You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘growing up’ tag.

Mama Love insisted that if we were home that the boys would eat together.  Most nights she would eat with us, the exceptions being if we had pissed her off severely or if my father was home.  If he was home, then they would eat together in the living room or the study.  As a family we spent a lot of time around each other.  I can remember wondering why, when I went to my friend’s houses, why they didn’t eat together, or spend as much time around each other.  A big reason behind learning to cook was just wanting to be around Mama Love.  My younger brothers had no desire to learn; their interest in food began and ended with the placement of food on the table.  I selfishly wanted to,and got to, spend time with her that was ours alone.

When I first moved in with the Fortunes, there were already two older boys there, Nate and Mark.  Nate was long-term foster care – he had lived with the Fortunes for around eight years.  After I’d been there for a year, Nate graduated from high school and moved back with his biological family.  Mark was adopted by the Fortunes exactly a year before I was and was the oldest until he graduated and moved out (well, he stayed for a year after graduation, “finding his way” and all that.)  For about four years after I was the oldest son and with my father spending more time out of the house than in it, I was the de facto head of the household, with most if not all of the responsibilities that came with it.

Mama Love had over fifty foster kids during her time working with DHS, so I have spent more time wiping butts, giving baths and telling bed-time stories than some parents I know.  We used to get looks when we went out because of how many of us there were and the fact that some of us were lack and some of us were white.  My father is 6’6″, 280 pounds and black and Mama Love was a red-headed, short, white woman.  Mark was around 5’9″, stocky, almost pudgy white, with short, spiked hair.  I was and still am a 5’9″ dark, full-blooded Haitian, Leo (another adopted-brother) a 6’6″ light skinned half-Jamaican.  James, a biological Fortune, was young, white with bright red hair (think of the kid from “Jerry McGuire,”) glasses and freckles, while Tony (adopted brother) was young, half-black / half-white with green eyes.  I never looked at my upbringing as different.  It was just the way my family was.

My mother was the keeper of my secrets, hopes and dreams.  She was the one person in my life that has ever loved me unconditionally.  As my father and I were too similar to talk, share, or even like each other much, she was by default, my mother and father (him not being around much helped as well.)  While, in fairness, my adopted father did teach me some aspects of how to be a man, some lessons I needed (like to always take responsibility,)  other lessons that shaped me at an early age have left me wondering the cost, i.e. the ones about how men never show emotions like pain and hurt, or how men never cry and rarely apologize.  It was Mama Love who really taught me why it is important to be a man.  How it is your actions and not your age that make you a man, and that the two best things that I can do for my loved ones are as follows: firstly, if you really love someone then you are there for them at all times, not just when you’re needed, and secondly that it is more important to make sure loved ones have what they need rather than what they really want.

I remember walking into the house after school or practice (I played three sports: football, basketball and baseball, so almost every day after school I had practice or games and wouldn’t get home until four or five at the earliest) and being greeted by the smells of cooking food and the sounds of my brothers.  It was as if when I opened the door to my house I entered another world.  The sounds would hit me as soon as I opened the fake wooden-paneled door, depending on the time my brothers would be in the room on my right, “the library” (which is where we had desks and computers for homework or personal use) doing their homework quietly.  Well, it was supposed to be done quietly, but, when have boys ever been in a group and ever done anything quietly?  In fact, it was when we were quiet that we were up to something.  As soon as we stopped making noise you could count on Mama Love coming to investigate.

When I would shut the door the smell of cooking food would permeate my nostrils.  It was as if my house was a cocoon that opened itself up and embraced me with sounds and smells of love, like they were just waiting for me to come home and now my night, my family’s night and our house’s night was complete.

(More to follow.)

As I am,




A gentle plop as a fish surfaces to take a mosquito from the air nearby, tells me I have reached my destination, I have been coming to this place, this bridge, over a small river almost forgotten by people, since I was a child, some friends and I learned to swim here. Mastering our diving as we grew older, and all of us had a lot of fun doing it. Here later on we learned about fishing, by trial and error on our own part, also by picking the brains of any locals that occasions by. We learned all of the required fisherman’s knots, the different hooks for certain fish, and the never – do’s of fishing. It seemed each older fellow that came along had one to add to our arsenal of secrets.

At some point in our early teens the topics changed from fish, bikes, and skateboards, to girls, cars, and beer. The bridge became our meeting place. A place to talk out our problems, learn from each other, get over whatever stumbling block one of us was impaled upon. Important decisions were made there. Grievances were voiced and settled there, and alone, sitting on the guardrail, staring out at the powerful river, with a beer in one hand and a fishing pole in the other, I single- handedly thought out and solved every problem that has ever plagued man-kind. Well, I may have missed a few. But I was always proud of my decisions made on that cold and lonely concrete seat.

Once my friends and I were setting comfortable in our lives, with our wives and then children coming into the picture, we returned to the bridge. We hung out together and kept up on our families, events at work, and fish always seemed to wiggle it’s way into our conversations. We taught the boys all how to fish, and only one of the girls were interested. She did well. A real quick learner. The kids all learned to swim there as well. Having fun diving from the rocks along the shore.

Later on they practiced from the bridge itself, and swam back and forth across the lazy river. They learned all that we could teach them at the bridge. Always with eagerness.

When our children reached their teens,  my friends and I allowed them their childhood. The adults willingly being banished from the bridge except on Sundays. Those were family days. That was good enough for us. Each having careers and our adult lives to tend to, and so cheerfully gave up the bridge to the next generation. We had started something.

We continued the Sunday tradition in warm and decent weather for a number of years. Our children continuing on with their children. The knowledge gained, the inner peace and clarity of mind. Has been useful beyond imagination for our many families. The power one feels while sitting there, several feet above the enormous black snake that is wreathing past. It may well be that it’s vast wisdom rubs off on a person…

Since passing the bridge on to the kids nearly thirty years ago, I have come here quite a few times on my own, sans fishing pole, usually with beer, to think, my best friends son was killed by a drunk driver. Then I came here to think. It was then that I sobered to the reality, that no matter how hard one tries to protect their children, their families, shit happens. Bad things sometimes, happen to good people, and there’s just not a damn thing anyone can do about it. A harsh fact to come to terms with. It’s just another piece of our all encompassing reality.

My son called me one night about four years ago. He said he had to talk to me at the bridge. Immediately. So we met. He told me his wife been to the dr’s a week ago for a physical and some tests. The Dr. called her to the office today for the results. It was Cancer, we sat, and talked, and cried, and talked some more. The Dr. gave her a year to live. Pancreatic Cancer. She had lasted just ten months. After the funeral I went to the bridge. It was a warm and breezy afternoon, I thought of her, and then I thought of how so many of my close friends and family had passed on over the last few years. After funerals I like to go to the bridge. Say my good-byes, as if those who have just passed are taking their last ride on river that was ingrained within them. It is how I say good-bye. It adds a sense of closure, finality to it.

Nine months ago my own wife passes on. Again I went to the bridge. More questions to ask the mighty river. And the more answers I left with in my head. The bridge has become a symbol in my life. Of people coming, and going, and so many  changes in life, and when all hope seems lost, it is the place to find the answers. There is always some kind of answer…

Today I’ve come here on foot. It is a beautiful spring day. I’ve brought a small cooler of beer, my rod and tackle, and a notebook with a pen. I have many questions. A whole page of them. I ask the river my questions one at a time. I sip beer and wait for the answers to come. As they do, I put them in my book after the appropriate question. These are all things that I have wondered for quite some time. Only one question left. A theoretical one. Maybe, if all those I loved, and died have become part of the river, will I ever see them again? Because their being gone has left such an aching void in me, that I’d do anything to end that pain. Time passes as I drift in a daze. The suns warmth engulfs me. The answer comes as if a calling from beyond. Yes, I too then, must become part of the river. The sun eases my aches. I slip into the water.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 207 other followers

Political Prisoners

Welcome to the blog from inmates of Maine's jails and prisons.

In collaboration with the Holistic Recovery Project, the Political Prisoners Blog provides a prisoner's view into what's happening at Maine's correctional facilities.

Only your vigilance on the outside can guarrentee that justice goes on on the inside.

If you'd like to contact one of our inmate bloggers, send us an email.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support.