Interview with Vickie Kerr (Vickie Roberts)
This interview was conducted virtually by Marci Marie Simmons with Vickie Roberts on April 3, 2023 at 6:40pm. Vickie is a mother and a grandmother who tells us about the incarceration of her two daughters which led to her raising her grandchildren. Vickie talks about over sentencing and the ways in which she fought to ensure her grandchildren maintained a relationship with their mothers. This interview might be of interest to individuals who want to learn about the ways mass incarceration of women in particular negatively affect the family unit, ways in which communities can support victims of mass incarceration, and/or ways in which families can maintain relationships while separated by mass incarceration. Marci Marie Simmons is a formerly incarcerated woman and social media personality who uses her lived experiences to advocate for incarcerated people and prison reform. Marci Marie also interviewed Vickie’s daughters, Nadia Kerr and Kristan Kerr. Those interviews are also available in the archive.
VICKIE KERR (ROBERTS): Thank you for having me. Thank you.
SIMMONS: Yes, thanks for sharing your story. I just appreciate it so much. So Vickie, I met your daughter while I was incarcerated and that's how I got your name. And we've got to archive both of your daughters’ stories now and one of your granddaughter’s stories, and I'm just so excited to hear your story. So, with that —
KERR: Get ready.
SIMMONS: Yes, with that, where do you think that your story as it relates to mass incarceration, where do you feel like it started?
KERR: I think it started March 21, 2010, that was my birthday and that was the day they both got sentenced.
KERR: And when the sentence was handed down, I was – I won't say unemotional but I felt like I was going to bust wide open, so I got up and I left the courtroom. So Nadia, I mean, am I allowed to say their name?
SIMMONS: You are, and it's up to you, and we can edit it out. Both of your daughters have let me know that we could use their names in anything, so they're comfortable if you are. Yes, ma’am.
KERR: They sentenced Kris first, and there was a lady sitting in front of me. I don't know why I remember this. There was a lady sitting in front of me and waiting for her child to be sentenced, but Kris went first and they sentenced her to twelve years. And I was just stunned that they gave her twelve years because I paid an attorney that never went to visit them. I paid an attorney to handle their case that never visited them. I went into my retirement to do this. I'm just a little frustrated with that one, so excuse that.
So Kris went first and they — twelve years — so I just took a breath and then when Nadia came up, the judge sentenced her to twenty years. And at that point, the lady in front of me turned around and she had tears in her eyes and she said, I am so sorry. And all I could do was get up and leave because there was nothing I could do. There was absolutely nothing I could do about it. So at the point of sentencing, to me, was when the incarceration started. Even though they had been in the city jail for about a year – at least a year – and the attorneys never went to see’em. For about a year, it still wasn't like it was real, you know? I didn't consider, Oh they'll get out, they'll be alright, they'll get probation, they'll come home.
Meanwhile, for a year I have three children, three babies. I have three babies. One of them is still in Pampers. So I'm taking care of the kids but the day of sentencing just changed the whole trajectory. I just had to totally regroup within hours. Within hours, I had to realize what was going on. It took me a minute to settle down and then I still probably didn't see them for another ninety days or so. That's the beginning of mass incarceration to me. I didn't feel like they should have gotten that kind of time. Yes, they did it. They did it. They did it. But, it was the first offense. They had issues. They had drugs. I didn't feel like that was the solution, to lock them up. They needed help. Nobody died. Had somebody died and I would probably be looking at this another way. Yes, people are hurting. People I'm sure were traumatized by the crime that was committed to them. However, I just did not see 20 years attached to what she did or twelve years attached to what she did.
SIMMONS: I can imagine that moment when they're in county jail. You're thinking, Okay, it's kind of temporary and I'm here with these babies until their mama gets back and it's not going to be too long. And then you hear those numbers. Tell me about those babies. Tell me about those babies.
KERR: They were just little. They had two sisters from one and then the other one, she was the only child, and they had not started school yet. My husband, at the time, was he working? I can't remember if he was working at the time because he's been ill for some time. So he might’ve – shortly after we got them, I believe is when he got sick and he couldn't work anymore. So it's me. Everything now is on me. So I had daycare, I had groceries, I made too much money to get food stamps. I couldn't get medical for them, Medicaid or any. I couldn't get anything for them and just because people make money, don't mean they have money. I'm just saying. So I had to take care of these little babies. But we just dug in as a family. I have an older daughter who helped me with the medical part of it, and all that.
But other than that it was just kind of on me, on us. My husband and I had to take and raise these babies. We're both pastors and I believe that God just took over. He just completely managed us, managed the whole thing. I don't know. I don't know. We didn't struggle. We didn't struggle. We had times when we didn't have a babysitter so we couldn't do anything as grandparents. We had to stay with the babies or take the babies with us. At one time, I had three car seats in my car, and there was a [inaudible], and then I bought a van. Because I wanted to make sure they had what they needed. We would go without so that they could have, and we did it. We just did what we had to do. I looked into – at one time – something for grandparents and I couldn't find anything because they kept telling me, There's a grandparents something out there and you can get this for your grandbabies because you’re a grandparent of an incarcerated mom, you can get this.
Until the GEMS program came, I got nothing. I got absolutely nothing, but I just walked by faith. We just did it all by faith, and God took really good care of us and took care of those babies. And they started school and they went to a good school, and we just did what we had to do. We sacrificed, and I don't really even consider it a sacrifice, because we had to do what we had to do and take care of mom in prison. They depended on us as well – I'm not going to let them be indigent when I have twenty dollars I can send, you know, I just couldn't see them going through a lot of the things that I believe sometimes other inmates would go through. I wanted them to be able to bless somebody with what they had and not – so they sometimes got over provided for in a sense. So you can help somebody. I believe no matter where you are, if you can still do something to help somebody else then I think God will do something for you. So we just took care of the babies and did everything that we had to do for ten years. Whoo.
SIMMONS: And you did it, and here you are, here you are to tell the story. Tell me about taking care of your daughters while they're in prison. As a mom, there's just so many facets to that and so, yeah, tell me, tell me what that entailed. Everything.
KERR: I had to keep them encouraged. Both of them would go into hole, I call it a hole. At some points in serving their sentence, they would kind of go into a hole and it was up to us, or me mostly, to help bring them out. So we would talk Bible, we would do encouraging scriptures. We stayed kind of in the spirit realm when I would talk to them because I couldn't let them go, I couldn't let their mind go there, I couldn't let them go to a place which would make the problem worse. So we just talked a lot, we talked every day. When I say every day, we would talk every day. I would be talking to one and the other one was calling. And I had to make sure that they could talk to those babies because the girls would say, Is Mama calling? Did you talk to Mom, did you talk to Mama today? No, she’ll call at six o’clock. We're going to be home at six o’clock, you can talk to her then. And they even got familiar with the number on the phone. Oh that's Mama, let me answer it. It was that kind of thing and I wanted to keep that connection because I am not your mother. I'm not your mother. I will always be your grandmother. When Mom comes home, these are the expectations. Because I know my daughter very well, Nadia has a different style than Kris, so Nadia would be more of your friend but she's your disciplinarian. She's not going to let you go wild. Kris is soft-spoken and so is Chloe. But they're like this. They like all in water. I know them.
And that's exactly what happened when they got home too. So it was just sending money, keeping money on their books. Sending gifts at birthdays. Cards, not gifts, but cards. I think every year, we went to this family thing that they had at the church building, the little church building. They would have all of the family come, so many people could come, and I would do that and I would always get a chance. I don't think I was supposed to minister to some of the other ladies. Yeah, let me speak it. Can you pray for me? You know, it would be that kind of thing, and it was just good, it was good. We didn't have a bad experience, we just didn't. And when visitation – visitation sometimes got real deep. I learned a lot about my girls that I didn't know until we had visitation. They had to open up to me. They began to tell me, Well Mom, let me tell you this, let me tell you this, and this happened to me. Remember the dream you had, that really happened to me. Unbelievable.
And there were a lot of tears at visitation because they felt like it was time to open up. And sometimes the girls wouldn't hear everything. Certain conversations I wouldn't have with them but we always managed to open up about something and I think it just kind of brought us closer because what I thought I knew, I didn't know, and what I didn't want to know, they told me. So it was not a bad experience, sometimes I believe they needed to be there. And I always say, I would rather go see them in prison than to go look at their head stone, because that's exactly what could have happened, and God didn't allow that. So I was just grateful, as a mom, as a grandparent, that I was visiting them in prison and not in the cemetery with their babies. So that's just the dialogue that we would have, you know, We still here. We're still here. You're still able to talk to them and encourage them and even discipline them with words, if you have to. Sometimes Mom had to correct them so they could keep that voice. I didn't want them to lose their mother's voice. You know what I mean? That makes sense.
SIMMONS: It makes perfect sense.
KERR: I don't know what that would have done, had they lost their voice with their children. And it was just my responsibility to keep the communication open. So I did what I had to do.
SIMMONS: Your grandbabies were pretty young, so I'm just wondering – I know the oldest was four, I think?
SIMMONS: Was there a conversation that had to be had regarding what was happening with her mom and her aunt? Or was she young enough? How did that work?
KERR: The little one had to learn. The little one was tough because she asked me one day, and I'm not going to cry. She said, What is a mom? She said, What is a mama? Because I'm not Mama, but when Mama would call, she would talk to Mama, but she didn't know the position of Mama if that makes sense. So that was a hard conversation with a three-year-old, or when she turned three or four, to explain to her what a mother is. I said, She’s just like me. But she had you, I didn't. I'm caring for you. She birthed you. And it was just kind of evolving because I didn't know how to explain that to this little baby who's asking, What is a mama? But she finally got it. I believe, probably when Nadia got home. She finally got it. Chloe was three. She's a year and a half, almost two years older. She was always quiet. We had to kind of pull stuff out of her, but she didn't talk much. We had to feel to her to make sure she was good because she wouldn't talk about things. She still doesn't much. But she was a little bit different. The older one, she has been grown since she was about six months. She's just a smart kid, but I could tell she would hurt. She would hurt. Even at four and five years old for some reason, she would coddle her little sister because her mom would say, You have to take care of your sister. And when I tell you she did just that. She took care of her. When she said, Do this, then Erin would do it. She was just like a little mother but I felt like it was too much responsibility on her because she would truly, truly act like a mom instead of a big sister. I don't want you to do that, don't do that. You clean this, and I'll clean this, and she would do it.
So they’re even close now, but it was just those moments when you didn't know how to explain what they really needed to know. That was the hardest part of them being so young. But they got it. I feel like they got it. And I believe had I been the kind of grandma that said, I'm not sending money, we're not accepting calls – because I've heard those stories, then I believe the children would have really been dealt a disservice because you never take away the mom's voice. Never. They are not what they did. They're not what they did. They were having issues and nobody dealt with that. Nobody dealt with that. And I didn't think time like that was the answer.
SIMMONS: So, your grandkids, and I'm trying to keep myself composed just because you're just really speaking to my heart so thank you for that. Your grandkids are growing. They're growing. How are you balancing things that come up like report cards or any issues at school or disciplinary issues? Are the moms involved? Are your daughters involved? Are you keeping that separate from them? Tell me about that.
KERR: They know everything. They know every ABCD. They knew everything because we talked every day. When we got a report card, I would send a copy of the report card. Then we make time to talk about the report card and she would always talk to the children about – I would reward them for their good report card because they're smart kids. They wouldn’t have Fs, and I didn't have to deal with that kind of grades. Mostly discipline, mostly behavior, is what I had to deal with. Whoo, Lord, the behavior. You just made me remember all that. It was mostly the behavior that they had at school rather than the grades. But Mom and I would talk about it, and by now they have cell phones and they have tablets and computers and things that we could remove from them as punishment. Well, we're going to take this away for a few days and let us see how you, Can you get your homework done? If we take this away, you know, that kind of stuff. So it was always not necessarily negotiating, but letting you know that there are rules and this is the standard of this house. We don't fail in our grades. We don't have bad behavior. These girls that went to prison was a 4.0 GPA. What are you doing locked up? These girls are following in their footsteps with these grades and these smarts and it was just the behavior of them.
I even took them to some counseling. My job offered counseling for everybody in our family for free, six sessions. And I would drive to take them when I got off work to counseling sessions so they could learn how to communicate and learn how to behave because they weren't managing themselves well. If they can manage their grades, but I think they kind of lost contact with who they were. And that's where the hurting part came because one would get a depressive spirit on her. The other one would be angry and want to yell back. The little one, she was just stubborn, and she had a—she probably don’t want me to talk about that part. But it took a long time to get all that stuff together.
By the time Mom came, we'd already dealt with everything that needed to be dealt with. But they were included in the decisions that we were making, they were included in the awards. When we did something great, we’d send pictures. Hey, we did this, this, this to reward them for this and, you know, all the activities that they did, we tried to take them to the park, do stuff like that, just to keep them normal. Just to keep them normal. And I think we did a pretty good job of that. So we just did everything together, everything. Though they couldn't be here, it was as if they were here. Christmas day, we're going to call at 4 o’clock, and I don’t think we were supposed to, but everybody in the house would get a chance to talk to them, kind of sort of. And we remained a family as much as we could. Even with the absence of them when they weren't there for the holidays. And I think that kind of hit the girls a little bit right there as well. Because there was a time that they had to call, a time that they had to talk to Mom on Christmas Day. And I think that was a disappointing part for them. But we made it good. I think we made it as best as we can. Because we would buy gifts and we put the mamas’ names on them. Your mom sent you this, look what Mom did. You know, everything was about the mother. To keep them close. And I just believe that helped.
SIMMONS: I think you did an amazing job, more than I thought, a completely amazing job. Just for the story, both your granddaughters’ dads are gone, right? They’re out of the picture completely at this point?
KERR: They were, yes.
SIMMONS: And just because of the conversation I had with your granddaughter, she talked about visiting her aunt sometimes, maybe getting to spend the night over there and how your family kind of – So, could you talk about that? Did you get a little bit of a break sometimes?
KERR: Wow, yes. There was a school year, one school year, that my older daughter kept two of them. Kept the two sisters. And she sent them to school and she could care of them for a year and I just kept the one. They would come together on weekends and stuff like that. But that was the break for me. I was never without one of them. But yes, they went to them for a whole year and I mean, she did what she had. I didn't spend any money. I didn’t have to do nothing for a whole year. So we did do that. And my granddaughter is old. She'll be thirty next month, so she has kids as well. So they would go to their house and they always had family to go visit. They would spend the night or go to slumber parties, and the blessed thing about it is I could trust where they went. Because girls are different. Boys, you have to watch your boys, too. We always were kind of protective of them because people are crazy. And no, you can't go to her house. You can't spend the night there. We don't know them. That was sometimes hard too because they felt like they should go. But no, we're responsible for you. I can't let you do that. What would Mom say if some—I'm thinking to myself, if some idiot got a hold of my grandbaby, and now I'm in jail. We just decided to keep them in a small circle. It was either my older daughter or my niece, and all of them were the same age. So we kind of kept them mobile. They were mobile and they got a chance to do—and they helped, they just helped out a lot. They would bring us groceries. They would buy the girls clothes and buy them shoes and it's just a family affair. Everybody pitched in when they could. Christmas was beautiful. And school, well, we mostly had to buy the uniforms for school but they would still contribute. It was just a family matter. We all did it. I think we all served that time.
SIMMONS: Yes, yes. Say that again, say that again.
KERR: We did, we all served that time.
SIMMONS: So, with the help of your family – but the weight of it is on you – you’re caring for your daughters that are incarcerated. You're caring for your granddaughters. Even the times that they weren’t with you, you're still kind of that parental figure out there, so you still have your hand on what's going on. I'm just curious, what did you do for yourself? Were you able to practice any kind of self care to take care of your own needs emotionally, physically, mentally?
KERR: Not much. Not much, no. That's all I can say. Not much. Not everything evolved, I had moments where we would do things and my husband would take me somewhere just to get away. There was a time that I had a job for two years – I had a job where I traveled in the state of Texas and Arkansas. I had to do some compliance stuff. So I would travel and I would be gone like two, three days a week at times. So he would have to take care of them while I was gone. And I can't still say that it was a break because I'm trying to figure out, What the girls doing? What the girls doing? Yeah, okay, is everything alright? That kind of thing. But as far as vacations, no. It'd be like if my daughter went to SeaWorld, she would take the girls, and that would be my break. But as far as me taking care of me, no, there wasn't very much of that.
SIMMONS: Sometimes, I—
KERR: You're trying to regroup.
SIMMONS: Yes I can definitely imagine. Tell me a little bit about the GEMS program. How you got involved with that, what it is.
KERR: Whoo. I cry to this day about – GEMS I believe saved my sanity, I should say. They came in at a time, I'm going to say, maybe two years into it, maybe. I want to say maybe two years into our care for them. No, it wasn't that soon. I can't remember, but I know they were the first girls to be a part of GEMS when they first began. Girls Embracing Mothers. And they call me and they say, Can we come visit? Yeah, you can come visit. So they came to the house, and we talked about the program, and they shared with me about what they represented as far as making sure that the girls kept connections with their moms and spent quality time with them. Not just an hour here and an hour there – they would spend four hours with their mom. And I so needed that. I really, really, really needed that.
So when they came, they put them in the program and there was like that next month, they were going to see their mom. That would give me a break. I would drive to Dallas and take them to Dallas, and they would pick them up and get on the bus, and they’d go to the prison and spend time with their mom. And that was just such – God did that. I truly believe that was a divine thing that happened. Because at Christmas time, I didn't have to spend as much as we could do. We didn't have to do that anymore. They took care of them. They took them on retreats, they took them on overnights, they had parties, they kept them involved, and I would even involve their moms and to me, it wasn't me doing it. It was showing them that somebody else cared about what they were going through. And they learned a lot through GEMS. And they met new friends who were going through similar things, and I felt like that was important for you to talk to some girls your age, and they are going through the same thing you are. It's amazing the conversations they would have on their way home, Nanny, We talked about so and so’s mom is the same as my mom. It was that kind of thing, and they would talk about stuff that they wouldn't tell me, I can't tell you that Nanny, you know. So they made friends, common friends, who they could talk to each other and I think that just kind of helped a lot. GEMS was magical. It's just magical. It still is, because I think my daughters are still a part of it and the girls. So, great aftercare, great. I mean, they just came at a time – man, I really, really needed them. And they came in and just did everything that needed to be done.
SIMMONS: You talked about how important you felt like the girls having friends that had a common denominator. So I'm wondering if you were aware of any issues that they had with their friends that weren't in GEMS, their friends from school and church and that kind of thing. Did you know if they faced any – did you see or hear of any things that they faced regarding their moms being incarcerated?
KERR: I did. I did. I did, and we handled that one. Because what you won’t do is tell everybody. So they were at the elementary school, and I went up there – because one of the teachers had brought up in front of the class about Megan's mom. So that was really a short conversation. We just had to get everybody involved because you have no right to say anything about where her mother is. Why do children need to know anything about that? If she's not talking about it, why are you talking about it? So we kind of had to manage through that one incident. Never again. But at church, at school, that was the only time that there was an issue was one of the teachers had said something to another teacher about her parents. And I had to defend her, I had to defend my baby, because no adult – if the kids were doing it, you can kind of see that, you know, it's how the kids find out, we don't know how they find out. But for adults to act like that was on a whole nother level and it was short-lived, I might say. But yes, that was the only incident. At school, they did fine. At church, they did good. I mean, no issues. Nobody made them feel bad about it. You know, I just didn't like the idea of people talking about it. Adults talking about it. And that was the only thing that really bothered me.
SIMMONS: Right. That was Megan’s story to tell if she wanted it to be told.
KERR: Exactly. Exactly. Yes.
SIMMONS: I agree. I agree with you with that, for sure. I'm wondering about – oftentimes society kind of has a stigma that they place not only on someone that has made a bad decision or been a victim of mass incarceration and ends up in prison, there's also one on the family that's left behind. And I'm just curious if you felt that from your community? How did you navigate those waters?
KERR: I have always been, I say what I got to say, you know. On my job, I had people that knew. But they weren't evil, wicked kind of people that talk about you. They were people that say, Hey girl, you got this, you know what, you stay with this, we got you. You know, everybody didn't know. But I had certain people on my job that knew. And as far as our church, they were embraced. I never felt bad. I never felt bad. Nobody ever – and I'm trying to think back at a time when I – never felt bad. I was never embarrassed. I was angry for a while but I wasn't angry at them, I was angry at the system, because I never felt like they should have got that kind of time. Give them some time. They didn't even have tickets, come on. And you give them that kind of time? But I was grateful because when I think about the other persons that were involved and got 60 years, I was grateful for that 20, because it could’ve been worse. So I just kind of look at it that way. Family, I mean, people – I didn't have any kind of nothing bad. Nothing. My boss was wonderful, he would even help. People just helped. We didn't have a hard time.
SIMMONS: I'm glad that you had that community. That's so important. So we're fast-forward –
KERR: I want to say something. And we’re going to fast-forward, I just want to put this – I work in the housing industry, apartment management companies that manage apartments. Low-income, affordable housing. So what this did was really triggered something in me. Because I don't believe when people get out of prison, they should be homeless. So I began to talk a lot about what we call a selection criteria, where it says if you haven’t been off paper for 15 years you can't get housing. If you committed a crime and you still on parole, you can't get housing. So I began to talk about these things to housing because I work there. So it just kind of ignited something in me, and it caused me to have a cause. To say, Yes, they can get housing. Why is this? And ask questions. And so, in doing that, we found a policy that said, Y'all wrong. You can't do that. If people have five years from the date of offense, if they do 10 years in prison, they've already met that criteria. So when they get out they can get housing.
So we had to educate the industry on why people need to have housing when they get out. Both of my girls were able to get on special programs when they got home, and they are doing so well, and I am so proud of them. But those are conversations that needed to be open so that when women come home they can get their children. When they come home, they can get their babies and they can be productive and we can help them. Yes, you can pay their rent for some months and that kind of thing. And this whole thing just kind of changed my mindset – not that I ever thought people shouldn't do it because I've been in this industry 25 years. But it's just saying now they have a voice. They have somebody who's speaking up for them, and a lot of times people get out with wrong information. They don't have the knowledge that they need to get what they need. And I just believe that there should be resources out there that really, really, really truly know what's out there. And that's what this did for me, just this whole experience. Okay, I'm done.
SIMMONS: That's incredible. It gave you an incredible cause. It absolutely – I'm so impressed. Thank you so much for telling me about that. It's amazing.
KERR: It's so needed. Why would you not? Why would you not? I just could never fathom that. A gentleman got out of prison, and he got his sons. He had two sons, little sons, when he came home from prison, and he was denied. And fortunately, it was something that I managed. Wait a minute, hold up, there is a policy that says he can get in there. So when they began to open that up, he was able to get a unit. Not from me, but because it says that he can. But it broke my heart that this man is getting his kids, and he's trying to do the best that he is. I don’t know where the mom was, but he was trying to get it. And he was able to get housing. And it just blessed my heart that we were able to help somebody do this stuff. Are there always availability? No, there's not always availability. But when there is, I think people should know what's out there and how you go get it. And go get it, and know it's for you.
SIMMONS: Yes, I could hug you right now. It's just so important and it's such a barrier.
KERR: It is, it is.
SIMMONS: [inaudible] are close to being dear to me have been challenged with. So yeah, that's huge. So your daughters, you said that they were doing wonderful.
KERR: They are.
SIMMONS: Can you talk about who came home first? How did you know she was coming home? What did that look like? What did the girls know?
KERR: Sorry, I’m eating ice.
SIMMONS: No, take your time please.
KERR: Kris came home first. And we were really trying to keep it a secret. But that Chloe – I can't remember how she found out. So I was going to get her. I think, trying to remember, did I go get her back by myself? I can't even remember now. I was so glad for them to get home. I think I went to get her by myself. When we got home, Chloe was in school, and when she got out of school, Kris was already here in the back. And they were just them. We just kind of let them have their moment. Because she knew she was coming home. We didn't keep that a secret from her because we didn't want her to have anxiety and all that. So we just tell them, Your mom's coming home, Mom's coming home, she’ll be home next week. We didn't go too far because then that would have been a mess. So probably about a week before we knew she was coming, we told Chloe that she was coming home. She came home, and they did really good for a little while. And then it normalized or settled, and now I have to get to know you outside of the prison, outside of the table that we were sitting at. I have to get to know you up close and personal. And they had their moments, they still do. But they really, really had some challenging times because the mental of the prison came home in Kris, and the mental of the prison was in Chloe. That make sense?
KERR: So they both had different perceptions of being in the same place. They were both in prison. So now they have to learn how to be free together, and that was hard for them. So we refereed a lot, we refereed a lot. But what I did, I put them both in one room. You’re going to sleep with your mom. Megan and Erin, you stay in this room. Kris and Chloe, y’all stay in that room. So you can talk, so you can get to know each other. And eventually, not long after that, Kris got her place. No, I take that back, she had surgery. She came home, and she had to have surgeries, and it's been kind of rough health-wise for her. So we have been having to kind of keep Chloe encouraged and help her where we can because she can't take care of her mom like that. She tries to but she can't do it. So then when Kris got sick, it's just kind of up and down with them. But we try to buffer, we try to be the buffer. To say, Okay Chloe, she's going through this now. You’ve got to be patient. Okay Kris, she's having to deal with this, so you’re gonna have to understand. So we’re kind of like the counselors now trying to keep them both communicating, and sometimes it's still hard.
Then Nadia came home. Nadia was home about three months. She had a job. Kris probably could have had one, but she couldn't do anything because she had to have those surgeries. But Nadia came home, she got a job. She started the little egg roll business, and she got on housing, and she got her car. I mean, she just started doing the thing. You know, she's one of those precise kind of people, [who] write it down. And I tell them, if you write the vision down, somebody will help you run with it. You write it, and then you'll cause people to want to help you do what you're doing. Just write it down and share it with them. And then everybody just started kind of helping. Hey, you can get a car over here or you got this for down payment, let me help you with this, and everything began to fall into place. She's doing so very well. And her and the girls, that was another one. Oh, God, those were the hardest times, when they couldn't communicate, and they just couldn't get it together. So they're both kind of in that place now where they're still getting to know each other, it's been three years for Kris, two years for Nadia. Yeah, they're still getting to know each other. They don't know each other yet.
SIMMONS: You went from full-time grandmom, three babies in the house, watching them, elementary school, middle school, and then in a year's time you don't have any babies in the house. How did that feel? Do you have any kind of empty nest like a mother might get?
KERR: No, none. None. None. And God has a way of working things out. I love God like that. He has a way of working things out because when they left, my husband became ill, and now he's had two strokes and heart attacks. I need to take care of him now. So it didn't happen while I had the girls. So now he can get my time and it's not divided. So it just kind of worked out, you know. I feel like my Ministry is caring. My Ministry is taking care of people. My life purpose is to care for people and make sure they're good. All my life, I've done it. My first marriage, my kids, my grandbabies, all of this whole life. All of these 63 years has just been filled with caring. I just accepted it. So what I do for me, I do for me. I'll go get my nails done, about to go get my hair done as well. I have on this hat, sorry. And get my feet done. Friends will take me out to lunch. Hey, come and go to lunch, let’s go. My husband and I will go to dinner or on a date or something like that. And that's just the way we manage through, we're getting older, you know, I'm just glad to be kind of getting ready to retire.
SIMMONS: You described—
KERR: No, I don't—I miss them, but I don't.
SIMMONS: Right. I understand, I understand. I was just curious if, you know, there is a loss that mothers often feel when their kids kind of go and I was just wondering, it's just such a different dynamic there. You described Christmas while your daughters were incarcerated and you talked about how they had a certain time that they called, and everybody kind of got to talk to them, and gifts from your daughters to your grandbabies. Tell me about Christmas now. What did your last Christmas look like?
KERR: Last Christmas, I think my husband was in the hospital. And typically we'll meet at one of our houses. My sister, I have two sisters and a brother, but we'll meet at somebody's house and all of us will have Christmas Eve together. And my oldest daughter, she has her own family, so they'll spend the night and take the pajama pictures and all that kind of stuff. But our Christmas, this past Christmas was us. Me and my husband, quiet at home with our matching pajamas, watching a movie and chilling out. That's what we did. We didn't go anywhere. We didn't visit. We called, Hey, love y'all, Merry Christmas. But we were home. We didn't do anything. The Christmas before that, we visited. I got COVID. Or was that the year before? One year, on December 26 I had COVID. That might have been ’21. That was ’21. Yeah, because ’22 we stayed at home. So, yeah, it was just quiet.
SIMMONS: I'm sure that you have had your daughters and your grandbabies all in the room, what does that look like?
KERR: Yeah, they are funny. Oh, they are funny. My girls are funny. They make you laugh. The grandkids are nuts. They're just funny. They don't argue and fuss and fight and all that kind of stuff. It's crazy at our house or anywhere we are when we're all together because my daughters are really, really close. So, they are just funny. Everybody's got kids except a couple of my granddaughters don't have kids yet, so it's just open, crazy, love, fun, loud talking, trash talking. And usually my husband and I are just sitting down watching them and laughing because they are crazy. It’s just good times. Nobody talks about where they've been. Nobody brings that up and if they do, everybody's got a joke for it. They have a joke for it. Yeah, but we had to do that. You know, they have a response, but it's nothing ugly. You know, it's not ugly. It's a beautiful thing that they can now come home and not feel bad because they weren't here. It feels good.
SIMMONS: A lot of them being able to feel that way comes from the way that you responded to the entire situation. That's like – pat yourself on the back in a very serious way.
KERR: Oh, wow.
SIMMONS: So we've been talking and we're just almost at an hour and I want to respect your time, for sure. I know you've worked all day. I do have kind of a final thought that I've been asking the rest of your family when we've talked, and that is just two things. So 2008 or 2009, if you could go back in time and first look yourself in the mirror and say [to] Vicki, what would it be? And then to your daughters at that time?
KERR: It's funny, you should say 2008 and 2009. 2008, Kris had had a serious car accident and she was thrown from the vehicle. It was in December, December 17, my sister's birthday, 2008. And we were all at the hospital praying her through, and that same week I had a doctor's appointment, and when I went to the doctor they diagnosed me with breast cancer. It's funny you should say 2008. So when she comes home, by now I'm going through chemo, and I have to take care of her because she's [inaudible] at the time, can't do anything at the time. So I'm doing chemo and I'm taking care of her and the baby, and we just kind of going through all this stuff. So in 2008, I would say I would look in the mirror and say, Girl, you drew strength from a place that you didn't even know you had. You got through that period of everything. I felt like everything was being thrown at me, but I would duck and I would miss and it would miss. It couldn’t take me out because I was ducking. And it was missing me. It couldn't hit me. So I would definitely tell myself, You did that. You did that. You did that. You did all of that. You did all of that. God sustained me so I could go through that. I would tell my daughters that no matter what they did, no matter what they've ever done, I never stopped being who I am to them. I'm going to always be their mom, I'm going to always love them, I'm going to always protect them, I'm going to always give them my everything that I have, that I can spare. And I believe that every time I pour something into them, they pour it into their babies. And when I'm not here anymore, I'm still here. So I would tell my daughters, just continue to pour what I pour into them, into those babies, and to keep me alive. That's what I would tell them.
SIMMONS: That's beautiful. It's right here too. Vickie, thank you so much.
KERR: I can feel you. I feel you. I feel you, Marci.
SIMMONS: I'm going to turn the recording off.