As Roger told me the story of his life, I was struck by the layers of sadness that made up his past and the determination he had to continue his slow journey to a better life. When he was born, his mother was unable to take care of him and his twin brother. He was raised by his grandmother and his brother was raised by their aunt. When he was 2, his father, a drug dealer who was in and out of jail, took his own life. Over the years, he and his brother got together at family gatherings once or twice a month, but it was his grandmother who raised him – teaching him to sew, cook and treat women well.
On Valentine’s Day when he was 15, his grandmother encouraged him to go visit his mother with whom he had a difficult relationship. After an argument with his mother, he returned home to find his grandmother in bed, no longer breathing. He held her for the final moments of her life and after that, his life was forever changed.
From the age of 16, he was living on his own. One day, he was raped by 3 men and started taking drugs to block out the memory. Though he tried many times to stop over the years, he continuously slipped back into his old ways.
Now, at the age of 42, he is taking control of his life. He decided that he could no longer hide behind drugs and needed to face reality. When we spoke, he had been drug free for over a year. And although he always worked odd jobs, he is now proud to have a career as a security guard. Even better, he had just received a housing voucher and was hoping to move out of the shelter soon.
The thing he was most proud of was the fact that his 17 year old son was back in his life. After 15 years without contact, and after everything Roger did to himself, he was touched that his son still wanted to be part of his life.
The black swirling ocean with black rocks at the bottom represents the sorrow and pain of Roger’s past. The one bubble of happiness represents his grandmother and the life they had together (there is a faint image of my grandmother in that circle). Roger’s hand emerges from the depths and clings to the rope that he is climbing to his new life. At the top of the rope will be keys representing the ones he will use to enter his new apartment and his new life.