My earliest jumble of memories:
My first memory was when I was four years old. I was in front of a mobile home. There were strawberry plants at my feet. The strawberries were very red and ripe. I pulled them from the plants and placed them in a bucket my mother was holding. This is one of my few pleasant memories of my mother.
It’s dinner time. We now live in Sun City, California. We are at the table eating. I had just watched “Popeye the Sailor Man” on TV. I remember taking a bite of spinach and then sprinting into the other room and pretending my muscles were getting larger. I laughed and returned to the table and continued eating my spinach.
It’s night. My brother cries in his crib. I hear screaming from the other room. I awaken frightened and run to my parents room. My father is standing over my mother kicking her after she has fallen from previous hits. They look at me. My father’s face is red and slobbery from being drunk my mother is in tears. My face fills with tears and I yell at him to stop it. The memory fades.
It’s now during the day. I’m playing in the backyard. I romp around and play with our shaggy dog Bear. I like to pretend he is a horse. I know bear likes me and I like him. I tumble off Bear and run across some of my dad’s marijuana plants. I look back at the damage I have done and hide. I’m scared, I know my dad won’t like this and I try to hide where he will never find me. He finds me his face is red and angry. He places me against the wall and whips the back of my legs with his belt. When I tumble down he makes me get back and up, to continue the whipping. I learn to never go near my dads marijuana.
Later that year I remember a courtroom. It’s in a brown double wide trailer among other buildings of the same style. I think it’s weird. All courts I’ve seen have been from TV and this did not look like one of those courts. My parents are getting divorced. The judge tells me my brother and I are going to live with my father. The judge looks sad. I don’t understand.
My brother are staying with my grandma one day. I like my grandma. She is old but a real nice lady. She also feeds us well. I’ve been hungrier living with my dad. We are walking to the mailbox with my brother when suddenly my mother is there. There is an argument between my mom and grandmother and then my mother takes the hands of my brother and I. She takes us to a car driven by a friend. My brother and I have just been kidnapped but we don’t even know what that is. Something doesn’t feel right but my mother is there and this is all a fun unexpected adventure.
We are at my mother’s home. It is small but clean. She is a maid which cleans the rooms of the complex where she lives. My mother has a pile of toys for me. More than I have ever had before. I decide to later take them outside to play with and talk with other neighbor kids. As I meet the other kids and talk with them, one by one they mention with surprise how they had a toy like one of mine but lost it. It’s too many to be an accident. I know my parents and I feel ashamed. I give each toy back to their owners. I don’t mention that it was my mom that stole a toy from each of their homes for me. I’m left with my brown semi truck that I had with me when my mother took me.
It’s night we are driving fast in my moms boyfriends truck. It smells like beer and pork rinds. The beer tastes nasty. We are driving fast down Railroad Canyon road in Lake Elsinore. (I looked up up later and the water tower there matches my memory). My dad spotted us and we are racing off from him.
Having chickenpox in a small home was not fun. They covered the showers drain with a rag and filled it with an inch or two of water and baking soda. I tried splashing it on me but I was still miserable. I always heard it helped but it didn’t.
It’s night. My Mother is holding my brothers and my hands. We are running. We cross an open field and hop across a ditch. My father is after us. This is scary. He will hurt us. I’m scared. In my free hand I clutch my little brown truck. We run.
It’s night. My brother and I are safely in my mother’s home. My brother and I sleep on the couch. I hear talking from my mother’s room. This is strange so I open her door. I stand in fear as I take in the scene. The window had been forced open in the night, my father is inside. He is speaking with my mom. They look over and tell me it’s okay as they continue to talk.
We go to Mexico. We leave so quick I have no shoes and we buy some there. We stay a few days and then return California. We are then at my dad’s home.
Also warm powdered milk and food stamp food in the 80’s tasted nasty but it was better than some of the later starving.
I remember later staying with dad and his girlfriend Cheryl. I remember feeling real sick and then I started getting spots and I was worried I was getting a different looking version of the chicken pox. It was a bit of a confusing experience as a kid. I remember staying on a couch downstairs for over a week. I remember them telling me later that I what I had was the measles.
It’s evening. My dad is hitting me with a belt across the back of my legs and back. He had a thick belt but it had one of those large metal buckles. That’s the part he liked to hit me with. He’s drunk and a cigarette is hanging out of his mouth. He’s made about something and I don’t know what. He would just beat me like that sometimes when he was drunk and back from the card house he worked at.
I remember not eating for more than a day. My brother and I have been left alone and we are hungry and tired. I find some stale ice cream cones and we eat them. I fill a glass with water from the faucet and we drink.
I’m at school. I went to kindergarten and 1st grade when I got myself ready. The lunch lady forged my dads name on the free lunch form so I have that. I feel sick. I go to the nurse. She goes to give me some medicine and I mention how one of my “aunts” says it tastes bitter like coke. They ask me more about it and I tell them of the bricks of weed, bags of coke, and stash of weapons my dad has. They ask me more and later CPS takes us away.
A more clear narrative:
Around 1986 I and my four year old brother Jason entered Foster Care, while living in Lake Elsinore, California. We were placed in several shelter homes before being placed in the home of an uncle. While living with my uncle, his daughter was diagnosed with Cancer. It was too much for his family to handle all at once, so my brother and I moved to a permanent placement foster home.
We lived at that home for several years in Rubidoux, California. While at that home the parents generally had two to four other foster children and their own daughters Alicia and Carissa. Previously I had fallen behind in school, going only when I wanted to. While at that home I caught back up in school through the work of a great teacher I had. Once I had acquired appropriate reading skills, I began to take off. I also had the opportunity to begin being a part of a Boy Scout Troop and be baptized into the local LDS church. The family decided to adopt my brother and I and began the process while moving to Oregon. We moved into a rental home in Aloha, Oregon and later moved into a house across the street that the family purchased.
I have fond memories of hiking through the local park which had a bike trail and a creek bed which was surrounded by a band of trees. As I had become accustomed to, not all good things last. The mother at that home had an issue with depression and other things which required my brother and I to have to be moved out of that home. We stayed with a local family to finish the school year and then we were sent back to California. Our first home back in California was in Canyon Lake. It was my first experience in a highly affluent area. I didn’t fit in at all and struggled at the Junior High. The school was in Lake Elsinore and I quickly found that much of the school was split into cliques or gangs. I ended up hanging out with a group of ‘geeks’ that were of mixed race. This didn’t go well with the local white supremacist gang and I like others were targeted by its members. This began to taper off after I decimated one of the gang members in a fight at the basketball courts. I began to feel like I had found a place, so of course it was time to move again.
The family in Canyon Lake was moving to Arizona and my brother and I moved in with a family in Murrieta, California. While in Murrieta I began my first semester of seventh grade again and began reading a “Samurai’s Tale” for the second time that year. Portions of the curriculum were the same as before and I did better in some areas. I still didn’t really excel in school. As I look back at it, I felt depressed and confused at the continual adaptation I had to perform to just try to fit in. The family in Murrieta already had five kids of their own, so my brother and I added to an already large family with regular customs of their own that were alien to me. I remember a theft of some money occurred in the home. I didn’t do it, yet I was heavily suspected and blamed. I had my own suspicions but they were not listened to. It still makes me angry to think of that incident of being unfairly charged and tried in a home without proof. The eldest son and I also got in many fights. I think he wanted to feel like the ‘Alpha’ in the home and one thing I learned in Foster Care was to never back down. If you backed down they would just brutalize you again. With all the fighting the decision was made for my brother and I to move on.
We moved in with a family in Temecula, California which had one daughter of their own. I still keep in touch with my ‘sister’ Erin and her mother. While at that home I began again the second semester of seventh grade. I also began a ‘Samurais Tale’ for the third time that year. At that point I felt I was becoming quite the expert on it. In that home under the strict oversight of the mom I began to improve in school. I went from around a 2.0 average to a 3.3 average. It felt good to excel again. I also enjoyed taking long walks through the local desert canyon and thinking. I continued advancement in Boy Scouts. My brother didn’t do well under the strict guidelines and rebelled. He went to a group home in Yucaipa. During that time I did even better in High School earning a 4.0.
Later the pressure of dealing with CPS became too much and that family quit foster care. I was placed in a foster home with six other foster kids in Corona. I started wrestling and enjoyed that. My brother moved to that home to live with me again. I rebelled against the foster care system by being super active in church, since my first amendment right stopped them from limiting my participation. I enlisted in the Army Reserves and I also prepared a mission packet. I knew that I could get a temporary separation to serve a mission. I met Sarah at church dances and began dating her.
I served a two year mission in Colorado and returned home and married Sarah in San Diego. I put her through school while working different jobs. I also deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan for a little over two years total. During my second deployment Joseph was born. At the end of that deployment I was offered a job in San Antonio and now my family lives out here.
Who is Paul Darr?
Paul Darr has lived in the Inland Empire region of California, Oregon, Colorado and currently lives in San Antonio, Texas. Paul is also an Army Veteran, who has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. On the political spectrum Paul is a Libertarian that advocates fiscal responsibility and social tolerance. Paul is currently employed as a Computer Support Technician and is a father of a handsome boy and beautiful daughter. In his free time Paul enjoys reading, using and modifying open source software, gaming and several other geeky pursuits.