I grew up in Detroit Michigan, the youngest of three
children. My father worked as a bus driver and mom
worked in retail. I have a brother seven years older who
lives in San Francisco somewhere. And an older sister, I
have no idea where she might be at the time. We don't
have what you'd call a real close family. It might stem
from the fact everyone in the neighborhood knew mom
had an affair and I was the result.
When I was sixteen my bubble burst when I met my biological father. The
asshole ignored me and walked inside the restaurant with his lady friend. I
never saw him again. The only father I'd known changed toward me when I was
fifteen, and nothing was ever the same.
My new motto: fuck it.
I took matters into my own hands, hung with a new set of friends, gave up on
school and hung out on the streets. At least they welcomed me in the hood,
which was more than they did at home.
No question, things were chilly in the Stemple house. Mom and dad slept in
different rooms. My sister and brother moved away and rarely visited. Every
day the cold hostility between my parents pushed me further and further from
home. After several stints in juvie, mom refused to pick me up. Faced with the
consequences of my actions, I did what any smart-ass teen would do. I
rebelled. That is until the powers that be took me on a road trip to state prison.
The words 'scared straight' sent a shiver of fear to my heart.
It seemed they choose the most brutal, cut throat men to talk to us that day. The
catcalls from the men behind bars, as we walked to the discussion room,
chilled my blood. The thought of me getting raped sexually had never
entered my mind. It seemed the soup of the day. Large tattooed men sat and
told their stories, a few asked questions, but all of them stared. Feeling like a
rib eye steak, one thought rotated in my mind as we left that cold fall day. I'd be
damned if anyone would take my ass. That meant I had to shape the hell up.
After returning to juvie, I studied and received my GED. A suit and tie didn't
fit my personality. I was more hands on. I entered Michigan's Prison Build
Program. Now it's changed a lot since then, but it's still pretty good. It turned my
life around. After completion, I journeyed under Mr. Grimes, a great guy, and
became a Master Electrician. Later I did the same with Pete Stanley for
plumbing. Working seven days a week, living in some rooms above the shop, I
saved, bought tools and learned the trades.
I'd met Smoke and Red in the Build program. We worked well together on
teams and talked about continuing when we left the yard. The connections we’d
made with each other was solid, and as each of us gained release we
developed our company, taking odd jobs until we could get more mainstream. It
was hard work but we made it.
I met two females that changed my
life. Cherise Walters, my woman
and Lenore Stemple my daughter. I
missed the first four years of
Lenore's life. Her mom refused to
allow me to see my daughter. Her
mom apologized before she was murdered, but I'll never recover that time.
She's a delight, and although Cherise is not her birth mother, a man couldn't
ask for a better woman to raise my baby girl. I'm a lucky man. I almost lost
Cherise through stubbornness and plain arrogance.
It's difficult for most people to open up and share themselves. With most men
and me, it rates up there with tooth pulling w/out anesthesia. No one likes to
look deep inside at all the ugly things they've done. But, as my boy Red
said, that was the price of admission for me to have a serious relationship with
Cherise. Am I glad I took the chance? You bet your sweet ass I am. I can't get
into all the ups and downs of our relationship, you'll have to read the book.
"Have I Told You Lately." From time to time, Cherise and I'll keep you posted
on what's happening in our lives. Red's proposed to Denise, no great surprise
there. But the look Cherise's mom gave me at the reception let me know they
expect something along those lines soon. We'll see.