ABOVE: The Jensens’ apartment on Delaware Ave and 40th. Though small, it was a huge step up from the conditions Jimmy rescued his daughters from.
Jimmy talked while he showed photographs of cluttered and filthy rooms. He said this is where they found his young daughters, Ariana Rose and Victoria (“Rose” and “Tori”), just before they came to live with him. He said they had been abandoned and basically left to fend for themselves. They were nine and eleven.
The photographs showed rooms with floors covered with clothes and debris. Piles of debris that looked like garbage. In the photographs the rooms looked like a condemned house.
Jimmy said he has been struggling with the girls because they don’t keep their rooms clean. He said their apartment is so messy right now it makes him want to argue with the girls all the time.
He admits he overdoes it with them. He said he sometimes treats his daughters like he treats his workers. He gives them orders. But he knows this isn’t what the girls need from him. Plus he said he understands that because of what they came out of they don’t see the clutter as a problem because it is nothing compared to how they were living in that old place.
Rose talked about the time before coming to live with Jimmy. She said they were totally on their own, she and Tori. Adults were not around. She and Tori quit going to school until they were told they would be put in a “home” if they didn’t show up. But when summer came they were totally without help or supervision.
Rose said they had no food so they developed a network of friends whose houses they would go to at night in the neighborhood to ask to have dinner.
Rose said she was close to her dad before he went to jail but not Tori. So even though they were living in a terrible situation she and Tori were both reluctant at first to come live with Jimmy.
Jimmy had no idea how the girls were living until after they came to live with him. Soon after he discovered how bad it was he petitioned the court for custody of the girls. He was shocked the court said yes! And happy. But Tori was skeptical at first. More than Rose, he said.
The girls came to live with Jimmy in a tiny apartment in the Preston Taylor neighborhood.
Tori talked about her parents. When Jimmy was in prison Tori wanted nothing to do with him, she said. She didn’t even want the letters he wrote her. But now things are different and she sees things in a different light, she said. Now it’s her mother she wants nothing to do with and she likes being with her father. (Her mother is beset with her own addictions and problems that neither of the girls want to be around).
It’s not easy raising two young girls, Jimmy said. Especially in their circumstances living where they live, in a little apartment in a Nashville neighborhood overrun with drug addicts and gangs. But it is worth the battle, he said. And he is determined to make a better life for them all. Who knows, he said. Maybe one day he might even get married again. If the right woman comes along. And they could get their own house, something to own. A dream.