Updated: Jun 29, 2020
| This is the 307th story of Our Life Logs |
My parents fell in love in prison. Not many people can say that! Back then, detention centers were co-ed. My father, a married, successful businessman and well-known street king, was mixed up in a bad business deal which cost him a couple years behind bars. He and his wife separated soon after, and he was left lonely and heartbroken. Then he met my mother. She was more accustomed to incarceration and the street life. It wasn’t her first rodeo with the judicial system when they met, and she was not ashamed of it. With mahogany brown skin, sun kissed from her Creole roots, her beauty made her look innocent. When my parents were in jail, they formed a deep connection that went beyond the bars. Their love spilled out into the free world and made me. I was born in Salem, Oregon, in 1983.
My father wanted things to work out with my mother, but the only thing she was loyal to was her street life. Six months after my mother became pregnant, my dad found out that she had three other children that lived with someone else. He realized then that she wasn’t the motherly type. And soon after I was born, she disappeared to the streets, making my father a single parent.
My father took me everywhere with him. He was my hero, patient, always smiling, and with a heart of gold. He was the guy everybody loved, and I wanted to be like him. I looked forward to growing up and making him proud. But I never got the chance.
One day when I was just six years old, my father dropped me off at my grandmother’s house in Portland, Oregon. My father always had the help of his sisters and my grannie. I remember him looking a little out of sorts that day. I wanted to stay with him, but he insisted that I go with my grannie. He hugged me a little bit tighter and longer than usual. Then he drove off.
That same day, my father passed away of a massive heart attack. He was just 47. I was sad, broken and confused, but most of all, I was angry. I think that my father knew somehow that he was going to pass away that day, and he did not want me to be there. But I wanted to be there! It made sense why he’d been acting strange. Even as young as I was, I could feel that something odd was coming before he died. Still, to this day I can feel when the death angel is lurking.
Living without my father wrecked me. After his death, I went to live with my grannie, although it was never just her. There were usually about 13 other members of my extended family living in her three-bedroom, one-bath house at once. I was surrounded by my large loving family, but I still missed my father terribly and went through a depression. I had to be in therapy for a couple years, and in some of the sessions, I would just sit there and not speak.
The sadness only worsened as I grew up. It hurt to know that my mom was out of jail and had no interest in having a relationship with me despite living in the same city. The few times I did speak with her, she told me I’d have a better life with my grannie. While that may have been true, I was still desperate for her love. The only parent I had left didn’t want to see me. Imagine how that must have felt—to be rejected by your own mother, a person who’s designed to love you. By the time I was 15, I pretended like her absence didn’t bother me, but the pain ended up coming out through acts of defiance.
I started getting into fights at school that forced me to switch schools and push back my chance to graduate on time. My grannie, a frail old woman in her 80s, couldn’t keep up with a rebellious teenage boy. Eventually, one really intense fight landed me in trouble with the juvenile criminal system. Luckily, my aunt who lived in Pasadena was an attorney and spoke up for me at my court hearing. She convinced the judge to allow her to take me in. This stopped the criminal charges from being pressed against me.
I straightened up my act when I moved to Southern California, and I found therapy on the basketball court. And thankfully I was pretty good, so my skills got me into a historically black college in Texas. After I left home, I was pretty much on my own.
For the first year in school, I balanced academia and athletics with poverty and celiac disease. Simply put, I loved going to college but I was too poor to eat. I couldn’t survive off the gluten-heavy noodles and Burger King like most of my fellow students.
I ultimately dropped out in 2002 because I just couldn’t afford to stay. Still, I told myself that I would be successful. I decided to get everything I needed to go into professional bodyguard work and do that until I saved enough to go back to school. Then I would be back on the path that I’d almost squandered in adolescence. But as it goes, life happens, and our plans end up being redesigned by a master designer I call God. God’s plan was different than mine.
A year after leaving school, I was diagnosed with Lupus. With no one by my side, I took the diagnosis and tucked it away in the most private place of my mind and pretended like it didn’t exist. I rationalized that maybe if I ate right, exercised, and took more vitamins, it would go away on its own.
And that worked (sort of) until I was almost 30. I was feeling so winded one day that I fainted in my home. I knew then that I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I didn’t want to end up like my father, dying so early in life, especially before I had a chance to really my life count. I was finally ready to take medication or do whatever was necessary.
However, as my health improved, things in Los Angeles were getting complicated for me financially. So finally, I threw up the flag of surrender to LA and decided to move to Las Vegas, Nevada, where I could go all the way with my bodyguard career and make money with sports bets. I hoped that the luck of the town would rub off on me. It had to.
I’m glad I followed my intuition because everything started falling in place when I moved to Las Vegas. I went into remission for my Lupus diagnosis. I got some bodyguard work but found the most fun in trying my luck as a taxi driver. It was a great way to explore the excitement of Las Vegas while getting paid.
Although, I was still lonely at heart. It seemed like I would be at work all the time and even though I was meeting people and exploring the town, I was still on the clock. The money was good, but the hours sucked. I had that empty space that I had in Portland, Oregon. I wanted to belong to a family that I created, flesh of my flesh.
Dating didn’t go so well at first, so I settled for growing my family by adopting a Boston terrier named Chocolate who had most prominent brown eyes I had ever seen. But then, fate brought me Melodie in July 2015. I spoke to her for months before we met in person and was already head over heels. She was like the female version of myself, yet her strengths were my weaknesses and vice versa. Although she felt the same about me, her guard was still up after leaving a toxic relationship before we met. On our second date, she pulled out a 21-question interview sheet and drilled me hard, but I loved it. I loved her. She was already a wife, just needing her husband.
We got married and I welcomed her two children from her previous relationship with loving arms. We had twin baby boys together, and with my dog Chocolate in the mix, we became the family I’d been dreaming of.
I can honestly say that I feel like I am living my most rewarding life now. To live a life with a woman who completes me and gave me the family that I have been searching for all these years has healed my mind, body and soul. Just to breathe, every day is a blessing that I remember daily. When I look back on my life, I’m reminded that great things and good endings can happen if you don’t give up. I made it through the struggle that was my life for 30 years, but now I wake up smiling every day. I wake up very tired (from the joys of parenting) but laughing so big from the inside out!
I think I found happiness because I refused to let my past hold me back from getting what I wanted. I didn’t want to be the statistic of another inner-city kid whose dad died, and mother was in prison who ended up in prison too. After planting so many seeds of hope, I am finally in the season of my life that I can harvest something good from all the pain. It was the rain that made my seeds grow. The rain is not botanical if there is no sunshine. My family is my sunshine. This is the season of me—the season of growth.
This is the story of Harvester Harris
Harvester is now 36 and lives in Las Vegas with his wife and their four children. After losing his father at age six and never truly knowing his mother, Harvester grew up with a lot of pain, which led him down a destructive path that he was finally able to get out of once he stopped masking his pain. He and his wife are currently putting their first house on the market so they can move back to Portland, Oregon and raise the children around family. Harvester enjoys anything outdoors. He is a fisherman, lover of ATV’s and off-roading, but he loves being a husband and father more than anything else. He can be found wrestling with his three sons all over the house at any time of the day. He is a great chef and has mentored young boys as a “Big Brother” in the Big Brother Big Sister program. He still does bodyguard work to this day.
This story first touched our hearts on February 2, 2019.
| Writer: Melodie Hunter | Editor: Kristen Petronio |