Saturday, October 20, 2012


Yesterday, Tim took his mother and me out to lunch at his favorite New Haven sandwich place. A few minutes into the meal, he looked at his mom and said, "There was a small agenda for today's date. I just wanted to say to you both how grateful I am for all your support over this past year."

His mother smiled her enormous smile. I choked on my sauted vegetable wrap.

A year ago today, Tim's mom saved his life, performing CPR on her unresponsive son while rescue vehicles screamed down the driveway. It was 4:30 a.m., the time she normally awoke to swim, and she had heard heaving gasps coming from his room. Tim had taken a suicidal dose of morphine the night before, and his lungs were shutting down.

After a wild ride to the hospital, two codes in the ER, a week in intensive care, and now almost a year in residential facilities, Tim is being reborn. Today is a birthday of sorts.

So, too, for Molly. It is roughly six years since her sexual assault at the tender age of 14, an assault she hid for two years before her repressed fear and anger roared up and she made two suicide attempts. Like Tim, she spent several months in residential care. She missed most of high school due to multiple hospitalizations and misplacements in "therapeutic" schools and treatment programs that rejected her as soon as her behavior became too risky for their insurance protocols. But today she lives at home. She no longer engages in self-injuring behaviors. She teaches young children how to swim. She is returning to her music. Next semester, she hopes to enroll in a college class or two. Like Tim, she is gradually becoming reborn.

Clare's assaults also occurred around this time of year, a couple years before Molly's. (She and Molly were actually assaulted by the same man, a cross country coach. So, I guess this is his active season.) After a couple years of real struggle, Clare launched herself into college, refusing to look back. She propelled herself through sheer force of will through almost four years of college, double majoring, running half-marathons, working multiple jobs, managing every community service program at her school and then inventing a few more. Despite her apparent success, Clare's psyche declared "enough" about a year ago, and Clare faced a deep personal crisis. Every day remains a struggle, but Clare is re-emerging by dint of the same courage and determination she has always shown.

Ironically, this is also nearly the second anniversary of the acquittal of the man who caused all this trauma to our family. He got off the hook by hiring a famously scummy lawyer who found ways to make us look sufficiently dysfunctional that "reasonable doubt" could be cast on the evidence against him. Despite his victory, I doubt Gary is enjoying this anniversary very much.

While I cannot say I have found much forgiveness in my own heart, I am grateful for every day that my children are with me. I enjoy their every triumph more profoundly than I can express. I am learning true humility: the knowledge of what I cannot control, the need to bring hope to each encounter with my precious sons and daughters. I will celebrate this day, and I pray that my children continue to find the daily strength that will propel them forward.


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  2. Thank you, Justin. Just yesterday I remembered this anniversary for you and Mary Ann - and Tim - and I thought about how we measure progress while we're still progressing. I thought about how, when you have experienced enough setbacks, you can see that recovery is not linear and that each setback can be an opportunity for applying lessons learned and strengthening resolve.

    Some relatives of mine have three children - two in high school - and they seem to be experiencing their first drama. And for the first time, they are faced with a situation that can't be parented away. All their best intentions, all their love and experience, all that had previously worked (seemingly effortlessly) cannot really fix what's happening now. They will have to ride it out and deal with the results.

    Aren't we fortunate to have already learned that we can't control things? All we can do is, as you say, bring them hope and love them with all our might.

    1. Amen. Thank you, Anne. You and your family continue in my thoughts and prayers.