Something happened, once, that I can never fully escape from.
It was a conversation I had about twenty years ago. Today, it haunts me as much as it did then. Maybe even more. With the twenty years of disbelief that I have allowed to grow.
Oft times something will happen in the news or I will be made aware of something and this time of my life rushes in and torments me. And I can’t shake it. It replays in my head over and over again. Without giving me any chance of peace or escape. It’s there-living in my brain. And I hear it still. A constant echo.
There was a time when I had to call a family I knew, to inform them that one of the people in their life that they called ‘friend’ was a pedophile. Not a conversation I had ever had. Not one I was in any way prepared to have. But something I knew had to be done. There was a lot of discussion before I made the call. And out of fear for the children involved it was decided to call. Because which one of us, as parents, wouldn’t do everything we could to prevent a harm to our child. And knowing ahead of time that there was a potential hazard, a danger lurking around the corner…. wouldn’t you remove the hazard? Or be the one to go around the corner and take danger out of your child’s life?
I would have.
Not all of us were lucky enough to have someone warn us. Give us advanced notice that hey, this person is going to hurt your child.
So I make the call. The father in the family answers the phone. He engages in small talk while letting me know that it was bath time for their young children. And I could hear the noise of family life at night.
And I had no grace. I didn’t need grace.
I just told him.
He repeated it out loud to his wife.
What happened next is the haunting part.
She got on the phone and told me that “if” this was true it would not change her feelings for this man at all. “If” this were true it was not cause to stop or end a friendship. “If” this were true she would not abandon her friend. “If” this were true she would do what she could to support him.
She went on like this. Obviously not wanting me to discuss it, but listen to her. I don’t know if she has any idea how that haunts me. There was not one word of sympathy, or understanding, or shock, or fear, or concern for the children already hurt. Already damaged. Already suffering. She didn’t express a single comment of consideration for what had happened to a child, already.
I could have understood if she had said:
“What??? Are you sure??? Oh my God! No way!”
“What happened? How do you know? Tell me what you know! “
“Oh my God are you guys okay? What can we do? Is there anything we can do?”
“Colleen I’m in shock. Just utter shock. I don’t know what to say.”
The sad and haunting part is she had so much to say. In defense and honor of this pedophile.
I was so naive back then. I didn’t know how to have this conversation when it was made. I just made it. Knowing it was the right thing to do for the children. I had no idea how the conversation would play out. But I’m pretty sure I didn’t expect that. Total acceptance and support of the pedophile. And total disregard for the children already hurt. I’m not so sure I said too much of anything in response to her. The father of the family got back on the phone. I muttered something about they needed to know. I would want someone to tell me this if it was my child being in the presence of this monster.
The father said, very softly “don’t worry I’ll keep an eye on my kids. I’ll do what I have to do.”
All these years later I still allow this to eat at me. With the haunting, and what felt like taunting, of the words she spoke I have one more torturous haunt that lives in my head.
The haunt of the words I did not think to speak.
“What if this was your child I was calling about.”