Thursday, September 27, 2007

Blog Against Abuse: The Breaking of a Child

Today is the BlogCatalog Blog Against Abuse challenge. There are several ways I could approach this subject, and I have many of my own stories to tell, but the first person that came to mind was an old boyfriend of mine whom I’ll call Jarod.

Years ago, when I was going through one of the worst times in my life and had bronchitis six times in one year and finally came down with pneumonia, my doctor had the insight to ask me, “So, what’s going on in your life?” I told him. That’s when he kind of sighed and said, “It’s amazing to me how many people walk around every day silently suffering, while they desperately try and keep their lives and relationships above water.”

This was true about me at the time but it also painfully describes the entire life of Jarod - a really handsome, sexy, bright and talented, regular guy and business owner, who will probably never live a “normal” life, whatever the hell that is.

Jarod was three years old, and his brother 4 years old, when their father was in the service in Korea and their mother simply left them in the house, and never came back. There were no relatives to check in on or wonder about the boys. No aunts, uncles, grandparents. The boys were alone in the house for a week or more before neighbors looked into the windows and called CPS. Jarod remembers that dirty diapers weren’t an issue. He and his brother just took their diapers off. What he remembered the most was hunger. He and his brother took all the pillows off the couch so they could pile them up and stand on top of them to get the last of the food and drinks from the refrigerator. Ingenuity at an early age.

CPS contacted the boys’ father but he wasn’t interested in coming home from Korea. So Jarod and his brother were separated and placed in different foster families, where they were both beaten. When their father returned from his tour of duty, he married another woman, and now that he had a wife to take care of those pesky kids, he took his boys back home. Besides, he owned a restaurant now and he needed free labor. Their new step-mom sexually abused both boys at night, while they learned to flip burgers and wash dishes by day. The oldest boy left home as soon as he could. Jarod started hanging out with the Mexican guys at work and started dressing like them, while he dreamed that someday he would be as cool as Steve McQueen.

Jarod achieved mega-coolness. He went to barber school and became a hairdresser and in the early 70s he owned the hippest hair salon in town. He had trouble with relationships – not only with women, but with his business partners. He made lots of money, blew it on drugs, alcohol and partying, and lost everything eventually. When businesses or relationships weren’t working, he just walked out and left everything behind.

On the side, Jarod would buy older homes and live in them while he completely renovated them. I saw them all, and each became a fortress. He dug up lawns and plants and replaced them with concrete. He got rid of windows too. He called his renovation style modern. I think he was simply trying to build a safe place for himself. Inside, he’d have a mattress on the floor and closets and closets full of food and toilet paper. He had the money to buy furniture. He just never did.

His brother lived in a nearby state, married and had children, became severely alcoholic and self-destructive, while he maintained top sales figures in his industry, and lived in a beautiful house in a wealthy part of town. He stayed in touch with Jarod by phone but when they spent more than a day or so together, they fought bitterly. There was just too much silent pain and shame between them.

When I met Jarod in the early 90s he had two hair salons – one in an old folks home, and another tiny two-seater salon in a seedier part of downtown. He hired an older woman to do hair in the old folks home – someone who could do the kind of helmet hair that lasts a week, the kind my mom still sports. And he worked alone in his other salon. His clients followed him through all the ups and downs of his career because he was really good at what he did. And he listened to all their problems, and freely offered his advice. After work, he went home and drank alone. If he went out and drank too much, he often called a cabby friend to come and get him, a guy who had been in AA for many years and would drop anything to come and get Jarod and get him safely home. This is evidence that there are angels in our lives.

My relationship with Jarod was sweet but short-lived. He was good to me, but finally just checked out. We remained friends until, unfortunately, he overstepped my boundaries and subjected me to abuse from one of his new “friends” and almost helped me lose my job. I couldn’t stay friends after that. I know from personal experience that abuse can result in boundary issues for the victim, especially for those who have suffered from physical abuse. Not only are you disconnected from or confused about your own boundaries, but you often don’t respect other people’s boundaries. So I understood, but I thought it was best that I sever the relationship.

I have sad, but fond memories of Jarod. He is one of those victims of abuse who, like my doctor said to me, walks around silently suffering, trying to keep his life and relationships above water. When a child is broken, they have the next 50, 60, 70 years to somehow try and live their lives. If they even last that long, it’s through a heroic and mostly unheralded effort. I dedicate this post to Jarod and hope that many more angels continue to gently support him through his life.

For a hopeful story about a man who helps abused children express themselves through art, visit my main blog here: Turning Pain Into Possibilities Into Purpose
For a story about dealing with anger through blogging, visit my political blog here: From Anger To Elders: Can I Make The Leap?


Olga, the Traveling Bra said...

I too believe there are angels among us. Thank you for this touching & thought provoking post Lisa.

Lisa Wines said...

Ahhh Olga. You're welcome. I hope you come and visit us soon. :-)

Sweet Tea said...

Congratulations on winning 1st place for this. You deserve it!