The Pain of My Past: Part I

"I am more than a political junkie. I am man that has endured a painful childhood. It is time that I come to terms with the hurt that exist within."

I lost a younger brother when I was very young. I recall watching him in his crib and I remember his cry. But that is all that I remember of William Manning. Soon after he was born, he died. There must have been something to his death because soon after my brothers, sister and I were placed in a foster home. It is another episode that I lack in memories.

I do recall Miss Hall. She was my foster mother. I remember going to church and playing with the cross that was engraved in the pews. I remember the white woman that came to take me away from her home and drop me off at my grandmother’s house. It is in my grandmother’s house where a majority of my childhood would take place. My mother came around every once in a while. My father was singing in a gospel group called the Masters of Music with his brothers. I spent Saturday afternoons watching them practice. But I remained with my grandmother.

Ardelia Callahan was a wonderful, Christian woman that ruled her house. There was never a lack of love, attention or discipline. I acted up some, but for the most part, I was an easy child. Although I knew my life wasn’t normal, I never felt that I lacked something. That is probably because I grew up in a neighborhood with over 10 uncles and aunts and a host of cousins. So there was a lot of family on which we could lean.

Life was pretty normal until the day my mother came by and told us that we would have to leave my grandmother’s house and live with her. No one was happy about it but we did what we were told.

My life changed dramatically. In Argo, I was happy. I had a lot of friends and I never seem to want for anything. I have no idea how my grandmother did it, but the lights were always on, food was always on the table and although I didn’t have the best cloths, I was comfortable.

With my mother, life was chaotic. We spent almost an entire winter in the dark with no heat. For half of the winter during eighth grade, I didn’t have a winter coat. If you know how bad Chicago winters are, then you know that is not a good thing. My grandmother purchased coat for me that year. I also remember on time when half the soul on my shoe was falling apart. The teasing I got for that was tremendous. I actually hated my mother for taking me away from my grandmother.

Within two years my mother lost the house. We moved back to Argo but not with my grandmother. At that point I was in high school and it was one of the best times and worst times of my life. Food was still in short supply and it was still hard keeping the lights on. But we were close to family now and that made it easier – but not easy enough.

There was a point where I was miserable. I remember sitting on the back door of the church I was raised in with a bottle of pills in my hands. I’d decided I’d had enough but I wanted to pray first. My grandmother had taught me to pray when I felt alone – and so I did. Five minutes later a police officer drove by. Maybe he saw something in my eyes because he stopped and offered me a ride home. I’m not sure if I would have killed myself, but I often think that God heard me and sent that officer to rescue me.

Several months past and we were still struggling. My mother came to my brother Marvin I and told us that my father thought it was best that we live with him. At this point, I was seeing my father every other weekend and I had spent several summers with him. I was cool with that. She dropped us off at the alley a half a block from the house. I didn’t think anything of it.

We knocked on the door and my father let us in. We told him about us living with him and he looked shocked. All my brother and I could do was stare at one another. He left the house pissed. When he returned he told me I would stay with him and my brother would have the choice of staying or going back to my grandmother’s house. My brother chose my grandmother. Several days later my sister came to live with us and soon everything calmed down. I hated the school and ended up having to travel from the west side to Argo so I could get the classes I needed to graduate.

In the middle of all of this chaos I managed to never drink, never do drugs, never join a gang and graduate high school with fairly decent grades. I’ve also managed not to hold a grudge with my mother. Over the years I found a way to forgive her. Now that she is elderly and sick, I see no reason to even discuss it. I know she regrets what she did to us. I have to remember that she was a 20-year-old married woman with four children. It was probably too much for her. And least that what I tell myself.

So why this retrospect? Well, I’ve been diagnosed with a mild case of ADD. The therapist told me that I’ve internalized my chaotic life and when I go inside of myself my brain is having a hard time finding its way back. This has become a major problem since I’ve moved to Los Angeles. I found a way to manage in Chicago, but the stress and new-ness and the elevated communication skills required for a relationship have compounded my slightly dysfunctional brain.

My coping mechanism is to go within. And I’ve allowed very few people inside that space. Now it is time to remove the wall that the therapist says is holding in my chaotic past and free myself. This is my first step.


9 Responses to The Pain of My Past: Part I

  1. jaimie Says:
    You are brave and honest and real. You had choices in life, and you did, and continue to, make the right choices. I commend you for all that you have accomplished in a life that many would have assumed was doomed for failure. You are an inspiration
  2. African girl, American world Says:
    This indeed was the first step. You are on your way - I'm sure more memories will come - let them and they'll heal you.
  3. Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden Says:
    10 25 05

    Whoa! Thx for sharing James. I will pray for your healing. You know that it takes a lifetime to heal, but that positivity and realism and confronting the issues are the best way to wade through the pain. YOu are doing a great job and have helped us experience catharsis, this was a truly inspirational post. Take Care:)
  4. Cynthia Says:
    Good luck James. This is a good first step in your healing process.
  5. James Manning Says:
    Thanks for the encouragement. I wasn't sure if I wanted to write this but I'm now glad that I did.
  6. Anonymous Says:
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  7. Anonymous Says:
    Thank you for your words regarding Ardelia Callahan, I only met her a few times when I was very young and talked to her a few times in my teens. It was nice to learn that she was a good kind person.

    Ardelia Stokes
    daughter of Henry Stokes her oldest child.
  8. James Manning Says:
    Hello, I hope you will contact me again. I would like to meet you. I wasn't very close to Uncle Henry but would like to talk with you.
  9. Ardelia Says:
    I'm no longer in the Chicago area, but you are welcome to email me at Merry Christmas and all the best in the New Year.
    ps I'm enjoying your blogs, Thanks you.