A black family in Maryland weathers the pandemic and inflation with some success

Watching Tyrone Ferrens and his blended family today, you’d be forgiven for thinking their path to success was easy.

Despite the ravages of the pandemic, Ferrens – a stock-savvy man who has a habit of casually dropping high-level economic discussions into everyday conversations – says he and his wife’s household income has since doubled. the onset of COVID-19.

The home the family shares in Aberdeen, Maryland — a six-bedroom, five-bathroom suburban structure with a swimming pool and two backyard ponds — is a testament to years of hard work by Ferrens and his wife, Michelle.

“We saw our house being built from the ground up, and it was like our baby,” Ferrens said, pointing proudly to the backyard.

There, Ferrens and his wife live with two of the couple’s adult children—biologically Michelle’s, but also loved by the couple—Ferrens’ mother, a grandson, and a brood of pets.

“We’re like the real Brady Bunch,” Ferrens jokes, introducing the couple’s “only biological child” — an equally small and territorial white pup named Ashe.

Until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Michelle had retired from her job as a respiratory therapist.

“It’s a respiratory disease, she was getting ‘we’ll pay you’ phone calls, doubling her offers or tripling her salary to travel,” Ferrens said. “And we came up with a plan that while she was doing this and I was doing the things that I was doing, we could afford to build this house, our forever home.”

Ferrens works as an electrician for sports equipment company Under Armour.

While Michelle was on the road as a traveling medical professional, he often worked upwards of 115 hours per pay period to take the loneliness away from his missing partner.

The turn to honest work was an abrupt departure for Ferrens, who spent 16 years of his adulthood addicted to crack cocaine and heroin. As many often do, Ferrens also turned to dealing drugs during this time.

“I’m from New York. I grew up downtown, came from Brooklyn,” he said. “I came here basically out of necessity. I had tried to get away from both the police and the people.”

Ferrens described the “persons” as possible “co-defendants” in the charges he faced.

Downward spiral

When Michelle and Tyrone first met, barely out of their teens on a flight to California, both were on bright paths.

Tyrone was heading to training for his career as a Navy electrician, and Michelle, then an aspiring rapper, would join RIAA-certified gold girl group JJ Fad.

But Tyrone Ferrens found his time in the Navy disappointing. He says he was training for elite Navy SEALS, but says he faced overt racism from fellow recruits.

Ferrens intentionally failed a drug test to get his discharge, he said, sending his life into a downward spiral.

He returned to New York and lost contact with Michelle. He married and divorced his first wife and began using and dealing drugs.

“I had been living in a hopeless existence for so long,” Ferrens said.

After his last stint in jail – a six-month felony assault bid in 2007 – Ferrens decided to turn his life around.

“I was determined, because I had sons, that I didn’t want to continue down this path. I wanted to change my life.”

He joined a Jumpstart program for ex-delinquents and improved his skills as an electrician.

“I finally completed four years of apprenticeship school. I became a licensed electrician,” he said.

“I never had contact with the police again. I’m 15 years sober and just finished at Under Armour.”

From there, he reconnected with Michelle – then mostly finished high-flying touring life and herself a mother of four.

The two moved to Maryland with plans to build their dream home to enjoy their retirement years.

But over the past two years, as the pandemic raged, two of the couple’s adult children found their financial lives in jeopardy and moved into their parents’ house.

The eldest of the two children, a daughter, Regina, took possession of the basement, accompanied by her four dogs – two huskies and two chihuahuas.

“This was going to be my man cave,” Ferrens said of the basement, but “kids need a place to stay means kids need to go home. That’s way more important than ‘a cave of men.’

The two children, inspired by their father’s success, are now following Ferrens’ career path and training to become licensed electricians.

“I would just see him at work, and I would just be amazed at how much he would talk about or how much we would see,” Ferrens’ son Andre Lee said admiringly of his father.

“I never had that growing up,” he said. “Although he is my stepfather, he is my real father in the end, because of what he has done for me in my life. It is thanks to him that I can call myself a man and be proud of it.”

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