A few months ago Ronald Griffin, Sr. from Golden Meadows, La., gave me a 23-page typed written manuscript of his life and ask if I would read it and possibility use it in my columns. I finally read it and because of the length, I have divided his life story in two columns.
Ronald was born on May 22, 1935. He had six older siblings who were all born about 18-20 months apart. His arrival into this world was unexpected, about five years after his youngest sibling. He writes, “I wasn’t wanted.” His sister, Naise, raised him as an infant. Unfortunately, his sister dropped him and his nose became crooked.
Ronald’s parents were poor and lived off the land – fishing, shrimping and trapping fur animals to provide for their household. On the way home from Lafitte, La., he writes, “My Mother said to my Dad, ‘Let’s stop and put the baby on the side of the road. Maybe someone better off than us will pick him up.’ So my Father stopped the car near a big oak tree and Mom put me on a blanket and left me there.”
He goes on to write, “My Dad was watching me in the rear view mirror; he said my Mom never looked back. When I was almost out of view, my Dad turned the car around and came back to pick me up. My Mother said, ‘What are you doing?’ Dad answered, ‘You don’t think for one minute that I would leave that child there to die of hunger or be eaten by wild animals.’”
His parents had three other children and Ronald became the “whipping boy” for any problem that arose. Because his nose was injured from his fall as an infant, he had a hard time breathing especially when he tried to breathe deeply. People made fun of him for the noise he made when he breathed deeply. Still, he says, “Not knowing it then, but God was there with me in my pain.”
As a poor family, they all went hungry. He writes, “My little brother and I had pot bellies that were full of worms.” (Eating under-cooked meat from infected animals is the main cause of tapeworm infection in people.) Before he was treated, the worms even got into his head.
Because Ronald’s family was poor, there was never enough food to feed all 12 mouths. There was a pig pen in the neighborhood next to a bakery. His cousin told him, “‘The baker would put old pies, coffee roles and bread in a big can for the butcher to feed the pigs. They were still good to eat but not to sell.’ I would often go from the playground to the bakery garbage can to eat some of this food.” Again he says, “God was helping me out, without my knowing.”
One day his aunt and uncle killed a pig and had a boucherie with pork roast, pork stew, cracklins, beans and rice and homemade bread. He writes, “No one would give me anything to eat. I was just a kid for God sake.” Later, his cousin brought him a pork sandwich in secret. People can be cruel. However, he writes, “Once again, God helped my hunger.”
Ronald quit school in the sixth grade and starting working on a boat for $5.00 a day. Most of that money went to his mother. He used to go to dances where he met his eventual wife, Bertha. He writes, “Finally, I had someone that loved me enough to live the rest of our lives together.”
He got married when he was 16 years old. Neither he nor his wife really understood what married life was all about. Neither of them were independent enough to form an interdependent relationship. So their married life went from “pillow to post.”
What often happens in relationships, one person wants to possess the other. Ronald became possessive of Bertha and they stopped doing things together like going to the dances and parties that they both liked. She became pregnant and their first son was premature. They led a good but difficult life. Because of his youth, jobs were hard to find.
To be continued next week.