Tuesday, September 25, 2007

In the Spring When Kings go Off to War

I love the story of David in the Old Testament. There are so many lessons to learn in the story of his life...and beautiful Psalms that he left us. Like all of us, David was human. He had his times of triumph and his times of failure. And the Bible shares both with us...with me. In the book of 2 Samuel, we find most of the story of David. It seemed like he had everything. He had advanced from a poor shepherd boy, the youngest in his family, to the become a member of the king's household. He found success as a great warrior and leader, defeating the enemies of Israel at every opportunity. He had gone through his "wilderness" journey, running from king Saul for many years, but remaining faithful to God. But he finally found himself at the pinnacle...the King of all Israel. He had arrived! He had it all! Or, did he?

In the eleventh chapter of 2 Samuel, something terrible happens in David's life. I find it interesting how the chapter opens: "In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war...But David remained in Jerusalem." Oh, the lesson God gives us...has given to me in that one short verse. The chapter to goes on tell of David's moral failure...his taking of Bathsheba to his bed...the murder of Bathsheba's husband, Uriah. And finally, of David's repentance. But today, it is only the first verse that speaks to me, because it is a lesson I wish I had learned so many years ago. David failed because he didn't do his job...he wasn't where he was supposed to be. And the enemy of our soul attacked him.

I can look at several points in my life where I chose not to be where I was supposed to be, and it has directly or indirectly led to the dark valley in my life that I wandered for the last several years. The first, when I was thirteen. I was supposed to be in school, but instead I stayed home. I didn't feel all that good, but certainly in hindsight, well enough to go to school. But instead, I stayed home that day and discovered masturbation. That discovery has impacted my life every day since, and in many ways, directed it. It's not that I most likely wouldn't have discovered the self gratification at another time, but not in the same way. And it may not have grabbed me in the same way. But, at at time when boys goes off to school, I remained at home.

The second event was when I was much older...45 to be exact. I was near the top of my career...a success by every social definition of the word. I was happy in my marriage, I was happy in my job. We had a beautiful home. But there was something missing that I still struggle in understanding. I still found myself drawn to pornography. By now, it wasn't just an occasional trip to an adult book store when I was out of town on my own. No...by now I had discovered internet pornography. Even that discovery would be another example of not being where I should be, but that may be a story for another time. On this day, I found myself in my hotel room after a long day of a conference. I had spent some time on the "net", checking all the usual porn sites. I had called Paula, telling her how much I missed her (which I did). But then, when I should have found myself in a good book, or reading an article in a professional journal, I found myself drawn back to my laptop...back to the sites. However, it seemed nothing I looked at nor anything I read fulfilled any of the longing, or lust, or desire that I felt. And then it happened.

I found myself choosing to explore a chat room. I can't completely explain why. I had never gone to one before. Our youngest son had spent some time, actually a lot of time, in some chat rooms the previous month when we were on vacation together, but I still don't know if that was what led me there. But there I was, at the "Hotmail" homepage, looking at the link to "chat" and I pressed it. For awhile, I went from page to page, exploring the titles of the different rooms. They were so varied, essentially a chat room for just about everything. I ended up clicking on a master link that said "teen". And again, a long list of room titles. Then it happened...one stood out to me. I can still remember the name, even after six plus years. "15/m/ga" What did it mean? I really didn't know, and in fact I really didn't understand completely until months later. But in my mind, I thought it meant a 15 year old male who was gay. I paused for a second, and then clicked and found myself in a room with two people talking. It was obvious that I interupted them, though in my nievity I didn't really get it. One of them asked me for my "ASL". I just sat there, wondering what that could possible mean. Then he said he was going to kick me out because I didn't answer him, and I found myself out of the room, looking at the big list again. I should have taken that as a warning, but I didn't...my stubborness raised its ugly head. Instead, I re-entered. As I did, I felt a wave of an ice-cold breeze blow across my naked body, but I didn't heed that either. Again, he asked me my ASL? This time I told him I had never been in a chat room before and didn't know what ASL was. So he told me..."age, sex, location." Oh, I thought. I knew I couldn't tell him the truth, so I answered, "15/m/Washington state". He told me his name was John and that he lived in Georgia. (I finally figured out the GA was Georgia, not gay about 6 months later.) The other person left and John and I found ourselves just talking...until he told me he had to go because it was getting late. I looked at the bedside alarm and saw the red LED reading out almost 1:00 AM. I was shocked...I had been chatting with this guy for over an hour and a half. He gave me his e-mail address and told me he'd like to visit again sometime. As he logged off, I couldn't believe that there was someone out there who was going through the same struggles with his sexuality that I had struggled with as a teenager myself. It was like there was someone that I could finally talk to about it.

As time went on, I became almost consumed with wanting to chat with teenage boys who were struggling with there feelings about other boys. I would find myself going to chatrooms at work, even staying late at times because I was in a conversation and I would lose track of time. When Paula was out of town, I would go on-line to talk to these new "friends" I had made in the rooms. I would go off-line just long enough to call her each night, and tell her how much I missed her, and how much I loved her...and then go back on-line as soon as we would hang up. There were nights that I would chat all night long, glancing at the clock and see that it was 5:30 AM and I would need to get ready for work in a half an hour. Sadly, all of the chats weren't just about talking. My sexual depravity was also triggered, and I would find others who would want a sexual release as much as I did, and I would find myself in "cybersex". Now I would just call it "pornography in words." I may never know the damage those "sessions" have done to my soul.

But, the damage to my life are visible for all to see. The chatrooms led to people giving me links to "other" pornography. I didn't look for it, the pictures of teen boys with each other, but it found me anyway. And like during the earlier years of my life, the pornograhy hooked me. I would join more and more "groups" that had the pictures. I didn't find myself looking at them often, but it was like I had to have them...I had to have more and more. The pictures were images of my own youth in many ways...and of my fantasies during those years.

Eventually, Paula found out. The first time, it shattered her heart. The second time, it shattered our lives!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Fruit of Summer...and...

I love the summer! The warmth of the sunshine on my skin. The cool splash of water as I swim or go water skiing. The time away from school and the joy I find in work. As a boy, it was the time of helping to pull the weeds in the vegetable garden, mowing the lawn and bringing the freshly cut and baled hay into the barn. As I reflect on summer, it's a time of fruit...and a time of weeds.

The summer of my life is much the like the summers we find in nature. For me, the majority of my focus was always on the fruit, while I let the weeds slowly grow, setting their roots deep into my soul. If one were to look at my life, from the time I graduated from college, until I was arrested, they would probably see the definition of success. I took my first teaching job, working as a high school science teacher and assistant coach in football and wrestling. Almost immediately, I continued to go back to college, spending countless night commuting up to 150 miles round trip for each class. The community I was living and working in was small and had no college campus of its own. I took part time jobs in the summer and on the nights I wasn't taking classes or coaching to help pay the bills. Regardless of what many people want to say...young teachers do not make a lot of money.

After a couple of years, I had started into a masters program in administration. After seven years as an assistant coach, I became a head football coach and spent the next five years trying to lead and mold young men, while at the same time, trying to put some numbers in the "win" column. They were far and few between. I finished up my masters degree and looked to move onto administration.

The frustrations of trying to get a job were frustrating the first year. Countless resumes sent out, but only two interviews...one in my own home district. But alas, no job offer. So it was another year in the classroom, continuing to improve my administrative skills, working hard not to burn any bridges in this district that I was working in...this district who didn't hire their own. But the following spring, I was back on the job hunt trail. More resumes sent out. Trips across the state to drop them off personally...time with Paula in the car. Once again, a job in my own district. Once again, a rejection. At times the pain still flairs from that last rejection. But God had other plans for me, and I was hired as an assistant principal in a high school in a community about 30 miles away from where I was working.

That first year went fast, and as springtime came around, the principal walked over to my office and sat down and told me he was retiring. He suggested that I should consider applying for his job. I was surprised...I had only been an administrator for a year and I didn't have the experience I thought the district would want in a leader at the high school level. I was wrong...and in late May of that year, I was hired as the principal of the high school. That wouldn't have happened if I had stayed where I was. Not if my last district would have hired me for any of the three jobs I had applied for. But God's plan is so much greater than my own. He continued to bring forth fruit in my life.

A new job. A new home...a dream home that Paula and I helped to design ourselves. The years went by quickly...too quickly as I reflect now. I loved the job, but there was always a job that was a little higher up the chain. The people I worked with liked and respected my management style and the way I treated people. They liked the way I was always learning...trying to stay out front in our profession. And when a job as an assistant superintendent came open in our district, they encouraged me to go for it. So I did after thought and prayer. I thought I would always want to be a principal...working closely with teachers and students. But the opportunity to provide instructional and curricular improvement for all of the students and teachers in the district was too great for me, so I applied for the job. And once again, I got it. I continued the climb up the "success ladder" that as a society we place so much emphasis on. The success always brings happiness...doesn't it?

The thing about jobs is that no matter where we are and no matter what our current job is, there always seems to be a better one. As I worked as an assistant superintendent, my boss Rich encouraged me to continue my schooling and go back to school for my superintendents credential. That way, if I ever wanted to apply for the "top job", I'd be ready. I took his advise. He was a good mentor for me, the type of superintendent in my many ways I would want to be. Once again, God opened a door for me. It was a new community, a new district. And when I went and interviewed for the job, it was crystal clear that this would be my next job. And it was. In the summer of 2003, I had it...the top job. I was a superintendent of schools...one of less than 300 like jobs in the state. From the outside, the fruit of the summer was magnificent. The crop was bumper. The barns were full and the prospects of having plenty for next season was high. But, it was an illusion. For during that summer season of my life, I had focused on the fruit...the produce, but I had neglected the weeds. And the weeds were like none you usually see in a field. No, these weeds were deep, and deceptive. You had to look deep to find them and if you didn't get rid of them from the deep roots, they could destroy everything. The weeds were there, and they were left unattended.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tears for Edmund...tears for Me

I just got through watching "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" for the third time this morning. As I sat in my RV...what I call home right now, I was surprised (and not) to find hot, burning tears running down my cheeks throughout the movie. It is a beautiful story by C.S. Lewis, actually the entire series of "The Chronicles of Narnia" are so magical and teach such a wonderful lesson of life here on planet earth. I didn't read the series until the summer before I went into prison...a mere three years ago. And in fact, I had never heard of the books until I was 46 years old. I'm sure there was a reason for the delay, as there always is in the grander scheme of things. For if I'd read the books when I was a child, I may not have revisited them as an adult, when I really needed to learn the lessons that Lewis was teaching through his writing.

As I watched the movie again today, I thought about the characters. The casting director for the movie did an amazing job in choosing the actors for each part, especially Peter and Edmund. I recall as I read the book, I pictured myself more like Peter. I think most boys, and men, would. After all, who doesn't want to be the "Magnificent" king. In the movie, he looks like a young Prince William, future king of England. Striking, handsome, blonde, noble. I'm sure there are other adjectives. While at times he is uncertain, he always seems to come through as the hero. He made the right decisions at the right time. He was brave at just the right time. He was fearless when he needed to be fearless. He's who I wanted to be as boy. In my dreams, he is who I would have chosen to be..."Peter, the Magnificent."

But life isn't like that. And that is why the tears came again today. The first two times I watched this movie, I was in prison. And you probably would not be surprised to know that it isn't a very good idea for a grown man to find himself in tears watching a family movie in prison. The other men there would like at you kind of strangely...and perhaps dangerously. But today, I just let them flow. I've always found myself crying easily at movies, especially those involving children. And even more so when there is something about the plot and story line that reminds me something of my own hurts or pains or memories. The tears today were for Edmund. Today, for the first time maybe, I saw myself clearly in his character...and it broke my heart.

If you look deep into the character, you can see the pain in his life. His dad is gone, maybe never to return. He is the third of four children. There is an older brother who seems to know it all, and tries to step in and take charge. He's an angry young man, and he's probably not even sure why. And, he's a liar and traitor. I can look at myself in the mirror and see my life in his. My tears started today as he ventured into Narnia for the first time and encounter the White Witch. She claimed to be something she wasn't and offered him something, Turkish Delight, that he craved. It's not so different from discovering the pleasures I discovered as a thirteen year old. It became an insatiable desire, a thirst I would do most anything to quench.

The tears continued to flow as he lied to Peter and Susan when he and Lucy came back from Narnia the first time. Like mine had so many times, his lies flowed so easily. He had a secret, and he felt he had to do anything, including lying, to keep it that way. The sting of the tears were for the inner pain and turmoil you could see in his eyes...at least I could because I've felt them before. Every major scene Edmond was in brought a new round of tears. The humiliation of having to wear the "girls" fur coat and the way Peter made him feel like it was an appropriate for of attire for him...striking at the heart of his young, developing masculinity. The fear he had when he finds himself in the prison of the White Witch, in chains. Chains of bondage brought on by his reckless desire for the Turkish Delight. I've had my own chains...the chains of impure desires, pornography and masturbation.

One of the most powerful scenes in the entire movie is when Edmund is standing at the top of the hill, his head down in shame, facing Aslan. At times, I think Edmund is braver in that scene than I've been many times in my life, but I can thank God that I was eventually brought to that place. The place where I finally faced my past, all of the demons and the mistakes. Edmund slowly walks down the hill, his brother and sisters waiting for him. His head still hanging, embarrassed...not knowing what to say. Aslan saves him from the apology...telling them that the past is past and there's no need to talk about it. As Edmund's sisters walk up, smiling and hugging him, the tears flow harder...waiting. For what? Peter. What will he do? What will become of the relationship with his brother? It's not what I had hoped for...not what I would have needed if I was Edmund at that point. There's no hug...no "glad to see back home and safe"...not even a smile at first. Peter tells him to go get some rest, and then as Edmund walks away, a slight joke about not wandering off again. It brought a smile to Edmund, but not to me.

I almost found myself sobbing, and I had to ask myself why? What was it that I needed...or that I need now...that brought the wracking in my chest? I believe it is simply relationship. Like every human, I needed to be a part of a family. To feel loved. To feel needed. To feel like I belong. But sin has such a terrible power to take all of that away. It isolated me, even from myself. Certainly from those that I loved the most, and those that loved me.

Finally, the tears came as Peter and Edmund learn of the death of Aslan. They weren't tears for Aslan...I know how the story ends. But it was for Edmund, as he finally gets it. And for Peter, who finally becomes the king he was destined to be. The scene shows Edmund and Peter talking, and Edmund telling Peter that he must lead the army into battle against the armies of the White Witch. Peter says that he can't do it, but Edmund finally understands. He understands because he has already received the gift...the gift of forgiveness, from Aslan. And in his own way, he passes that gift on to Peter. He tells Peter that Aslan believed Peter could lead them to victory, and that he did too. It was such a profound moment. All of the anger and frustration that Edmund had toward his brother was gone. His forgiveness for every pain that Peter had caused him, intentionally or not, were forgiven. And my heart cried at that, because that's where I find myself. In a state of complete forgiveness. Forgiveness toward my parents, toward those who abused me as a child, for myself.

That forgiveness is such a gift from God. It allows me to sit here today and write this. Without the forgiveness, the words would be full of hatred and bitterness. I pray that they are not. I pray that through all that I write in these entries, my heart is revealed. My heart is healed. I'm not alone in my pain...there are so many who have faced much greater adversity than I have. There are those who have paid terrible prices for the sins of others...I know that only too well.

After I finished watching the movied this morning, I put the DVD back in...and I watched it again. The tears didn't come the second time. I don't believe it was because I was "cried out." No, as I watched the second time, I understood. I saw who I was...who I had been. I think if we are all honest with ourselves, we would all have to admit we are more like Edmund that we are like Peter. And, surprising, I'm glad that I can see that. And I'm proud in a way that I was like Edmund at both the beginning of the story and at the end. He was transformed from a liar and traitor to a friend...a brother... a hero. So today, as I watched...and cried...I shed those tears for Edmund, and I shed them for me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Beginning of the Summer of my Life

The first day of summer arrived one week ago as I walk along the deck that leads to Paula's front door. We have known each other now for a year and half and I have never had feelings for anyone like I have for her. I still remember the cold, October 27th in 1984 when I met her for the first time. I had seen her once before, in the weight room at the high school where I taught. She and a friend were there, working out, as part of a city recreation program I was supervising. I noticed her beauty then, but didn't approach her. She was way out of my league. But months later, I received a call from a common acquaintance that Paula would like to meet me and that I should call her. So, I did...and we met in the parking lot of an elementary school in a neighboring town.

I was moving into a new place that day, so I arrived in faded blue jeans and a sweatshirt. I hadn't even showered and I'm not sure if I had even shaved that morning. After all, it was a Saturday. I arrived in the parking lot and saw the car, the only one in the lot. I pulled up beside it in my sporty RX7. She was driving a white Chevrolet. As I approached the car, I saw the most beautiful woman imaginable. You see, when I agreed to meet Paula, I didn't really know who she was. I had agreed to meet her because I wasn't seeing anyone, and our acquaintance said she was a good, and nice person. Her long blonde hair cascaded down over the collar of her white fur coat. Her smile captivated me and her eyes sparkled like the stars in the blackest night. As she sat there in the driver's seat, she invited me to join her and I sat beside her in the passenger seat.

The next several hours are still a blur. We sat and talked...and talked. She had prepared a list of questions. Paula wanted to get to know who I was. It was amazing as I sat there, answering her questions. I'm not sure if I really asked her much about herself. As I reflect back on the late afternoon, as the cold wind blew across the Yakima valley, Paula was teaching me much about what it meant to be a friend...yet I missed the lesson. It was about communication. She got it, but I didn't. I had a bit of a reputation during those days...not all good. It seemed that most everyone it seems knew that I didn't hesitate to sleep with everyone woman that I went out with. It seem to matter if they were married or not. I say that with great regret, because at times the women were the wives of my "friends". So she asked questions about my sexuality. She even said that she had heard rumors that I might be gay. I quickly denied it, not so much because I was afraid I might be gay, but because I just didn't want to talk about that part of my past. In fact, I hadn't really thought much about that time of my life during those years. I realize now that God had given me an opportunity on the cold afternoon to face some of my past, and that He had placed someone in my life who would have listened. Of course, I also know that it's possible that if I had shared that day those aspects of my personal history, it might have been my one and only meeting with Paula.

The afternoon and early evening went by much too quickly. Before I knew it, it was time to leave. The questions were over, and it seemed that I had passed the test...even with the questions that I glossed over. As I said goodbye, I leaned across the car and gave this special woman a brief kiss. It could have lasted so much longer, but even then, I didn't know if my lips would ever touch hers again. I got in my car, and sat there for a moment, watching her drive away. My heart was full...it felt bigger than it had in years, maybe even ever.

I remember going back to my little apartment and loaded my last boxes in my car and drove to my new place. I put the few boxes that I had in the various rooms and went to my bedroom where the phone was located. I wanted to tell someone about this incredible woman that I had just met, so I called my sister. She lived about 200 miles away, but we had been close at different times in my life. During my college years, it was my sister who would write me regularly, even sending me an occasional "care package" of home made chocolate chip cookies. She was single at the time, working for a technology firm. Her life would soon change as she would get married and we would drift apart to a certain degree, as all family members do. But now, she was single again. She had recently divorced and was going back to school.

I think she may have been a little surprised to hear my voice when she picked up the phone. We talked a little bit and then I told her. I can still remember the words. I told her, "I met the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with today!" I knew at that moment that Paula was the one that I wanted to be my wife. My sister and I talked for a while as I explained my visit that afternoon. I'm sure she probably thought that I was crazy to think that after being with Paula for only a few hours that I truly thought she should be my wife. In my heart, I'm not sure I believed that it could ever really happen. She was so beautiful and had so much going for her. In my mind's eye, I was just an ordinary guy. Not overly attractive. My ears were too large and I was on the shy side. But, I didn't think about that at that particular moment. I just knew that this incredible woman had just entered my life, and I didn't want to lose her.

As it turned out, we started dating and we would spend hours together, just talking. Like Scott, she had the gift of conversation. We talked about a future and the places we wanted to go someday. We talked about her three children, who ranged from the age of 5 to 14. As time went on, I met her family and she met mine. Her's were incredible to me, a picture of love and what I had always dreamed a family should be. And so, I decided.

I had made reservations at a "one of a kind" restaurant in nearby Yakima. And I had spent a day in Seattle picking out just the perfect ring. I was nervous as I walked up the deck to her front door. She didn't have a clue what I had planned. She opened the door and took my breath away...once again, as she always did when I saw her. As I went in and took a seat on the couch, the phone rang and it was her daughter calling. She was spending the weekend out at the farm with her dad. I don't remember what the conversation was about, but it wasn't a good one. By the time Paula got off the phone, she was near the onset of a migraine. I thought for a moment about postponing my plan for the evening, but I decided this was the time. So I walked across the front room and reached into my pocket and pulled out the small, black box. I'm not sure if it immediately registered to Paula what it was. I often gave her jewelry. As she opened the box, the reaction wasn't exactly what I expected. She didn't scream or run into my arms. She just looked at the ring, and then at me. Back and forth. And then I said it...I wanted her to be my wife, to spend the rest our lives together. There was pain in her eyes, either from the migraine that was creeping up on her, or from the thought of what it would be mean to be married. She knew she was bringing baggage into a marriage and that in her own mind, she didn't think I should have to bear raising three kids that weren't my own. She knew that my marrying a divorced woman would change me in some way as it would any man. She accepted the ring, but didn't give me an answer on the warm day, one week into that summer of 1986. We went on to dinner and a night I will remember forever...a time that was at the beginning of the summer of my life.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Scott...a definition of friendship...and not

I'm struggling today...wondering why I have been writing here. Wondering if the writing alone is bringing me any peace. I know that it will take much more than just seeing parts of the story of my life in print. I realize that if I believe that pouring the words out on paper by itself will bring the healing and the peace I seek, I am only destined to repeat the failures of my past. There is truly only one path to the peace that I seek, and that's through my Lord, Jesus. Maybe Jesus is using this process to see what it was I truly was for so many years. I know that I will never know exactly what it is that I want Christ to do in my life...the changes I want Him to make through me if I don't realize where I've been--and what I've done.

It has always been difficult for me to open up...to be transparent. I guess that just means I'm a man because most men face that same challenge. I can count on less than one hand the number of people that I can remember in my life that I've been able to talk to, not just listen to. That is usually my comfort level...listening as someone else carries the conversation. I've become very adept at asking the open ended question that someone else can spend minutes...or sometimes hours, answering. There is a lot of safety in that for me. As I've considered this communication strategy I've used, I've come to understand that it has been my means of protecting myself. If I'm not telling much of my own story, I've been able to keep my secrets...and my worries and fears to myself. Even some of those that I've been able to really talk to, I've managed to damage the relationship through my actions when I've been drunk.

One of these individuals is named Scott. He was my college room mate and someone who brought things out in me that few others ever have. He could make me talk...not sure the surface stuff, but really talk. I met him during my third year in college when he entered as a freshman and lived on the same floor of the dorm as I did. I had met his older brother the year before, but had never met Scott. One evening, I found him knocking on my door. Apparently he knew that I loved to golf, and he needed to know how to spell a particular word that maybe only an avid golfer would know. He was writing an English paper on golf and couldn't remember if "Titleist" contained an "e" or not. I gave him the correct spelling and tossed him a golf ball. We soon started to become friends. He was a very good golfer and we spent many afternoons in the spring on the golf course. He made me feel very comfortable and free for the first time in many years. Scott was a genuine friend, and didn't want or expect anything from me.

One night that first year he was in the dorm, we went over to a movie night that specialized in adult movies on the weekends. I had had too much to drink and during the movie, one of my hands ended up where it shouldn't have. The memory of the night was foggy to me the next morning but I woke with that fear that I often did the morning after a drunk. Scott got very quiet and the next day, began to avoid me. Our friendship was fractured. Although he never told me at the time why he drifted away, in my heart I think I knew. But Scott did something few other 'friends' ever did. He got over it and our friendship only grew stronger. It was the following year that we became room mates.

There were many nights during the two years that we roomed together when I'd be laying in my bed and Scott would be over in his small room and he would speak across the middle room, asking me if I wanted to "BS" tonight. My answer was always yes. I enjoyed his conversation and he made me feel alive. As the years progressed, Scott became like a brother to me. Actually, more than that because I developed a bond and love for him that I didn't have with my own brothers...not with anyone. I remember as we continued to build and strengthen our friendship, I told him that I wanted him to be my best man when I got married. He accepted and said that he would be honored to.

But my secrets and my life would even manage to destroy that. During my last semester of college, Scott was with me and some our other friends. We had all been out partying most of the night and about ten of us all crashed at a friends house. The friend was gay and before the night was over, the "friend" and I found ourselves together. Things happened that shouldn't have, and Scott didn't sleep all the way through the night.

When we got back to college the following Monday, he was once again quiet and distant. Even though I guessed that he must have seen or heard something, I asked him. He explained it all. He point blank asked me if I was gay. I told him what I believed then, and I still believe today. I told him "no." But I also told him that I struggled with doing things with other guys when I was drunk. I didn't tell him my entire history or things from my childhood. I never told anyone those things. Scott told me about what had happened the two years before at the movie theater and I told him how sorry I was. Scott's friendship to me was more important than getting intimate with him in any way. It took about a week, but our friendship seemed to grow back together. I remember that I took a girl back to my side of the room one night while I knew he was on the other side and had sex with her. It was important to me that he knew I was telling him the truth.

Many years passed from the days that we shared a dorm room and the weekend of my marriage. I didn't see Scott often, but when I'd go back home, I'd try to see him. I missed his wedding to Kris, a friend of both of ours. It is one of the greatest regrets that I have. I didn't feel very good that day...it was football season and I'd been coaching a game the night before. I was fighting a cold and it was a five hour drive to the wedding so I stayed home. I wasn't the friend to him I should have been. As my own wedding day approached, I thought of Scott and the request I'd made of him when we were room mates...to be my best man. But I was afraid. Scott knew too much of my past and Paula knew nothing. I was afraid that Scott might say something...let something slip that would tarnish who I was before my bride. So, I broke my word to my best friend. I didn't ask him to be my best man. I didn't know at the time how much I'd hurt him.

About three years later, I was in Spokane with a couple of my assistant football coaches for a golf tournament. One of our foursome dropped out at the last minute and we were looking for a fourth. I called Scott because he lived relatively close. He agreed to come to Spokane the next day and play in our group. It was a great day. You know how it is with friends. You just seem to pick up where your last conversation ended...even if it was five years ago. Scott never mentioned my wedding or his not being invited. After the tournament was over, we all spent a night of drinking. Scott had way too much to drink and I wasn't far behind him. As we closed down the bars in Spokane, we told Scott he needed to stay in town with us because it was too far for him to drive home as drunk as he was. But he was a new father, and he wanted to get home to his baby girl and Kris.

I told him I would drive him. I tossed the keys to my car to my friends and I jumped in his car and we started to drive with my friends following. I didn't tell them that Scott lived almost 45 miles away. I remember little about the drive to his house...I just remember getting there. Kris was awake, waiting for Scott to get home. I helped Scott into the house and gave him a big hug and he staggered into the bedroom. Then I went into the kitchen and hugged Kris. Although I was older than both Scott or Kris, we had become friends. Kris shared with me that night how hurt Scott was that I didn't ask him to be my best man. I couldn't tell her why I didn't...I only apologized to her and told her to tell Scott how sorry I was.

When I was arrested three and half years ago, Scott is the only friend that I wanted to call. But I didn't. My shame was too great. My heart still anguishes over my inability to be a good friend. My inability to trust...anyone. I know in my heart that Scott was much too good of a friend to have betrayed my past at my wedding or with my wife. But, still, at the time I didn't trust. Nearly 18 years after not trusting the best friend I had before the age of 30, I would repeat that lack of trust with the person who was the best friend I ever had in my entire life.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Great Escape

These last few entries have been very hard for me. In fact, some I haven't even posted because of the shame and embarrassment they bring to me. It's hard to look back at my life and see how self destructive I have been. For years, I never saw it...I guess because I wasn't looking for it. I was living a lie where I thought that I was in control of everything. I was successful because I worked hard! I had a beautiful wife because there must have been something about ME that she loved. Of course, there was, but what she saw in me was only a part of who I am...who I was.

I believe all men want to believe that they are more powerful than they really are. And when something comes in our life that challenges us, that is too powerful for us to overcome on our own, we retreat somewhere. It's probably an innate response that has helped to ensure the survival of our species for eons. But there are some very dangerous places to retreat out there...places that I found.

While my parents had faults, one of the things that I can look back and appreciate is that they didn't drink very much alcohol. It may have been because there was alcoholism on my mom's side of the family, or maybe they were just aware enough to know how dangerous it can be. Sadly though, that didn't prevent me from discovering the pleasures...and the hell...of alcohol on my own.

Like most of us, my first taste a beer was not very pleasant...in truth, it tasted pretty horrible to me. And so did the Canadian Club whiskey that one of my brothers and his friends "found" in the boats that were moored in the boathouses all along the lake and river near where we lived. But while I didn't like the taste of the alcohol at first, I did like the way that it made me feel. It allowed me to drop my guard, to let some of my inhibitions free. Sometimes that was a good thing, because I would find it easier to talk to others even though I was shy. But there was a much darker side for me, just as there is for most who abuse the 'nectar of the vine'. It brought out the impure desires of my heart, the fantasies that lay there, and with the lowered inhibitions, at times I acted on them.

I've read that many victims of sexual abuse tend to "sexualize" their relationships. That was the case with me. In my mind, as twisted and damaged as it was, it seemed like it would be natural that if someone liked me, or I liked someone, they would want to be sexual with me. This was especially true when I had been drinking. I can look back on my adolescent years and see most of my friendships damaged or destroyed because I pushed the envelope too far when it came to 'physical contact'. For the most part, it wasn't an overt sexual touch, but I think most of my friends could tell there was something slightly 'inappropriate' about things I would say or do. Those former friends and acquaintances can probably look back now and not be surprised by the events of my life int the past four years.

It seemed as I moved further along in junior high and high school, by frequency of drinking and binging increased. By the time my sophomore year was over, I had nearly overdosed on alcohol at least once, drinking essentially an entire bottle of rum that my brother had in his bedroom on New Year's Eve. By the time I graduated, I was a black out drinker, not remembering much of what may have transpired during a night of drinking. I would find myself back at home, or at a friends house in the morning, and not have any idea how I got there.

As damaging as the drinking was, it served me for what I wanted it to be. It was my escape. At times, my great escape. For the few hours, I could be someone I wasn't. Or, in a darker sense, be someone or do something that I knew in the depths of my heart were wrong. The effect of the booze kept the knowledge hidden, at least for a few hours. Of course, there was always the piper to pay in the morning. Not just the throbbing headache and other hangover effects, by the impact on my soul. The guilt and shame. The questions I would ask myself...wondering if I had done anything that might reveal my secret fantasies--wondering if any of my friends or classmates would look at me differently on Monday because of what I'd become on Saturday. I'm not sure how I survived my high school years without my fantasies and secret life being revealed. But soon, my luck would change, and in some ways, my life was changed forever.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Into Bondage

At the time, I had no idea what was going to happen. I was thirteen, just trying to figure out this new body I was acquiring. It was changing so rapidly...most if it I think I enjoyed, but it was still confusing. I started to feel things physically and emotionally that were all new to me. It seems like I spent a lot of time exploring this new body of mine. It was amazing the sensations that a simple or prolonged touch could bring to me.

How it actually happened isn't really that important, although it is an event that I am not likely to ever forget, as I doubt anyone does. I'm talking of course about my first experience with masturbation and ecstasy that comes with the release. Like a first kiss, there is probably nothing that compares to the first orgasm. And that became my problem...trying to get it right again.

I've never used drugs, so I don't know what it's like to be high. I don't know what it's like to be addicted to a chemical substance...or even an organic one. But there are times now that I wonder if I would have been better off if it had been pot or something else that put its hooks in me. Because with that first time, I surrendered a part of me. To whom or what, I don't have the answer. I think many of us would probably describe him as someone with a pitchfork and horns and long tail with a point on the end of it. I really don't know. But I do know that with that one simple act as a thirteen year old, I came into a bondage I can't completely describe. A friend asked me recently what my worst habit was. I didn't answer him completely, but only that it was one that began when I was thirteen. I think you can easily guess what it is, as I'm sure he did as well.

The "problem" has plagued me my life every since that moment. Until the age of nineteen, there probably wasn't more than three days ever pass without my seeking the pleasure and the release. At nineteen, I was able to go six weeks, and that seemed almost unbearable. But I was in the Navy at the time, and there wasn't much privacy nor opportunity or I probably wouldn't have lasted that long. As I look back on my life from this end, it's easy to see that I've been a slave to the act and have used it much like I used books before that first time. It has been my method of escape...an entry into a fantasy world. It was one way that I could control some aspect of my life, even if only for a few moments. It has been my crutch when I've been angry, or depressed. Stressed or frustrated. At times, even when I was happy...or at least it seemed I was. But the fantasy continued to call me.

The fantasies pulled me into a different world though...my dark closet. At first, the thoughts were what you might expect from any young teenage boy. I thought of the girls I had crushes on, or the images I would see in the pornography I would steal from my dad. But they soon drifted to something more real, something I could grasp to at least a minor degree. My fantasies started to revolve around the only sexual contact I had really had, and that was with other boys. The guilt of the act was bad enough...the guilt of the thoughts that I was having was nearly unbearable. So I hid them, deep in my mind and my heart. I would only bring them out when I would go to that secret place, that dark closet when I would seek the pleasure and the release. And then, the thoughts, the memories (at least the pleasant ones), the fantasies would return. The boys in the fantasy rarely ever had a face to it. It was the thought of what we would be doing together. It was a feeling that was comfortable....it was a feeling of being cared for by someone. And it was attractive to me, very attractive.

But in my mind, and in my heart, I knew the feelings were wrong. They were sinful. They were condemning. And so, I began my life of self-condemnation. A life lived in two places. One, in the world with everyone else...seemingly normal. The other in the dark recesses of my mind where I wouldn't let anyone else enter. It was my secret. At times I felt like Gollum from The Lord of the Rings...like I was Smeagle at times and at other times like Gollum himself...self destructive. I wanted to give up the "ring", to give up the secret fantasies and desires, but it kept calling me back. Everytime I would seem to break away from the desire and the draw, some event would wind its way into my life to restore the feelings or the thoughts. As I got older, as I entered high school, the bondage was reinforced as I discovered a new way of escape. But it wasn't an escape from the bondage I was in, it was just another chain that connected with the dark secret that I was living in my mind.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Superhero is born!

For awhile, the books were my escape...the place I would go in my loneliness to find something I was looking for. Book after book, I would seek, but whatever it was, it still seemed so far off. As the years began to pass by, I began to change. It was that time...a time I think we all look forward to, yet dread at the same time. It's when our bodies begin to change in ways that we don't understand, and in some ways, we don't like.

Like many boys my age, I was curious about my body as it began to change. Things start to get larger and hair started to grow in places it didn't exist as anything other than fine gossamer threads. Although I had friends who were girls in elementary school, I began to look at them differently. They looked...different, and very nice. As I entered junior high school, I began to have my first real crushes on girls, and it brought something out in my heart that I really didn't even know existed...a yearning to really love someone-and be loved in return.

I remember an occasion during that time when I was at our "other place", Green Acres. It was a small farm my parents had purchased across the railroad tracks from our dairy. As kids, we would play and explore there often. It was at the foot of our "Mountain" where we spent countless hours and summers playing as children. But on this occasion, something was birthed within me. A superhero.

As a child reading, we would often have many comic books around. It was one of the ways our parents would keep us quiet and still on our many Sunday drives. A quick stop at the store and a handful of comic books were tossed into the back seat. I remember most of them as the Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge, or Little Lotta or the like. But occasionally, we also got a Batman and Robin or a Superman. On TV, we would sometimes watch the Batman and Robin serial in the afternoons. And like many kids, I wanted to be something special like those superheroes. So, I created on in my own mind.

I became..."Loverboy!" As I think back on it today, it seems so corny. And it was. But I realize something today that I never realized then, and actually not even until very recently. As "Loverboy", I wanted to love and be loved. It was missing from my life. There was a great emptiness in my heart. Any love that may have been in my life wasn't penetrating the scars that were in my chest...on my heart. So, like the books I had immersed myself into for the previous two years, I developed a fantasy person. A person who would be loved by everyone he came into contact with, and who would love them back. I remember a time, sitting on a fence rail, a sheet or towel wrapped around my neck, draping behind me, thinking that I was truly that superhero. That I could make anyone love me...and that I could love everyone else.

But reality has a harsh way of invading our fantasies, and junior high for most kids is a harsh reality. The girls that I developed crushes on didn't return the affection. For the most part, they laughed...or ignored. With each rejection, it became more difficult to reach out to the next girl. I became more and more shy and reserved. I found it less painful to live in my fantasies than it was to face the reality of life as a thirteen year old. I know I'm not alone in this journey. There are countless boys and girls, men and women, who walked the same painful hallways that I did. Some may not have become a superhero in their own mind...they coped with the rejection in some other way. Some more destructive than others. But for me, that superhero was my refuge, until I discovered a different way of escape...a way that would control me in a way for the next 35 years.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Happiness between the covers

How could they not see the changes I was undergoing. As I look back from here...a place so many years removed from that season of my life, it seems so apparent. The little boy who laughed and played. The best friends from grade school-Mike, Dennis, Shirla and Margaret. I can still see them in my minds eye...playing at Old Farmin school. Running. Jumping rope. Doing the things that kids do. But as the fourth grade ends and as I move onto fifth, I'm no longer that happy little boy. Something has changed. Have I have changed? The loneliness is nearly oppressive. It seems like I no longer fit in with any of the groups. It's a new school and there are kids there from the other elementary schools in town. They are mostly the town kids, and they stick together. Their friendships seem to be cemented with a glue that will never lose its strength. The friendships that I thought that I had are broken, lost...somewhere now only a distant memory.

I know that today, teachers would notice something different about me. A lost look. A withdrawing from those around me. They would talk to me, or talk to my parents. But it was a different time...a different world. The teachers can't be blamed...they had no way of knowing the pain I felt...the loneliness that encompassed my life. But as time went on, I discovered ways to take away the loneliness. At first, it was by productive methods. I discovered books. My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Walters, had given me a gift that I still have today...a love of reading. I found that I could escape and be surrounded by incredible people in the pages of the book in my little hands. I would lay for hours in my bed, transporting myself into the adventures, into the places far away. The places always happier than where I was then. The homes nicer, the people friendlier. Parents who seemed to show their love for their kids. There were real friendships in the stories, and I longed for that so much. It seemed that I could never hold on to a real friendship...just when I thought I found a friend for life, something would happen. Most often, they moved away, and we would lose touch. Some of those people, I still think about, dream about...wondering, "what if?" What if we had been able to remain close, friends to the end? Would there have been someone there that I would have trusted with my deepest secrets? I will never know. I beleive that the answer is, sadly, probably a big NO. People will always fail us in some way, even those who love us. The Bible tells us that in words, and life tells us that through experience.

Books were my best friends for several years. The characters and places became all so familiar. I can see how kids, and adults alike, can fall in love with books like Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings. The stories are filled with the things that we yearn for. Relationships. Courage. Adventure. Trust. My lifeline was made up of the books that would arrive in the mail at the beginning of summer from the Scholastic book club, enough of them that they would carry me through the summer until the next school year, and a new library. It seemed that my life was somewhat whole when I found myself between the covers...of the book.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Late Spring...a boy discovers

Unless you've felt alone in a crowd of people, I really don't think a person can truly understand what it means to be lonely. I grew up with two brothers and an older sister. We lived out in the country and we didn't really have other friends our age that lived nearby. As kids, we are kind of spread out. My sister is the oldest and she is 5 years older than I am. One of my brothers is two years older and I am 13 months older than my younger brother. And while we played together, particularly when we were younger, I still felt different and alone, even in their midst. As psychologist looks at family dynamics, I am often what is considered the lost child. I was shy in many ways and as I got near the age of 10, I discovered books and reading and found an escape and adventure there. I would find myself inside of the stories that I would read, fantasizing about being a part of the adventure...perhaps even the hero. It seemed like it was the one place in my life where I had some kind of control.

That is, until I was thirteen. On a cold and rainy spring day, I discovered a new way to be in control in my life. It has haunted me and controlled me in many ways every since. The spring day was a school day, but I wasn't feeling well, so my mom let me stay home. All of the other kids went to school and mom and dad went into town to work at the hardware store that they owned. I slept in for awhile and then discovered that I was hungry, so I went out into the kitchen to fix myself something to eat.

At the age of thirteen, I was entering puberty and parts of my body were changing. For a long time now (relatively speaking), I had been exploring and touching my body. Like many boys that age, touching felt good. I had started to sleep in the nude, although I would keep my underwear nearby in case mom came in and she wanted me to get up, I'd slip my underwear back on. But on this particular morning, I had on only an extra large t-shirt which draped down my body like a mumu, practically covering my knees. I was hungry for french fries, so I got out the shortning can and the pan and started to heat up the grease. As I stood there waiting for the grease to get hot, I realized that I had some Crisco on my fingertips and for some reason, I reached down to my privates and rubbed it there. Before I knew what it, I was stroking myself and the pleasure that built-up was like nothing I had ever felt before. The next few minutes are a blur, but the next thing I remember, I had ejaculated on the floor of the kitchen and I nearly fainted from the pleasure. It was my first orgasm ever and it was nothing like I could ever describe. I can only describe it as jolts of electricity passing through every inch of my body...every part of my being. As I sat there at the table, recovering and trying to understand what happened, I realized what I had done and how I had done it. I had tried to masturbate at other times, but had never accomplished it because it was too painful. This time, however, it was nothing but pleasure as the greasy fingers slid over my penis and another hook was planted in my soul. I went on to masturbate four more times that day, and stayed home the next day and did it five more times. For many months, it became a daily occurrence, a release. I was hooked, literally.

Since those first times as a thirteen year old, I discovered that I could control some measure of pleasure in my life. Sadly, I have used that method too many times to count. It became my way of dealing with depression, sadness, anger, frustration...and stress. Even once I became sexually active and even when I was married, masturbation was my escape. But it wasn't only the masturbation but also the fantasies that went along with the physical act. At first the fantasies were similar to the images that I would see in the pornography that I would look at, but that soon changed to the only sex acts I had ever been involved in...and those were with other males. A hidden desire was planted in my mind to be with other boys sexually. In my consciousness, I knew it was wrong and sinful. I'm not sure why I knew that, I just did.

I remember my dad telling a story about when he was in the army and he was on the troop transport headed to Germany for the post-war occupation. He was sitting in the dining room and another soldier was sitting next to him and they were visiting. My dad said that soon, the other man placed his hand on my dad's thigh. My dad didn't say anything, he just picked up a cigarette and lit it. When the tip was burning bright red, he reached down with the cigarette and pressed it against the hand that was resting on his thigh. The other man got the message...but so did I. To desire another male sexually was wrong and if people knew that you even thought that way, you deserved to be hurt. So, I kept my secret to myself. It was a secret that I kept far to long, and never allowed those who could have helped me deal with pain and guilt from my childhood from helping me in my greatest time of need and personal crisis.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Under the Willow

As I've said, I don't believe my father was an evil man...I'm just now sure he was a good man either. I grew up in an age where it was a parent's right to discipline their child any way they thought proper. I'm not sure that I really disagree with that concept. Discipline is necessary, and more children are probably hurt in the long run by not receiving discipline that by receiving it. The trick, I believe, is that it should always be "discipline" and never "punishment." Sadly, my dad bordered more on the side of the latter than on the former.

I could probably spend hours writing about the different spankings that I received growing up. Most men my age could. But I've discovered in my journey that there are two specific events that I recall that had a profound and long-term impact on my life. Those are the stories that I will share here.

I don't remember the age, but I remember that I was young enough that all of my siblings were still at home, so I was younger than twelve. We had just sat down for dinner. For some reason, I had "inherited" the chair nearest to dad. That was the seat for the one of us kids who had the most recent history of being "bad", whatever that might mean. It was most probably because I had tried to sneak a look at the TV set that was in the living room behind me while I was supposed to be paying attention to what was going on at the dinner table. I don't recall that we ever had any meaningful discussions at the dinner table...not the questions about "how was your day at school?" or perhaps "what did you learn today?" Mostly, it was mom and dad who were talking to each other and the four of us kids would sit there quietly. Maybe we were supposed to be acquiring great wisdom listening to our parents, I'm not really sure.

On this occassion, as I recall, dinner start normally. The plates were stacked in front of my dad so that he could serve up each of our plates. But before he started to fill the plates with the meal for the night, he asked the table a question. He said something like, "which one of you kids stole some of the chocolate candy out of the milk truck?" It got so quiet in the house, you could probably hear the mice crawling in the spaces between the walls as they did each night. He solemnly and quietly looked at each one of us. Each of us also turned to look at each other, trying to determine who the guilty party might be. No one said a word. Abruptly my dad stood up, nearly knocking his chair over and said that he couldn't stand to eat with a liar and a thief at the dinner table and he was going into his bedroom until someone confessed. And he left. The rest of us...mom and us kids just sat at the table, the plates still sitting before dad's empty chair, waiting to be filled. Mom looked at each one of us, and asked which of us had taken dad's candy. Still, there was no answer. Finally, mom looked at me and told me to come down to the bathroom with her. When we got there, she asked me if I took the candy. I told her no, which was the truth. She stood there, looking at me. Then she said, "You need to go tell daddy that you took his candy. He's not going to come out until someone does." I told her that I didn't take the candy, but it fell on deaf ears. Slowly, I walked back across the house, past my brothers and sister sitting at the dinner table. Across the living room floor, tears on my cheeks, until I reached the door to dad's bedroom. I knocked...and waited. Then I heard his voice, asking what I wanted. I asked if I could come in and talk to him. He opened the door and I went in, the door closing behind me. I stood before him, my head down, and with tears running down my cheek, I told him that I had taken his candy. He stood there and it felt like I could feel his glare peeling back the skin on body as I avoided his eyes. Then he said the words that we all had grown to dread..."go down to the bathroom and bend over the bathtub; I'll be there in a minute."

So I made my trip back across the house, past my mom and my brothers and sister. I went down the small set of stairs to the bathroom, and bent over the bathtub. Tears were already flowing from my eyes as my dad walked in and closed the door. I could here him as he slowly pulled the belt from his beltloops. He told be to pull my pants down and bend over. I stood there shaking, my pants down around my ankles as I bend over the cold metal of the bathtub. I could sense him pulling his hand back, lifting the belt and then the sound of the leather slicing through the air. Then the first slap of the belt across my butt. My body jumped as the second and then the third strike of the belt hit my tender skin. I was crying aloud now as dad continue to wield the belt. He was saying "this one is for stealing the candy." And then, after a number of hits from the belt, he paused. I was hoping that it was over, but in my heart, I knew it wasn't. I hadn't been completely punished yet. He started hitting again, this time telling me that these were for lying. I have no idea how many times he struck me...it doesn't really matter. He finally stopped and told me to pull my pants up and come back to the dinner table. I heard him turn and leave as I slowly stood up, my body still shaking...all of the energy drained from me from the beating and the sobbing. I pulled my underwear and pants back up and slowly walked back to the dinner table. My eyes avoided everyone as I sat down, feeling that every eye around the table was staring at me. Dad had served up the plates and went about dinner as though nothing had ever happened.

The memory of that evening has stayed with me my entire life. The seed of a belief was planted in my heart that night. A belief that life was unfair and that I really couldn't trust those who I should be able to trust more than anyone. My family. My mom had forced me to lie...the very sin dad was so angry about to begin with. My brothers and sister allowed me to be punished for something that at least one of them knew I wasn't guilty of. My dad punished me rather than disciplined me. Sadly, I didn't learn any valuable lessons from the event. It didn't make me more honest and it didn't teach me not to steal. I've done all of those to some degree or another at different times in my life. But it taught me not to trust...and that is the greatest tragedy. That lesson has plagued and haunted me my entire life and has resulted in great loss and pain in my life and in the life of others. It left an unseen scar, buried deeply in my heart and soul.

But, I also carry physical, visible scars of my childhood and the "discipline" I received at the hand of my dad. Every summer, as I wear shorts and enjoy the feel of the warm sun on my legs and body, there are places where the skin doesn't tan evenly. Spots on my upper thighs that have a different texture than the rest of my skin. You have to look closely to see them, the hairs of my legs covering much of the spots. But they are there. They are the reminders of the willow trees planted along the north side of our home in North Idaho. Long, narrow branches that branches that hang to ground. They were planted as a wind break from the cold northern winds that would sweep down from Canada and the arctic cirlce in the winter to protect the house. At least, that was they primary purpose. But they had another purpose...a darker purpose. A limb, cut off made the perfect "switch" for imposing much deserved discipline. At least that must have been what my dad believed.

I don't think he relied on the willow switch very often. It was usually his belt that he used to teach us the lessons of life. But there were times he went and cut a new switch instead. And on one occassion, he used it to mark me for life.

The details of the event are still foggy. I remember that it involved not doing the chores out in the barn at the right time. I was probably that I hadn't fed the cows their hay yet, or else maybe it was that dad had found some baling twine in one of the feed troughs. A cow could eat the twine and make it sick...possibly even fatally sick. We always tried to be careful, and put the twine up where it belonged, out of the way, but sometimes we were careless, or just forgot. Whatever it was, I had done something that was wrong. I don't deny my wrongdoing...I'm sure that it happened. But for some reason, dad reacted in a way I had never seen before.

I was older now, and I'm not sure I ever received a spanking after this one. I was eleven, or maybe twelve. And dad yelled at me, telling me to come over and see him. He was standing near the edge of the lawn, the northern edge nearest the willow windbreak. He was screaming at me...telling me what it was I had done and he told me to pull my pants down. As I did, he walked over to a willow tree and cut of a long branch. He quickly trimmed all of the smaller branches and leaves off of it and started to slash it through the air, like a Musketeer with his sword. He walked back over to me and grabbed my arm and started swinging. As I felt the first strike of the willow switch, I started to cry and scream. I had been on the wrong end of many belts, but this spanking was like none I had ever had. Something seem to have control of my dad. He was swinging the switch like he wanted to drive it completely through my body. As he continued to swing, I tried to get away from him. But he continued to hold on to my arm and slash the willow switch through the air, each time stiking my butt and then down my legs. I'm not sure when the switch actually cut my skin, but I could feel the wetness on my thighs, slowly running down my leg. Dad must of seen it too, because he stopped and stood there, looking at me. He dropped the switch and told me to pull my pants up. As I bent down to pull them up, I could see the long, angry marks across my legs and around the front of my thighs. Blood slowly trickled down my legs from the breaks in the skin. I stood there, my chest heaving, as my dad walked away.

He didn't tend to me or tend to my bleeding legs. He just walked away. In some ways, I think that beating may have taken something out of him...somehow caused him to see for just a moment in time the anger he had inside of him. As I said, I don't remember him ever striking me again after that. But for me, the marks were there...permanently. Not only the marks on my legs, but the scars on my heart. I probably deserved to be spanked, but no child deserves to be beated until they bleed...and certainly not by their father. The father that instinctively we know as our protector...as our provider. That day under the willows, I lost my dad forever.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Spring...A seed is sown

I don't remember all of the sexual encounters that I had as a young boy. I only remember that they were all with other males...most older than I was. The details of the encounters is not important, but the impact that they had on my young life were. I know that I am different...that there are others out there who experienced similar abuse; but they seem to have survived without many scars. I was one of the unlucky ones. Perhaps because it was a combination of factors, or just simply my own genetic make-up, I will never know. I pray this journey will open the doors to bring light into my life...to bring light into this closet that I've crawled into.

It's hard for me to speak ill of the dead, and I hope not to. But, at the same time, in order to know my own story, I will need to speak of my father. He has been gone for over fifteen years now. Actually, he was gone even before that because of the dementia that racked his body and stole away his mind. I can't say that my dad was a bad man...not could I say he was an exceptionally good man. I'm not sure that he ever learned how to love, and sometimes, that is not the fault of the individual but of the environment in which he was raised. I don't know that much about my dad, I'm sad to say. Communication was not overly encouraged in our house. And I was never one who naturally asked a lot of personal questions. This became especially true after I became sexaully active because I didn't want to share anything back about myself because of my own shame and embarassment.

I grew up in a home my sister has described as one "without any love", and I have to agree with her. It's not that it was a house where there was a great deal of screaming or where my parents fought. In fact, until I was in my late high school years, I never remember my parents ever fighting. From the surface, one might think that I have blinders on concerning the lack of love in our home. My parents kissed us good-night before sending us to bed each night...some might call that love. And they provided us with food and shelter. But, sadly, I don't remember feeling loved. I don't remember our house being filled with joy or happiness. It was home headed by an angry Irish-German father and a mom who rarely, if ever, opposed my dad. The language of my father probably would have embarassed a dock worker at times, he knew most of the swear words, and used them often. The only word he didn't use with much frequency is the "F---" word. I'm surprised that being raised in that environment didn't lead me to speak with the same level of profanity.

But there were things in our home environment that did stick to me...and embedded themselves deep into my soul. That was dad's pornography. For as long as I can remember, he had some form of pornography in the home. At first, it was just the Playboy magazines, or the Penthouse. All of us boys found them and spent our time looking at the images. But for me, it was more than just pictures. It became a form of escape. I know for sure that as early as age ten, I was hooked on the illicit pictures, and soon the stories began to fill my mind. As I got older, I found his "harder" stuff...the hard-core pornography that he received in the mail. Most of it was advertising fliers, but the images were in color, and they were explicit. As I recall, they were all of straight sex; at least there was no male-male sex. I soon started to steal my dads porn, even going to the point of stealing it right out of the mailbox so that he never even saw it. I kept it in a stash under my bed, or down in the old barn, buried under old boxes or burlap bags deep in the corners or under the eaves. As I would look at the pictures or read the stories, I would find myself a part of it in my mind. It became an escape from the life and the family that I was a part of.

As I've shared part of this story with pastors and counselors that I've worked with, one of the pastors shared this analogy with me that has stuck with me. He said that during that time of my life, I was like a fish swimming in a pond without a care in the world. As I would swim around, I would nibble on some grubs here and maybe a worm over there. Unaware to me, some of that food was stuck on a hook that Satan was dangling into the pond. And I took some of that bait, and he allowed me to swallow his hook. But Satan can be, and is, very patient. He just allowed that hook to remain in me, and allowed me to move along in the pond, going about my life. He knew that there would be a time when he would jerk the line, and I would be unable to escape. And he did almost 35 years later. I never realized that the seeds that were planted when I was a small boy looking for something better in my life would turn into such a powerful force in my life. Unfortunately, the seeds didn't grow into a strong and towering oak, but rather was more like a poison ivy causing great pain to everyone whom it touched.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Early Spring-the beginning of the beginning

As I thought last night about this blog that I'm starting, I really tried to think about where I should start this story. My life has undergone so many changes over the past several years...from being at the top of my profession to spending three years in a Federal prison. But as I thought about it, it doesn't make a lot of sense to talk about the end of the story before looking at the beginning. The problem is, I don't even know or understand all of the beginning of the story and I'm hoping and praying that as I write, more and more of it will be revealed to me so that I can understand my own past...and the future that it led me to.

It is hard to talk about the things that I have to say. As a friend of mine calls it, it's the "heavy stuff" and that has never been easy to acknowledge. Everyone has the "heavy stuff", but I think most of us think ours is a little heavier than the next guy's...at least it seems taht I do. Like many individuals in our society today, I'm a victim of abuse. Even writing that and seeing it in front of me is difficult. The forms of abuse were varied. Physical...emotional...even sexual. I've read stories of people, both men and women, who had it much worse than I did, but it is still my pain...they are my scars, and they are real and they are deep. Some of them are so deep that it is only slowly that I am even realizing some of them are there. I have difficulty accepting some of them, and the truth is, I haven't accepted all of them yet. They are as if they are things that happened so someone else, and I was just a silent spectator, in the shadows, observing the abuse. I find myself detatched and not being able to feel the emotions. It has been so long since I've cried, but I know the tears are there and they come so close to the surface at times, only to be sucked back down and the hard shell cover back over my heart...and my mind.

I'm not exactly sure when the sexual abuse started. I've had memory flashes of some of the earliest abuse occuring before I ever entered school. It was at the hands of a man who used to milk cows for us on my parent's dairy farm. They are memories deeply repressed because of the pain and of the fear that accompanied the abuse. I had completely forgotten about it until I was undergoing some counseling and I mentioned to the counselor the near panic attacks that I would have whenever my wife would place her hands on my throat. It was as if I could no longer breathe and my entire body would tense. I love physical contact...it's my love language, but the feelings of hands on my throat created the deepest panic in me that I have ever encountered. The counselor asked if I would be willing to try to go back in my memory, to different times when I experienced the panic of hands on my throat to try to find the source and I agreed. Through healing prayer, I found myself back in my early childhood and in an old barn that we had on the farm. It was the original milking barn and I was watching our old milker do some of his work there. It wasn't uncommon for any of us kids to go to the barns. There certainly was no reason not to trust the hired help. It was the early 60's and no one really ever thought about child predators and sexual abuse. At least if they did, they forgot to give me the lecture. During the course of one of these visits to the old barn, the milker forced me to perform oral sex on him and touch him sexually. I discovered that the fear and the panic I experience when hands are place on my neck came as a result of him lowering himself down on his haunches and looking at me level...eye to eye. He placed his hands on my shoulders, near my neck and told me that if I ever told anyone what had happened, he would find me and hurt me. He told me that he could snap my neck like a dry twig...and he could have. I remember crying and trembling; standing in front of him so afraid. And so, it became "our secret"...one that I was diligent to keep my entire life. And sadly, it was only the first of many. My wife once asked me if I thought that I had the word "victim" somehow written on my forehead that others could somehow see. I don't know, but sadly it seems that I was a victim to a number of people. I'm not sure why it took me so long to remember this episode while I was able to remember many of the other times that I was abused sexually by other males around me as I grew up, except that the milker was the only one who threatened me. Whether the treat was real or not, I'll never know. The milker is long gone...probably dead and buried. My in my heart and mind, I believed it was real. It led me into the shadow of the closet that would slowly fill my life with darkness for the next 45 years.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A New Beginning

Today is a scary day...a new beginning. A time and place that I don't remember. I've journaled in the past, and listed for the voice of God as He's spoken to me and revealed Himself to me. But this seems different, more personal. My past is a blank screen to me...most of my early life is a big unknown. Not because there aren't those around who talk about it, or pictures in the photo album. It's a blank page because I've hidden so much, buried the memories deep in my subconscious. There are times that I don't want to remember. But, the reality is, I need to. It's the only way that I'm going to be able to move forward in my life...to have new beginning.

I've only been in this new place for about three weeks. My past three years have been spent in a place far away. A dark place...a place with bars and razor wire. A place where the people watching over you really don't care much about your comfort, or your happiness. Not even your health. But God has allowed me to survive that chapter and has strengthen me as a result of my time in that place. It is one of the experiences...one of the "seasons" that help to define who I am...and who I am becoming.