Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Decision

They looked at us with expectant eyes. How can you refuse expectant eyes? Well, I have managed that for several years now. But, this time something was different. Ruby and Sadie have a Christmas Pageant coming up and, like every year before, we were invited to come. They had described, with great excitement and anticipation, what each of their classes were to perform, it was easy to see they were trying to pull us into the joy of it all and have us, both, accept.

Joe has been before.

I have never been.

I need to stop now and talk a little bit about the fact that words have impact. I need to remind you that purposeful and intentional hurt leaves bruises that never fade and wounds that will always, occasionally, weep. I am 63 years old, I will be 64 on the day of the pageant. And yet, in some ways, I am still a young boy who travelled through his childhood and youth as a soft, fat, non-masculine boy. I am still that boy who who woke nearly every morning with fear and anxiety about what the day would bring. Easily targeted, easily taunted, easily taken apart, bullies found myriad ways of making my life hell.

To this day.

To this very day.

If I hear someone laughing around me, my first gut reaction, is that they are laughing at me. Even though all these years later I know that this is seldom actually true, my gut reacts the way it reacts and it does so for a reason. I have lost the trust that I will ever be safe in this world.

And God, I love these kids.

They have been a gift to us and to our lives in ways that I cannot tell you.

I never want them hurt. I have explained to them that I haven't gone to school events because I fear that their love for me, their relationship with Joe and I, will bring them harm. I fear that the bullies in their school will use me, or us, to target them, to taunt them, to tease them. I fear that I will bring them pain.

And I can't have that.

I can't do that to them.

They know. I've told them. I don't go because I love them.

But every year, they ask.

And every year, they hope.

And this year, they asked again.

Sadie told me she would tell her teacher to make sure that I am safe and that people not tease me. I told her that I loved that she would do that but I wasn't worried that they would tease me. I was worried that they would tease her.

Ruby told me that there was nothing anyone could ever do that would make her feel ashamed of me or of her relationship with Joe and I. Nothing. She said it twice. Twice.

So they asked again.

And now I realize something. I have stayed away to keep them from hurt and now, its becoming clear that my staying away, my act of protection, has the ability to hurt them in a new and different way. Caring can look like not caring. Loving can look like not loving.

And I had a decision to make.

I've thought about it long and hard. Joe and I have talked about it. Last night I even prayed for advice.

I don't know if my prayer was answered but I rose knowing that I was going to go. That our presence there, together, with the rest of their family, mattered.

What happens after matters too.

But I cannot risk that my caution leads to a day that I fear, a day I hadn't thought about until I saw those expectant eyes.

The day they stop asking.


Unknown said...

One definition of courage is fear that has said its' prayers. Another is that courage is feeling afraid but doing the right thing anyway.
Dave, you are brave...and the girls are brave to keep asking you....and my prayer is that all will go well....
remember Ruby at the pool, saying 'MY Dave"? maybe this is Sadie's turn....

ABEhrhardt said...

Talk to the school about the physical accomodations - and your concerns. You could easily be their grandfather - and there are probably other relatives out there with the same concerns.

I hope your two little friends are not going to a school where bullying is allowed or ignored.

One of the reasons I put myself to significant physical discomfort every Sunday to sing in the little Aquinas choir at Princeton University for the 4:30 Sunday Mass is that I think it is important for the students - who are selected from the best in the world - to see that someone who uses a walker, and sits during the singing, is making a contribution to their world. It is easy for them to forget that, what with being in their prime and conscious of the meaning of having been accepted into a premier institution.

That, and that I love to sing, and can still do it well enough to be worth the effort.

But you have to be present in the world - or you get totally ignored.

And witness is important FOR the world.

Rosemary said...

Ii understand completely. I have similar circumstances. Prayers for you and everyone that evening. Those two girls are remarkable-human beings.

Jim Currie said...

What wise children they are!

Namaste said...

Kudos, Dave. You gave them the strength and the words to move forward safely. Your presence on this earth is to give them unconditional love. F*ck everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I applaud you. It's so good that you stand up for yourself and for these girls. Bullying can truly cause a lifetime of hurt, but even if the girls are teased for being friends with you, that's not your responsibility. It's the hypothetical bullies' choice to do that. Now I totally understand you want to protect your little friends, of course.

Purpletta said...

Oh Dave, my heart hurts reading this... Yet a few things came immediately to mind...

First an insightful-beyond-her-years girl who said she keeps herself from being hurt by allowing only certain people into her heart. God, I am many decades older than her & I wish I had such wisdom! But you are the one, who together with her parents I am sure, has built for her a setting of love and support and safety-ness in which to grow & it is that nest that has allowed her to develop such self confidence and such a perspective of what is good and right in this world! Those two girls are loved and protected in ways that many of us didn't have the opportunity to be.

There's a difference also between being picked on for who you are & being picked on because of a characteristic that a bully ascribes (accurately or inaccurately) to someone you love. Love trumps all. Your love of those girls, your love of one another, is a blessing that transcends all.

The other thing that I feel I need to say is this... Those of us who have lived through trauma have this instinct to take on responsibility for things that are not within our power or control, and then to ascribe blame to ourselves. But Dave... *You* will *Never* bring those girls pain. Never. Ever.

From what you describe of who those girls are and the foundation they have in their lives, it seems very unlikely that they will be bullied about you (or for any reason). BUT if someone does tease them, spout evil to them, bully them ...it will NOT be You that is causing them pain. It will be the person casting the stone, the bully. Those girls know that your relationship with them is based solely on love.

Lest I go on & on, I will end here by saying you are brave.

Prayers with you all,

Frank_V said...

With my dwarfism, I totally understand being bullied because we are different, being stressed and depressed about having to go outside, and being seen by a largely mean spirited and ignorant public. But since my daughter was born, I have realized, I cannot live a sheltered life.

It certainly sounds like you have a strong entourage that loves you deeply. Use that love as a shield, and deflect all that mean-spirited bullying back on its source. Heck, I flaunt it when people stare at me. Whenever I catch someone gawking, I make sure I give my wife a smooch, or hug my daughter tenderly, like their love is pure gold. Because it is.

My nervousness still abounds. I too have my daughter's Christmas pageant to attend in just one day, and I dread the stares her elementary school chums will throw my way. But I keep telling myself, that I'm there for my daughter, and no one else. Her love is gold, and I want the whole world to see that.

Thanks for sharing Dave, and I hope you truly enjoy Ruby's and Sadie's performance!

Unknown said...

This post so hurt my heart...and I am overwhelmed at what loving wonderful children you're raising. You, and they, make this world a better place.