Cullman Senior Spring 2021 - Page 26

Local Author SPOTLIGHT

Johnny Burks

Author of I Just Want You To Know My Name shares memories from his years in the foster care system

For those of you who do not know me , my name is Johnny Burks and , before retiring from public education , I spent 22 years teaching science at Cullman High School . As a teacher , I have always tried to connect with students by letting them know that at one point in time I was much like them , a typical kid trying to find my way through life . In so doing , I relayed to them parts of my life story , a story of growing up in foster care , being adopted , and coping with the trials and tribulations of adolescence .

Over time , I began pondering the notion of putting my story , my brother ’ s story of foster care , abuse , and adoption to paper . But being so busy as a father , a husband , a teacher , and a coach , I never was able to find the time necessary to describe the experiences trapped in my head . In 1999 my father died , and it was then that I became motivated to write the memories I had shared so many times with my students , now told in the memoir I Just Want You To Know My Name .
I was born in 1965 in Mobile , Alabama and was immediately placed in the foster care system along with my brother . I have no recollection of being a toddler , no pictures , no anything . The only memories I can recall of those early years are of my older brother , Terry . Terry was two years older than
me and as a child I can never recall a moment that the two of us were not together . We were never told of our parents , or if we had any other siblings , all we had was each other .
When your existence is a mystery , like mine , it is natural to speculate the circumstances that led to your beginnings . My brother and I did not share any resemblances , Terry had light skin , mine is dark ; he had blonde hair , mine is brown ; he had grey eyes , mine are blue ; which leads me to the notion that we shared the same mother but different fathers . As I look back , I often wonder what brought or kept the two of us together . Was there a death that led to us being placed in foster care , could it have been something financial , perhaps something criminal ? These are all questions that have never been answered , and probably never will , but no matter what the explanation might be , we were always together and that made us brothers through and through .
For the two of us , foster care was a nightmare . And I say that not figuratively , but literally . Why , you might be thinking ? The explanation lies in my brother ’ s nightly bedwetting . For as long as Terry and I were together , he wet the bed . Whether it was sleeping so deep that he did not sense the urge to wake up , or whether it might have been a
26 | SPRING 2021 CULLMAN COUNTY SENIOR MAGAZINE