Long-Form Stories Salty Air

Darby’s Story: An Angel House Kid Grows Up

Darby Lyons, who hopes to break into the film business some day, survived a chaotic childhood.

HYANNIS – Last month, Darby Lyons, a 31-year-old man from Marstons Mills, was working a camera as a volunteer at a local cable access television studio when he saw something that transported him back to his chaotic childhood of 20 years ago.

He has been volunteering at the Cape Cod Community Media Center in Dennisport for almost 10 years, something he is happy to do because it earns him the right to use their equipment. He is working on his own short film, a Star Wars parody starring his friends and complete with lots of computer-generated special effects.

“I’m seeing a woman talking in a living room and I’m thinking, I’m pretty sure I used to play in that living room. So many flashbacks. I’m thinking back to when I was 13 and playing with my brother. I just couldn’t believe it,” Darby said.

Whenever the media center puts out a call for volunteers, Darby always makes himself available. “Anytime they need me, I come. What they give is so much opportunity to use the equipment. I have no problem volunteering,” he said.

On this day in December, he was the operator on camera 3 helping to film a fundraiser. He didn’t know what the fundraiser was for. He only knew it was a holiday telethon.

He remembers Angel House as a place where the chaotic life his family was living calmed down for a time.

On the set, decorated with colorful Christmas trees, a dozen people were seated on a two-tiered riser answering red phones and others were being interviewed about the cause at hand, the Shelter Cape Cod Telethon for Housing Assistance Corporation. As Darby stood behind camera 3 filming, he watched as a video was shown as part of the telethon. In the video, women were speaking in a room.

The room looked familiar to Darby. Really familiar. Old-home familiar. His mind started racing.

“I’m seeing a woman talking in a living room and I’m thinking, I’m pretty sure I used to play in that living room,” said Darby. “So many flashbacks. I’m thinking back to when I was 13 and playing with my brother. I just couldn’t believe it,” he said.

 

WaveRemembering Angel House

The video bringing back the flood of memories to the operator of camera 3 was about Angel House, a shelter in Hyannis where Darby lived with his family for almost a year when he was 12 and 13 years old while his parents were recovering from drug addiction.

That was back in 1997 and 1998, about 19 years ago.

Angel House is a shelter in Hyannis for women recovering from substance abuse and their children.

“The whole reason I moved to Cape Cod was because of Angel House,” he later recalled.

He remembers Angel House as a place where the chaotic life his family was living calmed down for a time. It’s a place where he met friends who have become like family for him.

At Angel House, Darby first got interested in filmmaking as he and his friends, other children living at Angel House, would make up funny skits. A favorite was staging wrestling competitions, complete with crazy costumes, based on professional wrestling. “I’ve always been into film,” Darby said.

And those childhood friends whom he is still in touch with love movies like he does. “That’s one thing we all have in common,” Darby said.

 

WaveThe Drug Connection

In talking about his childhood, Darby never says the word “heroin” but the powerfully addictive drug seems to hover ominously over the conversation. His mother and father were on it. so was his stepfather, his mother’s second husband, who died from an overdose a year ago.

Darby has had many friends die of drug overdoses. He has acquaintances, many whom he has known since high school, who are on drugs and others who deal drugs. No surprise. New England is considered a hub of the opiate abuse epidemic.

For someone for whom drugs have played such a central role in his upbringing, with both parents as former addicts, Darby has made sure he steers clear of them. He wonders why some people fall to drugs, why some try drugs and are able to quit and others can’t, why some are unhinged and forever damaged. why some die and some live, at least for awhile.

As for himself, he never had an interest in doing drugs. He saw close up in his own household what drugs can do to a person and to a family.

 

WaveA Family Tragedy

Though he does not use the suffix, Darby is technically Darby Lyons III.

His grandfather, who died before he got to know him, was the first Darby Lyons. Darby Lyons Sr. was one of the heroic Flying Tigers in World War II, flying over 100 missions, according to Darby’s father, who goes by Darby Jr.

Darby’s parents, Darby Jr. and Paula, got together in the mid-1980s when Paula was 20 and Darby Jr. was 28. Within five years, they were living in a home they owned in Quincy with their three children. Darby, the oldest, was four years old. His sister was two years old and his brother was not yet one year old.

Though he was only four years old at the time, Darby recalls, perhaps mostly from photos he has seen, that the family was living comfortably. They had a Cadillac, a Corvette and a motorcycle. He even recalls a kind of “hovercraft” that was kept near the pool in the backyard.

Paula said she and her husband Darby Jr. had just taken out a second mortgage to have some work done on their home’s roof and in the yard.

He fell 60 feet to the ground and landed on his head, crushing his spinal chord. From that day on, he has been paralyzed from the neck down.

In those years, Darby Jr. was heavily into body building, and he helped to train Mike Quinn, who went on to be named Mr. Universe. and Mr. Olympia. “I was his training partner,” Darby Jr. said.

Darby Jr. described himself in those years as “a jack of all trades, master of none.” Besides being a furniture maker and carpenter, he said he trained as an auto body mechanic, a steel worker, electrician, a plumber’s helper and as a computer technician.

According to Paula, her husband liked to go out. “He had a good personality, a good talker,” she said.

One evening, Darby Jr. came home from being out with friends and decided to climb a tree in his backyard.

As to why he went up in the tree that evening, Darby Jr. admitted, drugs “had a lot to do with it—cocaine and a lot of alcohol.”

He climbed the tree and was trimming it, he said. “There were leaves falling into the pool and it was getting ridiculous. I went up and was cutting down branches and all of a sudden it started getting dark out. I couldn’t see my way down. I meant to chop a petrified branch off.” Instead he stepped on it and it broke.

Darby Jr. fell 60 feet to the ground and landed on his head, crushing his spinal chord. From that day on, he has been paralyzed from the neck down.

Meanwhile, young Darby was just starting kindergarten. He was a bubbly kid with lots of friends. He loved Ninja turtles and dancing. But the comforts of the home they were used to would soon disappear.

He is a quadriplegic, called “an incomplete quad,” he said, meaning he has some use of his hands.

The doctors said his weight-lifter’s physique saved his life.“They said I’d be dead if I wasn’t so big and muscular,” Darby Jr. said.

Darby Jr. was at the hospital for almost a year as doctors did multiple surgeries.

That left Paula alone to care for their three young children including two still in diapers.

When Darby Jr. returned home from the hospital as a quadriplegic, unable to care for himself, Paula, now had, as Darby Jr. put it, “three kids in diapers.”

Meanwhile, young Darby was just starting kindergarten.

He was a bubbly kid with lots of friends. He loved Ninja turtles and dancing. But the comforts of the home they were used to would soon disappear.

 

WaveThings Fall Apart

When Darby Jr. came home from the hospital, Paula became her husband’s round-the-clock nurse. She recalls those stressful times. “My kids were 1, 2, and 4, and I was 25 years old when my husband had the accident. I had to stay home with him. We almost lost the house.”

Paula said a friend who was a real estate agent helped them sell their Quincy house “at the last minute” before foreclosure. The bank was paid off and the family was able to get a Section 8 housing voucher.

By then, young Darby was starting first grade. The family moved to a rental apartment in another part of Quincy. The apartment was on the first floor of a triple decker, he recalled.

Managing the household put a great deal of strain on Paula. “I look back, I don’t know how I got through anything. Keeping the house, getting the kids off to school,” she said, all in addition to taking care of her husband.

While she was having a tough time, she said her oldest son, Darby, handled it pretty well. “He helped his brother and sister. He looked after them. He’s a really good brother,” she said.

Thinking back, Darby believes during those years his parents were deeply into drugs. He remembers them telling the children to go out to play while they and their friends partied in the house. “There were always parties. I think they were into cocaine at the time,” he said.

He remembered living in a rental in Quincy around age 7 and walking long blocks to a school bus stop alone. He remembered when the house where they were living was raided by police.

“I hid under the coffee table,” he said.

After the raid, he was brought to a neighbor’s house. His mother’s parents from Brockton took care of the children for a time, Darby said. Then, the family moved again, this time to Hanson.

He remembered when the house where they were living was raided by police. “I hid under the coffee table,” he said.

Darby remembered that one evening when they were living in Hanson and he was 8 or 9, his parents were out and had left the children with a guy who was living off and on at their house and would often serve as their babysitter. Darby’s younger siblings were already in bed, but Darby was watching television on the couch and the man was sitting on a nearby chair.

At one point, Darby looked over and, as he recalled, the man appeared to be passed out, which was nothing unusual. “He was always drinking. I think there was a beer bottle in his hand.” What was unusual is that the man had turned blue.

Darby didn’t know what to do. “I didn’t know how to get in touch with anyone,” he said.

His mother and father came home soon and called for an ambulance. The next morning, Darby’s mother called the hospital to find out what time she should come to pick up her friend. She was told he had died.

Darby’s family lived in Hanson for about a year, but, he said, they were eventually evicted from the house.

Darby said he learned that he had to say final goodbyes to friends. Whenever they moved, which was frequently, there would be no way of getting in touch again.

 

WaveFrom Rentals to Shelters

“Then stuff went crazy and we went to a shelter,” said Paula. “We bounced around to another shelter. That’s when I realized, this is crazy. I can’t do this anymore. I numbed myself. I was going past curfew with my girlfriend drinking once or twice a week. I’m like, ‘What am I doing?’ The responsibility I had, it started getting to me. I was using cocaine and drinking a lot.”

While Darby’s mother knew the family was in crisis, for young Darby, this was just the way it was.

“I look back at it, from Quincy, Hanson, Kingston. I thought that was a normal life,” Darby said. “Getting kicked out of a house, evicted. A raid in the house. The sad part was to leave and knowing I’m not going to see my friends anymore.”

“I look back at it, from Quincy, Hanson, Kingston. I thought that was a normal life,” Darby said. “Getting kicked out of a house, evicted. A raid in the house. The sad part was to leave and knowing I’m not going to see my friends anymore.”

The family landed in the Pilgrim’s Hope Family Shelter in Kingston. Darby was 11 years old. “I remember one floor and two halls. We had two rooms. There was an activity room and a playroom” at the shelter, he said. “There were a bunch of moms with kids and a woman at a front desk. We were there six months.”

It was at Pilgrim’s Hope that state officials intervened, wanting the whole family to go to a shelter that included an addiction recovery program for both parents.

 

WaveNext Stop, Angel House

Paula recalled, a staff member from Pilgrims Hope pulled her aside. “She sat me down and said there’s a place called Angel House. Your whole family can go in. We made a decision to go to Angel House in Hyannis.”

Behind a white picket fence near the center of Hyannis is Angel House, a shelter that helps families recover from substance abuse.

Angel House was—and still is—for mothers recovering from substance abuse and their children, but Housing Assistance Corporation, which owned the shelter then and still does now, made a special exception and let the father in a wheelchair, Darby Jr., come too.

At Angel House, the family was set up in a self-contained handicapped-accessible two-bedroom apartment on the property. The program was redesigned to accommodate the whole family with a separate addiction treatment program for the father, Darby Jr.

Young Darby, who was by then 12 years old, said he had never heard of Hyannis at the time when his mother told him they would be moving to Angel House.

Paula said when they first got to Angel House, “the kids were so upset.”

“They only knew Quincy and Hanson. They had made friends there. Now all of a sudden we were moving to the Cape,” Paula said. But once they got there, Paula remembered the kids were glad for the move. “That’s how life played out. They met a lot of friends at Angel House,” she said.

Darby said he believes the move to Angel House was tough on his mother at first. But, “after the first month, I think she liked it.”

Paula agreed that with newfound sobriety, things started to calm down with the family.

“That helped me and my family settle down,” she said of Angel House.

Paula remembered her family’s early days at Angel House: “Every morning I got up and took care of [Darby Jr.], did his personal care, washed and fed him; and gave the kids breakfast. got the kids off to school.”

It was a lot for her, she said. A couple of times she was late to the first group meeting of the morning. Eventually, the director of the facility took her aside, Paula said. “She said, you’re going to have to hire someone to take care of [Darby Jr.] in the morning. You have to focus on yourself. So we did that.”

Darby’s mother, Paula, said Angel House was good for the family. “It basically put me and my family back on track,” she said.

There were women his mother became friends with and, as Darby recalled, “80 percent of the kids were my age.” There was a group of five boys, including Darby and his younger brother who would play football, basketball and, especially, wrestling. “It was fun, playing tag at night, manhunt. We loved it there,” he said.

Darby’s father, Darby Jr., agreed. “They were great there. Everyone was nice. I can’t say anything bad about it. Everything was great.”

Darby also has fond memories of the staff. “The ladies were really nice. At Christmas, they loaded us all into a van and took us to Edaville,” an amusement park in Carver.

Darby’s mother, Paula, said Angel House was good for the family. “It basically put me and my family back on track,” she said.

 

WaveFriendships At The Shelter

There were several boys Darby’s age at the shelter as well as children the same age as his sister and younger brother. The children bonded like siblings, walking to the bus stop together, hanging out together at school.

Darby, left, and one of his friends from Angel House are in the Angel House apartment that Darby’s family lived in for almost a year.

Among those friends was Jeff Desmond. Darby said he and his brother consider Jeff and his brother Josh to be like family. “We called them our brothers,” he said. That’s the way he thinks of many of his friends from those days.

Now 31, Jeff lives in Rhode Island. He was at Angel House when he was in eighth grade at Barnstable High School.

Of Darby, he said. “We got along right away.” He described them playing around the property, on the basketball court, football in the yard, acting out skits. “We did all kinds of stuff. It was really fun living there,” he said.

Since Angel House, Jeff has had his share of tragedy. In 2003, Jeff’s sister was killed at age 16 along with another girl when she and two friends were in a car with three young men, one of whom was driving drunk.

As for his mother who was at Angel House for treatment for her addiction, Jeff said the program was good for her. “It was the longest I saw her sober. She was doing really good when she was there,” he said. Jeff said his mother relapsed after she left the program. She died last year of a heroin overdose.

After graduating from Barnstable High School in 2003, Jeff studied acting at Cape Cod Community College. He joined the army and was sent to Iraq. He served overseas for 15 months and was injured. He said he is trying to get back into shape and to find work in construction.

Darby has invited him to act in his movie and he plans to come to the Cape to shoot some scenes. “I’m excited. I can’t wait,” he said.

Of his friend, Darby, Jeff said, “He was always a good kid, a strong kid, a people person. He always had a lot of friends. He was always one of those people who’s determined. If he’s going to do something, he’s going to do it. I see him going places.”

It was while living at Angel House that young Darby first got interested in filmmaking as he and his friends, other children living at Angel House, would make up funny skits. A favorite was staging wrestling competitions, complete with crazy costumes, based on professional wrestling. “I’ve always been into film,” Darby said.

Paula said her son Darby showed his artistic talent at Angel House. She remembered him drawing dinosaurs from Jurassic Park and taping them together and the drawing stretched all the way around the living room of their Angel House apartment.

“I’m really proud of Darby. He has risen from the ashes. It says a lot for the parents. They loved their kids.” Marni Reiber, former Angel House staffer

In recent years, she said, he continues to be creative. He has written a children’s book about a cricket. “He’s very multi-talented,” Paula said of her son.

Marni Reiber, who was the case manager at Angel House when Darby’s family was there said, “I’m really proud of Darby. He has risen from the ashes. It says a lot for the parents. They loved their kids.”

 

WaveLeaving Angel House

As her kids bonded with new friends at Angel House, Paula focused on recovery. After almost a year in the program, she was ready to “graduate” from Angel House and move out of the shelter. It was a big move for the family.

Darby’s mother, Paula, second from left, graduates from Angel House, as her three children, including Darby, far right, look on.

Although the family left Angel House together, Paula soon separated from her husband. She said it was a tough decision to make. Housing Assistance Corporation found Paula and her three children a rental house nearby on the corner of Winter Street and Mulberry Street, and HAC helped Darby Jr. get a handicapped-accessible apartment in Founders Court, an affordable housing complex in Hyannis, Paula said.

Paula said her husband was clean and sober in Angel House, “but as soon as he got out, he picked up right away.”

Darby Jr. admitted, “I think we all had a relapse at one time or another.”

Young Darby remembers visiting his father at Founders Court and seeing burned spoons in the kitchen utensil drawer. “That was normal to me,” he said. It wasn’t until years later that he realized that was a sign that his father was using heroin.

But Darby Jr. said he has now been sober for 15 years. “It took a long time. That’s why my kids are doing so good. They saw what me and Paula went through,” he said.

Darby Jr. said he can’t remember exactly what finally led to his finding long-term sobriety. “I guess just wanting to do better for the kids. To be a better father so we could get together more often,” he said.

“What’s crazy is growing up, seeing my friends OD. I’ve known them forever. I see they get arrested and I see them go to jail.”

For Darby, who grew up seeing how drugs affected his parents and their family, the decision not to use drugs has been easy. “Overall, I’ve seen what it did, the lifestyle. I’ve seen it’s not a normal life,” Darby said.

He knows plenty of people whose lives have been turned upside down from drugs. “What’s crazy is growing up, seeing my friends OD. I’ve known them forever. I see they get arrested and I see them go to jail.” But Darby is determined to stay away from drugs and earn an honest living. “I’m going to take the hard road,” he said.

Paula appreciates that her children have not fallen into drugs, and Darby said his mother often speaks of it. “She gets emotional when she talks about it,” Darby said.

 

WaveCrisis Again

After leaving Angel House and leaving her husband, Paula was with a new partner, a man she met in an addiction recovery meeting while she was living at Angel House.

“A couple of the women [in the group] said stay away from him. They knew him from meetings,” she said. But she didn’t stay away and soon she was pregnant with another child.

Darby, then 13 years old, remembered being distressed about this new man in his mother’s life. Within a year, his worst fears came true when his mother had what he called “a little misstep.” She relapsed and her children, now there were four of them, were all put in foster care.

Darby remembers standing at their house with his younger brother and sister and holding his new baby brother, the child his mother had with her new partner. “I just wanted us all to stay together,” Darby said.

“We were in the new house, just getting started. She got hooked [on heroin]. She got pulled over and they came in the morning and took us,” Darby recalled.

“They” is the Department of Social Services, now called the Department of Children and Families. Darby remembers standing at their house with his younger brother and sister and holding his new baby brother, the child his mother had with her new partner. “I just wanted us all to stay together,” Darby said.

But that’s not how it worked out. The four children went to four different places.

“They took us to an office. They took the baby, but she got him back in two months. For us [the older siblings], it took awhile,” Darby said. He recalls his younger brother went to the Key program for nine months, a residential program for children, and his sister went to a foster home in Bourne.

Darby was sent to the home of his mother’s best friend in Hanson, a woman he called his “aunt” because of her closeness to his mother. Her children were like cousins to him and he was comfortable there. But he missed his family on the Cape.

By then, Darby was 14 and this was the summer before he was to start Barnstable High School as a ninth grader. He was concerned that if he was living in Hanson, he would have to change to a different school district. He wanted to be close to his mother and siblings, as well as his friends. At his request, his “aunt” would bring him to his mother’s house for overnights.

Social workers, realizing Darby wanted to be near his family and in the Barnstable School District, found him a foster home on Pitchers Way in Hyannis, not far from both his mother’s home and his father’s apartment.

It was the home of Al and Arlene Martin, and it would again change the course of his young life.

 

WaveA Foster Home in Hyannis

Al and Arlene Martin got into being foster parents by chance. Arlene said it all started one rainy night when her husband went to let their dog out.

He saw a 15-year-old friend of their son’s huddled on the deck in the pouring rain. The boy said his mother’s boyfriend was beating him up.

“My husband said, ‘Get your tush in here,’” Arlene recalled. They called the Department of Social Services who asked if the Martins wanted to take the teenager as a foster child. Arlene and Al asked their three children—a 15-year-old son who was friends with the boy; a 13-year-old daughter; and an 8-year-old son—whether they would mind.

“They were all for it,” Arlene said.

That “child” is now 45 years old and is married with two children of his own. He remains close with the Martins. “We’re still considered his mom and dad,” she said.

Their second foster child was also a friend of their oldest son. Arlene joked, “I said, ‘Will you stop bringing home kids. Most kids bring home animals, you bring home kids!’”

There would be many more over the next 20 years. Some stayed for a couple of weeks, some, like Darby, stayed for years.

“Most of the boys got along. Some didn’t get along. There were all nationalities and ethnic groups,” she said.

Now 71 and living in Lowell, Arlene said she always called her foster children “her boys.”

“I’d say, ‘This is one of mine.’ I didn’t want to put that stigma on them,” she said.

Arlene recalls Darby at age 14 arriving at her house with his belongings in a trash bag. He soon made himself at home.

Darby said of the Martins, “They did a good job. They made us feel like we were their kids.”

Darby’s younger brother visited for a weekend and also wanted to stay with the Martins. He was 13 at the time, younger than the children the Martins usually took in. But, she said, she took him in as well for several years.

Darby said of the Martins, “They did a good job. They made us feel like we were their kids.” To this day, Darby keeps closely in touch with Al and Arlene Martin, driving up to visit them when he can and calling often.

Darby’s parents both said they are grateful the Martins provided a home for their sons. Of Arlene, Paula said, “She was there for them. I was in a difficult time.”

Arlene said she relished being a parent to all her foster children, including Darby and his brother, Nick. On special holidays, Arlene would set the table with her best china, “so they could see what life should be like. They really loved it. They loved opening presents.” She remembers buying them bikes one year and Darby could ride around the neighborhood.

Arlene recalled, she took Darby and his brother on their first vacation, up to her sister’s timeshare in New Hampshire for three days. “They had a blast,” she said.

Darby is the only foster child the Martins had who didn’t call them mom and dad, Arlene said. He called them Arlene and Al.

Arlene said Darby has “a heart of gold and a lot of resiliency.” She said he always loved to dance. “I called him, ‘my dancing machine.’”

She said, Darby and his brother also loved wrestling and tried to set up a wrestling ring in their yard. But, concerned about liability, Arlene put a stop to that. “They went and set it up at their father’s place,” she said.

She said Darby loved animals, especially turtles and still does to this day “He finds them crossing the road all the time. He had large lizards as a kid and now has chinchillas,” she said.

“It always broke my heart when kids arrived with all their belongings in a trash bag.” Arlene Martin, foster mother

When foster teens left her home, whether it was after a couple nights or a few years, Arlene said she always made sure they had a duffle bag for their things. “It always broke my heart when kids arrived with all their belongings in a trash bag,” she said.

The Martins eventually retired from being foster parents. Darby was understanding of their decision. He said, with a smile, “We were always fighting and roughhousing and they were done.”

Darby lived with the Martins for all four years of high school and until graduation. Over those years, he met many of their other foster kids who would often come to visit. He considers many of them “brothers” and he’ll be the best man at the wedding of one of them coming up later this year. That “brother” is now a social worker in Colorado.

The Martins’ first foster child, the boy who they found on their deck in a rainstorm, ended up putting up Darby when he moved out of the Martins house.

Arlene Martin said she is confident good things will also come to Darby. “He’s going to make a fantastic husband and father some day,” she said.

 

WaveBeing A Big Brother

While Darby was living with the Martins, his mother, Paula, went off drugs, this time for good. It was around 2000 and over the years since then, her older children ended up moving back in with her for periods of time.

Now Paula is raising her second set of three children, who are 17, 15, and 13. All three are the children of the man she met at an addiction recovery meeting while at Angel House. He died last year of a heroin overdose.

“I told them it wasn’t their fault. It’s an addiction that he couldn’t get over. He made that decision and eventually it caught up with him.”

When Paula found out he died, she called her son Darby and he rushed over to comfort his three half-siblings.

Darby was the one to break the news to his younger half-siblings. “I told them it wasn’t their fault. It’s an addiction that he couldn’t get over. He made that decision and eventually it caught up with him. I told them, ‘Me and Nick are always here for you,’” Darby said, referring to his brother.

Paula said Darby helped his younger siblings deal with their father’s death. “He was there with me to break the news to them. That was good,” Paula said.

Darby is happy to say his three younger siblings are into sports with one of his younger brothers, now a senior in high school, playing on a championship high school football team.

Darby and his brother Nick have always tried to be there for their younger siblings, filling in for their absent father by taking them to sports games, for instance, and being there for them on birthdays and holidays. “He was always in and out. He would come into town at random times,” Darby said of his stepfather.

Darby said he talks to his younger brothers and sister about the hazards of drugs, something he has seen too often. When Darby was a senior in high school a friend overdosed and died. “From then to now, I’ve lost 20 friends to overdoses,” he said.

Stopping short of lecturing, he said he wants his younger siblings to be clear on the dangers of drugs. Given how big the epidemic has become, he wants to keep his younger siblings out of it.. “I tell them, you make your own decisions. You want to try some drugs, go ahead. I’ll tell you right now, it’s going to ruin your life.”

Knowing that teenagers are eager to rebel against advice, Darby has taken a different tact. “I tell them what my mom went through, what happened to their dad. I tell them, eventually, it’s going to catch up to you.”

 

WaveA Mother Reflects

Paula said she remembers that back when she was at Angel House some women who had graduated from the program came back to tell their stories of success. “It gave me some hope. When you are newly clean and sober, you don’t have a lot of hope. You go day by day and minute by minute. Knowing someone was there . . . it gave me hope,” she said.

While some of the kids who were friends with her children at Angel House are doing well, a few are not. “They are on drugs themselves now. I’m just really thankful every day that my kids turned out the way they did,” Paula said.

As for the other mothers, Paula is in touch with several of them. “A few of us made it and are alive. There are a lot of success stories.” Two of the women she was in Angel House with have died, she said.

She talked of women she knows from Angel House who have had their ups and downs. There is one who was battling alcoholism and whose daughter was taken from her, but she is now doing well and her daughter has two children of her own. She knows another who relapsed and lost her child but is now sober. And another who “had a rough patch” is now doing well.

Recently, Darby said, he and his friend Jeff were out fishing and Jeff turned to Darby and said, “It’s crazy, your mom is the only one who got over it and changed her life.”

Paula said that while both of her husbands encouraged her own drug use, she knows it was her decision to use and then to quit for good. “It’s my choice. I was able to pull myself out of it,” she said. And she takes a philosophical take on the course of her life. “I don’t regret my kids. My cards are dealt,” she said.

She said she has been clean for almost 17 years. “I do what I have to do every day,” she said.

Paula said she had a car accident a year ago and had to have surgery on her neck. She said she works occasionally, helping a friend who has a cleaning business a few days a week. She is a certified nursing assistant, in the past taking care of her ex-husband, along with other clients.

Through all the tribulations, Paula has kept her family close, including her ex-husband, Darby Jr. Every Christmas and Thanksgiving, she cooks and everyone comes together. Darby and his brother Nick bring over their father, Darby Jr., from his home in New Bedford.

The celebration of the holidays with family is a highlight for Darby Jr., who is now 60 years old. “Everybody’s happy. When we get together, I can just see by everybody’s faces and expressions. It’s a wonderful time. I think the kids, they keep me alive. A lot of people in my situation don’t do too good,” he said.

Paula, who is now 52, lives in a single family house that she rents with a Section 8 voucher. She said she is proud of all of her children. “None are involved in drugs. I’m so grateful and thankful for that. They are good kids,” she said.

Of her oldest son Darby, she said, “He’s made a good life for himself. He’s a good person, with a good heart.” She said, he’s a hard worker, good to his younger brothers and sister. They don’t have a father. He takes them back to his house, watches football with them.”

Darby’s sister is now a single mom with two children, ages six months and three years. Paula helps to take care of her grandchildren. When she is not picking them up from daycare, she’s driving her teenaged children to sports practices.

“I’m running around, making supper, changing and feeding the baby,” she said. A hectic life, as always.

Of his mom, Darby said, “I’m proud of her, everything she’s been through, what she overcame. She’s a strong woman. Lots of my friends parents have died or overdosed or they’re still on it. Twenty years later, they’re still living the same life.”

Recently, Darby said, he and his friend Jeff were out fishing and Jeff turned to Darby and said, “It’s crazy, your mom is the only one who got over it and changed her life.”

 

WaveAspiring Filmmaker

Over the years, Darby and the friends he met at Angel House have stuck together. “We’re very different but one thing that kept us together is film. We all love movies,” he said.

Two children play wiffle ball on the basketball court at Angel House, where Darby and his friends used to play almost 20 years ago.

At 31, Darby keeps in close touch with those friends, his family, his foster parents and siblings. He has a place to live and hopes to one day own his own home. He has a girlfriend and a steady job.

For now, Darby spends a lot of his free time at the Cape Cod Community Media Center, working on the film he is making. The movie, a Star Wars parody. called “The Maple Awakens” will have 10 episodes, each eight minutes long with characters that include Leroy Moonwalker and Darth Maple. When it is completed, he would like to enter it into a film festival.

He dreams of some day being on a film production crew in Boston or New York and also learning about the business side of movie making.

Darby still lives in the town where Angel House is located and in the course of his job working for a company that cleans carpets, he occasionally drives by the shelter on South Street in Hyannis. He has often wanted to stop in like he did with a friend about ten years ago.

“I want to walk through it and see what it is like now and say, ‘I used to live here as a kid.’ I will literally look at the basketball court and see me and my friends playing basketball.” It would be a flashback to childhood, to memories, old friends and days long gone.

– Please like us on Facebook.

For more stories like this, please see Longform Stories

About the author

Laura M. Reckford

Laura M. Reckford

Laura M. Reckford is co-founder of Cape Cod Wave. She has been a reporter and editor on Cape Cod for more than 20 years in magazines, newspapers and radio. She has also authored numerous Frommer's Travel Guide editions on Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

2 Comments

  • What an amazing story! Darby is a really special person and everyone at the Media Center really appreciates his volunteering and can do attitude.

  • Sounds like Darby is making his way , I’ll bet he did not give up at half time last week either, I hope he reads the book of Job another good read ,especially the last chapter, Job wasn’t completely restored till he prayed for his friends, sounds like Darby has some good friends too. I knew Darby jr. and Paula back in Quincy and I have broken bread with them more than once , Paula is a great cook and always made sure her family ate well. Good family…..

Leave a Comment