together but then shit will turn into something else when the elevated bills from extra usage by extra people living in the household would start to come in. Then it would be a different story. I used to think that my mother was a little extreme, but I am so happy that she taught me certain values. It kept me from being the kind of person that used people just to get what I needed from them without paying my way. My mom also taught me and my sister and brother early about responsibility and how to take accountability for the things that our family would need when we finally got families of our own. She would send us to cash our monthly welfare checks; the bills that needed to be paid such as the lights and gas, phone, rent would get paid; and personals with household needs would be purchased.  My mother used to put us into the real thick of things when it came to life's lessons just so that we could once again know what to do when it came down to handling our many responsibilities in life.  However, the only thing that we were never ready for and that was the hot ass sun or even the cold, wet snow of the winters in Wisconsin.  And the walk back from the store was always challenging since we had to carry all those things back home by hand as we would have to walk home from the grocery store with all of those things in tow.

Even though we would be tired and worn out from having to fight the other crowded grocery store customers to do our shopping after having to stand in that long ass line just to pay all the bills, we still found a way to have fun on our return home. What moma said went. And when she would say do not spend anything other than what she told us to and to bring the receipt and all of the change home and it had better not be short either. We were good kids so we did as she told us, most always. Well what kid do you know has not one flaw?  LOL!  To reward us, she would always give us a few dollars to do with what we wanted when she would have money left over. Those were the days. But those winter months would take a toll on our minds and bodies. Being cold is not something that I could ever get into. But we were obedient children and did what we were told. Not because we had to but because we chose to do what our only parent that had worked herself tirelessly to the bone to make sure that we had what we needed as children. We had a great life as young folk when we lived in the South and we never knew that our mother was struggling to make ends meet and that is why she would stay gone all of the time working.

She could no longer work as she did in the South once we moved North because of the fact she started to have problems with her body. Later to find out that she had Rheumatoid Arthritis and it was getting worse on a daily basis. So we respected her so much and appreciated the things that she had done for us so much that doing what she had begun to no longer be able to do for herself or for us, it was easy to step in and make the runs and by the groceries and pay the bills for her. Even when it looked like ends were not going to be met, we would put our heads together and come up with plans that worked out for our good when it came to the financial issues that our family went through.

I do thank God for the time that my mom took out with me to teach me how to make the ends come together even when they would barely touch. Because this gave me the knowledge that I needed as a teen mom and a mother of four children of my own and an ignorant husband, to keep my bills and other needs in order. I had no idea that I would have to stretch those skills in order to help take care of other folk’s kids later in my already young life.

I really thank God for both of the mothers that I had in my life. One prepared me for life (my mother), and the other (my mother-in-law) helped to guide me through the rough and tough times of life and marriage with children. These things I will forever be so grateful for and I always tried to do all that I could to repay her for her wisdom and the kindness that she showed me for so many years by displaying the respect that my mom had taught me and that was already in me to do.

It was not so farfetched that I would be hated by my mother-in-laws' girls simply because I showed their mother the respect that she never asked me for, but I thought that she deserved from me. While they were cursing her out and trying to fight her and leaving their children on her for her to care for all day long because they felt like she owed them those things, I knew that she did not owe them anything other than what she had already given them as children--her life.  Hell grandmothers do not owe their children anything other than advice when it comes to any questions concerning raising their children, which are that grandmother's grandchildren. Sometimes we as adult children may feel like we were not loved or paid enough attention to by our parents. This may be true for many reasons.  Some may say that it was because their parents were too busy finding ways to deal with the ugly things that were happening or that may have happened to them while they were growing up. If we feel that we are owed anything after we get grown and gone on our own, we are sadly mistaken. Our parents owe us nothing but to love us unconditionally simply because we did not ask to be here, that is the least that a parent can do. To make sure that we had three square meals a day and a safe place to live and sleep until we got to where we could take care of ourselves is the only thing that they owed us. Anything more for some parents were simply out of their reach.

My mother-in-law would say that if a child feels like they were not raised right or paid enough attention or even done wrong while they were growing up, it is up to them to do better for their own children so that they would not have to go through the same things that we went through. Give your own children the life that you feel that you did not have and to encourage those same children to do the same thing for their children. And before you know it the generational curse would be broken over the lives of the children to come and their children. It was said by her so often simply because there were a couple of her daughters that felt as though their lives were not what it should have been because of the faults and mistakes of their mother. Passing blame does nothing but create hostile situations when it comes to family relationships. I have seen this and other things unfold before my eyes first hand and it is not a beautiful sight. It is so hard for some folk to understand that life happens and in order to deal with those sometimes traumatic experiences we do what we can to survive. And my mother-in-law had to survive.

During so many of our deep conversations, she shared so much with me in the way of wisdom and her life experiences and they were the good the bad and the ugly. Having three babies by her mother’s husband because he could not keep his dick in his pants when it came to all of her mother’s daughters was just the most horrible things that I had heard and been exposed to. To know that a man is having sex with anyone’s daughters when he is supposed to be their father figure and at the age of fourteen years of age while his wife worked her fingers to the bone picking cotton for the slave driver for which they worked. Seeing what I had gone through as a child, I just could not have respect for any man that touches any child in that manner. To know that several of her children are the product of incest and some of her siblings are also the sister and brothers to those same children...making the  children half siblings, is just a hot ass mess. 

Yes we talked about everything. There was no stone that was not turned when it came to the conversations that me and my mother-in-law shared together. For so many years she and I talked more than me and my mom did. No disrespect to my mother though. There was just some things that she did not understand and because of her way she did not try to understand so she pulled away from me and my children. So the only grandmother that they were around from an early age in their lives was their dad’s mother. So yes it is natural that they would gravitate to the one grandparent that showed them the love that they were not being shown from the other grandmother. That is not my children’s fault. Kids tend to go where they are being shown that love that grandparents are supposed to show to their grandchildren. I am not saying that my mother did not know how to love on my children, but she chose to not show much toward them as she did her other grandkids. Maybe it was because of who their father was, but no child should have to suffer punishment because of who their parents are. This pushed me to become one of the strongest and determined child advocates that I know.

I would step in to save any child no matter who the parent was just so the child could enjoy their childhood. Hell I felt that just because the parents are acting an ass does not mean that the child should suffer. And I did everything from an early age to assure that any child that I came into contact with did not have to go through the things that I saw so many going through. The onset of crack and other illegal drugs created a horrible overflow of children in need of care outside of what their own mothers and fathers could or were able to give to them. So when my mother-in-law began to show signs that she was really going through with the breast cancer that she had been diagnosed with, I kicked into gear. Helping her to raise the children that were in her care from the day they were born. Her youngest daughter was on the crack and an unnecessary alcoholic to the extreme of ridiculousness to the hundredth power. Oh My God! She just made no sense what so ever. Most parents in that state of mind would not want their children to see them in that way, but she wanted to be seen all of the time and when she was seen she was so abusive physically, emotionally, psychologically, verbally, etc. She was just plum out of order as the old people would say.

Knowing that the girl was so far gone on those drugs, my mother-in-law took the children from her and started well continued to do what she was doing from day one and that is raising them. But by her being in the condition that she had found herself having to battle for her life, it was hard for her to do all of the things that she used to do for the kids. She had began to need help more and more. So I started to have the kids over more than I normally would for sleep overs just to give my mother-in-law the breaks that she so desperately needed. I did everything from wash and comb hair to washing and keeping their clothes cleaned. Now this would have been okay if the kids mom was the only child, but she was not. Hell she had four other sisters that had houses and washers and dryers that also knew how to wash and comb hair, but none of them stepped in to give the help that their own mother needed during her time while she was still on this earth.  She had just about battled long enough, as the cancer that had so very rapidly spread throughout her entire body. Hell one of the daughters chose to not speak to her mother for over three years...yes her own mother (but she wanted to be in charge when that day came that her mother was not with us anymore. The funeral arrangements...An even bigger mess). I that because she had no drugs in her system to make her that way. That daughter was just a bitch for no reason. Dwelling on the past and holding her mother hostage to it was what she lived for. But she just does not know to this day that her mother was not even thinking about her messiness. She had God’s forgiveness and had done already forgiven herself for what she went through with her children so she was at peace long before the permanent peace was made official by her painful and untimely death.

Although she is always missed, my mother-in-law was not just a mother figure in my life but she was a mother to a young son; and to many of her own grandchildren before she died of the cancer that riddled her body for years. That was until the disease took over and spread throughout her body killing her quickly in the end. She was told during a doctor’s appointment on October 16, 1998 that she had six months to live and that was only if she would go through the harsh chemotherapy treatments that she agreed upon in hopes of prolonging her life. I remember it as if it were yesterday. My mother-in-law called all of her children together to sit them down so that she could tell them what it was that was going on with her. I already knew that there was something wrong and she let me know that she was going to need my help combing the girls hair and keeping them up for her because she was going to go through some things while going through the aggressive treatments in hopes of killing the cancer. She never had to tell me or ask me to do the things that I did for her and those children. I loved her so much and the children as well, that I automatically knew to step in and help where ever the help was needed. Hell with a family filled with women that could have helped to take care of their mom during this time by helping to look out for their own brother and nieces, I look back and always say that my mother would not have had to say one word. Her family would have stepped in and taken care of what ever needed the attention that she could no longer give. But it did not go that way with my in-laws. They all started to complain that those kids moma needed to step up and take care of her own children. But even I knew that because of the constant drug and alcohol abuse that complete turn around was not going to happen. And the fathers were nowhere in sight. Both were repeat offenders and also leaning on drugs and alcohol for the answers to life that they would never get from a pipe or a bottle. But there was no excuse for the rest of the family members to not take an interest in assisting where help was needed seeing that their own mother was incapacitated.

I saw firsthand the obstacles that she had to jump and dodge while going to all of the chemo treatments. I was the one that took her to every one of her treatments from the first to the last.

Every treatment was so draining her and seemed to be worse than the cancer. She suffered, and because I loved her so much, I quit school and my job so that I could be there for her full time. I never received any money for what I chose to do to help in her time of need. I did it out of love. You know it had to be love for me to try taking care of two different households. But God always have a ram in the bush. One of her nieces was on the same thing that I was on and we did what we had to do to keep the house cleaned so that she would not have to breath dusty air and so that any one of the people that visited her did not have to sit in a nasty room or come to a nasty house. But then my home went lacking so another plan had to be devised. So I decided to take the kids home with me so that I could bath them, wash their clothing and their hair so that they would not have to go to school looking and smelling a mess. There were meals to cook and homework that needed to be assisted with. So I did whatever I had to do to make her transition a stress free time in her life.

I had a hard time with one thing though. I thought that I was going to lose my mind when she asked me to do it. That was to take an I.V. from the shunt that was put in her chest so that she could get her chemo several times a week. The nurse had forgotten to pull it out but we did not realize it until we were all the way on the other side of town back at her house. I thought that I was going to kick the bucket at the point. After a few tears fell down my cheeks and Ourmoma started to talk to me to calm me down, she let me know that I could do it.  At that time it needed to be don and  most of all that I had to do it because there was no one else that she could call that was going to do it for her. Although I did not want to, I put my bigger girl draws on and called the nurse that left it in her in the first place and she talked me through what I needed to do. And as I began to prep and clean around the area and then pull the IV line out of the shunt in her chest, I realized that there was nothing that I could not do if I really needed to get it done. That put a smile on my face.  That joy was short lived because I just felt like I was hurting her.  At that point she was already in so much pain  and I never wanted to be the cause of any pain for her.

It is said that the person that has to do what needs to be done is always chosen for a reason.  Even though that reason is not known to me at this time, I do understand that I was the person that God used to be with her during that time of great pain  and despair in her life.  I know that she thought about her young son and all of the things that she wanted to do in and with her life. She went through so many changes because of the harsh chemo treatments that she was on.  Simple things such as helping the children with their homework was the hardest thing for her to do. The changes that her body went through because the medicines were so strong and wore her body and her immune system down.  Even when all of her hair began to get weak and shed out in spots, she told me to take the scissors and just cut the rest of her hair off. I went around the world and back with her by telling her that her daughters were going to get mad and have more shit to say. But she insisted that I do what she asked me to do. Her words were, “If they are so concerned they should be here but they are not. I am in sound mind and I am asking you to cut it off because it is hurting me just to see my hair hit the floor every time you comb it.” So I went ahead and did what she asked me to do. Yes those ignorant people had everything to say concerning me cutting her hair, but she set them straight. Did that keep the eyes from rolling and the attitudes from flaring up? No, it didn’t. But none of them had the guts to come to me in person to say what they felt like they wanted to say. For one, they had no right. I was there for her every beckoned call, not them. Hell they would come over and sit around her bed like she was about to go at any second but did not do much in the way of helping to keep the house cleaned, cook her a meal or even offer to take the kids so that I could get a break.  I still had my own family to care for. It was all good though, because I was strengthened to do all that needed to be done and with her nieces’s assistance when she had her days off, we did just fine.

I can remember one occasion when tempters and attitudes from her children flared high simply because she chose to give her house to me and the ex for letting her know that we would not allow the kids to be separated and that we would take care of them. And the fact that she put all of her financial affairs in my hands so that her bills would stay paid and that nothing would be stolen from her by her own blood. One of the daughters caught a major attitude and wanted to throw her weight around. I really wanted to beat the dust from her ass. But I was humbled by the entire situation and I did not return words with her knowing that I really could have hurt her feelings. I chose to go home and not return the next day. My ex did not even step up to tell his silly siblings to keep their mouths off of me because they were not doing anything to help their own mother anyway. No that is what I wish that he would have done but he chose not to say anything to them. This was not new to me but I could wish for him to have been the man and husband to me that he should have been, I could wish it.  But that just did not make it true.  I was so worn and angry that I went home and did not return the next day. I was in my feelings and I was tired because I was literally taking care of two families, two houses, two everything and then four other kids that were going through their own hell on the inside because of the condition of their grandmother, mother and only caregiver that really gave a damn about their welfare. Hell everyone else had simply said farewell to those kids as if they were not even a concern.

No meal got cooked and when it did if it was not me cooking it, there was a problem because my mother-in-law felt as though no one was even trying to help her. She said if they were trying to help her that she would not be feeling like they were trying to end her before her time with that half cooked mess.

The night that I skipped going to help her, she called me that night and I knew that it was her even though her voice was faint and her breath was short. She told me that she had been fighting for me every since I came into her family and that if she could fight for me then that she would. However, she asked me if I loved her and my response was, that she knew that I did. And her stance was that if you care for me like you say you do, please come back and help me. She said that she did not want anyone else cooking for her nor looking after her or the kids. She said that she felt that they were being abused because she was not up in her strength and could not go to bat for them as she has so many times in the past. I fell into tears because even though she was sick and could not do what she needed for herself she was not selfish she still loved those kids so much that she wanted them to know what the love of a real mother was about through me. Before I hung up I let her know that I was sorry that I let what was said (that bitch aint even blood and she got her handling her money-who the fuck do she think she is?) get me to the point of getting so angry and hurt that I would give up on her. After being forgiven I promised that I would be there first thing in the morning to take care of business and that is what I did. I took care of business. I loved and respected the woman that God had made her in my life and I refused to let her or the kids down. Things got kind of crazy one while but after a while the daughters from hell left me the hell alone. Oh they did not stop running their mouths, but it was not where I could hear it. That was fine too. I was prepared to have to fight if necessary to assure Ourmoma that I was going to be there for her no matter what went down.

Them negros did not like it but they had to accept it because moma had spoken and whether it was loud or soft, she meant what she meant when she said it. She had a meeting with her older sister and told her that she wanted me to do whatever she needed me to do as far as her finances and bills were concerned. She told her that I was the smart one and that if anyone could rob Peter to pay Paul to make sure that nothing got turned off, she knew that I could. I believed in taking care of business. Ourmoma and my mother used to always joke with me and say that for me to have been a young mother and wife that I knew how to handle my business. And that I did. I am honored at the fact that she trusted me enough to leave me in charge of her business affairs. But because of jealousy and discord and the hatred that most of them had for me I had to fight hard to keep from having to fight. I still stood firmly by her side until her death. The six months that the doctors had given her even after going through all that mess with the chemo breaking her strength and her body down, she passed after barely two months of being given an expiration date. I will forever love and miss her. She loved me when she did not have to. She was always there for me even though she did not have to be. She cared  when she did not have to give a damn. That was the kind of woman that she was. So when she was having issues with her body because of the cancer and the treatments and knew that she was not going to make it through that last bout with the cancer. Simply because it had spread throughout her entire body. But everything in her wanted to know who would take care of all of the children that she was responsible for without separating them (and the room got super silent). (The room was filled with her trifling children.  They all owned their own homes and had the means to take them all in but punked out like cowards during a time when their mother really needed them to step up). It grieved my heart that her very own children, the blood link to the children that were in her custody were not wanted by their own family. The family that had so much to say concerning the things that I was doing for her during this time, but I was not surprised because I knew who and what they were. I never understood it, but I knew that it would be left on me to do what needed to be done so I stepped in and just did it. I let her know that she did not have to worry about the children because they were going to be alright. And since we had that conversation prior to her falling deathly ill, I already knew what I had to do. She was at peace with the fact that everything that she told me, I was prepared to carry those things out and that was whether the family cared, commented, hated or not. My mother-in-law knew what she wanted and who she wanted to do what. Just the fact that she felt that she could trust me with her youngest son and three of her granddaughters was confirmation enough to and for me to do my job as not just a caregiver, but a loving family member that cared about the things that the children’s grandmother wanted for her grand children’s lives and who those things would be best carried out by.

All of this was going on in the face of adversity, but God gave me what I needed to hang on in there until it was time for all of them to move out on their own. But trust that it was not easy. Raising them was a great responsibility and a task that not many would have or even could have come through the many ups and downs and all of the issues that I had to face most often alone even with their own blood uncle and brother living in the household. The same house that her family did all that they could to talk against me and the brother that they seemed to not be able to care too much for, and although they did not want us to get the house, they could not stop it. However, raising all of those kids along with my own, there was nothing else that could be done but to move into the house. Quiet as its kept, hell, I would have rather lived in the great big old house that I was already in for over three years. I gave up my nice house to move into one that had a lot of shit that came with it. I did not and still do not like a lot of unnecessary issues or conflict. Hell during that time, the conflict and unnecessary issues were of the abundance in my life. I hid a lot of what was going on from all of the children because they had just lost their grandmother, the matriarch of the family, their caregiver and there was nothing more that they needed to know that would make those problems go away nor change what was going on. So I did not see any reason to bring them into the mess and the flack that I caught being the, as one sister put it, the outsider. Since I did not do two-faced or double minded individuals what they had to say or do toward me in order to upset or stop my progress only pushed me to do what I was good at and to do it big. For this I do thank all that were involved for their part in making me feel like shit, talking about me behind my back, attacking verbally, emotionally and sometimes physically, my children just because they thought that would get to me. Oh do not get me wrong, there were times when I just really wanted to kill all of their asses and call it a day, but because I do not do jail, I realized that they were not worth my time nor energy.

It is public record that Ellen D. McClinton passed away on December 2, 1998, but my issues were well into the decade and a half with ignorant people so them clowning when it was time to make the arrangements for a woman that had been like a mother to me from the time I met her to that point did not want me to give up and I refused to. For the battle had not just begun, hell it was well on its way. During the pastor’s visit to get all of the information for the program concerning her home going service, her own goddamned kids did not know her correct birthdate. It was sad moreso because her pastor was angry at me and my ex because we chose to go to another church during the transitioning to our own building when it was ready. And the fact that he and I stayed into it because of his sexual approaching me during a trip to San Francisco-he was holding on to the lie that he never touched nor kissed me in the elevator of the hotel where we were staying while in California. But I held on to the truth of what did happen to me concerning him. The man seemed to have hated me for telling on his ass and because I was a more credible witness than most of his prior victims, people believed me while his dirt doers tried to plant doubt in the minds of the people of the church family just to make him come out on top of the sad situation. Hell being the object of a lie is not a great place to be. But I held my ground. I just had to remember that my mother did not raise any punks and I held on to everything that I knew to be true concerning the messed up issue. I walked with great integrity and did what I knew to be right in spite of the rest of the bull shit. Was it an easy place to be? No it was not and it did not taste good but I held on and did not let go. I just chalked it up to all of them being crazy and disrespectuful. And simply understanding the nature of the beast in the man that was a man first before he was a Man of God, that kept me from wanting to kill his ass for what he was trying to do to me. But I did survive. I had to remember that the love that the woman that I had lost and once called mother and friend meant more to me than the messiness of the sick negro that was in charge of her funeral services. So I did what I needed to do and kept it moving.

I had a harder job ahead of me and it did not involve him anyway. But it did involve the nuts that I called my sister’s –in-law. But I knew that once I could get over the hump of their jealousy and plots to pull me down in spite of me being the one to take care of their own flesh and blood, that I and the kids were going to be alright. I made a promise to their caretaker and I was going to carry it out no matter what. In spite of my diminishing health and the cheating husband and the lack of support from his own family concerning those children. The sisters were so consumed with their own lives and their hatred and content for me that they were more of a hindrance than a help on a good day. It was not enough that they had been bitches to me for most of the time that I was married to their brother, they had to do whatever it was that they could to discourage and to taint the deeds that we as a family should have had the other’s back for. But when people are so consumed with hatred for an individual it makes it easy to dismiss the real issues and to harbor on the messiness that really is not called for. And when you think about what you are doing and how you are acting, when you really love someone, you are there for that person. This makes me think that they did not care too much for their own nieces and their own baby brother. Actions always speaks louder than words and their actions and words were just too much out of order and they did the most to try to intimidate me. I thank God for the inner devotion and strength that has always been inside me. And I had a promise to keep. My promise to that women meant more to me than the ignorance of the grown ass kids of hers and anything that they could ever do or say to and or about me ever did. Don’t get me wrong there were times when I wanted to snatch a couple of them up and shake the shit out of them because they were too old to be acting the way that they were toward me. That’s when I remembered that they were not your average family. Shit starters, haters, home wreckers, starters of rumors for no reason…you name it that is what I had to deal with. Hell they had been murderous, angry, drunks and drug addicts when I first met them so, nothing much had change at time. I can say that a sister had her head on straight simply because she had a spiritual life but even she had a moment. But I chalked that up to the fact that she had lost her mother so she got a pass from me. But the rest of them did not. I never trusted anything that they had to say or did up to that point so I did not see a reason to start trusting them. As I stated actions always spoke louder than words and their actions were very abusive toward their own blood so I was not of any care of their’s. Trust me you do get over it. And that is what I had to do, I had to get over it in order to be of any good to the children that had just lost their only caregiver and grandmother and the matriarch of their family. Their backbone was gone and every one of them were feeling some type of way about the situation. We were all hurting but not everyone of us decided to act out against each other. I can say one thing good about that crazy ass family—they all came together to pay off in full the burial costs and spring for a pictured headstone for their mother. That was the only time I had ever seen her children getting along and coming together for one cause. For a minute I was proud of them. Then as soon as the need for them to come together was over so were the kind words and the better treatment of the other was gone. Sad situation, but I witnessed it for myself. I have never seen anything such as that in my entire life. But once again, no matter how bad I was treated, within that family circle I still had a job to do. That was only the beginning.

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CHAPTER 2

THE MOVE THAT MERGED

Well, it was two weeks after my mother figure and best friend had transitioned into the arms of the Lord. We just could not maintain two households financially and had decided to move into the house that she had left to us. So that we could have somewhere stable to raise all of those kids together. Her worst fear was that they would all be separated and mistreated and abused by their own family members or some of their friends. I felt good in what I had promised to do for her as she would have done and then some before she died. It was now time to make the entire situation work. So I was happy to move but I knew that I had hell on my hands. When you have a hell filled unfit and unstable birth mother living under the same roof with the kids that she did not care to raise nor too much about whispering in her kids’ ears and causing division within the household that creates a horrible atmosphere.

It was the 16th of December when we made out move and it was a hell of a move. We had almost two days of moving to do and we had a house full of stuff. Oh my, how it was hard to let my great big ole house go. But it had to be that way in order for the promise to be honored. The now ex could only think of the fact that the mortgage was tremendously cheaper than us renting. But it was cool with me because that freed up more funds to do more with. But not really because when you factor in water/sewage and property taxes, it was like breaking even. But being in our own home was a refreshing thing for all of us.  Well for some of us, it was not a welcomed move. Then at the same time it was hard on all of the kids being in the house where they grew up with the backbone that was nolonger there.  Everyone felt the hurt of the fact that she was gone and would never be coming back. That was a hard ass pill to swallow for everyone within the household. From day one of the move the devil got to work in my ex’s baby sister. The kids would only get into it with each other when she would get them started by instigating friction between them. This had been a practice of hers since the children were old enough to know that they were family. It was a horrible way to be but that was and still is who and what she represents. I had never seen someone that never had a pot to piss in nor a window to through it out of always have such negativity in her heart to create such awfulness between first cousins. This was only the beginning of the things that my children would have to go through at the hands of their so called family.

There was so much tension in my household and I could not stand it. I had to do something about it. I threw myself into cooking a very large and tasty Christmas meal for my family. Already tired from having to break up fights between my daughter and her auntie’s oldest daughter, my children’s first cousin, so I could not think unless I was emersed into something constructive. Hell I got tired of the mess and told one of the aunts to come and pick her little disrespectful ass up and keep her at her house. I was not going to have that type of division in my home. Contrary to the then husband’s families’ belief there was going to be peace in the midst of that storm. So we started to clean house. The Christmas dinner was off the chain and plenty family stopped by to pick up plates and to chill with us as we celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ. I put myself into everything that I put my hands to do so that the kids would feel that they were loved and it did not matter that they were not my own children, they still mattered just as much as mine did. There were times when I could not do anything but cry. But I would get back up and stand strong and taller than before I had to shed any tears.

While the onlookers tried to pick apart everything that I did with the kids, for the kids, to the kid, concerning the kids, the friction did nothing for me but make me a stronger woman and mother to quite a few children. I battled the rumor that the only reason I wanted them was because of the kinship care money that I could get for them. Hell people had no idea that although I was grateful for the little money for them every month, that was not enough to even feed them. My family knew because on more than one occasion they were there to assist in doing things with the kids so that the transition went smoother than most of the haters would have liked for it to.  They were so ready for me to fail.  Hell I kept them in named brand clothing and shoes; every Christmas was a real Christmas for them; their hair was always kept up; and they never walked out of the house without being together in attire and appearance. The fact that they were happy in spite of the fact that I was taking care of them just gave their folks something to always talk about. And talk is all that they afforded to do. I never received a dime in the way of support from their family members. However, I received all sorts of threats and second hand talk that was told to me by others that really thought that they were helpling me by warning me concerning the things that were coming out of the mouths of heathens. I could have cared less simply because it never stopped me from doing, being, having, saying or living. It was a waste of their time and they did not have a clue. At the time that all these things were going on, I was progressively getting sicker in my body and had no idea that the stress and the depression and all of the thing that were going on in my marriage, at church, at work, within the household was getting to me more than I thought.

Depression is a killer in so many ways and because we are not aware of the different diseases that we are prone to because we are so sad and feeling hopeless and like we don't want to live because of the shit that go on in our lives. Along with depression there is too many other diseases to count that can and will overtake you simply because your mind has been disturbed by other folk's shit and your own as well. I was dealing with a slew of damned diseases from years of abuse from being in a toxic relationship already so taking on all of the shit that accompanied my raising other folk’s children was just another added avenue of stressful situations one after the other.  I needed help that only God and I could give myself.

In spite of what and how some people thought, I am so glad that I did not care what the rest of the world thought about what and why I chose to do what it was that I had been asked to do. I was honoring a woman that I saw as a mother figure and who was a great friend. That woman had poured into my life fruitful things through a fruitful relationship and the love that she showed and had for me was that of a mother loving on a daughter that she was very proud of. 

Even with all that said, the question is did we always have such a kind, fruitful and loving relationship? No. It took us a minute to get back there. We went through a lot together because of her silly son, but ultimately from 1990 to the time of her death in 1998 we were close and had the utmost respect for each other. Down through those years I was the one that she looked to when she needed to talk and share personal things about her life and who God had made her as a changed woman, mother, grandmother, caregiver, sister, auntie, cousin, friend and preacher. I am happy to have been there for her and to have been able to keep a promise that I had made to her on her dying bed. I am guilt free on that for sure. Because I carried out just what she asked me to do. Now whether what I did was appreciated or not, that is not my issue. That issue belongs to whomever feels unappreciative. I am good and feel good in my spirit that God is pleased with what I accomplished while raising other folk’s kids. Truly not an easy task when everyone is against what it is that you are doing.

In spite of the issues, I am reminded so often through memory, mine and others attached to me concerning so many events that took place within that house on 23rd Street as I raised other folk’s kids along with my own and a slew of friends and other relatives that would need a safe haven to reside in for whether a night or a few weeks…we handled what needed to be handle at that time. We had fun, we laughed, we cried and a whole lot of other things together. For the most part, with an absentee parent living on the property, it was hell sometimes but I was always determined to show the entire household that there was always a better way to live. Hell I could not thrive in a household with a lot of messiness going on. Not the kind that is easily cleaned up with a mop, broom and cleaning products, but I am speaking of the kind that came from the hearts of the folk that lived or came around me. That was not how I was raised and a situation would easily arise out of anything that was not a peaceful situation. I would snap because I was so determined to have peace and enjoy the joy that I knew could come out of any situation or circumstance. So used to the laughter that always went on in any house that my mother would rent. It would not just be a house to us but we would make where we laid out heads our home and we treated that place and our space and that space that others shared as ours and no one could take that away from us. We were going to be happy because that was what my mother showed us as children and I was going to have that same thing as an adult woman, wife and mother in my own home--and that was where ever home was. As children we appreciated the sanctity of our home when were not being invaded by those people that chose to hurt us or to make our home seem anything less than what my mother was providing for us. It was hard to live any other way when those things were or are what you are and were used to as a child.

But it seemed that the peacefulness of having a spot to lay your head was a foreign concept to some people. Hell there was so much going on within the walls of the same house that we found ourselves living from so many years prior to our moving in it after the death of the individual to whom it did belong. Because the children that came with the house as other folk put it, the things that they had seen and been subjected to had a hold on them that was not an easy one to break. To see your own mothers and fathers on drugs and alcohol on a daily basis and the parent that did live in the house with them, the one that they called mother, had tore the house up on so many occasions simply because her mother would not give her any money for crack! That was simply a hot ass mess and those issues did have a hold on those children.

For instance, one Christmas the girl was on a crack binge and she got so angry at her mother because she would not come up off the kids Christmas money that she had put up to get their lay-a-way from the store.  Because her mother, the children's grandmother, would not give her money for more drugs,  the girl snapped and turned the stove over. It would not have made such an impact if the top and inside of the stove was empty, but it wasn’t. The stove had the entire meal on and in it that was prepared by the kid’s grandmother in hopes of a nice Christmas spread to enjoy with her family. And not only that, to top it off, the silly girl took all of the deserts that were down in the basement sitting atop of the deep freezer and threw them on the damned basement floor. The mother of the children that would have enjoyed them did all of those things simply because she could not get her hands on the money that her mother had put up for her children so that they could have a good holiday meal. The money was not hers to have in the first place but it was for her children. That was some messed up shit to do just because you can’t get your hands on a hit for the holidays. Those were the acts of a selfish and also really sick individual.  She knew that she was sick but had desired to do nothing to change her situation. It was not like she did not know what the drug life was about.  Hell the entire family was dealing with or had at some time in their lives dealt with some kind of addiction and had been acting out against each other all of her lil ole life. She know how she felt when that shit was going on so that was all the more reason to not subject her own children to the same shit.

So many ghosts within the walls of that house. Maybe it should have been sold or knocked down and the foundation rededicated and rebuilt or something. But whatever the solution could have been, I gave it another one and that solution was called love. And not even that was enough for the job at hand. Yes I had my work cut out for me. That job was a tedious one but no matter what, I still had to make sure that that work got done. I did make a promise and one that I planned on keeping. But was I really ready for the things that would come my way for the many years to come simply because I chose to take care of other folks’ kids? That question sometimes threw me, but it did not knock me down. I may have been like a tree standing by the water, being tossed to and fro every time the wind blew, but I did not budge. God kept me through it all. And he kept all of the children that ever crossed that threshold.

There were so many good times but even more bad times. Living in the house that was the object of everyone else’s imaginations was a hard ass thing to do--Especially having to hear the voice of the head of the household that had passed not that long ago, throughout the house, which was very emotional sometimes but at the same time was a very very bold but scary thing to take on. Oh my goodness. God will bring you through every situation that you may find yourself in and I was up to my neck in and with responsibility. I thought that my ex would be there more than what he was in a positive manner, but hell he was barely there and when he was he was more of an issue than a help with his own children.  So raising someone else’s children, even though they were his own flesh and blood nieces and little brother, did not make a difference. He was still an absent parent and provider but on top of everything he was an even bigger asshole.

Merging a couple of families together when all are related and there are so many unresolved issues will always come with a price.  I found that out the hardest way imaginable.  It was much harder than I  ever thought that it would be, but I stood by what I had promised in spite of the many tests and trials.  I did not expect that I would be the only present parent figure that would be or even try to be the everything to 11 kids total.  But I had my work cut out for me.  It is never easy raising those children that come from you.  That in itself is a hard ass job to tackle.  It was even harder dealing with the fact that someone that would not be available because the streets would have their undivided attention, would be busy causing the greatest amount of stress to the situation.  Getting through that was hard but would prove to be the best thing that I had to do when it came to the protection of the house and everyone and thing in it.  I did not do this alone.  I prayed so much and I had to step back and watch God move.  Praying for that peace that it seemed would never come was tough.  LOL!  When I would tell people some of the things that would happen to us simply because of where we lived, who we were and all that other stuff, got plenty hilarious when it wasn't life threatening or when folk were not looking at jail time.

 

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INTRODUCTION

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