A Conversation with an Old Friend
Recently, I did a hike with an old friend, one I haven’t seen since 1982. Like a lot of us, his body has suffered some broken bones and doesn’t move as fast as he once did. I knew he had some stories that he would not post of Facebook (gasp!!) but it was obvious his childhood wasn’t the happiest on Earth. I also got some private messaging from others about some of their experiences when they were kids. I felt a bit stupid because all this was going on when I was friends with them visited their homes.
At first he was hesitant to talk about himself, so he told me about my other classmates from way back when and what happened to them growing up. I had no idea. One gal, a cute little blonde, was very nice to me and we got along fine. She was sexually molested by her father-in-law more than a few times, which she did admit in a few messages we shared. My friend confirmed this. I don’t know how long it was going on, but it had to start in gradeschool and even up through Jr. High. She moved away after a year or two in high school. She never showed the emotional scars from it. I just never knew because my home life was nowhere near what some of these friends went through.
Another girl committed suicide after some years of emotional abuse by her parents and her feeling she was never any good. No matter what she did, it was never good enough. Again, I never saw it when we were in school together, but it was there. She was always smiling, a cheerleader, and quite friendly to anyone. Yet she was never good enough for her parents and it eventually caught up with her.
My hiking friend began talking about what he went through. Again, I went to his house many times and played as a kid. He asked me if I remember all the bruising he had when we showered at school after football practice. I did, actually and back then he just said it was from playing football. Well, apparently not. He got beat quite regularly by his dad and mom, and eventually, he just started talking back because that is all he could do in defiance. Back then, there were really no reports of abuse back in those days. All of a sudden, he was gone from school at the start of our senior year. No one knew where he went. No one questioned it, just thought that he moved away. Apparently, the reason was that he was waiting one day for his father to come home of another round of beating, but this time, he had his 20 gauge ready to go. When his dad was supposed to be home, he steadied himself, but to his surprise, his dad didn’t show up on time. After some more thinking about what he was about to do, he said he just tossed the gun aside, picked up some clothes and left, wandering around. He then relayed the issues he had because of it when he got married and had a family. Fortunately, he said he never beat his kids because he didn’t want them to go through what he did. He lost his first wife to cancer after a couple years, then a couple more failed marriages because it wasn’t for love, but convenience. Unfortunately, his eldest kid got hooked on drugs and committed suicide last year, which I knew about. It was tough to hear his side of it.
He then started talking about others who were beaten, abused, even sexually assaulted. I had no idea of the things some of my classmates went through even though I played with them, was friends with them, and knew their parents. I just had no idea in my little bubble apparently to have picked up anything. One gal I knew was raped by an upperclassman that he knew about, but never told anyone because he was scared to death to say anything, and he carried it until he talked to the girl that got raped and apologized for not saying anything to anyone. Apparently, she felt bad for him because he carried this with him for all these years and could not get over his cowardice.
He went to the same little church I did, and he remembered my mom playing the piano and he said he always liked her playing. He gave credit to that little church and some of the lessons he heard there in getting him through to today.
He relayed a couple more of our classmates that had a rough time as well. More than I would believe, and more sickening that I cared to listen to. Made me sad that I never knew what some of my other classmates were going through. Our graduating class was about 115, and 1/3rd of the girls were pregnant before they left. I only knew of a couple who the dad was(classmates) and now I wonder how many were from assault my stepdads. Info I don’t even like to consider now. I was fortunate to have good parents who loved me and didn’t even come close to what others had received. I was nurtured in love, not abuse. I had good parental examples to follow, not avoid. They never drank or smoked, and I rarely heard my dad even swear.
When I was away in college, mom would tell me that she bumped into “so and so” at the store and that old classmate asked how I was doing, that she was good friends with me when we were in high school and really liked my company. I found that odd at the time because my memory was different. Yea, I knew who they were, but I would not consider them “good friends” because it seemed that they didn’t want to go out with me, even though we talked at school and I didn’t belong in the “cool kid” club. Turns out, a couple I now have contacted thanks to FB said they really wanted me to ask them out. They thought I was fun to be around, smart, and a great athlete. I wonder if I would have found out about some of the abuse they were facing if we did go out on a date once or twice.
I had no idea. I thought this type of abuse was typical of todays’ society, not the one I grew up in because I never saw it. I had no idea. My little town had its dark secrets, and I’m grateful I didn’t have to go through what others did.
Some of these old friends have come around and will talk to each other(in private) about their experiences and some have opened up to all. I get a couple private messages with some hints of their past. Some believe they can trust me I guess, or the fact that I don’t live in my old hometown like they still do.
The good news is most of them worked their way through it and live their lives happily with the family they have. Religion plays a big part in it. People I thought were not religious at all growing up now are talking about how they go to church, enjoy it, pray for help, and find comfort in it.
Thank you mom and dad, for being loving parents. Thank you for the wonderful memories instead of harmful ones. Thank you, 2017, for helping me keep things in perspective. And I pray that those who went through such things as a child continue to find peace today. I raise a glass to their spirit that allowed them to rise up and not be brought down by others.