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  • Otieno Okatch

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Updated: Feb 21



A New Family, And a New Life

I have a voice and I speak an unforgiving truth. I have lived it: this is my story.


In the mornings my grandmother would knock on my door and say "good morning Emerie." Waiting for me in the kitchen was her freshly baked bread and a fresh squeezed cup of orange juice. My grandmother and I would do everything together; We would go on long drives around town and explore different parts of Los Angeles, take walks around our neighborhood, and watch our favorite shows together. Unfortunately our time together came to an end unexpectedly. My grandma, and best friend, grew ill and needed care. She couldn't take care of me anymore, she needed care of her own.

One morning my grandma knocked on my door and with tears in her eyes said, “good morning Emerie. I'm sorry, but it's time to go.” I was transferred to the UCLA mental health facility where I lived for a few weeks. During my time at the mental institute all I could think about was my grandma and going home. One morning there was a soft knock on my door. As it slowly opened I saw a women, Lena, with a smile that warmed up the room. I felt her kindness as she shook my hand and introduced herself. She put her hand on my shoulder, “Put your shoes on Emerie, we have to go now” she said softy. At that moment I knew I would be living with her from now on. A little shaken, I gathered my belongings and followed her to her car. As I sat down she said, "would you like to have some ice cream with me?". While enjoying a chocolate scoop of ice cream she explained that I will have my own room and also a couple of friends to live with. She would make sure that I had my freshly squeezed orange juice every morning.

Lena drove me to what she said would be my new home. Every morning I still wake up to soft knock and a “Good morning Emerie.” I leave my room and walk to the kitchen table to eat my home cooked meals with my new friends. I walk outside on the grass and my bedroom walls are decorated with my favorite drawings and pictures of my grandma. When you step inside our home you can immediately feel the love soaring through the house like a roaring river.

I now set goals for my future. My PALS job coach and I work on daily living skills which helps me in the real world. Lena teaches me how to be independent in a household environment as well. Although I face difficulties I feel confident and stronger than ever. I have all the support I can ask for and the tools to succeed in life. But most of all, I'm determined make my grandmother proud. Once this pandemic comes to an end I plan to resume my work at PALS and set higher goals. As I look back on my life I can only smile. The time I spent with grandma, my best friend, made me who I am today, a strong confident man. I’m truly thankful a loving family and my new life with Lena.

I hope everyone a safe and happy New Year!

Emerie T.






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