Something Unbroken

I walked into the kitchen to confront the man who was neglecting, taking advantage of, and at the very least-emotionally abusing his father.  There had just been an emotional scene carried out in the front room of the house.  Yelling.  Demands.  Ugly truths and sad truths.  He used his height to intimidate his wheelchair bound father.  He was a bully who lived off of his dad while neglecting him.

He had left the room.  I waited a few minutes and followed.

That’s when I saw him standing there.  Calmly.  Stirring his coffee.

As I approached the doorway I saw this man standing at the kitchen counter.  He was well over six feet tall.  He was calmly stirring a little white cup of coffee.  The cup was similar to one of those old fashioned diner, white but stained with years of coffee, ceramic mugs.

And there, leaning on his right leg, was a child not three feet tall.  Long, messy and uncared for hair, hanging down past her shoulders.  And while he stirred the coffee with his left hand his right hand rest gently on the child’s hair.  Slowly moving his fingers back and forth in her hair.  It was quiet in the kitchen, and the child was obviously at ease and comforted by being with him.

I could not reconcile the horror of a man and what had been played out just minutes before with this tender scene.

Quite simply, it shocked me.

What I saw in that kitchen didn’t change that man.

But it changed me.

I still think, all these years later, that it gave me hope.

Hope, that even in the monster, resides the possibility of something unbroken.  Something that could be, or could have been, different.

37 thoughts on “Something Unbroken

    • This happened well over ten years ago. Fortunately, I know “the rest of the story”. The man never changed towards his father, seems he has demons he never dealt with not pertaining to his father. The child was cared for, actually did very well through school and sports, mother very involved. At one point them mother did separate from the father. With the children.


  1. I do not believe that people change. I believe that people have different faces that they show to different groups. It is a very rare person who can control his/her emotions after giving in to them for years and years.


  2. I wondered as I read, what it was that broke this man so much that he was completely and utterly horrid towards his father. He is a parent to a young child, how could he not walk in his father’s shoes? and yet, he did not. Such a complex situation.


    • I have (now) a bit of insight to what may have broken him. I don’t know all of it, just parts. There’s so much irony to this. The father, old, in a wheelchair, physically weaker-was the much stronger man. He had no fear. None. The physically stronger, taller, younger man – seemed full of fear.


  3. It reminds me of the very interesting and multi-faceted stories Paul Harvey would tell on his radio show. We may all wonder, Colleen: “What caused the severed ties? Why was anger directed at the father figure?” and “What was the “Rest of the story. . .” 🙂


    • The rest of the story…’s all quite sad Robin. I do know more of it. The son’s demons were not a result of the father. At least not for the most part (if I believe the father’s story, and I do). The demons have to do with war, and alcohol, etc. The father, unfortunately, was very simply-a target. And I do miss Paul Harvey. 🙂


  4. You’ve been witness to some tough stuff, Colleen. I did some volunteer work for a few years with the Los Angeles Children’s Court. I learned that I wasn’t very good at this! So often the best that people could do was still so far from what I would want for myself or my loved ones that I just couldn’t handle it. I admire the work you’ve done. Social services of all sorts need people with your ability to hang in there with people as “works in progress.”


    • That’s a great way of putting it Debra. Often times the “hanging in there” part is the very thing we need to do. Give those changing, the time to do so. But yes, it is very difficult work. Often mis-understood and under appreciated. Thank you.


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