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The Bastard Child
A Story of Hope, Resiliency and Perseverance.
By Sean P. Hoggs
AuthorHouse LLCCopyright © 2013 Sean P. Hoggs
All rights reserved.
The Perfect Storm
My mother was born and raised in Easton, Pennsylvania, located in the eastern part of PA. For a black family, Easton was a town of racial equality and was considered affluent for African Americans. My mother, by today's account, grew up in the "Burbs!" One weekend in 1966, my mother had a childhood friend who invited her to spend the weekend in a town called Plainfield located in central New Jersey, about 45 minutes from Easton. Her friend lived on the "West End" of Plainfield. It fast became a custom for my mother to spend her weekends in Plainfield.
During one of those weekend trips, my mother caught the local "59" bus to Elizabeth, NJ. She was going to do some shopping before heading to PA. Upon arriving back to Plainfield via East 5th street, her eye caught this tall handsome "china-black" looking man, as she put it; he was "fine!" From that moment, according to her, she knew she had to meet him. The next time she saw him, he was driving a yellow sports car on Park Avenue and West 5th Street. She continued to come to Plainfield, NJ and finally got to meet him at the Red Tower eatery, which still stands to this day. They began to date each other immediately, and like a turbulent storm at its beginning, it was the birth of the perfect storm.
My mother still worked and lived in Easton, but made it her business to see my father every weekend. She eventually moved to Plainfield two weeks before the riots of 1967 visited New Jersey. By June of 1967, my mother knew she was pregnant with me, conceived at the Rainbow Motel on Route 22 in New Jersey. My father, at the time, worked at National Starch Chemical and promised to provide support to my mother. He still lived with his parents and my mother moved in with the Stevens' on Rock Avenue in Piscataway, NJ and awaited my birth.
During the summer months after the Riot (according to my mother), my father became increasingly jealous. My mother said he became so insanely jealous that he "carried a container or liquid acid" in his car, just for her! Given that fact, you can only imagine what life would be like in the years to come for me. My mother was a strikingly beautiful woman, which fueled the jealousy of my father (according to her). My father swore that he would "disfigure her face" if he ever caught her with another man at the beginning of their relationship. My mom was never scared of my father; deep down, I believe that my father knew that if he harmed my mother she would kill him. At some point, the acid no longer was used as leverage.
During my mother's pregnancy, the time came to give me a name. Well, what should have been a non-event was anything but according to my mother. She had decided to name me Sean after the actor Sean Connery, who she jokingly claimed was the only white man that she ever loved. I was given the middle name Pernell, derived from the Bonanza actor Pernell Roberts, who my mother claimed was the only white man that she would ever marry. However, my father had other plans; he wanted to name me Guy, after him. My mom, a very straightforward person, told my father that the name Guy sounded like a name for a dog, (I actually like the name). Upon making that statement, according to my mother, my father pulled out a handgun and put it to her head with his finger on the trigger. He told her that if she did not name me Guy he would blow her brains out. She stood her ground and told my father "if this is how I am meant to die, then so be it, pull the trigger!" My mother is still alive to this day, so she called his bluff. These are the parents I was born to ... crazy!
On February 10th, 1968 I was born a child out of wedlock, a bastard by definition, with a painful life journey awaiting me. I was small in size, tiny enough that my first crib was a dresser drawer, and a son to a newly married man just twenty-one days after my birth, to his new wife (not my mother) and their daughter, to include another half brother on the other side of town from yet another woman. All three siblings were born within twelve months of one another; papa indeed was "a rolling stone!"
Eventually my mother and father got past their tumultuous storm of a relationship. Although my mother had truly moved on, my father had not. When my mother began to date other men, it became a serious problem for my father, although he was married, a newlywed; as my mother put it, he began to stalk her. According to her, some evenings when she would go home after a night out, as she would be putting her key in her front door, my father would jump out of the bushes on her saying, "At anytime that I want you dead, it's that simple." There were other times when my father would come to see me and refused to leave once he was in the house.
One evening when my father came to visit me, when my mother was going out on a date, she was giving me a quick bath before leaving; she had planned on taking me to my Godmother's house. My father, also a strong willed person, told my mother's date the he would not be leaving, that he was staying there with his son! My mother looked at her date and my father and stated "I'm leaving," and that's just what she did, not taking me to my godmother's. After returning later that evening from a night out, my mother walked into her home to find my father and me asleep on the couch. Eventually my mother chose to put an end to my father's "in and out" of her life antics.
My father and mother at some point established a tolerant relationship. Eventually they went to court over custody for me and my father was ordered to pay child support and medical care. As a result of the court ruling and after the blood test, along with joint custody, each parent had custody of me for 6 months until I reached the age of 18, which is ironic, because by age 16 I did not have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of, let alone medical care! I would not get to know my father in a parental way until years later. However, I am thankful for one thing, that they met, and both decided to donate the sperm and egg that created me (in their perfect storm of a relationship). However volatile the relationship, they gave me life. Without them, I would not be able to share my story. For that reason alone, I'd like to thank my mother and father.
The year was 1973, a challenging time for the country. The Vietnam War was winding down and America was still recovering from the ugly scar that overt racism had created. Plainfield was slowly recovering from the neighboring Newark, NJ riots of the late 1960's that had spilled over into the Queen City. It should have been a time that a child could simply be a child and the only worries of the day would be the streetlights coming on and ending the day. However, for me, it represented a time in my life that haunts me to this day.CHAPTER 2
Everything That Glitters Isn't Gold
Mike, as my mother called him, was her live-in boyfriend. A Vietnam Veteran who was the Jekyll and Hyde of my early childhood, and the source of my nightmares at the time. He was from a neighboring town in New Jersey and the man who served as a surrogate father to me; my biological father was not a part of my life at the time despite the court order. Mike worked construction and was a towering man to a six-year-old child. He was good with his hands from what I can remember. His passion for the outdoors sticks out in my mind, and he loved to hunt and fish. Initially I enjoyed having Mike around. He taught me how to ride a bike, fish, and made for some great times; he was for all purposes my dad.
The drive-in movie was a must for Mike as a family. I enjoyed the hotdogs, the ride to the movies, and I loved the Mustang he drove; life was good, or so I thought. Mike would even wake up with me on Saturday mornings and watch cartoons at times. He had no problem with helping me dig into the cereal box to grab that coveted toy or to help me with putting the prize puzzle together that came in the box too. But everything that glitters isn't gold! I know my mind has blocked out quite a bit of this part of my life, but there are some things I simply can't forget. Who Mike was when he first appeared in my life, the warm and caring father-like figure, and who he actually was were in stark contrast of one another!
Camelot soon began to crumble and my nightmare began. The ghosts of the Vietnam War began to plague the home. Slowly, the house was beginning to turn into a house of horrors. Mike's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder demons were beginning to haunt the atmosphere from the war. In fact, he would spend countless hours combing over his photo albums from his combat tour in Vietnam. It was as if Mike was becoming obsessed with them.
At first he would sit me down and just show me the photos in the albums, but it eventually turned into him reliving the war with me. He would make me sit down over and over again with him and then point out every soldier that died during the war. The photos were becoming scary to me because he would go into such graphic detail about each soldiers death. I was six years of age, confused and scared. Mike would repeatedly ask, "Why man, why?" I didn't know what to say or what to do. I sat quietly, praying that I didn't turn into the object of his rage and anger. I knew it was not a matter of if, but when, he would lash out in some way.
Now terrified of the man that I lived with, he began to take his anger and depression out on my mother, the house and me. The nightmare began early for me. I was riding my bike with the other kids in the neighborhood and as kids do, we became creative with our little bikes, meaning we made ramps and used our bikes to jump over them (very small ramps made with scrap wood, maybe a foot off of the ground). Ultimately I ended up breaking the chain on my bike and I had to walk it home; a bike that Mike had purchased with his hard earned money and taught me how to ride.
When I got home, I did not think too much of it. I told my mother that I had popped the chain on my bike and she told me to put the bike on the side of the house and that Mike would fix it when he got home from work. So I did as she told me and then came into the house, washed up, and got ready for dinner. Shortly thereafter Mike came home from work, tired and hungry as I can imagine (empathetically as a man now).
At the dinner table, my mother said "Mike, Sean broke the chain on his bike. Could you take a look at it and see if you can fix it?" He paused, and asked me "What happened?" I explained to him that we were jumping our bikes on the ramp that we had made and that I had broken my chain by [accident]. I sat there not knowing what to expect, the atmosphere and moment was tense. Mike then gently placed his fork down. My little heart was pounding with fear, and suddenly the reality of the moment manifested its self upon me, the discipline would be instantaneous. The bike was gone the next day but not the haunting memory of the night. It would take days before I was in any position to go outside from the events of that evening. I'm not sure what my mother did to address it afterwards (the severity of the discipline); but, I do know whatever she did or said didn't work. The horror continued for me and I felt like a prisoner in my own home.
The Mayer's lived around the corner from us. They treated me like a true family member and were very kind to me from what I can recall. When Mike began to impose his will on the home, my mom would send me over there, sometimes for nights on end, until whatever demons Mike was dealing with had subsided. I knew at the Mayer's home there was love and they functioned as a tight knit nuclear unit. Of the time with Mike, going to the Mayer's home became one of two escapes that I could get away to. The second was Gerri (Danielle to many), my friend who lived on the corner. Gerri was always there for me, as I believe that most people in the neighborhood understood that something was going on in my home. Although we were just little kids, she was like the sister I never had. To escape Mike, I would wake up early in the morning to go and play with her.
Unlike today, kids were allowed to roam their neighborhood knowing that the parents were there to watch over all of the children. I knew I could knock on Gerri's door early in the morning and her parents would let me in. Gerri would always come to the door with a big smile and give me a huge hug, at times wiping the sleep out of her eyes with her pajamas on. She would tell me "I'll be right back," and then she would go and get dressed while I anxiously awaited her return. On the weekends, at times, we would sit in her living room and watch cartoons all morning before she got dressed. We sat right next to each other and Gerri gave me such a sense of comfort, even sharing cereal bowls at times.
Although she suffered from asthma badly, she always made sure that I was okay. Breakfast at her house was breakfast for me as well, if I hadn't eaten at home. Sometimes I really didn't care if I ate breakfast at home; I just wanted to get out of there before [he] woke up. I no longer looked forward to sharing Saturday mornings with Mike; he was not the same man, and the friendly mask that he wore in the beginning when I first met him was now his true face, that of a monster. I told Gerri that I was scared of the man in my house and made her promise not to tell anyone. She would always hug me then kiss me on the cheek and say that she would protect me.
When it was time for me to go home, she knew I was terrified; she would walk me to my door and say "I'll see you tomorrow." Gerri knew what I was in for. I could see her house from mine and she would always stand on the curb in front of her house to wave bye once she made it back home. That would remain our routine until I was sent away. To this day, we still remain very close; few, if any, know of our relationship. I've since thanked her for being there for me. We jokingly call each other sandbox buddies now because back then, she had a sandbox in her back yard and we would spend countless hours in that sandbox. It was our universe and no one else mattered. The world came to a standstill when we were together. If people only understood the level of safety and comfort she gave me. Gerri, I love you for that and thank you!
When night would fall, I never knew what type of evening would transpire. I would eat dinner, trying not to look at Mike because I didn't want a repeat of the bike incident. I was traumatized to say the least. I tried my best not to set him off. If there were races for speed eating back then for six-year-olds, hands down I would have won a gold medal! I feared the dinner table, the one place where American families came together to be a family! All I knew was the sooner I got through eating dinner, the sooner I got away from him.
After dinner, most nights I would make my way upstairs to take a bath. I had a bag full of toys and I would make it by business to stay in the tub as long as I could in order to avoid Mike. I would always lock the door, terrified that he was going to come in and try to drown me, which in reality I knew my mother would not allow. The sound of the stairs creaking when Mike walked up them made my little heart pound. Routinely he would stop by the bathroom door and stand right outside of it for no other reason than to mess with my psyche; well, it worked! I would watch the doorknob, my eyes glued to it like a hawk, praying that he didn't try to enter (which he never did).
Once I would actually get in the bed, most nights I would fall asleep with the television on in my room (strangely, it gave me a sense of comfort). It was at that point that my mom had to deal with another aspect of terror with Mike. My mom would frantically come into my room and tell me to lock the door. At age six, not knowing why, I did. I would ball up by the door at times and listen while my mom dealt with Mike! I would hear them yelling and screaming at one another, not sure of what was going on. At six, I would try my best to help my mother, but she would always rush me back into my room. I was young, my father nowhere to be found (I really didn't know of him); what could I do? I tried! Those nights sadly became the norm and I wanted so badly for him to just go away—Mars, Pluto, anywhere far away! It even got to the point that my mother would wake me out of my sleep and take me to Patricia's house (Matriarch of the Mayer family) before he got started. Sometimes I would return home from the Mayer's to see dishes broken on the floor and walls, end tables smashed, food all over the place, and the house completely in utter shambles.
Mentally, everything began to take its toll on me! I began secretly sleeping on the floor by the door of my room for weeks on end regardless if I heard something or not, hoping that it would stop Mike from getting to me (even with the door locked). No one was spared from his demons. I was terrified of the night. For those moments when Mike and I were alone in his car, he would repeatedly torment me over and over again. I'm not sure if he resented the fact that I was not his son or if he was just a lost soul. Again, the tormenting would go on until I was sent away. I believed sooner or later he would try to kill us! His anger was unimaginable. Before long, Mike and his Vietnam friends were fixtures in the house. Drugs, war stories, and the daily struggles with Mike (regarding me and my mother) and his demons were all too familiar to me by then. I just couldn't handle it anymore!
Excerpted from The Bastard Child by Sean P. Hoggs. Copyright © 2013 Sean P. Hoggs. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse LLC.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1 The Perfect Storm, 1,
Chapter 2 Everything That Glitters Isn't Gold, 5,
Chapter 3 The Sunshine State, 12,
Chapter 4 There's No Place Like Home, 24,
Chapter 5 The New Kid on the Block, 33,
Chapter 6 Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, 48,
Chapter 7 Welcome to the Hustle, 57,
Chapter 8 The Wild, Wild West, 74,
Chapter 9 Dancing With the Devil, 82,
Chapter 10 The Man in the Mirror, 93,
Chapter 11 Pleased to Meet you, Uncle Sam, 103,
Chapter 12 A Winter Wonderland, 110,
Chapter 13 Rome is Burning, 122,
Chapter 14 A World Apart, 138,
Chapter 15 Home Sweet Home, 9/11, 144,
Chapter 16 Life Behind Bars, 154,
Chapter 17 Special Operations—A Call to Duty, 159,
Chapter 18 The Garden State & TOYA, 169,
Chapter 19 Trouble in Paradise, 188,
Chapter 20 It's so Hard to say Goodbye, 199,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Truly a story of perseverance. This REAL LIFE story will make you laugh, cry, smile, and cheer for the one that was supposed to lose in the game of life. For each time that he was set back, there was an even greater comeback. The Bastard Child is a MUST READ for those who still want to believe!