On Monday (January 2015), I ventured into a wooded area filled with chirping birds and dancing squirrels jumping from tree to tree. While it sounds as if I were walking into an enchanted park, it was actually a homeless camp filled with numerous tents and littered in beer bottles and trash. The camp I am referring to is located in Nashville behind a closed business.
I met with Paul for the first time in 2014. Paul Beazley is a homeless man who has had a life of heartache. Paul told me that his mother decided to get rid of him shortly after she gave birth at age 13. I later found out that Paul's mother Rosiland was actually 20 when she gave birth to him. Regardless, he told me that she was a heroin addict when she had him. In fact, Paul said she first tried Heroin at age 11.
After Paul’s mom discarded him, his grandmother took him home and raised him until age 8, when he was placed in the custody of a home by the Department of Children Services. Apparently, she could no longer control the unruly behavior of a boy without a mother or father.
From age 8 on, he went from foster home to foster home, but eventually found a set of parents to call his own; at least for a short time when he lived near Edmondson Pike. After quitting school, the state appointed foster mother kicked him out of the house and he went back to the streets. Drugs quickly caught up with Paul who was already drinking alcohol. He then turned to auto theft. He said that he would sit outside of gas stations and when people went in to make a purchase, he would steal whatever car was left “on.”
Fast forward to more current dates…
In 2005, Paul was addicted to crack cocaine. He and several friends decided to steal a purse from a woman walking out of the newly opened Krispy Kreme near Centennial Park in Nashville. What Paul did not expect, was to run into two off duty police officers.
Paul, who was driving the getaway vehicle, told me he ran over one of the off duty officers who tried to catch his friend after stealing the purse. One of the officers stepped in front of the van Paul was driving. Paul stated, “I tried to swerve and miss him, but he dived in that area, hit the bumper, went up under the step side and went up under the back tire… broke his back and both his legs.” He then said, “They charged me with aggravated assault.” He suggested he was fortunate not to be charged with attempted vehicular homicide. He told me that he tried to avoid hitting the officer, but couldn't.
After Paul was caught and found guilty in court, he was sentenced to spend six years in the state penitentiary. He served five years instead and was released. I asked, “What became of the man whose back was broken?” He said, “I don’t know.” He thought the officer was going to kill him when he was released from prison, but he was not. He told me that he thinks about the officer from time to time so I asked him what he would say to that officer if he could see him today…
“Man, I’m truly sorry that you had to be there. All I can say is I’m sorry. I’m dearly sorry, I apologize.”
Our conversation continued as birds flew by and Paul sipped from his freshly opened Natural Light Beer. Keep in mind, I interviewed him at about 10:30 in the morning. As he talked, I realized that he has not seen his mother since he was 8-years old. In fact, he didn’t know if she were dead or alive today… only that he forgives her for leaving him and understands how strong drug addiction can be. By the way, Paul said that he no longer does crack, he only drinks.
While an absent mom can have an impact on one’s life, so can an absent father. Paul has not seen two of his three daughters in about 20-years. Paul is only 43-years old today and told me that he ran into one of those daughters at an intersection near his homeless camp. She had no idea who he was when he stuck his head in her car window and called her out by name. His daughter’s boyfriend quickly offered Paul money in an attempt to get him to leave when Paul started to cry. Paul recognized her because of a photo he saw on Facebook.
Paul does not surf the web and doesn’t even have his own Facebook account. Someone searched out his daughters names and showed him the photos they found of them because he wanted to see how they were doing. Paul never told the woman, who would be 20 today, that he was her father.
Some may ask why Paul was not at home to raise his children. The reason, he was in jail when he was not in a state penitentiary. Paul lived a life of crime stealing car after car. He spent about 7-years behind bars on top of the state pen adventure for running over someone. He was even shot in the stomach once and the head another time. But, he survived.
I asked Paul if he had any mental hang-ups today that cause him problems in life. His feet were jumping up and down in a nervous manner as he answered with an overwhelming “Yes.”
I don’t try to judge others, so it is often hard for me to understand what makes people like Paul tick. However, I could see the sorrow in Paul’s eyes as he spoke. He constantly set his gaze on a flying bird or a nearby tree. His feet continued to bounce as he spoke. I felt like he drank to rid himself of emotion because he thinks about his life and what it has become daily. After a deep sigh he told me he has anxiety and depression. He said he sometimes has mood swings and feels happy at times and extremely sad at others.
Life takes us all on different roads. Some of those roads have twists and turns that many of us fail to navigate because of drugs. Paul is one of those who failed to navigate. I have a feeling the road for Paul is far from a dead end. Life is ahead of him, he just may not know that yet.
About one week after I took this photo I made it my goal to find out what happened to Paul's mother. With a little help from a friend, I confirmed that Rosiland Marie Beazley died in 2004, which would have been the year before Paul was arrested for running over a Metro Police Officer. At that time period in his life, he was using crack cocaine to hide the memories of his past. Sadly, he never got to say "I forgive you" to his mother. Her obituary did not list Paul as a son.
Paul's mom Rosiland died in Kingston Springs, Tennessee at the age of 53. That means that she was 20-years of age when Paul was born as opposed to what Paul's grandmother or other family members may have told him. She was cremated at the Chapel of Phillips Robinson Funeral Home, but no one could tell me where her ashes are today.
Paul's grandmother who raised him up until the age of 8 passed away in 2012. When I gave Paul the news you could see the sadness in his eyes. He said to me in a soft spoken voice, "She could have helped me, she could have helped me."
Life - It starts and ends. The middle is up to us.