A journey that leads from a disfiguring accident as a child and a life filled with abuse, to success and happiness.
What was your first memory as a child? I have asked this question many times because of my interest in the answer. The responses I received back varied considerably. These people thought and described some events so important, that it became embedded in their minds for decades. Some of these folks were in there eighties, a very long time ago, but no matter what their age, every one of them had their, “I remember the time…”
These memories, for the most part, comprised positive times with either family or friends. They ranged from as early in their life as one- to two-years old. The people would go on to describe a birthday party, playing with a friend, riding their first bicycle, grandma baking a pumpkin pie, and so on.
My first memory was at three years old, and I was having 105 sutures to close a massive wound across my face. A train hit the car I was riding in, on the side in which I was sitting. In a matter of a seconds, a collision with a train , turned me from a beautiful three-year-old, blond boy to a scarred, ugly child.
The ridicule and taunting that followed from the other children due to the facial scarring transformed me from a happy person into a lonesome, sad child.
As I got older, this escalated to the point of near destruction. The senseless physical abuse and mental torture I endured from my father was unmerciful. As a child, I was a bed wetter until I was somewhere near 10-years old. This added much stress to the already dysfunctional life I led. I felt that I was not a normal child but a freak or misfit. The beatings and agony from my father went on for several years. My father had a much different approach on my bed-wetting. He figured that I was just too lazy to get out of bed to go to the bathroom. He reasoned that I would much rather lie in the bed and urinate all over myself. So his diagnosis and plan was that he would beat it out of me! This punishment did not work, and if anything, escalated the problem. My father decided to ratchet up the beatings. He then took the approach that not only would he beat me, but he would also drape the soggy, urine-soaked blanket over my head while he beat me with the belt. There would be times where I would have to stand there for 30 minutes or more breathing in the urine soaked blankets that had a stench of ammonia. These moments seemed to last an eternity. This continued to feed and fuel the hatred deep down inside me that I had for him. I started hiding my bedwetting, sleeping each night in urine-soaked bedding. My body odor was so rancid because of it that, when I was in first grade, the teacher would send me home. I would sneak home and enter through a basement window. I hid under my bed all day in a dark, musty basement thinking of how worthless I was to the rest of the world. This had such a negative impact on my inner self. I developed into a bitter and angry child with a major chip on my shoulder.
I developed into a hardened boy that desperately needed sociological help and mental health counseling, but I received none. My life continued to spiral into a deep, dark hole.
I bought my first toothbrush when I was fourteen years old!
I describe, in this book, how I ended up homeless at sixteen; my home a tent pitched in the forest, my kitchen and living room a campfire and a folding chair, my grocery store the wilderness that surrounded me.
My older brother by 15 months (the only person who showed support and understood me) was killed in Vietnam after 2 weeks and 3 days at just 19-years old.
The descent into the dark hole of pain continued for many years. At times, this descending path was a free fall, and then it started to slow down. I managed to grab on to something in this crevice I had created and stopped from going any deeper.
At this point in my life, I needed to overcome many past issues: child abuse, homelessness, lack of any formal education, and mental health issues. I started in, and, by the grace of God, I met some angels on earth who helped me change my life. I starting looking at myself in a new light and hope was born within me. Despite all these limitations and issues, I went on to have a professional career in the banking and real estate industry. I flourished and found this transition from a hillbilly homeless kid to a white collar executive very rewarding.
I have invented and patented numerous products that are being sold across the United States and Canada. I created a company based on these inventions for the barbecue industry. Over the past 40 years, I have founded and still own three companies that are operating today.
I broke the chain of child abuse. I reared my son without ever raising a hand to him. To this day we are best friends, and he is my proudest accomplishment in life.
I have “given back” and honored my past angels on earth. I have mentored 6 people that were in the same situation as myself: total despair, no future. Through their hopes, willing not to give up, hard work, and my help, they too have become professionals. They started out as laborers just existing on little earnings. They developed into highly skilled professionals, earning six figure incomes and flourishing.
The determination to not fail, but be a winner in life, was strong within me. I read that Vince Lombardi once wrote, “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” This has inspired me more than any other seven words written.
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KIM HEMPHILL, author