The harsh reality: Nobody loved him

This is the first of a series of daily excerpts from “The Legend of Morris Cerullo: How God Used an Orphan to Change the World.”

By Morris Cerullo

Morris Cerullo was a five year old with the mind and heart of a young adult. His difficult pre-school years only got harsher once his drunkard, widowed father dropped him and his four siblings off at their first foster home.

Morris was acutely aware of what was going on around him. He was growing up faster than any child should. He knew the pain of seeing his mother die when he was just two. He witnessed his father’s love affair with the bottle. He grudgingly accepted the fact that he was a “ward of the state.” For the time being he remained indifferent to the state of New Jersey’s involvement in his life, though that would soon change.

But most of all, young Morris grasped the harshest lesson of all: nobody in this wicked world really loved him. He was just another hungry mouth to feed, another naked body to clothe, another empty mind to educate, another potential criminal to be contained.

Little Morris Cerullo, the youngest of the Cerullo brood, was a lot of things, but he was certainly no dummy. The little boy with the fire in his eyes knew that if he was going to make it in this world he was going to do it on his own — and on his own terms.

So, when his father dropped Morris, his brother and three sisters off at a big house in a middle-class neighborhood in Teaneck, New Jersey, Morris’s adrenaline was flowing. It may have been late at night, but his system was on full alert. Morris knew that nothing good takes places in the shadows of the night.

Although he was too young to fully comprehend the implications of the exchange taking place, he sensed that something important was going down. Under hooded eyes he watched his father have a curt, whispered conversation with the owners of the big house, slam the door on his way out of the modestly furnished home, stride back to his car, and zoom away without a word to the children.

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Instinctively, Dr. Cerullo knew his dad was gone for good. He was no longer a survivor in a single-parent home. He was now officially an orphan.

Morris stood among his brother and sisters as the apparent owners of the house, a poorly preserved, tired-looking couple in their late fifties, addressed the young Cerullos and blandly welcomed them to their new home.

Morris knew abandonment when he heard it. The anger inside him seethed to a new level. His mother was long deceased. His father might as well die too, the weasel. He wasn’t much of a father, but how could he simply dump his children, his own flesh and blood, inside the house of some strangers and drive away scot free? What kind of man does that to his own children? What kind of loser would do that Morris?

After a brief time of getting acclimated and then settling into single beds strewn around the attic —their shared bedroom space — Morris lay alone on the bed in the dark room, staring vacantly at the ceiling. In his mind he replayed the rotten hand he had been dealt in life so far. From the early indications, this latest move wasn’t going to make matters much better.

Like any child on the short end of the stick, he wondered what he had done wrong. Why didn’t anyone love him? Why had his mother died and his father cast him aside like last week’s newspaper? How much of this was his fault? Was he the loser that his circumstances suggested? He fell asleep void of answers but overflowing with hurt and indignation.

When he awoke the next morning he threw back the curtain covering the attic window and gazed down at the multi-acre yard that belonged to his new caretakers. He couldn’t bring himself to think of them as parents, even foster parents. And he couldn’t believe the travesty that sprawled before his eyes. A junkyard! He was now living in a house that was surrounded by a large lot littered with discarded tires, rusting auto parts, and a sea of other dilapidated items. As bad as things had been going in his life, he never saw this coming. He now lived in a home that was apparently funded by the proceeds garnered from other people’s garbage.

Perhaps a five year old who still possessed hope would see the metal and rubber objects covering the yard as a magical wonderland — a property of discarded toys to play with. But Morris, wise beyond his years, knew better. He had been traded from an alcoholic to a junk dealer. As he turned from the window and approached his pile of clothes in the corner to get ready for his first day in a new school, a consuming sense of dread wrapped its hands around his heart.