My foster son was murdered.
But that’s not the most important fact about his life.
Yesterday I was writing a humor piece when I was interrupted.
At the point where I was running out of ideas, the phone rang. It was the high school girlfriend of my foster son, Larry Otis Clark. She told me he had been murdered.
He died of blunt force trauma and asphyxiation. In an apartment breezeway where he was discovered eight hours later. It isn’t a particularly dangerous part of the town where he lived. It isn’t the safest either.
Larry was one of the quiet, gentle ones. He survived Hurricane Katrina as a child, and as a result, was relocated to Fort Worth, Texas. He and his brother and father were in Fort Worth, while his mother and sister were evacuated to Houston. Shortly after, his mother and sister moved back to New Orleans, and Larry stayed in Fort Worth. My son met him in Middle School.
My son, Blake Scott, is now six foot five and weighs 250. In middle school, he was five foot four and cute as hell. He was also a year younger than everyone, at thirteen. Larry was nearly six feet and wiry at age fourteen. Blake was bullied in middle school. One incident was in the locker room after basketball, when he was attacked from the back and pushed over a bench. He left campus and called me. I picked him up and called the campus police.
The campus police announced for anyone with information about the incident to come forward. When no one did, he questioned the boys who were in the locker room. They were all terrified of the perpetrator and wouldn’t talk. And I wouldn’t send Blake back to school until the perpetrator was caught.
One boy stood up to the bully for my son. Larry. I didn’t know him at all, and Blake and he weren’t even close yet. But he told the truth, and the next day after school, Blake asked if Larry could spend the weekend. Of course, I said yes.
He entered our home a quiet, gentle giant. Sweet, but hard to get to open up to me, or any adult. He never did learn how to talk to adults as a kid. His requests came through Blake, who asked me,
“Can Larry move in with us, Mom?”
He was living in a small, two bedroom apartment with his father, step-mother, and four other kids. Later I learned the father was a thief and a dealer, but even before I knew that, I let Larry move in with us. We owed him.
My son, Blake, had led a fairly sheltered life, even as a Black child in Texas. Larry had waded through the flood in New Orleans with his brother on his back. He was trapped with others on a bridge for days, and witnessed a man leap to his death in desperation. It took him years to tell me that much.
He had been hit by a car as a child, and recovered. When he took his shirt off, there were scars from beatings. He was so damaged, but so kind and caring. We grew to love him.
He was funny. But it took time for him to show me that side of him as well. Blake and his close friends knew he had a dry wit. I finally picked up on it, whenever I was mad at Blake about something he had done, or not done, and Larry would say, “I TOLD Blake.”
Even when it was Larry who broke an antique vase playing basketball in the living room, and Blake took the blame. I just found that out yesterday.
He lived with us for most of high school, with a brief stint living with his father again and playing basketball for a different school their sophomore year. That Spring, Blake and I went to pick him up in a tiny apartment with no electricity or food, and his father hadn’t been home for hours or days. I never found out which, and it didn’t matter. He was my son from that moment on.
From the start, and throughout, he was a mixed blessing. He had been under other people’s influence for longer than I had him. He was very intelligent, but hid that behind sullenness, which was likely depression, and doing just enough to get by in school, and be able to get into college. On the other hand, his teachers remember him fondly as the class clown. In a good way. While living with his girlfriend and her parents for a short time, his father sent him into a pawn shop to hock stolen tools. Larry had no idea they were stolen. He was the one arrested, not his father. His girlfriend and I bailed him out, and he moved back in with me again. A lawyer got the charges dropped. I wouldn’t let his father into the house after that.
He was a master basketball player. Gifted and talented in it in a way my son would have sold his soul for. But he never fully pursued playing the way my lesser talented son did. He and their friend, Jordan Price, advocated for Blake to stay on the high school team that went to State. (I will tell Blake’s story another time).
He suffered a torn miniscus and ACL during his junior year of high school. As I brought him home from surgery, he started to cry. I had never seen him do that before. He said, “I don’t know why I’m crying.” I told him that it didn’t matter why, it was okay. And that I would always be his mother and Blake would always be his brother.
His bed and ice machine that wrapped around his knee took up most of their room. Blake and I traded out changing the ice and helping him to the bathroom. He fully recovered to play his senior year, up to and including State playoffs. But the doctors told us he would only have a few good years to play after such an injury. He could play through college, but after that was uncertain.
He came back to live with me after his first semester of college, while Blake was in school three hours away in Austin. Larry had started smoking marijuana in college, and he flunked out and was suspended from the team. He helped take care of me, the house, and the dogs and cat. He loved our cat, and all the animals loved him. He kept me from being lonely and empty nested for that first year. He filled me in on an issue my son had been having for almost a year without my knowing. He was always there for Blake.
He got a job, and when I moved to Austin, he moved in with friends. We kept in touch sporadically. He visited a few times, and we would contact him when we were in Fort Worth. Birthdays, Holidays, Mother’s Day. This was a message from him in 2017.
Hey, how’s life been mom? You know I think about how much you helped me so much in my life when i needed it most. Thank you!! Even though i threw everything away by making dumb decisions. Love you though.
I answered, “Thank you! I love you, too. What can I do to help now?”
He didn’t answer, although that wasn’t our last communication. We texted more for the next two years. But this is what I wish I had said in those messages:
I love you, too, my darling. From then, to now, to forever. You did make dumb decisions. But I could and should have helped even more when you were trying to turn those decisions around.
And you didn’t throw everything away. You became a loving step parent to a daughter. You paid it forward. You were an excellent friend and brother to Blake. He gives you credit for encouraging his basketball career. Finally, you were happy, which was all I ever wished for you.