I would like to share with you what happened to my family in Clyde, Texas.
I was sitting on the porch, watching my mother walk next door to have coffee with her friend. I sat there, watching Nanny running over to our side of the street. She was yelling something and waving a newspaper. “You killed your mother! You killed your mother! I hope you’re happy! You killed your mother!” I watched as she approached our neighbor’s yard. My mother’s eyes were fixed on Nanny, who, in her jeans and red-and-white checked shirt, was headed straight for my mother. My mother just stood on the porch, looking at her. “You killed your mother! Your mother, my best friend, is dead!” My mother just fell onto the ground. I took off running, saying, “Go away! Go away! Leave my mother alone!” But I was thinking, “Who is dead? Who is dead?” I was seven years old. I had just completed first grade, and one of my very first prayers had been answered. My mother was lying on the ground. She was unconscious. The neighbor had heard the commotion and, expecting my mother’s planned visit, was waiting close to the front door. “Help my mother! Help her!” The neighbor ran and got some cold water and towels. After my mother came to, she sat on the couch inside the neighbor’s house. I watched her. She looked so very pale. I had only seen her like that when she was drunk or beaten. I knew that my mother was grief-stricken.
My grandmother and grandfather had adopted my three brothers six months after our father’s death. We were one, four, five, and six—when our mother murdered our father. My three older brothers were lying asleep, with me at their sides, when our father died. After the funeral, my mother, standing at the door, holding me, looked down at my brothers, turned, and walked out the door. My brothers went and lived with my dad’s sister. She had just adopted a newborn baby (our brother also), who later would serve a life sentence without parole for murdering a woman.
My mother returned to Abilene, Texas. Her parents talked her into letting them adopt my three brothers. My grandmother, Lillie Mae, only wanted my three brothers’ social security checks. My grandmother never really cared for my mother. Now, after seven years of living with abuse, my brothers were free. Thus, the answer to my first prayer.
I didn’t pray for my grandmother to die. However, my brothers did. They had always been hungry. They endured violent outbreaks of raging physical beatings by Lillie Mae. I remember them having to sit on the floor. I always sat on the floor with them. This made my mom’s youngest sister angry. I refused to sit on the furniture to stick with my brothers. My aunt ordered me to get up off the floor and I said, “No!” My aunt kicked me on my leg. But I stayed on the floor. I loved my three brothers. I was about three years old when they told me that I was their sister. I didn’t really understand what they were saying but I sure did try. I just knew they were a part of me and I loved them. I was four years old when my brothers sent me into the house to get them a glass of water. I went into the house where Lillie Mae was cooking. I said, “I need four glasses of water.” She bent down and looked at me and said, “I will give you one for the boys and one for you.” She was never mean to me. She worshipped me for some reason I still do not comprehend. I said, peering into her blue eyes, “I will need four. One for each of us.” She peered back into my eyes, and yes, I was a bit shaken. But I was determined that she would not hurt my brothers and that it wouldn’t matter. It mattered. She knew I was determined to judge her for her hatred and unkind treatment of my brothers. I had seen her, when my brothers were around age two, jerk up all three of them and beat them. I remember. I remember being angry and not understanding all the aspects of my anger. Now, standing there, four years old, in her kitchen, on her turf, and her peering into my heart, saying, “You got guts to stand up to me. Who are you anyway?” I said, “I am their sister. I am their sister.” I went out the door smiling and made two trips to give them water. They were amazed. Sure, I was amazed even more.
But now she was dead. I didn’t pray for that. But she was gone. Now, what? I had been praying for probably three years, as soon as I knew I could ask Jesus for stuff that my three brothers would come and live with me. I loved them so much. I didn’t understand everything about how they were my brothers. I just wanted them to be loved and not hurt anymore. I knew I would never hurt them. I also knew that Lillie Mae had really abused my mother. I knew that my mother was mean because of Lillie Mae. I knew all of this at a very young age. I was determined that Lillie Mae would never hurt my mother or brothers and get away with it. People, family and friends, had witnessed the abuse Lillie Mae injected into my brothers, and never spoke up to her. They would sneak food to my brothers and give them looks of pity. I suppose that is how I knew that pity was worthless. Standing up to my grandmother was the only answer. I had no fear of her. I felt that I could withstand the blows from her. I handled the blows from my mother. My mother would pound me in the back with her fists, and I did fine. I did just fine. So I could take my grandmother if she wished. She never hit me. She respected the strength and determination I had inside of me. Frankly, it was my belief in Jesus. Now, she was dead. Now, my brothers would hopefully be able to come and live with me and we could be a real family, no longer separated. To be continued …