Another remarkable story from a reader:
My dad did things to me, similar to what Woody did to Dylan. The main difference is I’m a male. No sodomy, penetration, etc. He always used “normal” situations as cover – showers, locker rooms, bath time, under-the-cover “parties”, etc. All very “jockish” and Sandusky-like. Hiding in plain sight, as they say. Once when I was about 9, I asked him why we were going to church for something called “Feast of the Circumcision”. His response impressed upon me the importance of not asking questions. He was smart – 160 IQ supposedly. Good at manipulation and not getting caught.
I can’t get too worked up about the possibility that Mia “coached” her daughter. I doubt it. But even if Dylan was coached, every mistreated kid should be so lucky. I wish someone had coached me.
I had a meek obedient mother who turned a blind eye and a complicit much older sister (she may not have known about the sex stuff, but she knew about everything else). My dad was always getting fired, so we moved around the country constantly. My mom’s 60+ aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews, who otherwise might have intervened, had long since been left back east, never to be seen again. My dad’s siblings stopped speaking to him years before (who knows why). My dad did a good job alienating just about everyone else, so no one came around much. We were isolated, which provided extra cover. Dylan is lucky that there were people around to intervene – and yes, even to “coach”.
In addition to his interest in young boys, my dad was violent – lots of street fighting in his teens, 20s, and beyond. He considered himself a man’s man, a tough guy. In addition to brawling with the local Italian kids (some of whom required hospitalization, he boasted), he was also a “gay basher”, to use the current term. He and his friends used to target men who looked gay and beat them up. Years later, when my dad discovered I was gay, he threatened to kill me. He disappeared for a few days, sleeping at hotels, roaming aimlessly around the suburbs. Death threats from my dad – both angry and “light hearted” – were nothing new. But my mom said he was acting strangely even for him, and this time the threats might be cause for concern. He was down at his office where he kept his gun. So, at age 19, I was kicked out of the house.
That was in essence the first day of my life. Despite my childhood, I’ve created a good life. Much pain and much rebuilding. Much happiness eventually. I’m proud of the things I’ve done and how I’ve lived. I worked my way through school on part-time jobs, loans, and scholarships. I’m a good person, happy most of the time. I know Dylan will be happy one day too.
My dad killed himself a few years ago, at age 83. About three weeks before his death, I told him his care needs were becoming a burden on my sister, causing problems in her marriage. It was true. But I admit I said it to be mean, not to help my sister. It was out of character for me. I don’t normally do that kind of thing. I never would have said it if I thought suicide was possible. It is possible my words contributed to his decision to jump off the roof – nine stories.
At first I was crushed with unimaginable guilt. But gradually I lost that. Now, to be honest, I see the hand of God. I believe God wanted me to have a role in his death. Most victims of childhood abuse never get justice and they take that deep gnawing injustice to their graves. But I admit to feeling a sense of vindication in how his life ended; that he did not die peacefully in bed, but instead left this world tortured and alone on a deserted rooftop at 2AM.
I think Dylan’s letter will give her a sense of justice. She is entitled to that.
I’ll never know for sure if my words contributed to my dad’s suicide. God knows he had many other issues. But if my words were a factor, all I can say is good. Perhaps one day I’ll forgive. But for now, I just think of him up on that roof. The anguish he must have felt, is minor compared to the pain he caused me and others.