Ms. Armstrong keeps an eye on her grandsons on the basketball court from the kitchen table.
Rickey (right) with brother, Reggie.
In a post from April 14th, I shared Rickey’s story about his job at Golden Corral. This post is about Donna Armstrong, the courageous and dedicated woman who raised her grandson, Rickey. Before Ms. Armstrong took custody of five-year-old Rickey and his two younger brothers she had been in a relationship and was getting ready to get married.
“He had been there all this time, while the babies had been born, sitting at the hospital with me, changing diapers. But as soon as I got custody of them, it was a different thing. So when he left it was just me and those babies, no job, no income, no transportation, no nothing, just me and the babies. I couldn’t work because there was no one I could trust to watch them. So I had to wait for federal assistance, welfare and food stamps to kick in. I got these babies in May, I didn’t get food stamps until September. I got no money until October. That was the lowest part of my life. Knowing that I had the responsibility for those kids and seeing no resources coming.”
Since that time, 19 years ago, Ms. Armstrong has successfully raised three boys single handedly. She has survived breast cancer twice and has undergone brain surgery that impaired her short-term memory. Despite these challenges Ms. Armstrong has always been there for her grandsons and still is.
“The hard part now it is that they are growing up and becoming more independent. The area we live in isn’t the best. Like a lot of times when they go to the basketball court, I sit here. That’s why it is my favorite spot. I can hear when something’s going on. Like I can hear, “Yeah, yeah, I made a basket.” But if there is a mess going on, someone is trying to fight, their tone gets different. Just being a mama I get tuned in. I’ve got three of them so that’s when I’m going up there to see what is going on. That’s the most difficult, like with any parent, turning them loose and giving them that independence. You just have to have your faith and belief that what you’ve told them and taught them will stay with them. Because when they leave out this door I’m sitting right here. The young men have to find their way, but there is too much out here you don’t want to just turn them loose.”
At the completion of my interview with Ms. Armstrong I asked her what she hoped to portray and share with others. This was her response:
“We have had challenges and obstacles in our way that could have really kept us from being a family and staying together as a family unit but I’m a praying woman and I believe in the Lord. It has been my faith that has carried me through. It’s been just me and the three of them. The four of us together is like a fist. We have to stick together. When one can’t do then the others gotta come and wrap their arms around them and keep them right there. When one ain’t got, then we got to see what the other one got. If there ain’t but one piece of bread then it gets cut up into four pieces. It’s just that simple. But they know about family. I’ve instilled that in them. There is nobody but us. I’ve given all that I can give them.”