Part 2: There but for fortune: a mother’s story

State of Florida


This is the true story of heartache, physical, sexual and alcohol abuse, love, hate, financial burdens and finally, finding joy, happiness and hope.

We trust that you will understand why the names and some of the circumstances had to be changed to protect the privacy and safety of some of the people in this story. It contains information that is true, but the situations have been framed in slightly different circumstances, or alternative locations to protect the source of the story. In some cases, several people have been combined into one person or events gathered into one time frame for the same reason, to protect the source of the story, who still lives in Cullman County.

This could very well be happening right there in your neighborhood. It could be happening to one of your classmates, your co-workers or your neighbors. It could happen to you, as the song says, “There but for fortune, go you, or I.”


As Keri worked on this project memories that had long been buried began to surface. She felt purged, relieved to get it out after so long. At the age of 35, she is, at long last, talking about what happened to her, allowing herself to love that little girl who was hurt so badly so many years ago, and in doing so, letting that little girl go…

People have told Keri that when she was 2 weeks old she was left by her mom on a relative’s doorstep. Of course, she doesn’t remember that. She was shuffled around between the aunt, her dad and her grandparents until her dad had his sober moments and was able to care for the children, but that only lasted short periods of time, sporadically, and she doesn’t remember much, she would have been too young. However, at the point where our last story ended, when the teacher came to her rescue, she remembers more about her brother than herself; the marks on his neck were caused by an electrical cord being wrapped around his neck. “Daddy was choking him with a lamp cord,” she said.

She and her brother were in multiple foster care situations for about two years. They attended so many schools that Keri has lost count.

She still tries to focus on what was good, instead of what was so bad. She remembers going to Florida with her grandparents, and some cousins in a big green van. She recalls seeing the ocean and looking out at night at the twinkling lights. “My grandparents were like two young people on that trip,” she smiled. “They were always cuddling and smiling, happy, and I never heard them argue back then. We always had fun when we were with them.”

She remembers the names of exotic sounding towns, Mexico Beach, Panama City and San Destin, and sticking her toes in the water. “But I never got to sit on the beach and just watch the waves or the sun come up or go down,” she said pensively.

It was on that trip when the nightmare began again…

“We were sleeping in the back of the van,” she said, tears beginning to course down her face. “It was awful; I remember the things that he did back there, with his hands… I remember being scared of him, and that I would get in trouble. I tried to get up from the bed but he held me down – I couldn’t move, he was telling me to be quiet, I was crying, but holding it inside, to keep people from hearing me. I pulled the covers over my head and pretended to be asleep.”

When they finally stopped at a gas station, Keri got away from him. “I was able to go in the gas station to get a drink and a snack,” she said. “I know when we got back in the van someone else was sitting back there, so I got to sit in another single seat.”

“The bad thing is that in the back of my mind I think that they knew – I mean how can you not see the signs of a child hurting, a child with some sort of heartache?” she implored. “It’s unreal to think that they didn’t know …

“I know my grandparents cared for me but why couldn’t they see all those signs I know were there?” she asked again. “I remember them coming in from work and I would be sitting in the recliner with him, blankets over us; I remember him taking me to town saying, “I’ll buy you stuff if you will be quiet. We can go get anything you want.”

As she got older the bribery didn’t work anymore. That’s when the threats to hurt the people she loved, or to hurt her, began.

“I really wish I had told someone,” she cried. “I look back now and I could have ended it long before if I had just been wiser… then I would have been able to run away and got some help. I know I was young but if I had only known what to do to get the help I needed, I would have!”

At the tender age of 9, when other little girls were playing with Barbie dolls and going to ballet lessons, Keri’s world had changed once again.

There were times she broke down and cried. If anyone asked what was wrong, she said that kids at school were mean, covering up for his abuse.

Only now is Keri able to voice these horrible things, for so much of her life there was always darkness where she dared not let her mind go…


Part 3 of “There but for fortune: a mother’s story” will be published next week, in the Feb. 16 edition of The Tribune.

Read part 1 here:

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