Life, Love and Lily

story and photos by Lucas Reilly

“I stopped selling meth when I heard about her,” Earl Anderson of Newark, Ohio, said. He had been dealing methamphetamine, crack cocaine and marijuana while also struggling with addiction. After a month of abusing drugs with the intention of ending his life, he received a phone call from his ex-girlfriend, Amy, of Chillicothe, Ohio. She was pregnant with his baby.

On April 18, 2014, then 20-year-old Amy gave birth to Liliana, or Lily for short. Earl and Amy married two months later and moved into a single-bedroom apartment at Carriage Hill Apartments in Athens, Ohio. Amy studies mechanical engineering at Ohio University and took classes right up until delivery. Earl has devoted himself to caring for Lily while Amy is at class and when she is studying.

“I’ve done some bad shit in the past, I’d say. Not a very good beginning,” Earl said. He says he’s just happy everything turned out for the best. At 21 years old, however, he has yet to complete his GED. His mother left him when he was 2, and his father kicked him out when he was 13. After having a difficult childhood, he is determined to give Lily the best life he and Amy can eke out for her. He plans on pursuing a GED to inspire her to stay in school. He wants to spoil her and considers her his reason to live.

The young couple is mainly supported by Amy’s parents with a budget of $300 every month for food and living expenses. Earl and Amy are quite contrasting individuals, aside from their personal histories. She is a vegetarian and he is not, which affects their shopping needs. He has attention deficit disorder and says she may suffer mild depression. Against adversity, the Andersons rally over 9-month-old Lily and their love for each other.

“We’ve got to be a team,” Amy said.

Earl takes care of laundry at one of Ohio University’s student laundry rooms using money that Amy’s parents put on her student account. He also juggles watching Lily and running errands while Amy is on campus. They usually shop for groceries together, though, and share a cell phone. In the fall of 2015, the family moved into a larger apartment, which allows for a nursery for Lily and some peace in Earl and Amy’s room.  Earl says he doesn’t know what the future holds for them, but he is hopeful.

“You’ve really got to make sure that you have enough money to afford these things that you need for kids,” he said. From formula to the inevitable trip to the ER, a key struggle of being a young parent, he says, is the constant worry over the child’s well-being—they’re always on the go. Their plan now is to follow wherever Amy’s engineering career leads them. Earl says he feels blessed for the way things turned out.

“It’s just sad I didn’t get to start it right off the start,” He said. “Lily’s what brought us along, so I’d say the future is looking very bright.”