How a quiet, bookish kid came to faith while living among rageaholics.
Some days are like a hot iron, searing their events into your memory. This was one of them—sun shining, birds chirping, and me playing on the front porch of our cracker-box rental house in North Denver.
To my five-year-old self, it was a perfect afternoon. No gunshots, no gang-filled cars creeping by looking for trouble as they often did in our neighborhood, where my family was no stranger to violence. (We were often at the center of it.)
Everything was good that day—at least until a shiny, new car pulled up and the driver began staring in my direction. It was Paul, one of the men my Ma had married. He had up and left us without warning, and we hadn’t heard from him in months.
Ma caught sight of him out the kitchen window. Cursing like a sailor, she hunted down our baseball bat. Charging out of the house, cigarette hanging from her lips, she dared Paul to get out of the car. As he considered her offer, she started swinging at the headlights and the windshield.
Paul made the tactical mistake of getting out. Not missing a beat, Ma stopped smashing the car and started smashing him instead. When he finally limped back to the driver’s seat and peeled off, I knew we’d never see him again.
Instantly, I realized two things: One, I would never disobey Ma again. And two, something had ignited a rage in her that consistently led to incidents like this. Years later, my grandma told me what that something was.
All the rage
Ma was a partier, and I was a result of one of the parties, where she had met a guy named Toney. She got pregnant. He got transferred (he was in the Army). Instead of facing her conservative Baptist parents, Ma drove from Denver to Boston, under the pretense of visiting my uncle Tommy and …