Updated: August 3, 2012 6:20AM
When Jim was a boy, just 6 or 7 years old, he knew in his bones that a terrible thing was happening in his family.
“There was something about my father. What? I hadn’t a clue, but for some reason, I once took a large knife and asked my mother to kill me. Of course, I couldn’t explain myself.”
Jim says he grew up with “a pervasive sense of secrecy camouflaged in hypocrisy. I knew I wasn’t stupid. I knew something was going on, and it was tearing me apart.”
The worst part of it was Jim loved his father. And he was just a child. He wanted to run away, but he had no way of taking care of himself. So he stayed. His way of coping was “splitting his mind. I would ignore or even deny what I knew was happening.”
The “something terrible” was Jim’s father molesting little girls, including his own daughter. Jim says at a certain point, everyone knew, including the police. Everyone knew, except his mother.
“Remember, this was early ’50s. People didn’t talk about these things. They still don’t. Look at the Sandusky case.”
It wasn’t until nearly 30 years later that someone spoke up. Jim’s sister-in-law took his niece to the doctor for an exam, and the girl admitted that her grandfather had been molesting her.
“My sister-in-law tried to kill my father with her bare hands, while my brother stood by saying, ‘Please, just stop.’ When my father was confronted, he ran and hid in my grandmother’s basement. All he could say was, ‘Don’t tell your mother.’ ”
Nobody did. Jim says it was almost 10 years later when he decided one day to “simply pick up the phone and call her.” At the time, Jim says he was “having breakdowns left and right over the situation.”
“I told the secret everyone already knew and was scared to death of.”
After he told his mother, she called his sister and his brother and her granddaughter. They all confirmed it. She confronted Jim’s father. He admitted it. She kicked him out.
Jim says his brother was angry with him for telling their mother. “It didn’t seem to matter that there was a monster right in our own family who had been wreaking havoc for years.”
Jim’s brother had been enabling the abuse for decades. He even begged the father of one little girl that had been molested not to tell anyone.
“It’s probably very wrong of me to say, but had my brother not done that, maybe his own daughter wouldn’t have been molested.”
A year after he told his mother, Jim moved far away. “I lived in the same city as my parents. I was still their son. It wasn’t my imagination that when I walked down the street, men would spit when they saw me. I needed to be clear of the painful reminders.”
He took a Greyhound bus to a city 3,000 miles away that he’d never been to. “I knew no one, and no one knew me.”
Jim says he’s got a scar on the back of his head from an old fall. “Every once in a while, it still itches. I also have a deep scar on my soul. That itches constantly.”
Are there secrets in your family? Are you keeping them? Send your tale to firstname.lastname@example.org.