Are you tired of hearing…

articleinfo
This is a blog regarding an article that appeared in the Ark. Democrat – Gazette, Thurs. August 16, entitledCover-up tactics detailed in report: grand jury lists methods that hid church’s sex-abuse cases.”  

I don’t know how many of you have been following the many stories about the grand jury report investigated by the AG of Pennsylvania after 18 months, but I pray that you haven’t been desensitized by how often abuse now fills the media and reporting. If you believe the media is overflowing with reports of sexual abuse, consider for a moment that each and every allegation is TRUE then try to fathom the number of unreported claims of sexual abuse.  It’s everywhere, no more today than before, we are simply in the day and time that victims are coming together, standing in solidarity, to find not only a solution but validation.  What marks the newest claims as different is that they reflect child grooming and molestation on a huge scale, and after gaining access to 500,000 pages of documents, something sinister was uncovered.

Not only did these mandatory reporters use tactics to hide abuse, but they urged church members to never tell the police. The AG and his team said, “It’s like a playbook for concealing the truth,” and that truth is that literally hundreds of pedophiles were using the church to groom, exploit, and abuse. It is the same story we are seeing with the Boy Scouts, who kept records of tens of thousands of pedophiles who used their institution and structure in a way that weaponized their leadership positions. One of the Cardinals went on to call it a “terrible plague” of abuse, yet even he is accused of helping to protect those identified as “abusive priests.”

Can you imagine yourself seeking to confess your sins to these powerful men, appointed agents of our God, only to have them use your confessions, vulnerabilities, and life trauma as a tool to manipulate? Already the report and coverage by the media has caused victims to finally believe that someone is now willing to hear and believe. Please, if you have been abused by a priest, volunteer with the church, Boy Scout leader sponsored by the church, or any person that has abused you, call the State Hot Line (1-800-843-6349). Report the abuse and keep reporting it until someone investigates your situation because, as you know from the Hogan case and my own, sometimes these abusers have influence in high places.

The article goes on to point out that a former Pennsylvania prosecutor was fired from his job as an attorney for a county youth services office after the report showed that, as Beaver County’s elected district attorney in the 1960s, he stopped an investigation into alleged child abuse by a priest to gain political favor from the Pittsburgh Diocese. Yes, that was a long time ago, but the years do not dilute the poisonous and malicious inaction carried out by public elected officials that chose favor over facts.

One need only look at the case against Charles “Jack” Walls III in Lonoke, Arkansas in the early 90s to witness the same prosecutor misconduct that should turn every elected prosecutor’s stomach. In that case, Larry Cook stopped an investigation into a pedophile using the Boy Scouts the same way these priests are using the church. When Doug Hogan came forward with his father, seeking to protect us all and expose the predator, Larry Cook and those in his office did all in their power to protect his mentor’s pedophile son. Not only the prosecutor’s office but Ken Murphy of the Arkansas Department of Human Services also refused to indulge Mr. Hogan with an investigation.  Judge Charles Walls II was a powerful and intelligent man, having groomed and guided the political career of those that even today fill positions of power in that county.

How do we know that Jack Walls was protected, you ask. I refer you to the documents we are sharing to prove what we suggest. Prosecutors allowing political favor to guide their interpretation of the law and investigation of certain individuals violates constitutional rights and ethical obligations as civic officials. After all, if church leaders suppress and the prosecutors suppress, then what hope do we as victims have in trying to become survivors free from mental torture, manipulation, and our very being slowly dissolved by trauma?

It is my current hope that the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime will review what we have collected as well, and see if there aren’t church officials, political officials, and un-investigated predators that violated children under the enabling and empowering watch of Lonoke County’s finest.

Did not Larry Cook choose to have Jack investigated for false imprisonment, knowing that the facts reported would not support such a charge?

Did Judge Walls, in his infinite wisdom help him come up with that strategy as he got an outside attorney to draft the charges against me?

You see, they know the law, what words to use, what not to say, and the prosecutor is the one that guides those investigating officers. One might even conclude that Larry Cook simply made a mistake, but he followed that up by undermining the Hogan family’s second try at justice in municipal court as well. Not only were the charges dropped against Jack, but he was allowed copies of the victims’ statements that enabled him to confront, intimidate, and cause boys to redact damaging information before the second investigation began. Go ahead, ask me how I know.

It is my hope that you become as offended and enraged at the injustice as the victims of the predator and begin asking the kinds of questions that those in PA have now gotten the answers to. What I wish for you and all those in Arkansas that were victimized by prosecutor misconduct that enabled the rapes of boys, is for you to know exactly who empowered him. Just as the church is now reeling as Bishops and Cardinals are being brought down, my prayer is that as a state we too seek to end the use of institutions for predator grooming and abuse. We don’t need fake investigations with improperly trained or misguided personnel by politicians that ensure police officers are left searching for evidence to support crimes that don’t match the facts. We don’t need elected law enforcement who have backing from predators that seek favor to continue molesting and raping children. We don’t need mental health professionals that protect predators, and then dismiss the impact of years of rapes on the mental state of those victims.

WE NEED ACCOUNTABILITY!

Lastly, to quote the article yet again, “Finally and above all, don’t tell the police. Child sexual abuse, even short of actual penetration, is and has for all relevant times been a crime. But don’t treat it that way; handle it like a personnel matter, ‘in house.’ ”

I was mentally tortured, manipulated, molested, and raped for 10 years by a man elected Man of the Year by officials that knew what he was. He had done what he did for close to 40 years, lost jobs and fled to Vietnam to avoid charges of abuse, yet no one claimed to know a thing. He was a man that used the church to research his victims, used family members to recommend his Boy Scout treatment plan for troubled boys, and even after the Hogan’s outed him the abuse went on even after my arrest.

I can only hope that in the 21 years since my family died that the state of Arkansas is at least able to see what they ignored those many years ago. I told people and told people what he did and why, but as the church and priest used their influence so did my abuser and his family.

Please read what we share, see the failures and connections, and take the time to see my life through the eyes of a victim, not the monster you’ve tried to make me. The investigation of church officials of all denominations, of mandatory reporters that fail to do what is required by law, needs to sweep the nation so that all are protected not preyed upon.

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The test, the results, the TRUTH

On March 30, 1995, Dr. Kenneth Counts, Ph.D., P.A. sent a letter to Heath Stocks’s family doctor, Dr. Les Anderson, M.D. concerning his time with the patient. In that letter, Dr. Counts relates his sessions with me, the episodes of explosive anger, and then goes into his thought on why such anger is an issue. He suggests that it stems primarily from my difficulty with relationships with girls. He then points out that I have an interesting history in that I was “apparently seduced by a dance teacher” when I was thirteen, and it continued for about a year and a half. I felt that it harmed my reputation with local girls, and that was because the dance teacher was telling everyone that I was lying. Of course, no one looked into it and she wasn’t investigated, but it does beg the question, “why wasn’t more done to investigate the issues of abuse.” Dr. Counts then states that he sent me home with an MMPI to be completed for diagnostic clarity; to be taken home and returned the following week.

I can remember sitting in my room, struggling to make sense of what I felt versus what I had endured from so many, resulted in what I felt to be an accurate reflection of what was inside. It should be noted that Dr. Counts sent me home with the test, I volunteered to take and return it, and there was absolutely no reason for me to exaggerate my responses. In fact, the truth was that my father was ashamed that I had to go to a “head doctor”, saw it as more proof of my weakness, and he refused to pay for it. Mom used her school insurance to get me in, paid for the sessions herself, but dad made it clear that I would keep our home out of those sessions if I knew what was good for me.

I knew what it meant to embarrass the family name, after all, and shaming Joe Stocks got you hurt, quick. I believe that the atmosphere in our home, what I was enduring from Jack, the abuse with Lana, it all played a part in those answers. It was the most accurate reflection of my mental and emotional state at the time yet, as you will see, the results were quickly dismissed and ignored.

What I found interesting upon learning enough to understand the basics of the testing and its results is that so much was there, all available if only someone took the time to see it. The computer-generated results determined to be:

“clinically elevated profile of a client who answered a considerable number of F scale items and the validity of the profile is somewhat doubtful.”

It does not state that it is the result of someone faking the test, but doubtful because of what the results do suggest  – not what they don’t.

Further down in the evaluation, the computer states:

“this pattern occurs among 3.0 % of adults receiving clinical evaluations.”

My question is when are results not considered somewhat doubtful when they represent only 3.0 % of patients taking the test? If that few respond in such a way, then how do they determine if it is exaggerated or the result of malingering? What reason would I have to fake my mental health or emotional state, as a Senior in High School, who had not been arrested for anything?

The computer results go on to say:

“This usually occurs when a person is confused, has difficulty understanding the questions, or is truly disturbed in a plea for help is exaggerating a variety of symptoms.”

Considering I had ADD, testing had already suggested I would need remedial classes in college so, I could have been confused or struggled to understand the questions. But, in light of what we all now know; the domestic abuse at home, 10 years of sexual abuse and conditioning by Jack Walls, at least a couple of years abused by Lana, is there any doubt that I was disturbed and pleading for help? Is that not what people go to therapy for in the first place? Did I exaggerate a variety of symptoms or simply possess the expected and quite understandable mental condition of a child that had been raped and abused most of his life?

It wasn’t until a dear friend sent me the book “The Male Survivor: the impact of Sexual Abuse” by Matthew Parynik Mendel, that I recognized what had been missing. I didn’t understand the scoring they referred to as exaggerated, and I couldn’t comprehend how I was malingering a test I volunteered to take at personal risk to myself from my father. The areas listed are numbered 1 thru 9 and 0, and my computerized test results said that clinical scales elevated in areas 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9 were elevated. What did that mean?

Sure, I could see that the computer said “elevation of scales 6 (Pa), 7 (Pt), and 8 (Sc) is strongly suggestive of a psychotic disorder with autistic thinking, and did not autistic thinking reflect the impact of my brain being abnormally developed?

ADD is a recognized brain disorder that affects the prefrontal lobes, and recent studies have shown that those areas are abnormally slow to develop for someone that has a learning disability.

Did I have persecutory delusions or were my fears justified from father’s years of abuse and the manipulation that Jack had put us through for years. Did I have feelings of unreality, possibly because I had been forced to live two different lives for as long as I could remember? Did I display bizarre verbal and non-verbal behavioral patterns? Dr. Counts would later say that I displayed “bizarre symptoms,” so why didn’t the scores reflect what it said they did?

The computer results go on to say that

“the presence of elevations on scales 2 (D), 4 (Pd), and 9 (Ma) there is often a history of drug abuse.”

Does being given alcohol since you were 9 to lower your inhibitions for abuse count? What of the subsequent use to try and cope with the complex trauma of repeated, severe sexual and psychological abuse?

“As scale 6 and 8 are elevated, there is an increased likelihood of a thought disorder. During an acute phase of their disturbance, these individuals may become so preoccupied with thought or withdrawn into fantasy that they cannot concentrate enough to be amenable to psychotherapy.”

So, there is cause to suggest that a thought disorder is present, based on the testing, and struggling to concentrate is certainly a factor with ADD and my abuse would certainly explain some disassociation.

How often do child abuse victims withdraw or disassociate just to mentally survive what is happening to them?

Continuing with the computerized results:

“Individuals with this profile are ruminative, often depressed, frequently show unusual thinking, and feelings of insecurity or inferiority.”

Would you be depressed, ruminate on the negative messages beaten or molested into you? Would your thoughts be unusual based on the context of your experiences that shaped you? I was very insecure, conditioned to believe that I deserved what I got or should be thankful for it, and after 10 years of intense abuse who wouldn’t be?

“These individuals distrust others, keep them at a distance, and are likely to resent anything they perceive as a demand.”

While I felt that the testing certainly showed some material that could apply, it made me wonder why I was seen in a way different than the other victims? How could the others, who were abused as I was, have their anger seen as a symptom instead of the problem? If we all had explosive anger, the degree of which pointed towards something deeper and more troubling, then what caused multiple doctors to refuse to believe I was abused and suffering from the severity, duration, and other factors?

In the book, “The Male Survivor: the impact of child abuse” by M.P. Mendel, published in 1995, there is ample information to understand everything that went ignored and what went wrong. Clearly, the doctor that treated me was biased against the idea of a boy being a victim of abuse, and even characterized the seduction of a 13-year-old by a 30-year-old as “a relationship”. A relationship implies consent, but by law, a 13-year-old can never consent to be used for sex. Is it any wonder that this doctor would not investigate further?

In a study, presented at the 3rd National Conference on The Male Survivor, Kelly, R.J., and Gonzalez, L.S. (1990, Nov.) shared the psychological symptoms reported by sexually abused men. Kelly and Gonzalez assessed the symptomatology of men who wished to join an out-patient treatment group for male survivors of sexual abuse. (Note: these men volunteered, in out-patient treatment, to be a part of the group. I volunteered to be tested and diagnosed, yet my results were automatically questioned for validity.) The study represents “an integration of two conceptual frameworks for understanding the impact of sexual abuse – the psychiatric model, which is an extension of research on post-traumatic stress disorder (Briere & Runtz, 1989), and Finkelhor and Browne’s (1986) model of the four traumagenic dynamics of child sexual abuse.

Two checklists were used for data collection: the Trauma Symptom (Briere & Runtz, 1989), and an original measure based on Finkelhor and Browne’s (1986) theory. The problems or symptoms were then placed in one of Finkelhor and Browne’s four traumagenic categories. A complete list of the items, the traumagenic dynamics under which they are subsumed, and preliminary data on the percentages of men indicating previous or current difficulties in each area is presented in table 5.5. (page 111)

Kelly and Gonzalez also analyzed Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (Dahlstrom & Welsh, 1960) data from the first 38 men in their study and found that most profiles included multiple clinically significant elevations. Twenty-nine profiles (78%) had three or more clinical scales elevated, with 22 profiles (59%) having five or more elevated scales.

The most frequently elevated scales in this sample were Masculinity- Femininity, Depression, Psychopathic – Deviate, and Schizophrenia. 29% of the men met DSM – III – R (American Psychiatric Association, 1987) criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Kelly and Gonzalez (1990) conclude that male survivors, like their female counterparts, experience the dynamics of betrayal powerlessness, stigmatization, and traumatic sexualization identified by Finkelhor and Browne (1986). They suggest that the psychological impact of these dynamics may be different because of the very different socialization process male undergo, and call for further research on the gender-specific effects of sexual abuse.

What does all that mean to my situation and testing, in relation to the scores, and the subsequent rejection of them? I, like the men tested, had a profile of multiple clinically significant elevations and, like 59% of them, had five or more elevated scores, I had 6. Of the 4 most frequently elevated scales in the sample of men, I had 3 and they were depression, Psychopathic – Deviate, and Schizophrenia (based on their definition). What also stands out to me is the recommendation by the computer “the test should probably be retaken.”

In the early years in which the book was written, a number of studies were conducted with adult male survivors of child sexual abuse. These studies indicate a broad range of emotional and psychological difficulties. Briere, Evans, Runtz, and Wall (1988) found that

“[a]bused males reported a greater degree of psychiatric symptomatology, including dissociation, anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance, than a comparison sample of non-abused men.”

Peter Olson (1990) conducted a study of 44 sexually abused men who got treatment at an out-patient clinic and a 25-man clinical out-patient control group. he administered five scales of the MMPI, which he hypothesized would distinguish abused and non-abused males, and found that the victim group indicated significantly more pathology than the clinical control group on all five scales and in terms of overall adjustment. The following are the scales used so that you can understand each?

Masculinity-femininity, which suggests non-subscription to traditional sex roles and/or passivity; Psychopathic Deviance, which measures level of rebelliousness or conflict, with higher scores indicating more overt struggle, an intense level of conflict with society and, possibly, criminal behavior, compulsions, or other antisocial characteristics; Schizophrenia, which measures disturbances in thinking, mental confusion, thinking disorders, a lack of logic, and possible chronic disorientation; Paranoia, which indicates a higher sensitivity, paranoia, or suspiciousness of others; and Psychasthenia, which refers to a long-term trait of anxiety and may include such attributes as a sense of dread, omnipotence, fear of falling, limited productivity, low self-confidence, and moodiness.

Clearly, those men that have been abused show a wide-ranging response to the trauma that they endure. If you look at the documentation that has been recently gathered, use it as context for my answers, then:

Why did no one see me as a possible victim of severe, sexual abuse and exploitation?

Why did the State Hospital, even after getting Dr. Counts records, refuse to make note of his recognition of my bizarre symptoms and confession of being sexually abused by the dance teacher?

The results from the State Hospital were said to be exaggerated in a similar fashion, so why were mental health professionals so unwilling to admit the obvious?

Jack has been tried and convicted of grooming, conditioning, manipulating, molesting, raping, and forcing us to protect him against our own will. How can they still deny that 10 years of mental torture and rape didn’t play a part in both my mental state or as a motive in the crimes? What no one wants to answer is now that we all know it was the truth, then how could a lie be used to find me competent and offer me what is required by law for my own defense?

Take the time to look up what is known of the impact of child sexual abuse on boys and men, and what are the known symptoms of that abuse and its impact. Please look at the impact of complex trauma, like what I endured from my father, Jack, and Lana. Ask yourself if your son endured what I had, faced with what I did for years, what would you expect of the justice system and mental health services? If they failed to even say they were wrong after clearly saying I was lying about what I thought and felt, then how can anyone say that the evaluation was unbiased and constitutional?

If you wish for further information, please consider “Bonded to the Abuser” by Baker and Schneiderman. It is filled with personal stories of the many that have been abused, in all the ways one can be, and what it did to each of their lives. What I am asking you to do is look at the vast research available, consider what it is like to be a victim that goes ignored, and ask yourself what a jury would have found in light of all that happened? Place yourself in the courtroom, watching your son on the stand, and what would you want for him with his life and future in the balance.

Heath Stocks

*for more documents on my mental evaluation and other professional commentaries please see my website www.heathstocks.info/Docs

 

 

ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences)

Recently, it was suggested that Heath look into completing the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Test.  Not familiar with such, we did a little research.  What we uncovered is invaluable and absolutely on point.  The information on the website Acetoohigh.com is vast and, instead of trying to interpret, I’ve simply placed the information below that I felt was the most applicable, as the article is rather lengthy.
Heath did take the test and his detailed results are found at the end of this blog or can be read here.
*NOTE:  Some information in the answers contains information not suitable for all readers.
The ACE  Study has impacted the public health community tremendously since its accidental conception.  What began as an obesity study by Dr. Vincent Felitti has ended up correlating childhood experiences both mentally and physically with mental and physical health.  It seems logical, yes, but when the proof is abundant, it becomes science; a cause for immense study.
The accidental miswording of questions to participants in the obesity study prompted an uncovering a pattern of sexual abuse in the participant’s youth.  According to Aces Too High:

The first shocker: There was a direct link between childhood trauma and adult onset of chronic disease, as well as mental illness, doing time in prison, and work issues, such as absenteeism.

The second shocker: About two-thirds of the adults in the study had experienced one or more types of adverse childhood experiences. Of those, 87 percent had experienced 2 or more types. This showed that people who had an alcoholic father, for example, were likely to have also experienced physical abuse or verbal abuse. In other words, ACEs usually didn’t happen in isolation.

The third shocker: More adverse childhood experiences resulted in a higher risk of medical, mental and social problems as an adult.

To explain these results, the ACE scoring system was developed.

The ACE Study became even more significant with the publication of parallel research that provided the link between why something that happened to you when you were a kid could land you in the hospital at age 50. The stress of severe and chronic childhood trauma – such as being regularly hit, constantly belittled and berated, watching your father often hit your mother – releases hormones that physically damage a child’s developing brain.

This was determined by a group of neuroscientists and pediatricians, including neuroscientist Martin Teicher and pediatrician Jack Shonkoff, both at Harvard University, neuroscientist Bruce McEwen at Rockefeller University, and child psychiatrist Bruce Perry at the Child Trauma Academy.

To further quote the article:

As San Francisco pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris recently explained to host Ira Glass on the radio program, “This American Life”, if you’re in a forest and see a bear, a very efficient fight or flight system instantly floods your body with adrenaline and cortisol and shuts off the thinking portion of your brain that would stop to consider other options. This is very helpful if you’re in a forest and you need to run from a bear. “The problem is when that bear comes home from the bar every night,” she said.

If a bear threatens a child every single day, his emergency response system is activated over and over and over again. He’s always ready to fight or flee from the bear, but the part of his brain – the prefrontal cortex – that’s called upon to diagram a sentence or do math becomes stunted, because, in our brains, emergencies – such as fleeing bears – take precedence over doing math.

For Harris’ patients who had four or more categories of adverse childhood experiences “their odds of having learning or behavior problems in school were 32 times as high as kids who had no adverse childhood experiences,” she told Glass.

Together, the two discoveries – the ACE epidemiology and the brain research — reveal a story too compelling to ignore:  take precedence over doing math.

For Harris’ patients who had four or more categories of adverse childhood experiences “their odds of having learning or behavior problems in school were 32 times as high as kids who had no adverse childhood experiences,” she told Glass.

Together, the two discoveries – the ACE epidemiology and the brain research — reveal a story too compelling to ignore:

Children with toxic stress live much of their lives in fight, flight or fright (freeze) mode. They respond to the world as a place of constant danger. With their brains overloaded with stress hormones and unable to function appropriately, they can’t focus on learning. They fall behind in school or fail to develop healthy relationships with peers or create problems with teachers and principals because they are unable to trust adults. Some kids do all three. With despair, guilt and frustration pecking away at their psyches, they often find solace in food, alcohol, tobacco, methamphetamines, inappropriate sex, high-risk sports, and/or work and over-achievement. They don’t regard these coping methods as problems. Consciously or unconsciously, they use them as solutions to escape from depression, anxiety, anger, fear and shame.

What all this means, says Anda is that we need to prevent adverse childhood experiences and, at the same time, change our systems – educational, criminal justice, healthcare, mental health, public health, workplace – so that we don’t further traumatize someone who’s already traumatized. You can’t do one or the other and hope to make any progress.

“Dr. Putnam is right — ACEs changed the landscape,” Anda says. “Or perhaps the many publications from the ACE Study opened our eyes to see the truth of the landscape. ACEs create a “chronic public health disaster” that until recently has been hidden by our limited vision. Now we see that the biologic impacts of ACEs transcend the traditional boundaries of our siloed health and human service systems. Children affected by ACEs appear in all human service systems throughout the lifespan — childhood, adolescence, and adulthood — as clients with behavioral, learning, social, criminal, and chronic health problems.”

_____________________________________________________________
Heath’s ACE Results
*NOTE:  Some information in the answers contains information
not suitable for all readers.
Prior to your 18th birthday:
  1. Did a parent or other adult in the household OFTEN … Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
Yes, my father was very verbally abusive from a young age, and he was prone to rages that were laced with cuss words and put-downs. He and my mother fought regularly over the financial burdens my physical ailments caused, and they ranged from my being pigeon-toed as a baby, allergic to Rice dust and Pollen, underbite, IBS, and ADD. My father raged at me for not understanding what he wanted, cussed, called me worthless, a failure, an embarrassment, and the slang word for a woman’s privates.
My father talked down to me around others, sighed over slights that I never grasped, shamed me in front of my mother and sister, and on one occasion had my mother call a neighbor so I could apologize for gambling. After apologizing, he had my mom hold the phone while he beat me so that she could hear my screams and weeping of remorse. The next day, I returned the money, coins from playing “even or odd”, and shamefully avoided the kids that had heard about it. NO matter where we were or what we were doing, my father found fault in what I did, vented at my stupidity, and cussed me when I cried from his attacks. I was hit so much, so often, that I was in constant fear from him, and shamefully used the bathroom on myself several times just hearing him scream. He raged so powerfully that his eyes bulged, spit flew from his mouth, and he shook with disgust. I don’t remember a time when he was ever pleased, everything he saw was flawed and short of his standard, and he often reminded me what shaming the family name would cost me.
When my sister and I were caught playing doctor at a young age, I was accused of rape or incest which made me both nasty and sick. Nothing happened, my body wasn’t capable of it, but for the rest of my life he found ways to bring it up.
When our beagles inbred and had deformed puppies, he blamed me for not keeping them separated. He had me put them in a box, crying and blind, and told me that they were what happened when a brother and sister had sex. They were doomed in their deformity, he said, and made me watch as he took the first by its back legs. I thought he might straighten them, know some fix, but it was a fool’s hope knowing him as I did.
Blood showered the snow as he slapped its little head against the cinder block wall around our well. Tossing its lifeless body at my feet, I wordlessly looked up in disbelief as he told me to do the rest. I watched them struggle, the cold biting, tears spilling down my face, begging him not to make me. He reminded me that he had told me to keep them apart, so this was my fault. I caused it, now I had to fix it. At first I tried not to do it too hard, but then realized I was only beating them up not killing them as he wanted. Sobbing, I swung and watched them paint the snow with my failure, then looked up to see him snort and walk away.
As a young boy, my sister and I had a dog named Bear. She was a long-haired sheep dog that loved to run back and forth around the chicken coop, barking excitedly as they took flight, safely inside. Father had all kinds of chickens and turkeys in there, that I fed and watered as chores, and on weekends he would go stand and watch them. Well, we had gone on vacation to Florida with some friends of my parents, and when we returned the whole property was bathed in down pillow stuffing or so it seemed. The wind had scattered them everywhere, but nothing remained of their wearers or their plucker for that matter.
Bear was hiding somewhere when we drove up, Dad in a rage as he looked at what was left of his birds. Shaking and eyes bulging, he told mom to get us in the house and keep us there. I knew when he went to the gun cabinet it was over and I joined my sister in pleading that she be spared. Mom could only tearfully hold us as he stomped outside, called for Bear, and cussed when she slipped by and into the carport under mom’s car.
Dad would never shoot her there, risking the bullet damaging the car, so inside he came and altered his plan. Going to the fridge, He got some lunch meat, a small sledge hammer, and told us to go to our rooms. Calling sweetly to her, dangling the meat far enough to expose, I saw the swing and yelp. Yet, he didn’t stop, he never stopped, and peeking out the window I saw his arm rise and fall, blood splattering everywhere. Unable to go outside, I watched him use a water hose to wash away the blood, but no amount of calling brought her to me when I did get out. It wasn’t until the sweet stench of rot, coming from the ditch, lead to her discovery. Head crushed, she had been tossed into the ditch close to where mom threw out scraps, discarded for displeasing my father. His brutal justice terrified me to my core, and I always believed when he punished me that I might end up the same way.
  1. Did a parent or other adult in the household OFTEN… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
Yes, I was pushed, grabbed, shook, slapped, punched, and beaten with everything my father could find that might “get my attention.” He never thought that I was paying attention, it was why I struggled to read and understand, and nothing sharpened the attention like a few slaps. The words swam on me, I felt shamed that others could do well what I struggled to, and dad saw my learning disability as evidence of what he had known. Stupid, worthless, a waste of time and air, I was often reduced to tears, stuttering until he got tired of hitting me. Once he started, it always lasted until he was tired, and I was always reminded that it was I who made him do it.
Mom said if I was just good it wouldn’t happen; try harder, study more, but I knew what she didn’t about him. He hated me for being less than he expected me to be, and he often used my sister to compare me to. If only I could be more like Heather, and that was saying something since she was a girl. If I was taken to help him work on the truck, it was easier for me to crawl under and around than him, it wasn’t long before he was pecking me on the head with wrenches. I wasn’t paying attention, not listening to him, so he beat on my head like he did those tires when he changed them. He slapped me until I tasted blood, whipped me with his belt until I was covered in welts from upper back to thighs and, when circumstances dictated, whatever he thought might work. Extension cords, weeping willow limbs, fan belts, and even a swing set chain once until he realized it might be too much.
Mom always made sure that my clothes covered any marks, and there was little that she couldn’t fix with makeup, Preparation H or ice. I think it began when she had to do it for herself, she didn’t please him often either, so she knew what would work and what wouldn’t. She also knew what would happen if people talked, how he would respond, because no one shamed Joe Stocks and went unscathed.
His father was the only other one that I remember hurting me, and he had whipped me with a razor strap for leaving running over grandma’s plastic cooking spoons. She had given them to me to use in the mud hole I had been playing it, creating mud pies and cookies for no one in general, because they didn’t taste like grandma’s in the least, I knew. I had been clothed in the long red marks, it stung even to wear cloths, and when I got home mom saw after a bath. Never understood why my dad got mad enough to slam his father into their house, picking him up off his feet, shaking him, but I saw the spit as he raged and threatened him. Grandpa didn’t touch me again after that, but it really made no difference considering how much dad did on his own.
  1. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Try to or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal sex with you?
I was 8 or 9 the first time my Boy Scout leader, Jack Walls, introduced me to alcohol and porn for the purposes of molesting me. The alcohol made me feel relaxed and care free, the porn inflamed desire in me for the first time, and Jack assured me it was natural for a man to show a boy what felt good. Over the next 11 years or so, Jack would continue to use alcohol and porn to lower my resistance, and progressed from masturbation, to oral, and then anal sex. He performed on me in front of my peers, told me to please others and them please me, and touched me in ways I was raised to believe were wrong. Most of what he did he said I wanted, my body had clearly responded, and if we all responded that way it was what we wanted or were asking him to do.
Jack used to love using adult novels for us to read, telling us to listen as he touched us, and in the fantasy those words created used us in every way a child can be. He encouraged us to touch one another, abused us in front of others to show it was ok, and asked us to recruit other boys or friends so that they could enjoy all that we did.
By my late teens, when I was trying to pull away, dad had begun slapping me around and threatening me for avoiding Jack. After all that man had done for me, the time and energy to make something out of nothing, and all I wanted to do was quit? My father didn’t raise a quitter, damn sure didn’t raise a fag, and he would be damned if I shamed him.
So, Jack molested me at will at the farm, his home, in his truck, and then at my own home since dad gave him permission to seek me out. If I was avoiding him, not going by when asked to, then he could come to our house. He would bring over alcohol, a porn tape, and rape me in my own bed as he told me how much he loved me. He was the only one that loved me, saw me for all that I was, and no one appreciated me the way he did. All that I knew is that there was no escaping my dad, no escaping Jack, and I soon began thinking of suicide, fondly.
The church said what Jack did was wrong, and Jack said that it was only natural. My dad said it was wrong, yet he did what he always condemned others for doing.
  1. Did you often feel that… No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
All that I knew for certain was that I existed to please others, never met their standard, and it made me question who I was and what purpose I had for living. I knew that my mom knew about my dad first hand and what she saw him do to me, and while she told her parents she swore them to silence for fear what he might do. Family couldn’t have missed all the signs, they simply ignored what they heard, because they were raised that what happened in the home stayed in the home.
I was a very affectionate child, hungry for attention, but when the sexual abuse began shied away from contact where possible. It made my sky crawl when people said they loved me and then touched me, because I could see and hear him do so in my mind. Jack had suggested as well that it was natural for a boy to experiment with his sister, only natural that they had sex together. He even had books that talked about it, how sisters craved that kind of attention and affection, and he was full of suggestions. He also wanted all the details, what we did and how they responded, and he suggested that any relationship could offer some form of pleasure if you only knew how.
He wanted us to try and seduce other boys’ mothers, sisters, family members, anyone that might be interested in one of his boys. He wanted to sexualize every relationship to undermine it, so we either perverted them or withdrew to protect them. I withdrew from everyone that I could, not wanting to damn others to my hell, and endured the abuse that I believed was my just reward for being so flawed.
When my abuser was exposed later, his wife and my mother convinced my father to allow him to use his name to continue his involvement in our out of state scouting. He continued to do what he had been, all the campouts were on his father’s farm, and none of the parents believed he had done anything.
No matter how angry I was, how troubled I became, how hard I tried to quit, it was always me who had the problem. I felt betrayed at home, abused and manipulated, but had no idea how to free myself with my family supporting my abuser. They even brought me to his home so that he might prepare me to defend him in court, and my parents saying how I owed him for the young man he helped mold me into.
I knew that Jack used the church to gather information on family problems, knew his father shielded him from trouble, and the churches that sponsored the scouts wouldn’t dare cross the Walls family. Jack used everyone to gather information, and he then used that information to control and coerce us all to his will. I had no will of my own, each day was a toss to see who I would be or what I would do.
  1. Was your mother or stepmother: Often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes or often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
Yes, I saw my father regularly scream at, push, point at, and even shake when she failed to do what he had asked or expected. From having a meal prepared to balancing her checkbook, dad expected her to reflect well on him even if his own behavior made him look the worst of all.
What made it worse is that when she had bruises on her it was me that she told others didn’t know my strength. Word would get back to dad, who wouldn’t abide a son that hurt his mother, and then I got beat for leaving marks that he had put on her. Mom got to where she would cover up, not risking others seeing, and certainly not wanting my father to have another excuse.
When I was in high school, after an argument about him being a bully, I told him that if he ever put his hands on mom again I would kill him. I was on the floor before I even knew what hit me, him sitting on my chest so that I couldn’t breathe, finger in my face, as he spat out that if I ever even said such again he would beat me to death with his bare hands. No gun, no hammer, just those hard fists my body had absorbed for years.

 

What happened, not what’s wrong.

I don’t know how many of you watched the recent 60 minutes episode Treating Childhood Trauma but, for me, Oprah’s words hooked me and drew me in. For a long time, I have known of Oprah’s past abuse, and the powerful example she has set for those of us that were sexually abused as children. What she did for all those who watched is ask questions that provided understanding to the rest of the world.

What is the difference between a child that has been traumatized and one that hasn’t?

How does trauma impact a child’s development, in what ways does it alter that process?

What keeps some kids from the success other victims go on to have?

Imagine, if you will, using someone else’s brain and finding out that circumstances and environment had molded it into something foreign. The wiring is different, it tells you that things are threats that shouldn’t be, and all the memories that shaped your own brain interrupting the world and others are gone. All that you have now to live and make decisions are the memories of another; experiences so painful and traumatic that it disrupts and distorts everything, and you must do your best with what you have. Oh, you also can’t ask others for help, because of the ingrained fear you have from those closest to you exploiting your vulnerabilities.

Alone, you see the world and all in it through these warped lenses called eyes, that a malformed brain registered threats and potential hurts from all directions. You rage at the unfairness of it all, internally confused and afraid, yet to protect from further hurt must project something to fend off those attacks. People look at you like you are crazy, say that your thinking is wrong, but they haven’t been through what you have. No, you won’t find that in the interview, it is my take on what its like to be a child sexually abused for years and the messages that trauma speaks to you and through you every day in every way.

The episode centers on what is called Trauma Informed Care, and how that is changing the way children and adults are given therapy. Why? As a child one of the messages that screamed at me over and over, almost like a mantra, was “what is wrong with you?” Now, if you had endured severe trauma and blamed yourself or been shamed into believing it was your fault, what would your response be?  Would you be offended or defensive? What kind of emotional response would be triggered by someone whose questions are received as, “what is wrong with you?”

What might happen if you are assured and comforted as you are, in a safe place outside of threat and judgment, and encouraged to share for the first time what happened to you? Imagine the hurdles that must be overcome just to reach that moment of trust, for someone hurt so deeply by one once trusted, and without help how difficult it would be to even communicate it. It is the unspoken nightmare that pulls and pushes your every waking moment, how you see and feel about everyone, but how do you put into words actions from others that shaped messages into the very fabric of your being?

I sat there with tears in my eyes, remembering how lost I was and still at times find myself, as I seek to live and cope with a past littered with trauma. How often I have been told over the years that it was my fault no one helped me, because I didn’t tell them what they needed to know to do what would have brought help. If one can’t comprehend what has been done and how it was done, how in the world do you expect that same individual to make you understand?

Twenty years after my abuser was arrested and convicted, I sit in prison watching as our society embraces the truth of abuse and what it has done and is doing to the vulnerable it has consumed. I remember what it was like to be there, see the social proof of what happened to victims and their families who confronted my abuser, and the influence he had over us by conditioning us to see everything as a threat. We had been shaped and wired by this man to think, feel, and act in ways that he willed yet expected to break free of that molding overnight. It makes me pray today that those that investigated my case, those that claimed to have defended me, never have children who are abused. What trauma they will endure over and over, being expected to do what they can’t because they have been wired to do the opposite.

Oprah asked Dr. Perry of the Child Trauma Academy what separates the children that overcome their experiences and those that don’t. He said the simple answer is relationships. It is the relationships around a victim that enable them to become a survivor and the experiences in the healthy confines of those relationships that offer examples that guide their healing.

Tears spilled down my cheeks as I recall the division my abuser caused at home, playing my family and me against one another, and the withdrawal that served to further isolate me from anything or anyone that might offer safety. How he had advised me to do things with girls, knowing it would either push them away or reveal someone he could use to entice others with. The way the abused friends before me or used me to serve as the example so they wouldn’t question what was being done.

Every single relationship he disrupted and undermined because he knew with no safe place to go nor social skills to connect I was alone. All I had were other victims and him, the manipulated and the manipulator, all of us locked in a struggle even our parents pushed on us thinking he capable of doing what they couldn’t.

Arrested, charged, sentenced to prison for life for the deaths of my family, I came to prison more isolated and lost than ever. I had finally told someone, my sister and mother, and that secret had killed them as surely as the gun used to carry out their silence. What was wrong with me, how could I believe that there would ever be an escape and my abuser there with every part of the legal system to ensure it would be I who took the fall. It was my fault, he said.  I caused it, he said.

Twenty years later, with a nation coming to grips with the plague of child abuse sweeping our world, they say in my life the abuse doesn’t matter. No matter what was done, for how long, regardless of who was involved in the murders and why, being in prison means the trauma doesn’t matter. Even if the trauma and abuse would offer context that informed all of the why, no one wants to hear it because it means accepting I am not the monster they created through the media.

Everyone wanted the truth, but no matter how I shared or who I shared it with none of them saw what I believed was being said. Does that mean I failed to share, share enough, or that people simply weren’t willing to see or hear what I had to share? Did the fact I was arrested and charged with murder cause all diagnostic testing to be slanted away from a history of abuse? What might have taken place if someone had taken the time to ask me what I had been through instead of asking what is wrong with me?

The CDC has studies on childhood trauma, the effects of sexual abuse on development, sensitivity to trauma, and how children are shaped by trauma. There is evidence that trauma-filled environments cause abnormal development of the child’s brain so that they think, feel, and act differently. If the CDC warns of diseases passed by bugs, do you doubt or take them at their word? If they say trauma abnormally shapes children’s minds, doctors near and far agree and support such findings, then why is it so hard for anyone to hear a prisoner ask for someone to understand?

The only difference among the millions who are free and those in prison is how they experience and express the trauma that has shaped them. What might happen in a prison system where men are asked what has happened to them and then offered the tools and support to learn how to speak of what has driven them their whole lives to destructive acts. We must understand our own trauma, enabling us to re-write our scripts and become the people we were created to be.

It isn’t all that hard to imagine if you take a moment and try living the part of another without all the good things that shaped you into who you are. All I am asking is that you have conversation with those you know, and ask them what they think of abused children and offering therapy that enables them success. Then, ask yourself how much of what is wrong in our society is the product of trauma, the warp it causes to perspective, and what might be accomplished if we promoted trauma-informed therapy. Do you not want people to understand what you do and why you do it? Is that not important to who you are and wish to project to the world? Then, why are we so hesitant to listen to the hurt of the world, see through the acts to the trauma that caused them, and find solutions that work?

We live in a world where all anyone cares about is what is wrong or right with each other, but it is a dated way of thinking that the #metoo movement and #mentoo branch is exposing. Now that we are speaking out about our experiences, what we have been through, we need those that have not to hear, feel, and understand what it has done.

I ask you for just a moment to imagine your own child caught in the grip of abuse or trauma, and how you would want the community and world to see the mistakes they make with faulty wiring. You flip the switch in your home and office every day, expecting the light to come on and go off, as you intend it. What happens when it doesn’t? What happens when you are forced to live in the dark, blind to what is real, and reacting to the unknown in fear? Turn out the light, discover the sense of losing control, and how it changes everything from one thing to another. It is scary to experience, isn’t it?

 

 

It’s not goodbye, you are always with me.

For those who don’t know, my grandpa Elwood Harris passed away this week after a long, hard fought battle with the effects of time and its impact on the body and mind. Please keep my family in prayer and in your thoughts that God aid us in healing from the loss of a giant in the lives of those that knew him.

My grandfather was one of the best men I have ever known and, as a boy, when I imagined a hero, it was he that came to mind. Many of you never met the man I grew up admiring and loving, but I hope by writing this you can join me in celebrating who he was and always will be. To do that I want to go back as far as I can remember, revisit those days on Coultry Road, where I spent my childhood visiting the Harris family.

I remember those days, black and white, yet still filled with details that make them bright. The house my grandpa had built by hand, the saw mill where he made his living, and those trips to the woods that were wonder filled. He was a giant of a man then, stronger than most men after logging his whole life, but his touch was as soft as his voice. I never heard him raise his voice in anger, no cuss words flung in rage, and he was quick to explain the world to a boy not used to such patience.

Grandpa taught me about leaves and trees, what he did to be safe and what was dangerous but, what I loved most, were the rides on the skidder. He always smelled of chainsaw gas and wood chips, sweat and hard work, and he grinned ear to ear as we got up on the monster machine of my dreams; huge tires, bulldozer-like blade, and a wench in the back that could drag what seemed like half a forest behind. First, he had me sit on the fender, told me not to put my fingers outside the cage, and off we went pushing roads where none used to lay.

As a boy, I was in awe of that raw power, the way grandpa worked it to his will, and oh how I loved that closeness that few others offered. People talked about him with respect, a man that was good and fair and, if he could help you, he would without question. He was not an educated man, in the formal or book sense, but he knew people and the world and what mattered. He had common sense that wasn’t common, wisdom from life, not literature, and a love for family that few could match. I heard him say that as long as the kids were full, had a roof over their head, got clothes on their backs, then he felt that was what mattered. Maybe not in those words, my recall is colored with love, but he said over and over that family was everything. A man doesn’t hit women, he takes care of his kids, provides for family, helps those that can’t help themselves, protects the weak; these were lessons that he lived not talked about others doing.

Grandpa always knew that something was wrong at home; mom and I had bruises on us from dad’s angry hands, but I think he always respected mom’s wishes that he not get involved. I remember grandpa telling me that I could tell him anything, and his recounting a story for my benefit. I didn’t understand then the message, what he may have been offering, but he told me about dad coming to work with him when my mom and he had first married. Dad had made a name for himself, a tough guy or bully that fought a lot, and he was known for seeking out the toughest or strongest to prove himself. After college and being prepared to farm, he found his own dad getting out of it, and not able to work with him. Grandpa Elwood offered him a job cutting wood with him, and I can barely remember those times.

We lived in a little camper, mom so young and happy, but even then dad prone to outbursts of anger. I remember it because it was precious time between me and mom, and I remember our making Christmas decorations out of popcorn, tin foil, shiny streamers, and cardboard. Mom cut out cardboard stars that she hung with paper clips, smiles, and laughter, and we even had a few strings of lights as well. It was a time when Christmas was more about what you had than what you got because I can’t remember the gifts yet the love is eternal.

I loved the smell of cedar, our tree coating my fingers in logger’s cologne, and the simplicity of life seeming to make it somehow perfect. I was small, memories now only snap shots, but I remember grandpa’s story about dad. They had been cutting down trees, cutting the trunk into 6-foot pieces, and then loading them by hand. Grandpa had told dad to start at the top and he would get the base, and they would meet in the middle.

Dad didn’t like Grandpa suggesting that he needed to start with the little stuff, so he argued that he would take the big ones. Grandpa then loaded from the top down, as dad struggled with the bottom one, pride having pushed him to do what he couldn’t. Grandpa then got him out of the way, snatched up the log, and then laughed softly as he loaded it. Dad thought he was laughing at him, being seen as weak his biggest fear, and balling up those fists decided to show Elwood his mettle.

Grandpa said that others there told him not to do it, but Dad wasn’t the kind of man to be put off. Grandpa smiled as his eyes hardened, saying he snatched him up by neck and crotch, held him over his head, and then shook him; held him there long enough for him to get the point and, in that moment, I adored my grandpa. He was a man that was strong and didn’t abuse it, and he didn’t think much of men that did. I think he knew then that it wouldn’t end, but dad went off to do other things after that reminder that gentle giants still walked the earth. Grandpa asked me from time to time how dad treated me, was he good to mom and us, and if he needed to have a talk with him. I was afraid of my father even then, this man so prone to anger and violence, but there, in grandpa’s arms, I could know what a man could be.

Grandpa always had ice cream in the freezer; Mr. Goodbars, fudge bars, and Brac’s candies somewhere. He always had some sweets somewhere, and his eyes lit up when he saw me devour them with bliss. My Uncle Woody and Aunt Janice were still at home back then and fought like only a brother and sister can. I was amazed over the fights that broke out, and it was clear that grandpa was the eye of the storm.

Grandma Annie was a banshee it seemed, smiling one minute and raising holy hell the next, but oh how I loved that house and the characters there. I wanted to be like Woody when I was older, strong and handsome, but boy did he and Annie fight; argued, cussed, raged, it was country folk conflict at its finest until grandpa came home. He was the kind of man that simply righted the world with his presence, and the disappointment in his eyes was enough punishment. You knew that you had done wrong when he looked at you, and it was shame, not fear, that made you want to change.

When I was young I used to hear the feats that grandpa had pulled off, and he became a legend in the eyes of a young boy in need of a hero. I heard the stories of his working at the saw mill at a young age and, though he was small, he found ways to do what grown men couldn’t. He would stack railroad ties that took two men to do, could run down a rabbit, whip a bear or, at least in the imagination of a grandson, he could do anything.

I found out later on that grandpa lost that saw mill and the house he built in a lawsuit because he didn’t have insurance to cover workers getting hurt. He was in between getting some or didn’t have it, not sure, but he had given a man a job that was in need. The man cut a tree down on himself, sued, and grandpa lost it all. He had reached out to aid a man in need, sought to keep food on his table and clothes on his back and, in ignorance, the man hurt himself while blaming grandpa. I never heard him complain, he didn’t hurt the man and he no doubt could have, but he forgave him and moved on. No matter what the man had done, grandpa had done what his heart lead him to, and it didn’t change what he thought of helping others.

Grandpa seemed to know that we do what we are called to by God, not because we want to or that others deserve it, but because He tells us to. He did what he knew to be the right thing, and no man I have ever known walked in Christ more completely. As I got older, struggling with my home life with dad and the abuse with Jack, I pulled away from everyone for many reasons my mind was convinced were needed. Oh, how I missed the Harris side of the family, all the cousins and aunts and uncles and then, as if I blinked them away, I was alone.

I know that my grandpa was still there, I ran to them for a time when dad threatened to kill me, but mom called and pleaded with me to come back. I wish to this day I would have stayed with them, went to work for grandpa, lost myself in the Harris family that grew men that lived for family. Instead, I went back home for a time and then went off to college. A drunk and failure, I came home, broke down, and shared with mom and Heather what Jack had been doing to me.

Mom caught Jack in our house, abusing me, told our minister and, as I later found, out grandma and grandpa, too. Mom didn’t want them to tell anyone, any more than she wanted grandpa to hurt Joe for hurting us. He had raised her to be the kind of woman that possessed his best qualities, even if those so often got them hurt, used, and broken.

Mom didn’t know how bad it was until the end, said she was worried that dad would kill Jack, but I think she was just as worried that he would beat me to death for shaming him. I think they would all be alive today if I or she could have shared with grandpa and Woody. Until my dying day, I will regret telling her and Heather what happened, but I am eternally thankful that grandpa never turned on me. He hurt and suffered and cried with me and, even in jail, did what he had done when I was a child. He wanted to know how I was if I needed anything and told me to buy me some candy bars to eat. He brought me cigarettes because in jail I used them for comfort, and he talked to everyone he could to help me.

Grandpa didn’t know Edgar Thompson was friends of the Walls, sat by him at church, and grandma trusted him when he told her not to share what she knew. There was a gag order on the case, but he believed in 10 years or so something would change. Grandpa talked to Judge Hanshaw, who said it was out of his hands, but the judge believed that something would be done for me. Grandpa and grandma thought that each year might be the year, and they wished only to live long enough to see me walk free. They came to see me month after month, sending money for ice cream or candy, and we would sit on visit eating and talking.

Much of what I went through I wasn’t able to share, not the details of the abuse and, for years, I saw with agony the pain and loss they endured. We cried on the holidays, made empty with the loss of family, and they made sure that they didn’t lose me, too. Grandpa always told me not to forget who I was, where I came from, and that God had a purpose for me. I could see the heartbreak he felt over the death of my mom but, as he said so often, they had lost me as well. They knew how much I hurt to lose them, all of them and, if left alone, I wouldn’t have had much left to live for.

It shamed me to see the hurt in grandpa’s eyes, to be the cause of that pain, but over time he came to understand that if I hadn’t done what I had then I would have been killed, too. Grandpa knew about the Walls family, had heard the rumors that had circulated them, and he said over and over I wish you had come to me. Me, too, grandpa. Me too. But, if I could have done it on my own, then would any of us be where we are today? It was too much for a boy, even one of 20, and I told only what came out when the outside cracked enough to leak some out.

It wasn’t always roses, no, there were times when Annie and I argued, our pains firing at phantoms and fears, and there were times when they stayed away for a while. I made bad decisions, got into relationships that were unhealthy, sought to fill holes, and pulled away when it all fell through. I offended and hurt them, seeking to be understood and understand, yet they never gave up on me.

I didn’t have the doctors and safe environments to process and overcome my past and it made me make due with what I had available. For years, I had to focus on the pain they suffered, fearing being alone, needing their love more than anything and, so much that I now am able to do, was suppressed. It is no one’s fault, I grew to put them first,  bearing the resentment and hurt. Grandpa didn’t come as much as Annie, he had to work to pay the bills, but when he did I always felt loved when he left.

Grandpa was one of the few positive male role models I had left, all friends and others faded years before, and I valued his example like none other. When Elwood could no longer work, time taking its toll as it does with us all, I suffered with those that witnessed the decline. I know I wasn’t alone in the watching, but I saw the changes between visits all the more clearly for it. The small strokes altered my grandpa, and the gentle man I loved began to cry. It came unexpectedly, the rush of emotion as if by the slow fading of strength had somehow filled his heart with it. He felt everything more deeply, the loss more profoundly, and often looked at me with questions whose answers never offered relief.

Grandpa wanted me to come home with him, to come help take care of him and grandma, and I yearned to with my whole being. I can’t tell you what it was like to look into his eyes and try to answer why I couldn’t leave this place with him. I watched the tears dry up and the anger come, the fading of memory fueling fears, and then a man that never cussed began to. Grandma told me that he cussed more than she used to, and she seemed afraid that something beyond our control could change all knew to be.

On one of our last visits, grandpa told me that he wanted to live long enough to see me walk free, but life had lost meaning for him. He could no longer do what he wanted, for those he wanted to do it for, and he no longer remembered what mattered that gave life its flavor. I used to come in from those visits and weep for him, praying that God give him peace, and then the shock of Annie passing so suddenly. I say all this not to shame my grandfather, but to share that until the very end he never failed to tell me or show me that he loved me. Janice continued to bring them both as long as she could while managing her own life and family, and I am eternally grateful for Janice doing that.

I also want to praise Woody, his wife, daughter, and all those that cared for grandpa as life slowly wound down. I know it was trying and heart wrenching to witness, but no parent could ask for children more devoted to their compassionate care. I got to even tell my grandpa that I loved him before he passed, and wish him peace as he went to find his daughter, his wife, and Jesus. He no longer had to read the Word to know peace, he left to live with the Word in eternal peace. If I can be half the man Elwood Harris was, then I can do anything in the world.