Chapter 1. Douglas County

(November ’07 – February ’08)

My brother informed me it would be several hours, after he finished work, when he could come for me.  I arrived at the bus terminal about two in the afternoon and for the next three and a half to four hours there was not much I could do in this strange and new city.  The bus terminal was very crowded and with my three suitcases in tandem, another large and heavy bag containing my toiletries and of course my laptop bag, I did not want to have a need to use the bathroom for fear my life’s only possessions would go missing.  While I sat there, I was able to amuse myself having found an a/c outlet and busied myself using my laptop with my broadband connection.  I thought about the many months I paid the $60 charge and never used it when I had access by cable, but grateful I had it during the trip down and now when I had nothing else to do.

Eventually the time drew near when I figured my brother would come for me and shuffling my things managed to find a nearly secluded area where I might notice him arriving in his Firebird, a car he’s always enjoyed driving if it couldn’t be a Vet.  In fact, I was grateful it wasn’t a Vet for the Firebird was jammed with my luggage.

After the usual repartee between brothers who hadn’t seen each other for a long time, for us about two years after being approved by my federal probation officer to visit and meet his wife, Sandra and their children for the first time, in 2006.  He, my brother, jokingly referred to the “sausages” I now had behind my neck due to the extra poundage I carried.  The weather was delightful and I squeezed into the seat to enjoy what would nearly be an hour ride to his home in Douglasville.

My brother moved here the previous year.  I remembered him calling me saying God told him to move to Atlanta after he and our father, who moved here previously in 1992, during the height of my drug addiction.  It was the reason for my rushed relationship and marriage to Karen, my third ex-wife.  When I considered later the circumstances, while at my father’s home and his soon moving, God all along was preparing my eventual trip here.  For what reason then would have been anyone’s guess.  My father purchased a considerable piece of property and invited my brother to occupy it, wanting to use it as rental property. I believe my brother wanted to move out of the Cleveland suburb and pursue any opportunity living might offer besides the wonderful Southern winters as compared to the Mid-West.

We pulled up to a one level ranch home which sat on nearly two acres of land.  I couldn’t imagine cutting this lawn, especially the immense property in the rear, now the home to Sabra, his beloved dog I often doggy-sat when I stayed in Cleveland and he needed to travel for business, and after sniffing me briefly began the usual dance of recognition, too, because it would be his feeding time.  Greeting Sandra and the children, Calvin 6, Daniel 4 and Emma Rose 2, it was a nice reunion.  I was shown my room, with an attached bathroom shared between the room where the kids slept, would be my new home.

My brother's home in Douglasville

My brother’s home in Douglasville

The next few days would be filled with familiarizing myself with this rather rural location.  One of my first duties would be to locate the Sheriff’s Department and register unlike the local police department required in New York.  Having done a MapQuest, it was not too far, about an hour walk, and made my presence known.  On the form it asked the question what level are you?  This perplexed me because they did not have a level 3, only 1 and 2 followed by “predator” and I certainly was not that designation.  So, I did what I thought was best.  I added what I was in Puerto Rico with my level of New York, divided by 2, and registered in the State of Georgia as a Level 2, which meant only needing to visit them once annually, around my birthday.  I was baffled at first when he mentioned having to check on the location, because of a law just enacted regarding how close sex offenders could reside to various facilities:  libraries, schools, churches and community pools, as well as bus-stops.  Fortunate for me, I was several feet outside a church, rather Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses and it did not seem to matter regarding a bus-stop since the bus stopped at the driveway to pick up Calvin, the oldest child.  Also during the registration session with the Sheriff’s designated employee, a lieutenant who later delegated the responsibility to a subordinate, thought there would be an issue with my trying to find employment returning to work at a hotel since most of them in that state would have a community pool!  I made the case I most likely would work at night when the pool would be closed.  He could not guarantee me approval and I walked away depressed for hearing this as a consideration, especially thinking coming here I had hit the lottery.  It seem at every intersection on any of the many highways there were clusters of varying levels of hotels/motels and I thought it would be easy for me to acquire work at a shift nobody else really wanted.  I would be proven wrong.  After applying to at least fifty different hotels, I gave up thinking I would be wasting my time pursuing such.  I also entertained thoughts had I managed to get a position, I would not have reported it which would have put me in jeopardy of violating their state’s statute.

I slowed attempts of looking for work around Thanksgiving holiday and through the remainder of the year, thinking with the economy as bad as it was becoming, I would expend time, resources which would be better utilized when the new year began.

I was reunited with Jan, who I met when I first arrived in New York in 1974.  She’s about the same age who giftedly played the piano and sang.  She was our pianist when I joined a gospel group.  She moved to the Atlanta area over twenty years ago and visited me at my brother’s home.  I do not know about others but I have trouble gauging my becoming “old”.  I see myself daily and except for either the change of the coloring or lack of hair, I think I still look the same.  I surely feel the same, emotionally, although physically I’m not able to do what I used to do, due to my neglect and aversion to exercising, so I see myself through other’s eyes and their comments and by their appearance.  Looking at Jan, who I hadn’t seen perhaps in 31 years, I accepted neither of us the thin, spring chicken/rooster we used to be.  It was at her insistence I call my father, who I hadn’t seen up to this point, and she had not seen but knew he lived nearby, and we headed for this reunion.

My father and I have never been close.  This is a vague statement, so I will attempt to be more descriptive.  We never had that father-son relationship between Theo and Dr. Huxtable of the Cosby series.  We never got into calling each other, nor card sending for holidays and birthdays.  We never “got together” and did lunch during the many years we were both employed at IBM, nor when my office was within the same location.  Whenever we did have occasion to occupy the same space, at the same time, there was a cordial greeting, but to say feelings of love flowed between us would have not been telling the truth.  There are parts of my character which reminds me of him, sometimes when I even clear my throat I find it disturbing.  I have always stated never wanting to be like him and the more I tried, it seemed I became not more like him but even surpassing what he’d been if he were granted more time, take for example, marrying.  By the time he was 55 he’d been married three times and here I was, achieving four marriages by the age of 43!  My father is recognized for his singing, his high tenor voice, and I sung baritone/bass, to the point I stopped singing altogether.  My only memory of him during my childhood, and I’d have to say around five, is when he took me and my brothers to Euclid Creek and I’m walking in the water when I stepped on a sharp object, cutting the bottom of my foot and big toe requiring a Tetanus shot and stitches.  I’m more frightening of the thought of medical care than I was at the blood and doing what a young child would do–crying and screaming, when he tells me, rather yells at me to “hush up that noise, boy” and because of my fear of him, suppressed what should have been normal, so in retrospect, I guess my father would have a gross lack of compassion and the inability to be comforting.  I imagine if I could not get it from the one who should be my teacher, not only would I seek it elsewhere, but it may also become a quality I would have trouble developing for others, even my own children. It became my reason why it was best to not have had any!

We found his home in Austell, a beautiful home, one level, an ideal place for a single person, or a newly married couple or an aging one.  I won’t find it necessary to describe the lack of “family” meaning what you would normally find at a parent or grandparent’s home meaning photos and the presence of them.  In this house it was all about him and it was very comfortable.  His greeting of me was a handshake and for the next hour of the visit, there were no actual questions or statements directed at me, only to Jan, even her to commenting on our way back, “He hasn’t changed one bit.  My mother noticed the coldness between you many years ago and it is still the same.”

On another occasion my brother informed me and I invited myself to go with him because my father needed to have an operation to clear a blocked artery in his neck, and I felt as his son, especially the one who carried his name, regardless of whatever had transpired between us, needed to be there.  Longer story short, he did not even acknowledge me when the nurse asked who we were sitting by his bed while prepping him for surgery.  To put it succinctly, I was forever through with him.  Whatever attempt to be made between us would have to come from him.  Love is not some “thing” which should be obligatory nor earned between a parent or child but should be given—unconditionally.

I’ve always wondered what it would be like if the three of us, my parents and I were in the same room.  I think the closest which would ever be was when weeks later we’d be seated for Thanksgiving dinner and my mother called!  My brother spoke with her which was unusual enough for me to see considering the bad blood between them for many years.  We, my father and I could tell who it was, so when he held the phone out for either one of us, it almost appeared comical how we waved it off.  My brother confided later to me, “Had she known who were here, I’m sure she would have hung up!”  This is family for you.

I spent the remaining weeks of year 2007 primarily staying at home, venturing out ever so often because I needed to get out, or sat there taking advantage of my brother’s high-speed cable connection and greatly boosted my music collection to more than 40,000 tracks!

In my previous marital relations, I saw how cold and unresponsive I could be, similar to my father, so when I observed this family’s dynamics I saw my father captured in my brother’s character, brusque and chilly, yet he differed by being very warm and loving toward his children except when they had trouble finishing their mother’s food which, I, too, share great consternation when it came to swallowing.  Because of her South American origin, she used a lot of onion and pepper in her food preparation and I don’t do either in mine.  Eating meals became a problem for me.  I also made attempts in not only tidying my spot but the other areas of the home.  We brothers came from a home where cleanliness was an art-form to be tendered.  It was obvious it was not Sandra’s strength and along the way she gave up trying to live up to the inherent standard of my mother in her husband.  I, too, was on the receiving end of having lost this “gift”, which in my life was never a monumental goal although I knew how to do it.  Tension would develop between my brother and I, between I and Sandra, so when the holidays were over, it was decided I needed to spend more time away from the home during the day, which became fine for me because I could see no real progress in getting work in his small town and needed to go to the big city, the “ATL” as it is fondly referred, so beginning the first of the year, my brother dropped me at the nearest train station and I rode into town, twenty seven miles away.

Having moved and lived in various cities throughout my life, I have come to conclude the only best way to learn where you live is to completely immerse yourself learning the good and bad.  When you’ve been involved in addiction, as I have, it is quite easy to locate the bad where others would pass through quickly, unfortunately we stay awhile.

In my pursuit to find work, Brian dropped me off at the R.E. Holmes Station and from there catch the train and get off at the Peachtree City stop, in the heart of the amazing city called, “Atlanta”.  In this hub of activity, Peachtree City would have numerous places to sit and have my breakfast and later lunch.  I connected my laptop to their free high-speed Internet connection and part of the time actually diligently look for work.  I’d sent numerous resumes and online applications often finding discouragement because the economy was so depressed in this town and my emotional attitude was, too, falling into this same state and when it did I would go for a walk or catch various trains to other parts of the city to become familiar and explore.  Soon I’d learn every stop, mall and various connecting bus lines.  One intent would be to revisit Five Points, so named because this would be the actual center where all the trains would connect, and it was exciting to see the people headed elsewhere, somewhere to go, except for me. Thankfully, being a southern winter and chilly and not the bitter cold of the mid-west or northeast and wearing a hat and heavy jacket would suffice.

I mentioned wanting to “revisit” Five Points because my first visit on a stopover when my third ex-wife, Karen, and I were headed back to New York from California in 1992, where we were just married, made it a point to stop and be quite disappointed after hearing so many things about this “highlight” of the “ATL”.  This time I’d find it a lot better with all their vendor carts, boutiques and restaurant where on one occasion I would meet a former friend I worked with at IBM prior to my dismissal, who relocated shortly after that situation.

This is how I spent my days.  I’d arrive and have breakfast and then would busy myself applying for work and when I would land an opportunity and could be interviewed, I’d rush to the meeting.  In the month of February, I did have such an opportunity with a company called, “Precision Compressor Parts” which sold and serviced compressors on the industrial level, interviewed for a position one of their current employees were anticipating moving on.  It was not a guarantee because it would depend on whether or not she’d stay, but they were quite interested in me and perhaps something could be worked out a month from then.  This was satisfactory to me because I hadn’t any other probabilities at the time, and at least on the home-front, it would be indicative to them I was making effort and headway to returning to being a productive component of society.  But, in truth, my ideal of working again, as I’ve known it, was diminishing and fast because I believed I was being called to a “higher” and lofty goal of ministry; but, I couldn’t put my finger on what God was calling me, or preparing me to do.

As I have stated, my days consisted of finding my particular spot where I’d get breakfast, read my emails and various online newspapers, start various downloads of music or other videos of interest until about 11:00, then the lunch crowd would begin to filter in and I felt guilty sitting there, occupying a table and chair which more worthy patrons needed, so I’d pack my things and take the train to another location where I’d have lunch and depending upon the Internet connection or my broadband access would stay until the early afternoon returning to Peachtree Center, and continue working, usually on my first unfinished book, “If You Send Me, I Will Go.”  I would be comfortable and with very little distraction would read, edit and format the book now about 540 pages!  No little task in itself.  At 4:30, I’d gather my belongings and made ready to reverse my commuting route to arrive at the Holmes Station in time to be collected by my brother and head home, another day behind me.

I never made friends which would have been nice and although I get along well alone there are times when I crave fellowshipping of some sort and it appears in my character, whenever I get to this point it usually points me in the direction of trouble.  It didn’t take long to learn, and find, where trouble existed on a major scale in the metropolitan area, better known as the Fulton Industrial area.  Since the Holmes Station was in the so-called, “hood” section, the city street named after the civil rights leader, “Martin Luther King, Jr.”, why is it we don’t see his name on a street in a nice suburban, white neighborhood?  The Fulton Industrial area so-called because it was truly an industrial area, but there was another industry in full swing, that of drugs and prostitution, several strip clubs and dilapidated buildings, former hotels and motels which were probably well regarded in their day provided safe haven for travelers who visited Six Flags nearby, now served as hourly rooms for those drugging or plying their trade as prostitutes.

One of the misused blessings, in January, was receiving mail from my former employer, The Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel, expecting my tax statements so I could file, but opening the envelope there was a sizable check for almost $1,300!  A lawsuit was filed by the woman I replaced and an audit was conducted and she was found in the right and many of us benefited by her claims of unethical work ethics.  Having this new found wealth and with an attitude of loneliness is a very bad formula to ensure failure.

It did not take long to find not an attractive woman, but two of them who provided me a room, a drug dealer, and works necessary to smoke the drug.  During the hours there, and not being vigilant because of being under the influence, having stolen and then replacing my bank card, cleaned out my account from the remaining approximately $600!  The balance was spent previously on my bills which were my cellphone and broadband, plus doing something which was the best part of the whole ordeal was to pay for a room where I stored my laptop, away from my activity.  I’m sure today had I had the nerve to carry it with me, I would not have that particular one today.  Fighting the desire to stay in the room overnight since already paid for to get my head sober, I knew what I needed to do and that was to get up and continue getting my head clear as I proceeded back to my routine and had just the amount of time to do so.  There would be no escaping the tobacco smell I now had in my clothes and the obvious silence between my brother and I on the journey home spoke volumes.  Later, to break the ice, I admitted to having patronized two prostitutes which accounted for my new fragrance.  It wasn’t until I was in my room when I took off my coat did I realize I did not have a shirt on, just my colored t-shirt and thankful for this.  I couldn’t even think of eating whatever Sandra might have created, just wanted to go to my room to continue sobering, and wonder why I ultimately decided to fall back to using.

At some point, I’m sure, I will be questioned how I explain the claim of not being addicted anymore, winning the battle in 2002 and accounting for this incident in 2008.  Some would see any type of explanation as a form of self-justification but I think we can look at this in a different way to get understanding, which is what we truly wish for ourselves and others—understanding, for it is by understanding we can have compassion for others and for ourselves when it is our time.

My foundation upon which I state addiction being the result of “inner pain which is not resolved” still holds, despite the conventional thinking when you have stopped drugging, you will never use again, or the other conventional belief there is no cure for addicts and their addiction, needs to be balanced.  One can overcome drug addiction, the overwhelming urge to use and get it behind you because having dealt with the reason for its appearance in your life; but, if there should be a time when we lose grip on our recovered state and allow pain to take root, we do what we have done which is to medicate ourselves, the difference being it could be just one isolated incident, what is hoped for, then rebounding.  This is why despite the urge to remain where I was, the best for me was to overcome what would have kept me where I was to get to where I needed to be—home.   The Bible makes it clear, “He that falls, be steadfast.”  What does “steadfast” mean?  Sometimes the Old King’s English gets in the way of understanding.  To be  “steadfast” means to be “fast to stand”.  One cannot be in a position of steadfastness unless there has been a falling.  Falling is not an exclusive indication of a complete return and abandonment of sobriety.  This would not be considered a “relapse” because there was no repeated attempts, albeit it could have been, but again, it was necessary to make my way away from what just occurred.  God continues to forgive because He understands our frame, our condition and does not have an unreasonable expectation regarding us.  We do not disappoint Someone who already knows, but He continues to forgive because we continue to ask, and together there is a working which tend to draw you closer to Him which means further away from what is the problem, although this does not mean when we have fallen and received forgiveness there is not some consequence which results and will be reckoned.  A good parent punishes the child they love.

I, too, would suffer consequences for my actions and it would involve more than the lack of money.  It would begin when my brother told me the following day while dropping me to the Holmes Station, that by the beginning of March, I would need to make another way if not gainfully employed.  His, my brother’s, way of dealing with the uncertainty of his elder brother became the “Permissible Will” of God, regarding me, in moving me toward the designated path which was not prepared for me to do, His (God’s) “Divine Will”.

“All things work together, for good, to them…”

Chapter 2

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