As I look back on the path either chosen or made for myself, I understand where I came from. I didn’t understand my life until I was about thirteen years old. It was then I realized my own existence. Life for me was about family, and it was driven into my head. When I lived with my mother, her household consisted of work. It was a necessity, as well as respect. As her third daughter and middle child, I had to stand my ground with all the different personalities.
Imagine being in a house where there are people everywhere at all times. Some things I remember, others I don’t, so this is only my point of view. I refused to be a problem child. I wasn’t trying to gain points. I just respected my mother, cared for her and everyone else. I felt like caring for others was rewarding. I felt like it was something I had to do. In my Mother’s house we all cooked, cleaned, washed walls, polished fixtures, etc. At this time I started to view my mother differently. I was about sixteen years old.
One day she was sitting on her bed and called for me. “Baby, could you get me a glass of water? At that moment, I looked at her and noticed how tired she looked, despite the strength she portrayed. There was a lot going on with 10 kids and friends. I was slowly starting to understand her situation. I became a caretaker.
I gradually took care of all needs that had to be met. As time went on, I graduated from High School. That was the saddest day of my life. I always felt alone and isolated even when people were around. I celebrated my graduation alone at Lincoln Elementary School, which was up the street from my mother’s house. I sat at the school, got drunk, went home, and then went to bed.
I got up the next day and felt like something was changing. The summer of “77” is when I met my son’s father. I was playing softball for a team called the Shocker’s. One day while we were practicing he walked up to me and introduced himself.
“Hi my name is Percy Keller and you are going to be mine.”
“Yeah.” I responded.
Before I could say anything my friend walked up. “Is he trying to talk to you?”
“Yes” I said. “I know him. I have seen him around.”
She knew everybody. Days went by I ran into him again. We finished a game and went to have drinks. We walked in and Percy and his friends were there. He walked over to me and said, “Do you want to be mine?”
“I don’t know you!” I said.
A few more days passed, I and again I saw him a third time at a pool hall called Pachinkos. We were shooting pool. He finally asked me on a date. We went to a Disco called The Four Gents Once we were inside; he sat me at a table and mingled all night with others. He didn’t spend one moment with me, and then took me home.
He wanted to see me again, so the next day we went for a ride. We went riding, went to his house, and the rest is history. Our relationship only lasted three months, but long enough for me to get pregnant.
I pulled Percy aside and told him I was pregnant. He said it wasn’t his. “I have seen you
with other men” he said. It took everything in me not to cuss this man out. I walked away and went home. On the way home I cried. For him to hurt me was one thing, but to deny his child was different. A rage started in me that lasted for 20 years or more. There were others things going on too. I was about 6 months pregnant when I ran into his mother at the grocery store. She asked if I was Sharlene Brown, and I replied yes. She said, “That bastard you are carrying is not my son’s.” Since we were in a grocery store, I paid for my stuff and went outside. A few minutes later Mrs. Keller came out. I said “Mrs. Keller, you don’t know me.”
She said “I know you are accusing my son of fathering your child.”
“Your son is the father. I really don’t care what he does or not do. We will be fine. Don’t you ever get in my face and disrespect me again or I’m going to forget you are my elder.” After that I was angrier than before. One day I was walking down the street and Percy pulled up beside me. “Will you please get in?” So I did.
“I heard you had words with my mother?”
“Yes. Your mother disrespected me.”
“Well you stop running around telling people that is my child.”
I turned to him and said, “You and your mother can kiss my behind. Both of you are wrong. I threw one back at him “your mother has been messing with someone I know well.” I asked her about that. After that was over he just left me alone.
Percy did nothing for his son. The man that is Jason J. Brown I made. I was alone for a long time until I met Billy. One night Jason’s father invited me out, so I got dressed and walked to the Disco. When I entered he was in some woman’s face. I just couldn’t do this to myself anymore. I turned around and walked out. Pacing up and down the sidewalk lost in my thoughts. A voice said, “Hi. I’m William. They call me Billy for short. I can see something is bothering you.
“I’m fine.” I said.
“Well how about I buy you a drink?”
We went back inside, got a table, ordered drinks and began to talk. He told me about his mother and sister. He also had three half-sisters. I told him a little about my life. I mentioned how I lived with my mother, had a big family and a son.
Everything was going fine until Percy asked to talk to me. I walked to the corner of the bar and spoke to him. “What are you doing with him? You are with me.”
“You have spent the whole night in that woman’s face.” I said.
“We are just friends. He replied. “So are you going home with me?”
I said no and walked away.
The Disco was closing and people were leaving. I started to walk home when William asked if he could walk with me. I agreed.
As I looked back Percy was putting the other woman in his car. At that moment my heart was truly broken and I was done. Not over him, I was just done dealing with the situation. Billy and I continued to walk home. I finally got to my mom’s house and we sat and talked to early morning. Before he left, he asked if he can see me again. I agreed.
Billy was like a breath of fresh air in the middle of a storm. Over the months we saw each other on a regular basis. One night he took me out to his Grandmother’s bar. There I met his sister and another Aunt. I felt myself having feelings for him. By this time my son was seven yrs. old.
We were out one night and he asked me to be his woman. I agreed. I later got pregnant with Carmen. By this time Billy had been gone for five yrs. I conceived when he returned. I left him the first time, because he was cheating. I was also approached by his mother. She begins to tell me that Billy was only seventeen. I panicked. I thought she was going to press charges on me I was nineteen. By this time he was back in my life.
Billy never brought his other women to the surface, but I knew they existed. I gave birth to Carmen in “83.” Looking back I made excuses for his behavior. After Carmen was born, I moved out of my mother’s house and moved on Erie St. We were still together. He treated Jason as his own. One night we were talking and he started to cry. He started telling me about all the abuse he had endured in his life. The thing that sent him over the edge was his stepfather made his mother choose between him and Billy. She choose her husband and he had to leave her house. After that incident Billy became angry, bitter, and destructive. It destroyed him.
I lived on Erie for two yrs. and moved to Oak St where I got pregnant with Annette. I was four months when I started having problems with my pregnancy. The doctor said I couldn’t be alone, so I moved in with my mother. We were still seeing each other, but he was not allowed in my
Mom’s house. We met at a restaurant. In my pregnancy I was having muscle spasms, rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure. It was all going bad. Finally, I gave birth and my daughter was fine. Annette was about two weeks old when I took my kids home.
At home, everything was out of place. I had a roommate and she did nothing. She paid no bills and broke my bed. She put holes in the walls and destroyed the kitchen. Not only did I have to get all the utilities back on, I had to pay for all the damage her and her man did. After things returned to normal I felt better. I had been home a week when Billy showed up one night. I opened the door and he gave me a kiss. The first thing he said was you are still beautiful and your stomach is flat. It doesn’t look like you gave birth. Then he went and saw the kids. Annette was in my bed. He picked her up and said just like her mother beautiful. He said, “You know I love you guys. you are my heart.” That was the last time I saw him alive.
Another week went by and I hadn’t heard from him. I put him in the back of my mind because I had to take care of my kids. One morning I got up to feed the kids and heard a knock on the door. It was Wendy my sister, Denise Allen his half – sister and the kids grandmother. I let them in. “What is wrong?” I asked.
The kids Grandmother was getting ready to tell me when his sister blurted it out. Billy is dead!”
At this time there was another knock on the door. It was my sister Sonya. She lived upstairs from me. The kids’ grandmother repeated what was said. They found Billy dead in the Ohio Canal in Akron, Ohio. I was in shock. I forgot I was holding my daughter and let go, but my sister caught her. She said that he was woke up in the middle of the night by gunpoint and took to the basement of this house then handcuffed to a pipe. The killer started talking about Billy trying to hit on his girlfriend and steal her car. The first bullet killed him instantly. He wrapped him in garbage bags and tied two cinder blocks around him. Toss him in the Canal. He had two accomplishes. They fled to Mississippi or Kentucky. They found the gun in a mud pit.
He wasn’t viewed by me. His mother saw him. At the funeral there was only a picture. That day was hard and trying. Carmen and Jason knew him. Annette never got the chance. He was cremated. At the trail I had to carry my children with me since I had no one to watch them.
For two weeks I had to endure the testimonies from other women in his life. I was so mentally and physically drained I was going through the motions to get by. Some of these women were smirking at me but when the court only recognize me as his Common Law Wife I felt better. When they started to view pictures I had to leave the courtroom. They didn’t want to traumatize me. I couldn’t cry my children were watching, so I fought back the tears.
One day I was walking to the courtroom and I looked in a room and there he sat. When he saw me he said, “William has good taste in women. When I get out this mess I will look you up.” Then winked. I couldn’t move. By this time the prosecutor had intervened and escorted me to the courtroom. He then had words with the suspect. Found out he had two other men helping him. On the stand they said they helped him because he threatened their families. I also learned that he worked in the burn unit at a major hospital.
He was also abusing his mother and wife. Scaring them and covering it up. When all was said and done he got life, and his buddies got 35 years each.
When it was over I was drained. You never get over something like that. You learn to live with it. My life has been hard. I walked all over Massillon trying to take care of my family. I endured so much ridicule, no support, walking the floors at night worrying about my children. The world had beat me up and tossed me away. I felt lower than crap. Nothing I was doing was working. Even though I went to college, worked many jobs and earned several certificates and earned a Nurse’s Aide License. I felt like no one cared. It was me and my kids against the world. I had family and I will leave it at that. My mother saw my struggle and she talked to me one day. She said, “Baby, God sees you struggle and he is with you. You have been through so much and you haven’t bent. You are a strong woman. If you weren’t my daughter, you would be of friend of mine.”
The reason I didn’t surrender to all that I was going through was because I knew someone had it worse. The only thing I had was my character. By me humbling myself in the face of thy enemy, it taught me to be a good person. My pain and suffering was not easy but I survived.
-Miss Sharlene Brown