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This is Part 1 of a 2-part article called I love you DAD. I do hope that you will also read Part 2 also to help understand the entire story. Sometimes we need to express our feelings and emotions, so I do it by writing it out. 

June 11, 1984, you died. I was the only person in the hospital room with you. I held your hand while you took your last breath. I watched you slip out into eternity and end your suffering. I still have so many thoughts, feelings, and emotions to this day. What did I see and what did I learn? This was so hard, but there is no other place I wanted to be because I love you Dad!

I think anyone who has lost a parent can understand what I just said. You will know. You feel pain and emotions that come from losing a parent. It stays with you the rest of your life. There is a void and emptiness that cannot be filled. You have good and bad memories. You try and concentrate on the good ones.

This story is not special or different from anyone else’. It is special and unique to me because I lived it. I ask myself, “What did I learn? How did this influence my life?” This is not just about the death of my Dad. It is about everything that led up to his death and my life. I have to go back to the beginning and explain.

How And Why Was I Born

My dad was a big man, 6’6″ tall. His name was Clarence. He had five brothers. Dad lived a rough life and grew up working hard. Work was all he knew. He never played as a kid or had any games. Work was their play. His Mom and Dad (my grandparents) lived through the great depression and barely survived.

My Dad and his family lived in a town called Bristol. I grew up and lived there myself. This is where Dad met my Mom and married her. My dad worked in a large bakery all his life. He spent over 30 years working there.

While Dad worked at Purity Bakery, he became best friends with a preacher. His name was Sherffey and they worked together. My Dad became a Christian and really wanted to serve God. My Mom raised hell because Dad went into the water to be baptized in his new suit. Sherffey bought Dad his first Bible, with his name engraved on it.

My Dad’s life went well. He loved going to church. He grew spiritually. Before he died, he told me what he felt was the biggest mistake of his life. Dad said, ” I really believed God called me to preach, but I would not.’ He told me, “I missed God’s Will for my life, and I had never been happy.”

My oldest brother Bill was born. Allen was born 11 months later. Bill is five years older and Allen four years older than me. Mom and Dad wanted one more child. 14 months later Donnie was born.  There was a problem with Donnie’s umbilical cord.

Doctors were not as knowledgeable with babies as they are today. Donnie’s navel was open. They kept a quarter taped over his navel hoping it would heal up. They did not want the navel to burst out or rupture.

Here is the story within this story. You may ask how I know this, so I will tell you. When I was grown and married both sets of grandparents talked to me. My aunts and uncles told me the same thing and confirmed this. Before my Dad died, he talked to me and admitted it was true.

My grandparent said, “Ray, you are a good man and we love you so much. I want to tell you something that will hurt you. I tell you this for one reason. Maybe you will be able to understand your Mom. Maybe you will understand why she still continues to treat you bad. It is not right and has never been fair to you. I just want you to know why she is this way.” Here is the story.

Dad worked at the bakery and worked long hours. 12 to 14 hours sometimes. On this night he came home after working 14 hours. He wanted to lie down and sleep for a few hours. He had to be back to work in 4 hours. He got in bed and Donnie started crying. Donnie was six months old. He nudged mom and asked her to go quiet Donnie so he could sleep. She did not move or get up. He asked her again, but she went back to sleep.

Donnie was in his bassinet on the other side of the wall and crying. Dad was tired. He took his fist and beat the wall. He screamed, “Damn  it Donnie, can’t you shut up for a few hours?” Donnie hushed and Dad went to sleep. Dad got up in a few hours, dressed and went back to work.

Four hours later, Dad got a phone call at work. “Come home Donnie is dead!” His navel had ruptured and he bled to death in his bassinet. My aunts and uncles arrived. It took 2 hours to clean Donnie body.

They scrubbed and scrubbed to get the blood and dried bowel movement off Donnie. They said Donnie’s diaper had matted to him. They told me, it looked like Donnie’s diaper had not been changed in a few days.”

Mom could not touch Donnie, she fell apart. My Dad carried Donnie’s little body in his arms to the car. Dad drove Donnie and delivered him to the funeral home. Dad made funeral arrangements then came back home. Mom forced him to look for a place to move right then. She refused to spend one more night in that house.

With Donnie at the funeral home, my Dad had to find a place and move that very day. Dad did it with the help of all my aunts and uncles. Donnie was buried two days later and Mom totally fell apart again.                                                               img003 for daddy (Medium)

Donnie was a beautiful baby. He had long curly hair. He looked like a little angel in this black and white photo. This is Donnie laying in a small casket.

Mom swore to one and all, she would never get pregnant again. She would never have another child. She said, “No more, no more children. Two kids are enough. I will never go through this again.” This is where their relationship started to crumble. Mom and Dad blamed each other for Donnie’s death. This is when Dad started drinking.

Two years later an accident happen. ME. Mom was pregnant and carrying me. She did not want me or any other child. I believe if abortion had been legal, I would have never been here. Mom kept telling everyone, “No one will ever replace Donnie! I don’t want another baby.” So, I am the one that was not wanted.

My grandparents, aunts, and uncles told me, Mom was forced to accept me, but I was not wanted. Dad still continued the bad relationship with Mom. As I grew things got worse and Dad drank more. When I was seven-years-old, Mom and Dad divorced. Mom got custody of us three kids, plus child support and alimony. Dad paid it every month without fail, even when he had to sleep in his car with no place of his own.

Mom got a job and worked. I and my two older brothers almost starved. It was not unusual for us to get one cup of oatmeal and split it three ways. We would eat it, then not eat again for a week or ten days. Maybe we would get a sandwich, and not eat again for a week.  We went to school hungry and came home hungry.

If we told anyone, (especially our Dad) we were beaten severely by Mom. She used thick belts and tree limbs (not switches).These were her favorites. We were beaten from head to toe. People go a few hours without eating and say, “I am starving.” NO. I know what real hunger is.

Mom hooked up with an old high school boyfriend named Howard. She sold our house Dad had provided. She moved us 20 miles away to another city. I had been pushed from one grandparent to the other. My brothers had stayed with our uncles. They were good to us and we got to eat every day.

It never lasted, Mom had custody and would come and get us.Back to Starvation and Beating City.”

Mom married Howard and it never worked for us kids. He was in his 40’s. Howard had never been married or had any kids. All he knew was to threaten and beat us kids. My brothers were older and rejected his authority. They were big enough to fight back.

This is the point when my brothers got to go LIVE with my uncles. Now I am alone. I became his whipping boy. I became the one he could vent his anger and frustrations on. I will not go into all the details, but the beatings were severe.

I have to be fair. These beatings took place while Mom was at work. She never wanted to believe her husband could do this. For my own safety, I hid it well.

I wanted to get along with Howard. If I could, maybe the beatings would stop. I made a gesture and tried to hug him. He threw me across the room. I ran outside and he followed. He grabbed a glass coke bottle and cracked the top off on a table. He chased me with it. I ran fast. He told me, “If you ever touch me or try to hug me again, I will slit your throat and kill you. You little queer.” I BELIEVED HIM.

The next morning, they went to work. I hid behind the house when the school bus ran. I did not get on the bus. At the age 12, that very day, I walked 20 miles in a pouring rain to Bristol. It took all day, but I made it. I finally got ride part of the way by hitchhiking. I found the bakery where my dad worked, and he was there. This drowned little rat hugged him tight and begged him, please let me live with you.

Dad was remarried to a woman with three kids of her own. I had to go beg his new wife. They said, “We don’t have room, our house is small.” I said, “I don’t need a room, I’ll sleep on the floor or outside.” After three days of begging, they finally said yes.

Dad took to Mom’s to get my things. We took the police with us. They had seen all the cuts, bruises and other injuries on me. Mom lied and said I had fallen down the mountainside while picking berries. Mom agreed to give Dad custody of me.

I Jumped From The Frying Pan Into The Fire

Had I just made an enormous mistake? Now I was with my Dad, stepmother, and three stepbrothers. Two of the three stepbrothers did not want me there. They determined to run me off and send me back to my mother. Those two did not care where I went, really, just as long as I was gone. If I died, that would be good. They spent the next nine years making my life a living hell.

Dad’s brother Frank was totally different than all the rest. He and his wife Eva were great parents and real Christians. I loved them very much. Frank and Eva had two great kids of their own. They all wanted to adopt me. How different my life would have been if that had happened. It was the pride and ego of my Dad and Mom that made them say, NO!”!

My Dad had changed. He was now a full-blown alcoholic. He drank all the time, but still worked hard. The older stepbrother was actually decent, he left and went into the Army. That left the other two stepbrother’s, to make my life miserable. Anything to get me in trouble. Break things so they could blame me. They loved seeing me punished or getting chocked out.

No matter what it was or what was done, I was always at fault. Even if I had not been home. I was always the one whipped, punished or brutalized. The two stepbrothers hated my dad. He was just a drunk to them. They took out on me, what they could not take out on my dad. Then Dad would take it out on me too.

This is how it went. Dad would go out drinking. He’d come home drunk after spending money we didn’t have. That required penance with my stepmother. The idea of saying anything about her children and their behavior was strictly forbidden. So…he beat the crap out of me to appease her.

People have said, “There are two kinds of drunks-the happy drunk and the mean drunk.” My Dad was never a happy drunk, he was the mean one. Countless times Dad came home drunk. He would grab me in a headlock, around the throat. I would pass out. My stepmother would hit him in the head with a cast iron skillet before he chocked me to death. He was too sloppy drunk to know better.

When Dad came home I could look out the window and know if he was drunk or sober. If drunk I would run to a neighbor’s and hide, at least until stepmother came home. If he was drunk I had to run. If I were alone with him, there would be no one to make him let go of me. He would stumble and prowl the neighborhood calling my name. The neighbors lied and told him they had not seen me.

So many times, he passed out in the yard before he could get in the house, lying in the pouring down rain, calling my name. Dad was known as the neighborhood drunk. What was the most painful part of all, for me? It was not the abuse, beatings, punishment being whipped and cussed. It was seeing my dad sit and watch while I was abused by others, and allowing it. Knowing I had done nothing wrong. Then he would punish me to appease them.

I really missed my brother Bill. When we were together, he always tried to protect me. Bill was my hero. He had enlisted and joined the Air Force.

My brother, Allen, followed in Dad’s footsteps. He became an alcoholic. Then there were two alcoholics to deal with. Allen began to stagger the street in Bristol. He was known as the biggest thief and crook in Bristol. I never understood how Allen could starve his own wife and kids. He had been starved as a kid himself. His own wife and kids could not deal with him.


At age 16, I worked after school. I walked to work. I walked home. The weather didn’t matter. If I got off work and saw my stepmother outside, I was not going home. Too often that meant I had to go with her to the bootleggers and get my dad to come home. It could be hours of struggling and fighting with him to get him in the truck. With luck and struggle, we’d get him home, and get him to bed around 3 am. I still had homework to do. Maybe I could get a shower, then go back to school.

This was the normal way of life for many years. I had to accept it, I could not change it.

My Dad was a big strong, tough man. He believed men were not sissies. Men do not cry or show sissie emotions. At this point in time,  I only saw my dad cry two times. The first time was when his Mother died. The second time, he was sloppy drunk. Dad talked about the night Donnie died. How he had beat the wall and cursed at Donnie. Dad never got over that.

At my age of 17, Dad opened his own bootlegging joint. Now he was the head drunk and liquor was illegal in the state. Dad would sell it to one and all. I was forced to drive his drunk friends across state lines to buy liquor. I was forced to do it or get beat. I hated every moment.

Being beaten, punished and penalized never stopped. The abuse by stepbrothers never stopped. I simply adapted to it and accepted it. I could not change it. When I turned age 18, I secretly went and volunteered for the military draft. There was a war going on in Vietnam. Going to Vietnam could not be any worse than living at home. Six days after graduating high school I was taken into the Army.

When my military service was finished I came home. The only job I could find was working at the bakery where my Dad worked. Now I had to prove myself. Even though my Dad was a mean alcoholic, he was still a hard worker. I was expected to be the same way. I had married my high school girlfriend and had my own apartment. That was one of the happiest moments of life. I was away from Dad and stepbrothers.

A real miracle happened. God got hold of my life and changed me. I was born again and became God’s child. I became a Christian. God became real in my life. I found a love I never knew existed. I loved people, the church I attended and God’s Word. I could not get enough of the Bible.

My Dad and Allen ruined the family name in Bristol. Both of them were hated, and so was the family name. I was guilty by association and also looked too much like my Dad. I would go into a store and be run out because of my last name. I was cursed and labeled as trash because of my last name. No one wanted to hear, “I am not like them, I am different.” (My brother, Bill, had been smart and had moved two states away to South Carolina, five years before.)

A job with the bakery thrift store came open in another city. I applied for the job and a transfer. At last, I had a good job. I moved out of Bristol and had a good job. I moved out of Bristol to a city far away from where no one knew the family name. I did have to change churches, but it was worth it.

An unbelievable opportunity came open. I was offered the chance to attend Bible college. Here was a dream come true. I wanted to go to Bible College to learn more about God, so I could help others. It was arranged, and the door opened for me. Everyone said, “Do not go. Do leave your job. You will regret it. You are making a big mistake. When you fail, you cannot come back to work here.”

I felt God was in it. There was even a way for my education to be paid for. I had to wait for the new semester to start and it finally did.

The bakery had been Teamsters Union, and they went on strike. They were on strike for one whole month. When the strike was settled, they all went back to work.

The strike crippled the bakery though. The owners sold it to a new company. This new company was not union and let every employee go. This new company did not want any union or union employees. Everyone was out of a job, including my Dad. God never makes mistakes, He had me exactly where He wanted me, and I did not know the future, but He did.

I know this has been a very long article. If you have stayed and read to the end, I have to say, ‘THANK YOU so much. I hope something I said or shared will benefit you. I am posting a picture of me in the black shirt and my Dad is in the brown shirt. This was his younger years. I will end this by saying, “I love you dad and miss you.” This concludes Part – 1 of my article “I love you dad.” And I do hope that you will finish my story and read Part – 2 of “I love you dad.” 

Your thoughts, opinions, and comments are welcome, so leave them below in the comment section. Please enjoy the beautiful song below RAY.



This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. SherrieLeShell

    My dear brother, I can totally relate to this testimony. I wanted to cry the entire time I was reading but I head it back because I know you do not want me feeling sorry for you, so, I won’t. But, will say how proud I am of ;you that you were able to deal with this pain and share it for others to read. It has definitely inspired me to write through my pain, for that, I thank you tremendously.

  2. Ray

    Thank you Sherrie. Life is a teacher and some lessons are harder than others. We are all human and make mistakes. Hopefully, we learn from those mistakes, and do not suffer the consequence from them. Life does not stand still for anyone. Life dictates that we all go on. If this has helped you to work through your pain, it is worth it.

  3. lyn


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