port of harlem magazine


Middle Passage: Stories of Survival

Meeting the Challenge: Unplanned Single Parenthood

gregory bearstop“Get out!  Go,” my mother yelled, as a blazing fire swept through our house within minutes.  My 5-year-old brother was playing under his bed with a grill lighter when he set his mattress on fire.  At 19-years-old, having been uprooted before and gazing at the smoldering skeletal remains of our home, I thought to myself, here we go again. 

Earlier in my life, when I was 9-years-old, my mother worked three jobs to keep a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs.  My father was hardly around. When mom was at work, I took care of the household:  bathing and feeding my two younger sisters who were then ages 4 and 7 (my brother wasn’t born yet).  A few years later, my mother broke her ankle and had to stop working.  As a result, we were evicted from our apartment and became homeless. Eventually, my sisters and I were separated.   We went to live with various family members in the Washington metropolitan area.  Living the hardship we suffered without the support of our father, I knew as a youngster that I always wanted to be independent.  This experience also contributed to my growing mistrust of men.

latasha alstonMy thoughts on men began to change when my cousin, wanting to see me with a more vibrant social life, invited me to a party.  There, he introduced me to his best friend, Lawrence.  My initial impression was that he looked like a thug.  But, as I got to know him over a few months, he turned out to be a decent guy. We dated and I became pregnant with our daughter.  When she was born on August 24, 2001, I discovered true love for the first time.  Having my daughter in my life is like having sunshine every day. 

In the years to follow, Lawrence and I bought a house together.  My nephew, then 5-years-old, came to live with us, and I loved him as my own son.  Life couldn’t have been better.

One morning in 2006, I lied asleep in bed and my daughter’s father arose to head off to work, as was his routine.  About an hour later, I abruptly awakened feeling a chill run through my body.  I passed it off as an aftershock of a nightmare from which I had awakened, and I got up to go to work. 
While at work, I received a call from my sister who said that she had recognized Lawrence’s car on the morning news.  Then, a State Highway Patrol Officer returned one of my calls to inform me that Lawrence had been killed in a tragic car accident.  He had fallen asleep at the wheel and drove under a tractor trailer.  I later realized that the accident occurred at the exact moment I had been jolted awake that morning. It has been six years since Lawrence’s death and I miss him every day. 

Being a single mom has its challenges.  One of the biggest challenges has been trying to maneuver through life without support in areas ranging from finances to having meaningful companionship.  But, if I could speak to all the single mothers, I would tell them:   Create with your kids as many fond and pleasant memories as you can.  Visit a scenic park.  Go biking together.  Go to the museums.  Learn a language together.  For yourself, join a single mother’s support group or even start one.    Show your kids and show yourself that there is more to life than the struggles.

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