As a 9 or 10 year old, my knowledge of the situation was limited. Therefore, I can not pass judgment on the adults. I do not know what was done or not done to rescue my cousin Glen, a little boy who was severely abused by his mom, my late aunt Bummie (a nickname). My dad threatened to report Aunt Bummie to the authorities and warned her, “Do not physically discipline my kids.”
A homosexual, Glen’s adult life was cut extremely short due to AIDS. My purpose for writing is to let the world know that Glen was here, his suffering and that I loved him.
Aunt Bummie was my mom’s older sister. Their childhood was horrendous. Their father was accidentally killed in a street shooting. Their alcoholic mother would abandon the two little girls for long periods of time. Mom and Bummie endured things kids should not have to endure.
In the 1950s when Dad broke the color barrier to become a Baltimore City firefighter, our family (mom and four younger siblings) moved out of the government projects into our own home in a black suburban community.
Aunt Bummie and her five sons by two absentee fathers remained in the projects on welfare. I enjoyed occasional sleepovers at my cousins’ government provided townhouse in the city. Aunt Bummie’s house was unkempt with holes punched in walls and broken furniture.
“Aunt Bummie, when I grow up, I’m gonna buy you new furniture.” “Thanks Peanut”, (my nickname), she replied.
I got along great with Aunt Bummie and her boys. And yet, I felt my cousins’ envy of me having a dad in our home. I felt sorry for them.
Aunt Bummie and her boys lived different than my family. Aunt Bummie did not have a job. Unlike my home, the refrigerator was off limits to her children. Food was very valuable; each boy was protective of his food when eating. I remember large generic labeled boxes of government cheese and powdered milk – cans of meat and peanut butter.
Fondly, I remember Aunt Bummie covering her table with newspapers and dumping a huge pile of fried chicken necks and backs on it for us boys to devour. I still like fried chicken necks and backs.
Even as a little boy, I felt the sadness, anger and dysfunction of their household. Aunt Bummie was extremely kind and gentle with me, but brutal towards her boys – Glen in particular, the baby. I vaguely recall overhearing my parents saying Bummie hated Glen because he reminded her the most of his father.
Their household humor was weird and violent – the five boys along with Aunt Bummie would laugh hysterically about the time she broke the baseball bat while beating Jimmie and how she bent the cooking pot while beating Glen.
Glen was the family servant. When everyone was watching TV, anyone could order Glen to go fetch something for them. The slightest non compliance from Glen would result in Aunt Bummie screaming at him, and/or beating him; not spanking, beating. My heart always went out to Glen as I watched him cry during his beatings. The lack of love. The unfairness. The cruelty.
Lawrence, the eldest, was very intelligent and responsible. He played substitute dad to his brothers.