Brandy Coty: “Tell me your story. Whatever you remember, whatever you want to share.”
Tim Parker: “If I had to go back, the first thing I remember is my mom and dad fought, a lot. I’m not sure why they fought. I don’t really remember, I just remember a lot of screaming and yelling. One day, I guess my mom had enough because we got in the car, drove off, and the next thing I remember is waking up in a new place.”
It never seizes to amaze me how when you ask someone to share their testimony some of the worst memories of their childhood are the first things that come to mind. The bad memories are the memories that stick out amongst the rest.
For Tim, this detour to an unfamiliar place would set an ironic tone for the years to come. For Tim, this memory is important because he went from living with his father in a middle class black home, witnessing the abuse of his mother– to the poverty stricken projects, being the sole target of abuse perpetuated by his mother.
In part one of his story, you will get a glimpse at the deep seeded emotional struggles he dealt with as a black child growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. You will learn the power and weight the words we speak over others can carry, and you will be exposed to a glimpse of his early criminal history.
Take special note of the parting words of his mother and his struggle with identify as the irony of both will carry throughout his story.
This is part one of Timothy Parker’s story.
Born in the peak of the civil rights movement, I grew up in a world where I was keenly aware of my skin tone. I always felt different. I felt like I was too dark and my lips were too full. I had prominent African features that made me feel out of place. The guys in school even drew cartoon characters that looked like me. I didn’t understand why I felt so out of place, I just did. I knew something was wrong with me and I wanted to fix myself.
I grew up in a middle class black family. My mom and dad had their problems but our needs were always met. That is… until… they couldn’t make the relationship work and my mom packed our stuff and we drove away. After the adjustment of moving to the poverty stricken projects of Liberal, Kansas — life became more challenging. I began searching for validation and acceptance. I was desperate to fit in with the “Michael Cooper’s and the Kevin Livingston’s” of the world.
From Elementary school to Middle School, I experienced another change in environment. Having gotten used to attending a school where 90% of the other children were black or Hispanic, I went to a junior high school where 99% of the kids were white.
Trying to find ways to fit in with the white kids was much harder.
I remember the first time I heard ACDC’s song Back in Black– I listened to that song over and over again so I could impress the fly white guys at school.
Dancing was a bond I shared with my dad. Once or twice a year, he would come to Kansas to visit. During one of his visits, I was dancing and my dad told me he and my mom were the best dancers in school. I loved hearing that my dancing talent came from them. This passion for dancing worked to my advantage in High School and I became known as “Dr. Jamminstein.”
The search for acceptance was a theme throughout my life. I was very impressionable and would listen to what people said. One time, the kids in school told me drugs would help me dance better and that’s all it took for me to be curious enough to try weed.
But, as all drugs do, it came with consequences.
Living with a single mother, I was expected to help with household chores. I knew that the clothes were separated on Fridays and my brother and sister were my responsibility. I learned to master my mother’s expectations to avoid getting whooped, but sometimes my recreational smoking interfered. I tested the boundaries too much and one time, I pushed my mom too far.
The incident with my mom took a toll on me, both physically and emotionally and I began to have a disdain for my mother. That hate I started to feel showed itself when I was 18 years old. I don’t even remember why she was mad but when she started to come at me with the buckle of a belt, her anger met my frustration and I grabbed her and pushed her against the wall. I couldn’t believe we had let our emotions get so out of control. That’s when my mom decided I couldn’t live with her any more.
“You ain’t no good, you’re just like your dad.
You’ll pull this same crap on him because he don’t know who you are.
You’ve only caused me pain.
I don’t even know if you’re mine.
If you keep all this up, you’ll be in jail 6 to 7 times and you’ll be in prison before you’re 25.”
I boarded the plane and thought little of my mother’s words. When I got to Dallas, it didn’t take long before I started slowly realizing parts of what she said were true. My dad knew little about me but I was desperate to impress him. I wanted him to think I was worthy of his affection.
I saw the way my mom looked at me, with disgust– like I was nobody. I didn’t want my dad to see me that way. I wanted him to be proud of me.
I remember the moment I first feared my dad would begin to have those same feelings of disgust I felt from my mom. He asked me to help with the car but I didn’t know anything about cars. I could cook, clean and tell you how to sort the laundry– but cars, I knew nothing about. He kept yelling at me to pop the hood — I didn’t even know the hood could open. He kept calling me a punk kid and told me I didn’t know nothin’ simply because I didn’t know how to pop the hood.
Falling back into feeling there was something wrong with me, I slowly drifted back to my old ways. I started stealing again, getting high on weed, and skipping school.
Going to clubs, meeting girls, and getting high – life was fun.
Until life took an unexpected turn.
Denial is the feeling that came over me when my girlfriend told me she was pregnant.
“You can’t be pregnant. It’ll make what my mom said about me right.”
I spent the next 3 months avoiding her until she called my dad and he forced me to man up. During her first trimester, I was angry. I continued smoking weed and even tried drinking. That didn’t last long because I didn’t handle liquor well. During her second trimester, she became the sexiest woman in the world. My heart and attitude were changing and I was beginning to embrace the pregnancy—that’s when she told me the baby might not be mine.
Crushed and unable to handle the news, I went off and started experimenting with new drugs. I tried the hottest drugs on the street but didn’t like any of them so I kept going back to weed. If I didn’t like it, I immediately stopped. Why keep doing something that doesn’t feel good?
In all the times I tried different drugs, I always stayed away from crack. I knew better than to try crack. I saw what crack did to people. But when my cousin uttered the words “Cuz, you don’t need to do this, you won’t be able to handle it,” I didn’t care what he was referring to, I was determined to prove him wrong.
I hit the pipe and I didn’t understand what all the hype was about. I didn’t feel anything. Then, he showed me how to do it right and that was the moment that changed my life forever.
“It was the best high I’d ever felt. Better than sex, better than any other high, better than anything I had ever experienced in my life. I had $90 on me that day and before I left his house, I spent the whole $90 and owed the guy $50 more.”
The crack train was running through my brain and every time the sounds of the bell started to dull, I needed more. My whole life, I had been able to walk away from all the other drugs and so adamantly say no if I didn’t like it, but this one was different.
Pay check after pay check disappeared and after 3 months of using, my girlfriend couldn’t take it anymore.
Not even a year!
Three months, that’s all it took for crack to ruin my life and take a turn for the worst. I was going downhill fast.
With my girl gone and my addiction growing exponentially, I was spending all the money I had on drugs.
“I had money in my pocket but I was eating out of trashcans.”
I started stealing license plate stickers to sell in exchange for drug money. I got caught a few times and added four arrests to the possession of marijuana charges I had picked up in the past. Slowly, I was starting to see my mom’s premonition coming true.
Having already been to county jail 6 times, the consequences of my actions weren’t really affecting me. Get arrested — get out – go back to the same behaviors.
The street value of license plate stickers was going up but so were the value of inspection stickers. They were a little harder to steal but with a bigger reward in store, it seemed worth it. Little did I know, I had crossed the line from petty misdemeanor theft to a felony offense. This time, I was arrested for burglary of a vehicle and I was headed to county jail for my first felony.
At 24 years old, with six prior misdemeanor arrests for theft and possession, the Judge was ready to teach me a lesson.
On August 20th, 1989, I turned 25 years old.
On September 3rd, 1989, I was sentenced to prison for the first time.
“Are you f’ing happy now? You were right. I’ve been to jail just like you said and now I’m on my way to prison.”
(This blog is Part One of a three part story. To read parts two and three, follow the links below.)
The Road to Recovery — Parolee to Peer Specialist (Part Three)