My mom was a single parent. Toys were something we deserved, like the organ I always wanted. I wanted it so bad. I wanted one because my friends had them. My mom had seven kids and should have been on services. But her thing was if you’re able-bodied, you should work. You work. All she did was work. She kept working to get us out of bad neighborhoods, which I didn’t understand because I had a ball. We moved around the Flint Hills area. People were always stopping by our place. My mom used to cook for everyone. The boys that lived around us always knew when it was time to eat. It was like six o’clock at night and my mom would always feed them. She would feed them before us because she said we would always have food to eat.
I can’t work. I had surgery in 2005. I was working twelve hour shifts right after my surgery, doing fine. I went to sleep one day in January and woke up and couldn’t walk for six months. I couldn’t walk because of a staff infection in my back from surgery. It took forever to get rid of that thing. I have a rod in my back now because my bones were weakened from the infection. The doctors keep saying they want to take it out but I tell them to leave me alone because I have had enough surgery. I go to Pawnee Mental Health now. I just thank God everyday I can walk.
I have a little bitty apartment. It’s too small. I told my family that lives with me to make it work. I have two nieces and their children and my grandkids that live with me. My nieces though, they are out of control. My sisters won’t take them, so I did. Some days I just can’t; I have to take the babies and leave for a little. A bunch of grown women “PMSing” isn’t good. My nieces never understand that they aren’t kids anymore because they have kids. Just teenagers being teenagers, I guess.
I usually come to the Breadbasket at the end of the month just to be able to make it. On food stamps, you never know when you’re running out. I’m the cook. I usually feed my neighbors that stop by on the weekends. I feel like if someone has given to me, it’s my job to try and feed them. It’s like a blessing thing my mom told me about, “If you’re blessed enough to give to someone, blessing will be given to you.” I’m trying to teach this to my grandkids. Their dad is in prison so I’m trying to show them to give more than they receive. My grandson, he takes apples and candy to his teacher and kids at school. I’m real proud of him because I know he is on the right track. And, well, he picks up after himself so I’m pretty happy about that. When the kids come to my house, I don’t pick up after them. I show them that we all make a mess here and we all have to pick up our mess.
As told to Natalie Johnston