Category Archives: Heroin

“Day in Court”

I was 15 years old, visiting my Dad in Edmonton Alberta during my high school Spring break in Washington State. Strangely He and I went on a shopping spree. Blue plaid suit, deep blue shirt and a white tie. 


The next day we got up early. Dad standing in front of me shirtless freshly shaven, smelled of Aqua Velva, and his fine thin brown hair still wet. A lit Export “A” cigarette hung in his lips, the neglected ash fought the forces of gravity as he struggled to complete a full Windsor knot in my new tie. Looking me over, it was if he was searching for something he had lost long ago. 

Securing each button on his dress shirt, his “Born to Love” jailhouse tattoo on his chest slowly disappeared from sight…….
Sitting in a narrow hallway of a provincial court, for what seemed hours, little did I know, I was to be Exhibit A in his “day in court”. Dull humming of the flickering fluorescent lights was interrupted by a “Click, Clack” as the court door opened. “Raymond, come in here”. Wincing I entered the brightly lit court room. Unaccustomed to the tie, my throat tightened as I saw a room full of serious faces. I sensed that a dialogue had been taking place and I was about to become part of it. My ears were ringing, I felt like I was looking through a fisheye lens. My Dad glancing at me with out making full eye contact. (He was somewhere else mentally) “Raymond,tell everyone how old you are”. 

I blurted out, “15 years old sir”. 

All eyes were on me, still oblivious to what was going on. Through the fog, my Dad was pointing at me, I heard “Your Honor, this how I looked!” “This is how old I was when I was arrested for joyriding in a jeep and sent into general population”! Still a bit puzzled, Dad gave me a quick glance of reassurance, and escorted me back in the hall. 

The story continues with me coming to understand the high level of abuse and mistreatment my Father experienced as a teen while in “custody”. During one particular incident he was forced to clean up the room directly under the gallows. 

I hadn’t heard these details until I was sixteen and with his death shortly after that, I put these stories away. It was too much to carry as a teenager. 
If this was my Dad’s “day in court”. Why had I felt judged? Why did I feel the weight of the chains that seemed to still bind him? 
Was the click of the courtroom door the securing of an emotional lock for which I had not the key? 

What had I done? Answer? Not a damn thing! 
As a teen, part of the burden was simply knowing that injustices such as these even existed. Wanting to rectify the injustice against your loved one is only natural and I had to accept the fact that this was HIS “Day in Court”. Those were HIS choices, and not mine. I would and still have many of my own mistakes to pay for.

There is importance in speaking out against injustice. Getting a “Day In Court” may seem ideal but a sobering fact is that justice as you perceive it may not prevail. 

Secondly, understand who “The Court” is before asking for them to pass judgment. Otherwise, be not surprised when “the judgemental” judge you. 

Finally, as a Dad of 5, the only one wearing a blue plaid suit to MY “Day in Court” will be me.


RIP GJR 

Peace. 

The Obituary 


I learned that you are dead. 
Although words say you have passed, your cruel deeds committed by you to me as a child still lingered for decades.
You might have softened and treated your own children better than you treated your foster children. 
I had a condition you judged as a plea for attention. Rather than love and understanding you provided physical and verbal abuse. 
Perhaps you learned cruelty from those that mistreated you. I have pity for you or anyone in that circumstance if that was the case. 
Perhaps you thought you taught discipline and tough love. You were mistaken. 

I learned from you how it was to feel neglected and mistreated. 
Because others that showed me what unconditional Love was, I was given the gift of learning that not all in the world were evil and cruel. 

With this gift I have strived to the best of my ability to choose Love. 

Love has the power to break all chains, yes, even the chains that until this point attempted to bind me, even from the grave. 
Dedicated to all child victims and survivors of abuse, neglect, and those many many upstanding Foster Parents that instill Love and understanding to those in need. God Bless You. 

I Got Stripes

Visited my Dad Gerald last night in a dream. Perhaps it was brought on after watching “Walk the Line”. Dad admired Johnny Cash. Perhaps for his out reach to prisoners but I am sure for some of his wry lyrics in songs like
 I Got Stripes

“On a Monday,

My momma come to see me

On a Tuesday,

They caught me with a file

On a Wednesday,

I’m down in solitary

On a Thursday,

I start on bread and water for a while”

Or 

Sunday Morning Coming Down

“The beer I had for breakfast, wasn’t bad so I had one more for dessert”
Based on Dad stories it sounded like Johnny was singing his life story. 

In my dream, Dad was incarcerated and I sat with him and fellow inmates in a common area, almost like a barracks environment. What was different was that we were able to take a walk outside. 


The sun was shining on a gorgeous day. I put my arm across his shoulders, the sun had warmed his back and I could feel his loving spirit. We ventured up a hill where many logs had fallen.,He picked up a giant one and placed it to keep a cliff side from collapsing. We had a few laughs, shed tears of joy for just being together but also shed familiar tears that I remember so many times growing up when it was “time to go”. Regardless, it filled my soul. Peace. 

RIP GJR 

Veins

14 years old

Your arm was around me

You were my hero

I noticed the strength in your arm

I felt safe and loved

The veins in your arm were pronounced, bulging, appearing to be at capacity of their designed function. I commented that your strength was that of a body builder. 

You responded that they were like that from a treatment to keep them from collapsing from your days of drug abuse.

My thoughts shifted from admiration of your physical strength to your honesty, humility and intent to have your son not repeat the mistakes that held you captive so many years ago. 


My Loving Father circa 1979

“Margie” Abuse or Discipline?

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“Margie”
As I type that name I want to scream! No words can describe the level of terror this woman woman inflicted on us 3 kids.

Flash-bash, MidSixties, British Columbia, Canada: To memory, Margie first showed up on the scene in ’67. We lived in a small house on a corner lot of St. Paul Street in Kamloops, BC, Canada. “We” being, myself, my two older siblings, (Danny and Lorraine),Dad, Margie, and a red Doberman named Flint.
Dad still had a heroin monkey on his back, not much food in the house, lots of parties, and cold pizza for breakfast. On our coffee table stood a jackass cigarette dispenser. When it’s tail was lifted, a smoke(Canadian for cigarette) would slide out of its butt.

Periodically, I would watch Dad shooting up at the kitchen table. Bob Dylan was usually playing in the background. Gentle Ben, starring Ron Howard’s older brother was the latest hit on the black and white TV. Amusing to think how enthralled we were with a series about a black bear while living in the heart of Grizzly Country.
Our house was covered with coarse white aggregate. On sunny days the blinding white rock made it difficult to find the door knob without danger of searing a cornea. The dirt streets and the alleyways were lined with metal trash cans where my older brother would find himself looking for food on his way to school in the morning.

Flint lived in a makeshift shelter under the backstairs. Being 4 or 5 at the time, I was terrified of her. Looking back I now Realize that if she had wanted to eat me, I would’ve been gone long before then. Regardless of her intentions it was Danny (always looking out for me)who would hold her back as I quickly run past her shelter. Flint had a habit of breaking loose and hopping our “white picket fence”( the irony). She would not quite clear the fence , scraped her ribcage, which seemed to always be raw or scabbed over. . Consequently, I think ole’ Flint had finally succumb to infection and didn’t live long after that .

Other than a few old pictures, I couldn’t remember much about the day to day with Margie. She and Dad were never married and that spring, she became pregnant. Not long after that, we moved to Vancouver. Margie was 17.

At first we stayed in Margie’s Moms small house located behind a Royal Bank. Margie’s Brother Kenny, and sister Honey, Margie’s mom , Margie, Dad and us kids were all squeezed in there.
As the saying goes, you may not remember all the details but always remember how you felt. In that house, you could almost always cut the tension in the air with a knife. It was a “kids are seen and not heard” household. They must have had dogs as I remember sneaking in one of the bedrooms shoving my hand into the bag of Purina dog chow and eating a snack. No doubt I would eat it today if I had nothing else . We definitely didn’t feel welcome. Margie’s Mom was strict and harsh. Honey, Margie’s younger sister was a mean spirited sort. She physically abused and terrorized us whenever we were under her “care”. She amused herself by not allowing Lorraine to use the bathroom. Telling her that if she said anything she would beat the crap out of her. Lorraine would always rush to the bathroom right before Honey came home. Dad hadn’t a clue.

Not long after , our new Sister was born in Dec. ’67 we moved into the lower level of a duplex building . The entry was under the staircase of the apt above.

Being an ExCon , Dad wasn’t much of a 9 to 5 guy. He either slung beers, or hustled up money at the pool halls. When Dad was there, he was quick with a joke and was not afraid to express his love . I can only imagine what it was like for Margie. Being 17, living with a newborn, a heroin addict, plus of his 3 kids. Margie probably wondered what the hell she had gotten herself into.
Margie had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde persona, She couldn’t do enough for us and Dad while he was there but, once he left , the abuse would start. She would lock us outside in the cold while we knocked at the door. Her reasoning was, we wanted to go outside to play in the snow so bad, we could stay out there. I used to wonder if my tears would freeze . Finally when she would open the door , she would slam us to the floor. “Teaching us a lesson”. Another time she swore I was lying about something and wouldn’t admit it. Her form of justice was to hold my hand inches from a red hot stove coil demanding I tell the truth. For a 5 year old , Knowing I hadn’t lied, scared me even more. I think about it to this day when I see a red coil…

Being on the other side now provides the opportunity to ask why would someone treat kids this way. Postpartum? Was she simply applying “discipline ” as she was taught? Had my Dad beaten her and this was her helpless revenge ?
This entry puts Margie and her relations “parenting”skills on trial. Being a parent, myself, calls for a look in the mirror. The closest I can come to understanding Margie’s level of rage was when my first son was about 4. He was so stubborn and rebellious at times. We as young parents would escalate the discipline . Ask, then raise our voice , then a swat on the butt. This approach varied in effectiveness. A moment of clarity came for me, (I don’t want to speak for my first wife) when, I applied a few lessons from a PET(Parent Effectiveness Training) course I was taking at night. It talked about needs levels in relationships. For example, they taught marriage is a 60/60 relationship. Always putting the extra 20 % in the bank when times got tough. With respect to kids, it was helping them express and then acknowledging their feelings. And yes, they had needs as well. The textbook, “feelings aren’t right or wrong, they just are” approach. Light years away from the “kids are seen and not heard” mentioned earlier.

Back to my little Tyler throwing a fit and mad as heck in his room. A simple, “so did that make you feel angry? question to him. It was as if he was touched by a sense of feeling understood. The relaxed look on his little face indicated a connection had been made. ” yes , he said , I am angry”.
I am not proposing that this was a magic bullet and smooth sailing from that point on. Just one simple tool. A bolt cutter perhaps , used to break the chain of abuse. God Bless.

Foster “Care”

“I’ll see you kids soon”, famous last words as my dad was carted away for another stint in either drug rehab or “the joint”. I was youngest of 3 kids, Danny, 3 years my senior and my sister 1.5 years older. I was in 2nd grade and North Bay Ontario was our current region of residence.
Being wards of the province was a common occurrence as my father struggled to survive. Supporting 3 kids and a heroin addition.A record meant living on the edge. Hustling pool, con games and stealing were second nature and as our only hero did battle with society.
Purposely not wanting to lose custody of us, he pleaded ignorance when asked where our Mum was.
As long as I was with my brother and sister, I took everything else as it came.

The Harvey’s lived just South of North Bay, Ontario, Canada. As we pulled up the rural gravel driveway, out walked a portly couple. Gerry with his Archie bunker type collared shirt and Nancy who, almost strutted and swung her arm as she walked as if she was in a discus throwing competition. In the distance you could hear a number of dogs barking as if kenneled up.

Danny and I shared a room with bunk beds while Lorraine had her own room. The Harvey’s son Darren (perhaps 4 or 5) had a room near his parents.
As we settled in, the normal routine was to a lay of the land. We stuck close together and didn’t say much . These were complete strangers. Little did we know we would be there about a year.
“Pig shave”
It was the 60s and longer hair was more the norm. Even ole Gerry had a slick duck tale-do.
It wasn’t long until Danny and I learned that the Harvey’s had Kennels out back. It was our “privilege” to clean all the dog cages every day.

Sundays meant going to Nancy’s parents house. K-9s must have been a family business as we would watch them groom poodles after dinner. “Get up there boys “, Gerry commanded of me and Dan. Ten minutes and a set of dog trimmers later, all our locks were shaved off. Teasing at school followed the next day. “Hey pig shave, pig shave “,,,

Needless to say, we were out of our element. We felt like we were in a bootcamp more than a refuge. Quick to punish and odd rituals kept us on edge. Every Saturday night after bath, they would check our nails. For each nail we bit, it would be a whip with the belt. We would get a daily interview whether we had made a bowel movement. If not we would have to sit on the can for thirty minutes. Regardless, we were given a tablespoon of castor oil. Looking back, it’s all quite surreal.
Not until I was in my thirties did I get diagnosed with having an esophagus, half the normal size(1/2″). This condition would make food lodge in my throat. My eyes would water and the only relief was for me to throw up and dislodge the food. My siblings knew the routine. Unfortunately Gerry was not so understanding. Sitting at the dinner table, food would get lodged. My eyes watering, my siblings knew what was up. Then I would ask the question” May I go to the washroom “? Jerry’s response, “for what”? “I need to throw up”. With a stern look on his face, Gerry was convinced I was doing it only for attention and would proceed to read me the riot act, “GO” he would yell. As I passed him I would feel his hand belting me in the back of the head knocking me to the floor as I scrambled to the washroom. A special memory was on our way back from Sunday dinner at Nancy’s parents , us three were sitting in the backseat. My siblings nervously watching me as my eyes welled up…. I was terrified to ask them to pull over. Instead I threw up in my mouth and swallowed it back down. Grinned a little at Dan and Lorraine letting them know, the feeling had passed.

As time passed, Dad was out and we were allowed to visit with him on Sundays. It was like a vacation. As foster care rules were in place, he could not come to the house to get us but rather, we would be picked up and dropped off at Nancy’s parents house. Gerry didn’t miss an opportunity as he wouldn’t allow me a visit with Dad if I has thrown up that week.
I would look out the window watching Dad circling around the block with Dan and Lorraine in the car, waiting for me to come out. It was heart wrenching.

Christmas time was upon us. Dad and Grandma had gotten us presents. We had also gotten a few sets of new clothes.
Shortly after the new year we were told that day we would be going back to Dad. We were elated. True to his form, Gerry gave us a choice of, taking our toys OR our clothes. Obviously he wanted the toys for HIS kid Darren. We took our clothes. Our Grandma asked where our toys were once we arrived, we told her but it didn’t matter.
We were constantly on the move as leaving with just the clothes on our back was not uncommon.

I wish I could say there were some good times there as well. The times of peace was when I was alone with Dan and Lorraine . To this day, no one knows me better than those two. We’ve kept each other going through times like that and still do today.

I want to share this story for several reasons. If you are a foster parent and doing it to show love, God Bless you. If you have been in the a similar circumstance as a child, you are not alone. If you oversee foster parents, Today I can speak as an adult BUT was terrified as a child to say anything. Even to my Dad.
May God watch over all of his children in foster care keeping them from harm and to always feel loved. Amen.

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Go Boy, Breaking Chains

We all have a sad story  but I believe we also have  a story of hope if we can recognize the chains that bind us making us prisoners of our past, “sins”of our fathers, (sins in the sense that what we have learned from our parental figures(blood or not) that keep us from experiencing the grace of God(feeling Loved/Worthy).

Prisoners, Cons, Convicts, Felons, Delinquents…hard to read or say these words without a negative feeling of wanting to get away , ignore or hope that some authority figure somewhere will deal with “THEM” societys undesirables. In this blog(my first) I hope to share life experiences which may help others cope with similar experiences as well as learn from others.

I first heard the term “Go Boy” during the summer of my 16th year.It was the title of a book by Roger Caron. I was visiting my dad for two weeks during the summer of 1979 in Edmonton, Alberta. I didn’t realize at the time this book held many secrets to understanding who my father was.. “Go-Boy is a prison yell used when an inmate (or inmates) break from a work detail or crew in an attempt to escape”……..Like Roger Caron my father spent many years behind bars or in institutes……

August 1979- My father looked tired, but he was “clean”. He hadn’t used drugs or alcohol in over two years and was proud of it. I hadn’t see him in two years and before that, I cant remember.  My Dad had always been my hero. Simply put, he taught me what feeling loved unconditionally felt like.

My first memory as a child was sittting at the kitchen table watching my Dad “mixing up the medicine” He was a Heroin addict. I was facinated to see the bulging veins, the needle, spoon, lighter and the change in my Dads personality.  I was maybe 4 or 5.

My Dad was born in Northern Ontario, in the early forties. His Dad away working, wasn’t around much. I heard he was good in school and a talented baseball player.

When my dad  was 15 my Grandfather was working in the mines of BC(British Columbia). As I understand it, my Dad and the mine owners kid.  took a jeep without asking, for a joyride. It was reported. The mine owners kid walked away but my father wasn’t so lucky. He was left in the prison with the general popul;ation of grown men for well over a year. I can only imagine what they did to him.

As noted in the book “Go Boy” prison abuse in Canada was extreme and tolerated. My dad told me of abuses such as dragging him up the stairs by his hair, making him clean out the gallows among other things. Guards telling him, “ya see that boy, thats where you’ll be one day”. As I understand this is where my Dad found his escape from reality, Heroin.

As I came to understand it, my parents had split when I was 3 or so. I lived with my 2 older siblings and my Dad until I was 9.  We traveled back and forth across Canada moving frequently. My Dad kept us away from my Mum. for what ever reason, only seeing her once when I was six. We stayed on the move, attending 7 different schools by the time I was in 4th grade. At times we slept in the car, snuck back into “our house” which rent hadn’t been paid, just to sleep there at night and scoot out at dawn. Through all this, I knew he loved me.

I was happy as long as we were with Dad. When we weren’t with him (when he was in “the joint” , rehap or a hospital). we became wards of the province. Then we were either in foster care(thats another story), with my Grandma(God Bless her) or my Dad’s friend.

Over time my Dad developed drug related Paranoid Schizophrenia. one incident,  he gathered all of us up as we ran down the street, knocking on a strangers doors so he could call the police as someone was after us.  As the police arrived, it was then the police who were now after us. I was in the back seat of the police car with my sister, and dad as he yelled at my brother in the front seat to  be ready to jump out. Chaos. But through all this, I knew he loved me.

How did I know he loved me? The way he held my hand. He danced with us, He laughed with us. One time I told him I had to go to a Bday party. I wrapped up one of my toy guns as a present and brought it to school. He showed up at my class with a new gift. Most importantly, wherever we were staying, he always came back for us.  Ultimatley and I didn’t realize until later, he brought us back to our Mum.

Through all the turmoil, fogginess of substance abuse, he saw that what his kids needed was stability. It wasn’t easy adjusting to life in the U.S. New school was the norm but the structure, bedtimes, homework, and wondering…when was Dad coming to get us?

Needless to say, we never did go back to live with him. He was again in and out of jail and institutions which at times were close enough by that we could visit. It was heart wrenching leaving the jails when we would visit knowing he would have to stay there.

Although “clean” for the last two years of his life, my Dad took it to the extreme when he stopped taking his prescribed meds and two weeks after my visit in 1979, he took his own life.

During a time that people didn’t talk about their feelings and you just sucked it up, I had no idea what I carried inside had to be dealt with.

To be continued…….