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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Guest Blogger Donald Dempsey Writes: "HOMECOMING"

Before we begin, I want to introduce you to my friend Donald Dempsey. Don is an inspirational individual who is a lemonade maker in my book. Life has thrown more lemons at Don than you and I can even imagine and yet he has taken each one and added some sugar and laughter and turned those bitter lemons into the biggest, sweetest, most refreshing pitcher of lemonade! It has been my honor and privilege to work with Don as he releases his memoir, Betty's Child. There were chapters that were downright painful to read and I cannot believe that someone lived through such abuse and neglect and has become a funny, caring, and wonderful person. Since today is my birthday and this is my blog - I get to do anything I like, and I have a special treat for YOU (in this order):

Guest Post by Donald Dempsey Titled "Homecoming"

Rafflecopter Giveaway of Betty's Child (#BCDempsey) by Donald Dempsey -

Photo of Donald and His Biography Information

Summary of Betty's Child and Book Cover

Book Review of Betty's Child by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

ENJOY!!!!! (and please comment with your thoughts and ideas)

Guest Post by Donald Dempsey

Homecomings really suck when you’re prone to bouts of melancholy.  Some of my fellow Marines had family waiting for them in Pearl Harbor, but most of those had been officers, or a few enlisted guys willing to break the bank just to get their eager paws on wives or girlfriends.  Many more had loved ones waiting for them at the docks in San Diego.  I tried to feel good for them as they rushed to embrace, attempting to ignore the gnawing in my gut.  I was ashamed of my jealousy and went back below decks for a few hours, allowing the crowd time to disperse before disembarking. 
But just about everyone had friends and family waiting for them when our C-130’s dumped us on the runways back home at Cherry Point, NC.  There were tears and hugs.  Guys swooped up their wives and spun them around.  Sobs were barely choked back as gruff Jarheads melted and scooped up toddlers and scampering young children.  A screaming wife jolted a Corporal near me right off his feet.  They just kept kissing one another atop his duffel bag as if they were alone in a hotel room instead of sprawled out on a crowded runway. 
There were more people here than I’d expected.  I noticed a lot of parents.  The larger crowd was probably due to the unexpected suicide barracks bombing.  We’d just returned from Beirut, Lebanon.  It was 1983.  The deaths of so many of our fellow Marines had affected us profoundly.  Some guy’s mother wrapped him in a bear hug, sobbing and shaking as she held him.  I could see that we hadn’t been the only ones affected as I stepped around the relieved parents.      
By the time I was back in the barracks my depression was hanging over me like a shroud.  I felt so alone.  I threw the bags I’d been lugging into my empty wall locker and contemplated my evening.  Sleep was out of the question.  Retrieving the rest of my gear meant crossing the tarmac and runway again, negotiating the laughter and smiles and happiness.  I decided to go pick up my mail instead, since my post office box was in the opposite direction of the revelers. 
Once outside I wished I’d dug out a jacket.  November wasn’t November in Hawaii or California.  I decided I could stand it for such a short distance and pushed on.  There wasn’t as much mail waiting for me as I’d thought there would be.  Seven months was a long time.  I’d had any letters forwarded, and paid my few bills in advance, so most of what I dug through was junk mail.  But one bill was repeated five times, and two of them were stamped final notice before sale.  These caught my immediate attention.
Two hours later I was driving a borrowed jeep well over the speed limit as I raced toward Columbus, Ohio.  I drove on through the night, stopping only for gas and junk food, my thoughts racing, contemplating what could have gone wrong.  That my mother would be involved in my undoing was a surety.  I just couldn’t figure out how she’d stuck it to me this time.  I’d paid for everything in advance just to make sure nothing could go wrong.  And still, something had.      
Memories bombarded me as I parted the night.  Try as I might I couldn’t ward them off.  My mother was nothing like the woman I’d just witnessed shedding tears for the safe return of her child.  She had left us with relatives and strangers so often my brothers and I had actually spent more time not with her than with her, especially when she was incarcerated.  But she’d managed to do a lot of damage when she did have us, dragging in sordid men, most of them drunks and substance abusers, some outright pedophiles.  My childhood had been tougher than my current stint overseas.  For some reason that just left me even more depressed.
As the sun broke I roused myself.  I’d been parked near the gate to the storage facility.  I watched an older man in overalls and a thick jacket roll back the iron bars of the gate as I stepped out of the jeep, my mouth full of chalk as I yawned.  Pulling my field jacket closed, I trotted across the street and followed him into the office as he unlocked the door.  Inside, he stepped behind a small counter and tilted his frayed John Deere hat back as he eyed me.
“You in a hurry, young fella?” he asked frankly.
I smiled slightly and nodded.  “Yes, sir, I guess I am.”  I held out the most recent bill I had.  “I’m hoping you haven’t sold anything out of this yet.  I’d like to settle up and get my stuff out.”
“You Army or Marine?” he asked as he took my bill and pulled some reading glasses out of his pocket.
He nodded and handed me back the piece of paper.  “Sorry, son, I can’t help you.”  He shook his head.  “That lot’s been sold.  We had an auction week before last.”
I didn’t understand.  “What do you mean?  I was here in May.  I helped my mother store some stuff and paid eight months in advance.  There was a nice lady here.  She had a Shepard with her and she was surprised he let me pet him.  I think the Dog’s name was Zeus.”
He peered at me over his glasses and then pulled a thick book out from behind his counter.  “My wife,” he mumbled as he rifled through the pages.  “And my dog,” he added.  He finally found what he was looking for.  He jabbed a page accusingly and said, “I remember her.  Your mother came in last July.  Some fella with her hauled away some furniture and she wanted a smaller unit for what was left.  She also demanded all the extra deposit money.  Said she would make the payments instead.”
There was a plastic chair behind me.  I collapsed into it.  “She didn’t make any payments, did she?” I asked needlessly.
“Not a one,” he admitted.  “We’re allowed to auction after 90 days.  That’s right in the contract.  We actually waited over 120 this time.”
I put my head in my hands and rubbed at my eyes.  “I was overseas,” I mumbled.
After a long pause he finally said, “I’m sorry, son.  Her name was on the contract.  We had to give her the money.”
I looked up at him.  “Is there anything left?  Maybe we could check and I could pay the balance?”
He actually looked ashamed.  “Son, the people who buy our stuff operate flea markets all over the Midwest.  They’ll buy old underwear and paint over the skid marks.  I remember this lot.  There were crates of baseball cards and a bunch of art work.”
I felt sick.  “Someone actually bought my art work?”  He just nodded.  “You wouldn’t remember who?”
He shook his head.  “I’m sorry, son,” he repeated.  “I remember it though.  A lot of animal stuff.”  He swallowed and removed his glasses.  “You’re real good.”
I tried to give him a smile as I rose, but there wasn’t one inside me.  All the old pain was roiling around, threatening to explode.  I had to get out of here.  I just nodded and left.  He said something as I opened the door but the deafening roar in my ears drowned out his words.  I don’t remember getting behind the wheel of the jeep.  Don’t remember driving.  I didn’t plan anything.  I couldn’t think rationally.
But somehow I wound up on a track.  I ran cross country in high school.  I liked to go to the track late at night.  I would start in lane one and run a lap, then switch to lane two.  I’d keep switching lanes all the way to six, run six again and work my way back down to one.  I normally stopped after completing twelve laps in such a fashion.  I dropped my field jacket and began running without really thinking about it, just trying to concentrate on the next lap, telling myself to keep going and I’d be okay.
All I could think of were the hours I’d spent laboring over my art.  I’d won competitions in high school.  My stuff had been on exhibit at the gallery over in Philly more than once.  How many nights had I stayed up working on that stuff to keep my mind off the darker thoughts?  All the pen and inks, the charcoal works, pad after pad of pencil sketches, gone.  It was as if someone had reached inside me and torn out some organ I had to have in order to live. 
I realized how ragged my breathing was.  The plumes of steam were erratic and irregular.  I felt like I was staggering more than running.  My grunts sounded like choked back sobs.  I didn’t want to cry.  Concentrating on the next lap, I did my best to control my surging lungs and pushed on.  As cold as it was, I wasn’t sweating much, but my jeans swished and weighed me down a bit.  I tried to quiet my feet and keep moving forward.
I’d collected those baseball cards all my childhood.  Swapped them with friends in the many various places I’d lived.  I’d had few constants in my life.  But those cards and the players I’d idolized had always been there for me.  How many hours?  I’d traded so many good cards to put together complete sets of 1975 and 1976 Cincinnati Reds.  I’d even gotten many of them signed during YMCA trips to games they scheduled for us underprivileged kids.  While my idiot friends had ran the bases I’d wrangled signatures out of Bench, Morgan, and even Rose.  Losing the possessions you prize above all else was proving too much to bear.
I don’t think I finished that set.  I remember sitting in the jeep, my face shoved into my field jacket as I screamed and growled and cried.  Thinking back, I’m not exactly sure what those tears were shed for.  The art work?  The baseball cards?  The torment of a childhood I couldn’t seem to escape?  The stress of Beirut and the guys we’d left behind?  I’m not sure.  Maybe it was nothing more than my mother had won again.  I was hurting and she was off doing what she did best, taking care of herself. 
By the time I was back at Cherry Point I’d put myself back together, at least as together as I ever was back then.  I would never talk about the art work or the cards.  Marines can be a might insensitive when it comes to crying, or admitting pain.  It wasn’t the first time my mother or some man she was running with had knocked me to my knees.  It also wouldn’t be the last time.  And my younger brothers were still with her.  I had to do something to help them.  I promised myself I would.
Now, so many years later, I’ve come to terms with most of those old emotions.  I’ve learned what I can dwell on and what I can’t.  My mother doesn’t win anymore.  I still think about those baseball cards.  I still wish I had all my old art work.  They’re pieces of myself I lost and can never get back, but they were only things.  Learning to cope with pain and loss made me who I am today.  It was necessary.
And you can find me at the track a few times a week, running one to six, and six back to one.     

About the Author:
Don Dempsey with son, Gavin
Don Dempsey experienced childhood abuse and neglect first hand, but went on to have a fulfilling family life as an adult and to own his own business. "If you're lucky, you make it to adulthood in one piece," says Don. "But there's no guarantee the rest of your life is going to be any better. Abused kids are often plagued by fear and insecurity. They battle depression and have trouble with relationships. In the worst cases, abused children perpetuate the cycle." But Don is living proof that you can overcome a childhood of abuse and neglect. "You start by letting go of as much of the guilt (yes, abused kids feel guilty) and as many of the bad memories as possible. At the same time, you hold on to the things that helped you survive. For me, it was the belief that you can make life better by working at it and earning it. It helps to have a sense of humor, too."

Find out more about the author by visiting him online:

Betty's Child website:

Donald Dempsey

About the Memoir:

In the tradition of Frank McCourt and Angela's Ashes, Don Dempsey uses Betty's Child to tell the story of life with a cruel and neglectful mother, his mother's abusive boyfriends, a dangerous local thug who wants twelve-year-old Donny to burglarize homes and deal drugs, and hypocritical church leaders who want to save young Donny's soul but ignore threats to his physical well-being. In a world where it’s "fight or flight" at every turn, Donny uses his street smarts and sense of humor to guide him. He usually makes the right choice, but whenever he makes a wrong move, he pays the price. Some of his experiences will make you recoil in horror, but you'll want to keep reading because Dempsey manages to maintain a sense of humor while sharing the gritty details of his story. In the end, Donny does everything he can to take care of himself and his younger brothers, but with each new development, the present becomes more fraught with peril—and the future more uncertain.

"Heartrending and humorous. In scene after vivid scene, Dempsey presents his inspiring true story with accomplished style. Dempsey's discipline as a writer lends the real-life tale the feel of a fictional page-turner." ~ Kirkus

Paperback: 438 pages

Publisher: Dream of Things (March 26, 2013)

ISBN: 0988439018

ISBN-13: 978-0988439016

Twitter hashtag: #BCDempsey

Betty's Child is available at Amazon.

Crystal's Book Review:
I feel strongly that even someone with a difficult background can change their path. Often times it's difficult and takes the help of someone who cares, but I've just never bought into the victim mentality of "I was abused so I'm going to be an abuser when I grow up". Maybe that's what drew me to Donald Dempsey's memoir Betty's Child. I'm not going to lie; some parts were difficult to read. As a parent I hug my children tighter after reading Dempsey's story of a neglectful childhood with a cruel mother. I became so absorbed in his story that I would have crawled right into the book if I could have; I just wanted to hold that little boy and tell him that I loved him.

Dempsey's sense of humor really pushed me through the tough chapters. I'm sure that same sense of humor is what got him through those tough years. I would recommend this book to others because it really is a testament to where you can go in life if you put your mind to it and put a little laughter into things. Dempsey has a good family life and a successful career. Things could very easily have turned out much differently for him. It's great that he can share his story with others. Betty's Child is very inspirational and a book I will keep on my shelf to read again and share with others.

May your paths be abundantly filled with lemons, sugar, sunshine, and so much laughter that your sides hurt!


  1. Isnt it sad that a child's own mother can be the one to let them down with neglect and abuse. This book looks like a great read and a story of how he was able to overcome his childhood years to be the person he is today. I love reading these kind of stories. As a volunteer mentor of foster kids, it gives me hope that kids can grow up not to follow their parents footsteps!

  2. OK...this absolutely flattened me. I can't even speak.

    1. I looked at this book on amazon and would love to read it. It sounds a little like my life. My Mother left us when I was 13 and my father raised my sister and I. My Dad did a wonderful job, but, still, at the age of 13, a girl needs a Mother figure. Somehow I found my way in the world and had a lot of happy times with my Dad. But, I, like many children, wonder what they did wrong that made their Mother kiss them good bye and walk out the door. I had issues of insecurity and as I got older it went into anxiety and panic attacks. I've worked out my life, though it's been rough at times. I NEED to read this book as I'm sure I will connect with it on the 1st page. And, my Mother's name was also Betty.

  3. Don: You never cease to amaze me with your writing. Thanks for sharing this story. I'm also amazed at the places where our lives seem to intersect. I was born in Cherry Point. My dad was stationed there. Also, I ran cross country in high school. I loved running.