Legacy of Love and Pain

It's almost 3 o'clock on a September afternoon, meaning the children will be home from school soon, and they'll want a snack.

Green is stirring canned chili and a pack of hot dogs in a frying pan. Her only child left the nest almost two decades ago, and she never expected to be raising five kids at the age of 65. But family sticks together.

"Me and the kids, we had to get adjusted to each other," she says. Steam from the thawing wieners fogs up her spectacles. "But we're adjusted."

Green thought she would get more done when the older kids went to school, but she spends most of her time keeping an eye on the youngest, a walking, baby-talking ball of energy. She'll put in a load of laundry early in the morning, and it won't come out of the dryer until the kids come home. That's when Angel takes over.

Angel, a freshman at Forest Brook High School, doesn't participate in extracurricular activities. Her only priority is helping the family. "She's just a teen-ager, but she acts just like a little old lady," Green says.

The baby hears the rattle of the steel bar door and crawls fast-forward to greet her big sister. Angel displays an exaggerated smile for the girl with the pacifier in her mouth.

"Did you miss me?" Angel asks the baby, picking her up and planting two big kisses on her lips.

The other children, ages 7-12, file in, their white polo shirts and khaki pants in perfect harmony. It's progress-report day, and everyone received mastery or satisfactory marks.

After the younger children have gobbled the hot dogs, Angel makes them pull out their homework.

"I show them how to do it and check it if they done it," Angel says.

If the answers are wrong, she instructs them until they get it. "I'm tough on them sometimes," she admits.

Especially on the 7-year-old brother, who likes to horse around and refuses to count when it comes to math. She'll bop him on the head with school papers to get his attention.

Angel is a smart, brave girl molded by the violence and responsibilities that surround her. She remembers the times she sneaked out of the apartment, ran to a neighbor's house and called the police when her father got violent.

"I never did like him too much," she says bluntly.

When she should have been giggling with friends or staying after school for activities, she'd instead head home to care for her brother and sisters, change the baby's diapers and look out for her mother.

"I grew up too fast," Angel says.

She's planning on careers in the Army and as an undercover cop. She would have joined the ROTC, but home duties come first. Maybe next semester. If she's lucky, she might attend a high school football game with her cousin.

In her daily phone call to her mother, who was transferred back to Hermann in August, Angel learns she may soon come home.

"I'm going to miss that day from school," she says.