I was born Roger Alan Clay in Minot, North Dakota, August 25, 1956. My dad was Billy Joe Clay, my mom Nancy Elizabeth Clay. Maiden name Dalby. I had a sister named Terry Jane, who was born in 1953, three at my birth. We were in North Dakota because dad had a welders job in a construction project for the United States Air Force. We didn’t live in North Dakota for long, and I don’t know where we went after that, though I think it was back to my dad’s home state of Arkansas.
In 1958, when I was two, and Terry Jane was five, she died of brain cancer. She was buried in Camden, Arkansas. In the same year my parents divorced so mom and I moved to Aiken, South Carolina, home of my my grandparents.
Mildred, my mother’s mother would only allow people to call her Mickey. Mickey’s husband was Jack Ashe, a man she married after divorcing my mom’s biological father. Through most of my young life I thought Jack was my mother’s father. I have never called them anything other than Mickey and Jack. I will always remember Jack as the best man I have ever known. Collectively they were known to everyone as “Mickey & Jack’. Never mom and dad, or grandma and grandpa, or even Mrs. and Mr. Ashe. To everyone they were Mickey & Jack.
Mickey & Jack bought their home in Aiken, South Carolina in 1956, the year I was born, and lived there until their deaths. Through my entire life they had the same phone number. I think Jack might have had three different cars in my lifetime. They were the definition of stability. Their home was appropriately located on “Whiskey Road”, as Mickey liked to drink. I don’t think I have ever seen her without an ET and Coke in one hand and a cigarette in the other. After my parent’s divorced we lived with Mickey & Jack for a short period. This was at most a year, but Mickey always claimed she raised me because of this time.
My mom tells me a story about when I was two or three during an Easter gathering.I was wearing a little kids suit with short pants. It was unseasonably cold, so I commented that, “I think I better get some clothes on.” Very mature for my age. When I was four Mom and I lived in a small one bedroom house behind a small bowling alley and on the other side of Whiskey Road from Mickey & Jack.
I vividly remember this house because I had seen it again as an adult. I also remember the mutt that was my dog. Jack called him a carpenter dog because he would build piles all over his otherwise immaculate back yard. I remember mom working as a cashier at the local A&P Grocery store. I also remember skiing on an area lake. More accurately I remember riding in a ski boat and my mother skiing. She was a beautiful and voluptuous woman with no shortage of interested suitors. With a full time job and a young son her dates were often outings on the lake. I can remember quite a few of those outings.
During this time I terrified mom and elated Mickey by riding my tricycle across the busy four lane Whiskey Road to visit Mickey & Jack. This seemingly innocent adventure by a four year old turned out to be a harbinger of what was to come. READ MORE