Saturday, December 20, 2008

And maybe I have the strength?

I have an assignment. I don’t want to do it—but then, I didn’t want to become a priest, either, but I am what I am and reality is reality.

I am cutting and pasting from some of those other sources for the reason explained within the "pasted" post itself. While reading, understand that my own emotional and financial states have continued to improve, but I remain a daddy without children, a Father without a parish, a husband without a wife. My own parents told me back in 1996 that they would never have anything to do with me again-- not as long as I was still "married to that witch" I'm not married to her anymore, but I learned my parents cut ties with everyone in the family at about the same time, so I am not surprised to have never heard from them again. I am, therefore, also a son without parents.

If you do read the whole post, you will understand my meaning if I tell you that I would like to see my Dad again-- that I understand what he is going through; that I learned from him the same sad skills my children are now having to learn.

It seems like a lot of people who knew my ex-wife, knew what her problem was. It seems that no-one cares that she now has my children to destroy-- as long as I continue paying child support the courts are happy--now that she has me out of the way, and that they my beloved children now have no one. I cannot even find my children, much less get my visitation rights enforced.

So here is something I wrote about eighteen months ago...

Excerpt (posted on an abuse victim site, and that with an excerpt from a father’s rights organization I read for a couple of weeks, only to find it nothing but hopelessness bemoaned by those who had gone before me-- if you, yourself have need of resources, I will email some privately):


Okay, you probably already know this is going to be long, but a word about context.

I re-live this stuff all of the time. I journal a lot, and that helps, but to try to go through the major trauma in such detail is draining.

(and I don’t even touch on all of the day-to day stuff like being woken in the middle of the night on a regular basis to be yelled at as a normal occurrence, and I almost ignore the abuse our children suffered and continue to suffer)

borderline personality disorder
Mommy's home!

I just went through that painful and exhausting detail and made myself physically sick and so upset that I barely functioned for several days. I’m not up to doing that again so soon. So I am cheating and using my two posts I wrote on another site in the last week or so.

I am not an activist, and I was posting to a site in which many activists blog, but in response to some views that I thought missed the point. A reply I received directed me to several sites he thought might be good for me-- and this site was one of them. I suspect he wanted me to find the faith section here.

My story came out like this (oh, and note how I started telling my story in the third person and then awkwardly realize I have to claim it —there’s a sign of an open wound!) in two posts:

MH wrote, “I don't like the emphasis on victimhood.”

This explains your view, MH, that violence that results in injury is worse than non-marking violence in the same way that murder is worse than injury.

A thousand or more “minor incidents” over sixteen years, where the stronger man is only occasionally receiving obvious marks are not forgotten by him at the start of each subsequent incident. He is a victim, feels like a victim, and is exhausted by the fear, the humiliation, and his powerlessness to stop it. Being stronger and showing self-control is what allowed it to go on for sixteen years; and the change from, “I am big and strong enough to take it” into, “I must deserve this” is slow and subtle and happens without notice.

At some point, he simply knows he realizes he acts like a victim – the adrenaline rush when her car pulls up, the way the children wordlessly stop their play and retreat to their rooms before she comes inside.

Two or three nights a week, for years, it goes like this: It starts with the yelling. No he cannot use his strength just because of that. By the end of dinner the yelling is now cussing, wild accusations, and deeply hurtful characterizations. No, he cannot use his greater strength to do anything about that. She throws his treasured item across the room and it turns to dust when it impacts the wall (a china baby cup, an antique chair, his hand-built radio controlled airplane model, etc.). She yells, “What are you going to do about it? Beat me?” No, he cannot use his greater strength to respond—especially given her taunt. He goes outside, gets in the car and goes to the store until He believes she is likely to be asleep. A slamming door at two in the morning wakes him; she opens it again and stomps to the bed. She shoves him roughly, “I hate you! I hate your parents!” He gets up, wordlessly, taking pillow and blanket in to the den to go back to sleep on the couch. She knees him in the groin when he stands. It hurts, but he is not “injured.” She slams the door before he is through it, and that generates the fight or flight impulse. The blanket he was carrying is caught in the slammed door. He stands there, listening to her fumble with the lock on the bedroom door. He is angry, he is capable of defending himself, and he is capable of “explaining” to her -- with one blow – why she needs to change her behavior, and he knows that if he opens that door before she gets it locked, he is likely to teach her that lesson. But, because he is self-disciplined and because he is smart enough to know that he will go to jail if he so much as restrains her (and soon enough, he will prove that assumption as fact), he leaves the blanket caught in the door and goes to sleep on the couch.

He’ll go through this again in two or three days. He knows it, the kids know it, and the wife knows it.

Sixteen years.

This impacts his self-identity, the way he views the world, the way he interacts with other people. It is a powerlessness, but those few to whom he may share his predicament praise him for his self-control. His only praiseworthy strength has become his ability to be a victim. His most trusted and wise adviser comments, “You know, you should leave, but I think you have a moral obligation to protect the children. If you are not there, what will happen to them? I think it is foolish to assume you have any chance of getting custody without a huge legal battle that you don’t earn enough to wage. I am sorry, but I think you have to stay and the best you can do is try to get her help.”

If he leaves, he is weak, because he forsakes his children. If he stays, and” takes it,” he is strong. That, sir, is a victim. He hates the word, but he knows it applies. The culture expects this of him. A victim does not dream of a better life, because it is not the next incident that stops him from dreaming, it is the knowing that there will be hundreds if not over a thousand more of them before his children are grown and he can escape. He knows, too, by that time, he will be unable to see himself as strong, as virile, as healthy… That is no dream but it is all he has, so he does not dream.

Oh, and in all of that, it never once occurred to him that the reason no one approached him to offer sympathy and comfort when he showed up to work with black eyes or scratches on his face a half dozen times in a year or two is because, he later learned, that they assumed he deserved it. Women, you see, do not abuse their husbands, so if she did give him the black eye, he was probably caught having an affair—or worse—his co-workers can only imagine. And they do imagine. In reality, men, you see, do deserve beatings.

I am not saying I am that man, but I am saying that I know, absolutely KNOW, that I deserved it. I have no idea why I deserved it, but I did. It is the only explanation—and even my family asks me what I did that caused her to behave that way. I also know that I did not deserve it, that my ex-wife is every bit as deeply disturbed as I am now permanently broken, but that knowledge is of no matter, because it is but a lone and weak voice.

Which is it that is worse? Is it getting punched in the eye once, or the long term, cumulative effect that destroys the self, strips from him his children, his career, his home, and stops the ability to dream?

I read this [father's rights] blog because I want to believe there is hope and that things can change, but I know that such is an delusion—a necessary delusion that allows me to forget that I have no purpose, no family, no respect, no friends, and no future. When I am not exercising in this delusion, I have another which is the one most others share: It didn’t happen, having two children who loved me and counted on me for protection and comfort and above all, love—that was just a dream. Dreaming must stop because dreams that cannot be true are worse than nightmares. I don’t dream, and I must stop remembering.

I sat on this email for a week because I got so depressed re-living it last Sunday that I decided not to look at it again, but the post from George Rolph hit so close and heartened me because it just helps to know that someone else knows, that I decided I should do a spell check and send it…

Questions asked by Lance:

1) I guess I am wondering, why did you not try to build cases against these women?

2) But how are we as men to fix the problem if we don't start building solid court cases against discrimination, violent/evil women, etc?

3) And George and Crews, one last question, have either of you considered writing a book or contracting with someone who can write your stories?

Crews’ Answers:

Funny, as writing has been a large portion of my professional career of my past, I know that I will usually write six pages (nor more, no less) on any subject upon which I am asked to comment. After finishing this, guess what I found this answer to be in length?

If I write briefly, I believe it appears merely trite and bitter. To me, it is my story, and there is nothing trite about it. I am beaten and I do not want sympathy. Help would have been a Godsend, but there was no help, is no help, and will be no help. Sympathy, when there is no possibility of help is useless and adds insult to injury. The only benefit in telling my story is because it is consuming me, and getting it out helps for a time. It is consuming because I keep trying to find what it is that I did or did not do to deserve a lifetime of punishment. Losing my children forever (although I have joint custody, but enforcing it has turned out to be an impossibility), torments me daily, and cripples me, now that I have lost hope of ever recovering, and so I dwell on this life changing, life breaking, life destroying time of my life from which there is no new beginning.

Maybe it will prevent someone else from trusting, as I did, when the signs of treachery were there to be seen; but I ignored the signs because I loved my wife and thought my patience and attempts to understand would eventually result in her getting better. So knowing what I know, I would still do it again, because I made the right decisions for me, that is, for my conscience. Probably, so would anyone else whose heart rules them.

I am far more despondent than I am bitter, but it is my nature not to be bitter. So, excuse me, but I am only willing to respond at greater length than anyone is likely to be motivated to read.

First Question’s answer: My ex threw away three answering machines and our home computer. The answering machines went away because she believed that they were secret devices of my employer monitoring our household. The computer, because she believed (and she was correct) that I kept a journal which included descriptions of the incidents. I suspected Bi-Polar Disorder, and/or Borderline Personality Disorder. There is some documentation on the effect upon spouses who live with such a person, and my own behavior follows the typical pattern. I became hyper-vigilant, always looking for cues which would signal an event in her, and using those cues to check my own behavior (God! I have dinner ready, and the vacuuming is done, but did I put the lawn mover in the shed! Oh, No! Maybe she didn’t notice.) I was not in any frame of mind to take such a risk as to be caught gathering evidence.

Second Question’s Answer: My life after leaving this marriage has been such an incredible series of unforeseen tragedies that I am the one who will sound like a paranoid schizophrenic [e.g., the prosecutor “lost” my application for legal representation; having lost my job, I did not get legal counsel for the divorce papers, so when she withdrew them, I did not know that I did not have to be (nor was I) notified of a hearing when she resubmitted them, so I lost everything; I lived in my car for fifteen months; paid 60% of my meager income in child-support waiting for the papers I filed for enforcement and amendment to come before the judge—they never have, and I cannot afford legal counsel to find out why; and the list goes on and on]. As it was, I found myself emotionally and financially crippled, alone, falsely accused and assumed, by what otherwise might have been a support group, as guilty).

So to try better to answer that second question…

As my survival mechanism, I have spiritualized everything and accepting what is, as what is— which rather precludes any attempt to make it different than it is. Since I believe that such a point of view is necessary to my survival, I will not give it up no matter how much of a fantasy it may be. There is no life-line, no hand-up, no life raft. I tread water. When the people who knew me best say, “You really got a raw deal, but since this keeps happening to you, have you considered that you must be doing something to cause people to behave this way toward you?” such does not support you to take up the battle. I have lost and I know it. My family member who said that to me this year is probably right— I am probably so broken that there now is something about me that brings out the worst assumptions of me and the worst behavior in others towards me. I am in denial—even though I really have no idea at all what it is I am denying. That is hardly a place from which you can recover.

[Editors note, November 2010:  A homeless woman flagged me down two weeks ago, as I was running an errand for an elderly friend, using her car.  The homeless woman asked me if there was an inexpensive place to eat I could drive her to.  I told her to hop in and drove her to  strip of fast food restaurants.  She explained that she was homeless.  I said, "I know."  She said, "You've been homeless."  I answered, "Yes.  Last night, I looked in the mirror and looked away.  I can see it-- the brokenness on my face and in my eyes.  It will be there for ever-- a permanent scar."  I fear, what I see and what I recognize in others, is what some call the "thousand yard stare" a reference to the look of persons with PTSD.]

An experienced therapist took me on for a weekly token payment. He was outraged for me. He said that the bad news is that I suffer from hyper-vigilance but that I use it, now that I am out of the relation, in health ways—really meaning nothing more than I am more perceptive and alert than most other people. If I wanted, he added, he was certain that I could be diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, if I thought a formal diagnosis would be of any use. Given my former (public) profession, for which he believed I would return, he advised not making any formal diagnosis. The good news, in his opinion, is that I had retained my good character, the bad decisions I made were for the right reasons (my heart); my patience exercised beyond any reasonable expectation; and that, as a result, I was rather extraordinary in my ability to function and cope under extreme circumstances. Like pretty much everyone else, he believed that the legal actions and time would ultimately resolve the horrible state of affairs, and that I would eventually heal to the point that life again would hold excitement and joy for me.

So, with the emotional and reasoning “check-up” passed (it was a year and half long check-up), I now turn to the practical application

Some meager, but affordable attempts to build that case are as follows:
a) The time I called 9-1-1, when she pulled a kitchen knife on me and held my son hostage at knife point. A request for the police report did not even produce an indication that the call ever took place. I have no idea how that can be. The police tried to show me the wisdom in pressing charges that night, but I declined— I even talked them out of taking their own initiative. Why I did that makes perfect since to me, but I doubt it would to anyone who has not lived it. But again, what happened to the police report?

b) I went online to get a phone number of the hospital where my ex took my children after accidentally (I am tempted to put that last word in quotes, but I do not know if it was or was not an accident) putting a squirt gun style defoliating agent applicator next to their kool-aid cups and then going around the building to continue her gardening’ and, again, when the children accidentally got into the rat poison she had in the kitchen one day while I was at work. The small-rural, hospital no longer exists. I have no idea how I might find the records.

c) My current employer provides 30 minutes of free legal advice with a volunteer attorney. I had already had the papers drawn up for amendment of child support and enforcement of custody rights, paid to have them filed and served (twice!) and yet they never were set for hearing. The attorney I was provided to answer that one question, a woman (if that is relevant), said, “I could be disbarred if I advised you wrongly on what you have to do to get the judge to hear your case”. The clerk’s office told me, “We are not allowed to give you legal advice and that includes how to fill out our forms requesting a hearing."

d) The fourteen bank accounts and $6,000.00 of credit card fraud she was proven by the bank to have illegally created in my name— even after the divorce, would not be addressed by the local police as a crime, saying, “We are not getting involved in a custody battle.” The credit card companies, however, did file charges against her and then dropped them when she agreed to pay restitution. Lesson? It is not a crime to defraud an ex-husband, but it is a crime to defraud a bank.

At some point which I have long since reached, you stop saying to yourself, “I will redouble my efforts” and convince yourself that “You are not supposed to win.” Just because I know the difference does not mean I can summon what is necessary to do anything about it. I cannot explain the pain that cripples me now. I am exhausted, and so scarred— no, scars come after healing, but I am mass of open wounds-- that I live in a survival frame of mind. If anyone sees the rage I have now (disciplined and controlled as it is), I will simply confirm to them that I am a violent person deserving of anything and everything that befalls me. I know that I am no more allowed to be angry at injustice in our culture than I was allowed to be angry at the injustice in my home. Such persons as me need to be hidden.

Third Question’s Answer: Who would believe my story? Who would publish it? And even if published, it would mean that I have asked to be a target of more accusations from a culture which will not be swayed by the truth— not when it runs against its comfort in believing that women cannot be violent, treacherous or plotting, much less truly evil. The day I pinned my wife to the floor after she could not stop herself from scratching at my face, punching me, and kneeing me in the crotch and for which I was arrested, proved that reality.

Oh, and another thing. If I had $30,000.00 like the man in London, I would use it as did the man in London. The other side is true, if I had a gun, I probably would have used it on myself by now. Fortunately, I read on a father’s rights site about the dozens of cases where men who have long since given up hope for their hearts, much less justice, have made the act of a bullet to the head as an attempt to gain publicity for the other broken fathers. Not one was reported by the press, the web site made it clear, as having anything to do with a state-sponsored and culturally-driven destruction which the men could not find it in them to survive. Suicide as a meaningful protest is guaranteed to be ineffective and that is probably a good thing.

I was, once, strong and willful. It was beaten out of me by my ex-wife. What chance I had of finding a purpose for regaining that part of my character, was stolen from me by the courts without my being invited to the hearing. When I read what I have said about the courts, I realize another may take that to mean the injustice of the false charges against me. No. That matters little. Or you may think it is the injustice of losing everything I owned even before I met that woman. That matters little. I mean that I have seen my kids only twice in the last two years and am “lucky” if I am allowed to get thirty minutes on the phone with them one day a week. My kids were legally kidnapped from me, and the person who they live with is insane. Try living with that every day!

According to the state, it is in the “best interest of the children” that I be punished for something I did not do and was not even tried for doing, and there is no limit to what punishment is fit for the likes of me. They must be right—it is the law. I have joint custody, but while illegal, it is not enforceable, and certainly not punishable, that: my ex-wife beats the children with a leather belt, that she defrauds for her own financial gain, that she moved hundreds of miles away without ever telling the court (much less me) where my kids are, that the state garnishes what has now become over 50% of my paycheck (twice the legal maximum for two children in this state)— that I have only seen my children twice in the last two years, and that she will not allow them to return my calls. Of course, I must have done something to make that reasonable, so there is no need to ask if is acceptable.

I drove five hundred miles and went school-to-school for hours until I found my children last February. The principal only let me see my children after she first called my ex-wife and got her permission. The office staff personnel at each school I visited were amazed to find that a woman would deny her children’s father custody and use such deceit to hide them from him when seeing the court custody documents. I made no comment or accusation, but it probably made quite an impression when I asked if they could share the school records so that I might learn their address. I am sure the amazement was soon replaced by a thought to the effect, “Well, there must be more to this story than is apparent—the man must deserve it.” That is, after all, our deeply beloved cultural myth.

Oh, my children? I took them to dinner and a park after school. They could not stop touching me. They glowed with delight that I was in their arms and they in mine. Before all of this, I was professional with a professional degree and very public position. I officed at home because I knew it was unhealthy to have her care for the children, so I was an at-home Dad for the six years prior to the incident in which I used force to protect myself. They thrived under my care, and fear their mother.

Because of the accusation of abuse, I am now unemployable in my profession. I do not hold a job that considers family matters to be more important than showing up for work, and does not pay well enough (after child support) to have access to transporting myself and my children such a great distance for my visitation. When I save up enough for one trip, my ex-wife has begun disappearing with them. That, or course has been documented and filed with the court, but why would the court care?

The Attorney Generals Office representative I met with said, “It is not possible that we are garnishing your wages beyond the legal maximum of 25%.” I hand her a stack of pay stubs. She looks at them and in genuine horror, exclaims, “That isn’t supposed to be possible! You must get a lawyer immediately because we are not able to make any changes without a judge’s order.” I said, “I filed almost two years ago. Looking at my check, Miss, would you want to guess how long it will take me to save up enough for a lawyer?” Her answer? “I wish there was something I could do, but we are forbidden.”

Fear drives me now. To rally is a matter of life and death for me—truly a decision of my own survival. My experience is that if wounded again, I will be left for dead. There is no such thing in our culture as “No man left behind.” No one even was sent to look for me. The first wounds did not kill me, or haven’t yet; but in truth they are not scars, yet, either. I am in no shape for battle, behind enemy lines, weaponless, and hunted.

People (and I am one, so I know) need stories with endings which satisfy— not necessarily happy ending, but at least satisfaction. My story does not have that satisfaction and human nature is to make one of it. The only way I have seen that to happen is to deny the truth and decide, “The real part of this story is that he really did deserve this.” I need that satisfaction, too, but it isn’t there, so a I dwell on it, and go over the story again and again.

My therapist that I saw a couple of years ago told me the main thing for me was to make sure I stood up for myself and never allowed anyone to place me in a position of having to “take it”. I admit I am feeling my way in this, but soon had some opportunity to practice. I was put in a position at a job to do something illegal for another or lose my job. I went to Human Resources who said I was doing the right thing, but ended up losing my job, but was told by HR that I had done a fantastic job, and that they had done as best as they could to protect me.

This spring, a mentally unstable man somehow got upset with the company for whom I worked. For weeks, he was reported to have been telling anyone he knew who did business with the company that he had been stealing from it. Then, while I had nothing to do with any of his anger, he went out of his way to threaten my life. I had to ask someone to point him out to me, since I did not know him when I heard about the threat. It turns out that he was unaware of his comments and of the threat on my life most of the time. Obviously, he was a troubled man. He showed up at my place of work and I called the police as the police had advised me to do, and as management had agreed was the best approach under the circumstances. I was fired before returning to work for having called the police. That, by the way, was the subject matter when my own brother told me that I must be doing something to cause people to treat me this way. That, I know, will sound familiar to abused husbands.

It is quite clear that I will be punished if I stand up for myself, so I simply tell my story.

I am a practicing Christian, old style, and a man of great faith. I have a strong work ethic, and great discipline, so I have been able to survive thus far. I have been working two jobs to allow me to me to have a roof over my head and food, but little else. In this state, it is illegal to garnish beyond 25% or net earnings, and it is illegal to garnish from more than one employer. Both of my jobs are garnished at 50% of gross income, and of my moonlighting job pays very little but allows me to keep a hand in my former profession, so the garnishment is really about 60% of net. Having lost a job (without cause), I am hanging by a thread emotionally and financially, and facing having to go back to living in my car— my new job not beginning for three more weeks. I pray, but I no longer hope. I have asked for fish and eggs, and been given serpents and scorpions (a scriptural reference that I have stopped trying to reconcile with my experience).

I called my children on Father’s Day, but got an answering machine and no return call. As I write, it is my daughter’s birthday and I expect that my call will not be picked up by my ex- and the children will not be allowed to return my message.

I never get drunk, do not do drugs nor have any other such vises, have no criminal background (couldn’t imagine intentionally breaking a law), and have no mental nor emotional disorders. Other than such people, I have no experience that prepares me for such a failed life. I’m honest, descent, compassionate, friendly, gentle, well-mannered, have a high IQ, a bachelors and master’s degree, a healthy body, and the “looks descent truck, didn’t pass me by.” I swear to you that I am convinced that if I were in prison for life as the worst of criminals, my life would be easier and more hopeful than it has been for the last four years. I believe, I would be better treated as such.

Anyone else who is having it this rough and for so long, I’ll give you my few survival tips: I found a hobby that allows time to pass without my being aware of it: Carving wood in relief and for fine furniture reproductions. I read novels as well as textbooks which interest me. I ride my bike or swim (one or the other for a season), and walk for exercise. I have a sort of “Cheers” in my neighborhood where I can stop by and have a couple of pints and play pool with friendly people who think I am special, although in my current depression and financial crisis, I have not been there in a couple of months which is probably the worst decision in that I am isolated and lonely—so get involved in something where you are around people who like you. When my eyes start leaking, I have found that Sudoku puzzles (after the first hundred or two, you do them in ink while talking on the phone!) and other logic/mathematical type mental distractions are excellent triage care. Four years into this, my pain in missing my children has not lessened, so leaking eyes are still a regular problem and for that, I always carry sunglasses (to make an escape when in public) and a cigar (to make an excuse for going outside). Finally, in the “not practicing what I preach” category, I recommend praying for the relationship with Someone greater than you, but I do not recommend expecting the prayer life to have any effect on the situation. That expectation is getting hard to live with because it always disappoints me.

If you got this far, you must be relating, and I am terribly sorry that is so. I am sure many have it worse than me—maybe you; but few, I think, take it harder than me. I don’t know how it can be harder than having no hope and know I will wake up in fear, spend the day grieving and go to sleep wishing I could forget the children I once had because that part about “it is better to have loved and lost then to have never loved at all” is a lie when it comes to your children.


I have learned a lot in the last eighteen months, since I wrote that first post to the (secure, and member's only website). Prior to that-- dating right back to the separation, I was a contributor to a survivor's site for spouses and children of persons with BPD. There I found my own story told by hundreds of others in various ways, but I also found that there is no hope for my spouse, and probably none for my children unless I can rescue them

I am forcing myself to watch "Mommy Dearest" having just learned Christina Crawford shared the same fate my children have been doomed to live, and that I share with her the hostile and accusing denial of reality that usually comes in the form as "we don't know what he did, but he must have provoked her and deserved it." Nope. She is so messed up by the disorder that paranoid delusions, no matter how fantastic, are her reality; and no matter how vicious her lies, they are justified in her mind, because she, although unable to name a cause, is certain that I and my children deserve it.

For the record, and God knows I tell the truth: I never hit that woman. I frequently defended myself and my children and our possessions by subduing her and holding her still until she stopped her violence.

I learned, early on, that her accusation to the contrary was enough for most of my friends to disown me, count the many black eyes I WORE, as only a sign that Becky "fought back" and that it so easily explained why I was so down and quietly angry. Nope. She just fought-- I assume still does-- just without me to protect my children. My anger was and remains the result of sixteen years of hell, that I endured, because I believed love and truth would conquer.

It didn't.

That is the end of my assignment, and it is posted where I was asked to post it. My therapist says it is unfair of me not to defend myself with the truth and give others who know me and care for me the opportunity to react.

This whole blog is about this theme of spirituality and abuse, but it exhausts me to continue the chronological record, because I am frankly taking as much of what I have to admit happened to me as I can take just now. It is all much worse than I have shared so far, but to retell it, requires me to relive it. Besides, the need is lessening to say anything as more answers have come.

A little anecdotal fun. This post and my therapist's work have in common, my learning to stand up for myself, when my life began with learning how to endure. A year ago, on Thanksgiving night, I was hanging out with several good and dear friends. After dinner, I had gone off by myself as many others missing family were doing from time to time. A complete stranger came in, he was drunk and told his friends he was looking for a fight. He picked me. I was caught so off-guard that the fight was about over before I knew I was in one. Sixteen years of unrequited rage (or maybe 47 years of it?) were unleashed on that bully and his three friends. I didn't even know I knew how to fight-- apparently I am pretty good at it.

Not long after getting my window shot out on the city bus I was driving, I tossed more than a dozen inner city bang-gangers off my bus. One was reported to have been carrying a gun. I am not sure if he was the same one that came charging down the aisle at me or not. I stopped the bus, and just locked eyes with him in the big rear-view mirror. He froze, and then took his gang members off my bus-- leaving through the back door-- farthest from me. His girlfriend, going out the front door, said to me, "You are either the bravest bus-driver in the world, or you are insane."

I drove off smiling at those yelling threats (threats which I had just proved to them and to myself that they did not have the courage to carry out) and thought to myself, "Neither brave nor crazy-- just had worse and more real threats every night when my wife came home-- I don't scare easy." The gangbangers still ride my bus. They call me "Sir." Their parents call me "Old-school." I like that one best-- it reminds me that I am still me. I first heard that nick-name from one of the kids, telling me his Dad had said that I was the only bus driver that read when on break-- and not only read, but read from a prayerbook and a Bible.

I left the hospital chaplaincy because the hours became incompatible with my bread and butter secular work. I never have made a deciosn for service based upon dollar signs, only vocation-- but I do have to eat.

Meanwhile, I have come to become acquainted with many homeless persons who ride the Austin city buses. I know where they live, hangout, and which intersections they work with their cardboard signs. I know how the are treated by store owners and police. I know which ones are there because of insanity, which because they prefer drugs, and which because no one cared when disaster upturned their lives. Their churches are wherever they can get food or a few dollars, but there is no ministry to them except rehab centers. Raised in suburbia in a upper middle class family breaking into the upper class, I have become street-smart, and think I look it. There is a bit of Saint Paul behind that-- I am being like those to whom I minister.

The last bit, as I close, may be a tad narcissistic, but please pardon me if I take some energy to remind myself that I did not deserve to be punished, because I am, and always have been that person who seeks to do what God gave me to do, wherever I am and with whomever I find myself. I am also in a unique position (unique, as far as I can tell), to be tough enough to survive a dangerous ministry, and gentle enough to minister. And since I am not smart enough to put together the finances to make it a formal ministry, I drive city buses and do what I can, informally.

Still, it would be nice to...

Ah, never mind.


Stupid Sheep

Stupid Sheep. Sometimes, sheep make me angry—- especially Christian Sheep.

“Is that tall thin and dark green grass you are munching better than the short broad-leaf grass I am eating?”
“I don’t know.”
“I think I’ll try it, because it looks easier to chew-- wait, what’s that?!”
“Yeah, something is wrong, something I smell…”
“I have a bad feeling about this.”
“Me too. And I don’t know what I should do.”
“Me neither. Look, the sheepdog is running. He looks angry.”
“Maybe that is what is wrong—the sheepdog is angry. I don’t like it when he acts like that.”
“Me neither. There is always trouble when he is angry.”
“You are right. So many times when he is angry, that Wolf—“
“Don’t say it! I don’t want to even think about it. You know better than to mention—you know, that... thing.”
“Too late. Look.”

Both sheep watch as the Wolf streaks out of the woods, the fold scattering out of its way except one tiny lamb. In less than a second, the lamb is in the jaws of the Wolf, and the Wolf never breaks stride, but continues the sprint through the fold, breaking the neck of the lamb with a shake of his head as he carries it away. The Wolf makes a broad turn through the pasture as he sweeps back toward the woods.

Sheepdog, wolf with lamb and shepherd

Only a few strides before the wolf would have reached the first of the low scrub on the edge of the woods, the sheepdog emerges into view, out of the midst of the fold, leaping over three sheep huddling together, and landing in full stride directly toward the Wolf. The wolf does not even glance back. He knows the sheepdog is there, he smells him, he hears the quick breathing and a very low and quick growl—barely audible over the disturbed collective baaing of about two hundred terrified and extraordinarily stupid sheep. The wolf drops the dead lamb from his jaws to quicken his run, hoping that the trees before him will allow him to dodge the determined sheepdog.

As the wolf twist and leaps, the sheepdog sinks sharp teeth onto his right hip. The Wolf does not recognize pain, so much as surprise. He is not yet caught. It was only a nip, and it did not slow him down. He has experience with this, he knows it is a fair match, and that the nip will sting but it has done no real damage—he can always turn and fight, but still believes he has a good chance of escaping. The wolf makes it into the trees, and begins his dodging; the reversing and snapping he has learned will give him the best chance to escape, especially now that the sheep are not threatened. Often, he knows, once the sheep are not being molested, the sheepdog loses interest in the chase.

“Do you think it was something the lamb did that made God angry at him?”
“Yeah, or maybe his parents had done something really bad. You never know—but God knows.”
“Yes. I’m not taking any chances. I’m staying away from them from now on.”
“Yes, God wants us to stay away from those he obviously is angry with.”

The wolf did not make it. A small rock he did not intend to step on while trying a quick change of direction slid a mere half inch under his front left paw as he tried to gain traction. That was enough to cause the Wolf to stumble. That stumble was enough for the sheepdog to make up the distance. The first bite was on the wolf’s tail. The wolf twisted his head to return the favor, but the sheepdog knew the wolf would do just that and had already released the bite and had his mouth open, and canines exposed, mouth agape. When the wolf’s nip missed, his muzzle was immediately locked, hopelessly (unless the sheepdog made a mistake) in the jaws of his pursuer.

The sheepdog did not make a mistake. He bit down with all of his considerable strength on the snout of the Wolf. The wolf inhaled his own blood through his nose, and unable to wrench his mouth open, choked. He rolled over on his side, to try and bring his legs into play-- to push the sheepdog away. The sheepdog responded with several violent shakes of his head, ripping the fur, the skin, and the flesh of the wolf’s jowls, exposing the bone.

The sheepdog released the grip only because he knew that the wolf's flesh was about to tear loose entirely. The Wolf used that instant to try again to reciprocate and lashed at the head of his adversary. All he got was fur. The sheepdog did not even notice the yank of the hair under one ear— instead he drove his open jaws under the wolf’s own, and took hold of the wolf’s throat. It was not a nip, but a full and deadly grip. The sheepdog tasted the blood from the punctures, and waited a moment as the wolf struggled, wildly, in panic. There simply was nothing the wolf could do, and both parties knew it. With a strong and quick motion, the sheepdog reared his head, tearing muscle, sinew, and blood vessels from the Wolf’s throat.

The wolf lost control of his jaws—no longer having enough matter left to open and close them. He could not move his head. The last thing he knew was that the sheepdog’s teeth had taken hold of another large part of his torn flesh and ripped as before.

The Sheepdog released and trotted around the carcass, cautiously diving and darting about to insure the Wolf was dead. Once certain of victory, the adrenalin began to take its toll. He trotted to the nearby creek and buried his muzzle deep in the water to rinse off the smell and taste of the wolf’s blood, and some of his own. He pawed at his fur irritated by the stain he could still smell and the knowledge it would be with him for days. He took a few laps of the water in the creek and then headed back to where he could see the fold.

The fold was already settling down—most of the sheep had returned to grazing—all as far from the woods as possible.

“Oh no. “
“Over there by the woods. The sheepdog is back. He is watching us.”
“Why doesn’t God take him away from us? Why must we always be threatened by him?”
“I don’t know. I suppose the sins of some of the other sheep have made God angry at the whole flock.
“Let’s pray about it.”
“Yes, let’s.”
“Oh God who abhors violence, deliver us from those in our midst who cause the Wolves to come so that they may live their violent lives against your will. Forgive those other sheep who have displeased you so that those of us who do your will may become fatter and more luxuriant as we know you want for all of us. In the Name of your Shepherd, we ask. Amen.”
“Amen. Have you tried the flowers? A little bitter, but pleasant, none, the less.””

The sheepdog, seeing that all was calm again, set down to rest and watch. After a while, he looked up at the sky, beginning to relax, and licking his wounds, he prayed.
God who does not wish that any harm should come to these innocents, I thank you for allowing me to do the work you have given me to do, and giving me a body that will heal from the wounds I received. Give this fold a time of rest and peace, that they may not be preyed upon by the enemy. Ultimately, Father, bring this age to a close, so that we may find perfect rest with You in your Kingdom, where the wolves do not threaten and kill. Send your Shepherd, not just to comfort, but to finally end this age of strife, of death, of pain and of sorrow. Allow us to see Him as the Mighty Warrior you have promised, as we are unable to save all of those you would have saved. Until then, Lord, we struggle on in the reasonable and holy hope of the perfect justice the Shepherd will bring.

The sheepdog’s prayers were interrupted by the shepherd’s hand patting his head.
“Hey boy. Looks like you had a busy day. You must be hungry. Here, have some of my bread and let me try and get these wounds cleaned up for you.”

Fifty yards away, between mouthfuls:
“Do your ever wonder if the sheepdog serves some purpose in God’s plan for us?”
“No. If he had anything to do with God, he would never have allowed the lamb to be killed.”
“Right, and remember, the lamb must have deserved it.”

Stupid Sheep.

  • You may want to read : Sheep, Sheepdogs and Wolves.
  • I want to add: I want to know where the family of the dead lamb will go to church. I want to know where the sheepdog already goes to church. It is so frustrating here in a land where driving a BMW means "God loves you" that I don't know if I want to growl or bleat.

Copyright © 2008 W. Crews Giles

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Texans II

These two entries are out of place in the chronology I am attempting in this blog, but they come out here because at home as I write well beyond what I upload here, this is where I am now—in real life, and in the story I am writing—this blog being a sub-layer of a novelized version of connecting events in my own life.

As an addendum to the previous item, I want to add this:

In 1993 and 1994, I was serving under a fine Rector in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, first as a lay person and second as an Ordained Deacon. I don’t know how he was able, but that Priest bluntly stated that he was aware that I am a mystic. Never heard anyone call me that before, but I just let him keep talking, because I was only surprised that he knew.

Thankfully, he knew what to do with an untrained mystic. Sadly, I only had his talents, gifts and interest for a few months. So the exercises went something like this for me—Pray as I normally do, and see if God will give me an image—an image that I will keep to myself lest I lead my new spiritual director with the image.

I did. I kept to myself. Next week, upon admitting I had an image I believed was given and that I had expected something quite different, and quite more complex or at least obviously personal—he said, the fact that it was none of those was a strong indication the image was from God and not my own imagination. So now, he wanted me to pray as I do, and see if I could find myself with Christ, as He died on the Cross.

That came rather easily, to my surprise, and as was part of this prayer I had been asked to make, I took my “item” to the Cross and lay it there—in a manner of speaking.

I watched as blood dripped upon this object, and I waited. Father had told me to wait and see if the object changed into something else, or took on new meaning, was taken away or simply vanished, or perhaps was somehow given back to me in a meaningful way.

I reported back to father the next week that it became bloody by Christ’s blood dripping down on it. He asked me what I did then, I said, “I left it there.” He told me the next time I was able to pray in the way I sometimes am allowed to do, to go back to the foot of the Cross and see what happens, but that if my object given me was still there, I ought to take it up again—regardless of what it might have become.

So I did—it may have taken me a couple of weeks, but I did find myself back at the Cross, and there it was, just as I had left it, but bloody.

I really wanted something different—or at least some kind of understanding. But it waited for me to take it up again. I got off my knees there at Calvary, and stepped up, with my right hand took the sword I left jammed into ground by its now bloody hilt.

Fifteen years I have carried that sword and the only blood on it is my Lord’s. I still wonder what possible use it is.

Copyright © 2008 W. Crews Giles


I am reading quite a bit of history lately—research for another project to which I am committed. These thoughts formed today as I tried to get my mind off a source problem:

As the story goes, on March 5, 1836, the day before the Battle of the Alamo, Colonel William Barret Travis drew a line in the sand and gave every man the choice to cross the line and join him in a fight to the death to defend the Alamo. All but one man crossed. No defender survived.

That line was not an accusation, it was an invitation. The invitation, you see, was to the Cross.

On March 27th, 1836, the Texans captured by General Urrea’s reinforced Army following Santa Anna, and under orders of Santa Anna, took the more than 400 Texan fighters being held prisoners of war, split them into several groups, and executed them, en masse, at Goliad.

At the Battle of San Jacinto, on April 21, 1836, the remaining Texans again faced Santa Anna. During the battle that lasted a little more than a quarter of an hour, and in the ensuing pursuit of the retreating Mexican Soldiers, the Texans encouraged one another with yells of “Remember the Alamo!” and, lesser known, “Remember Goliad!”

This was not a call to recall and imitate great valor in battle—it was a call to recall what sort of enemy was being faced. It was call for justice. What the Alamo and Goliad had in common was the manifestation of depth of evil which was being fought.

Personally, I believe that is what has made Texas so special to Texans. Men, mostly from Tennessee and Virginia, led their families to a new frontier, many being the sons of those who fought the British for American Independence. They truly believed in freedom, and saw Texas as another place for which freedom could and should be fought—an opportunity to risk self for something more important.

That is to say, these men believed there are things more important than their own lives and security. They were right.

These men also believe that there is true evil in this world, and that it must be fought against—even at the cost of their own lives. They were right.

Ultimately, the fight against evil is always more dangerous and more honorable than a fight for freedom—freedom is the result of purging evil—it is rarely, if ever, a goal by itself.

In Texas, many believe in something greater and more important then themselves—we call that something, “God.”

In Texas, many believe that risking their own lives for freedom from evil is something that must be done for moral and virtuous reasons, including love of neighbor, honor, and justice (not to establish any of those, but to bring the force of such virtues to bear). We call that “sacrifice.”

It is not that these sort of men do not exist anywhere else, in fact, nearly all came from somewhere else, but in Texas, such persons gather, and such persons stay.


I remember being told by the President and CEO of the small company I worked for straight out of college, that his CFO thought I would be the right man to open the new office in California. The President told me he answered, “No, he is a Texan, and a Texan will spend only half his time working for the company and the other half finding a way back to Texas.”

When a group of Texans arrived at a small seminary in Wisconsin, making up about one half of a matriculating class, the spirit of the seminary changed. In the Church, we speak of the Church Triumphant—those who are past this life and in the bosom of God; the Church Expectant-- those who are past this life and await the coming of His Kingdom; and the Church Militant—those who are in this life, fighting evil until this life has ended. Many of my class, Texans by birth, residence, or spirit, were deemed by those who do not understand us, The Church Belligerent.

Nope, merely militant-- in a society that does not understand the threat of evil nor the need to fight for good.

Eventually, I did find myself in California (working as a Priest all of the time, but always with one eye toward Texas) and I found a group of men and women- among whom and only among whom, I always felt as if I were home. To me, the connection was obvious—even if it was not to any of them. Those men and women are called Marines.

The parish I served was mostly of persons who had always known security and wealth, and therefore wanted a church where that was never challenged or challenging. I once had security and wealth-- it never made me happy Their brand of faith was not safe around me. But, one pleasant afternoon, I sat on a porch sipping beer with a friend and Navy Chaplain with the Corps. Our wives were inside with my two year old son and three month old daughter. The Padre told me I fit in with the Marines I lived among. It may have been the greatest compliment I ever received. He added, "and you are not yet too old."

I had about six months before the calendar changed and my age became too great to even consider becoming one of them-- but I wanted to with all that I am -- all, that is, except for the "Daddy" part. I asked my friend, "I would spend about six months at sea, and then six months back for the first couple of years, wouldn't I?" The Major indicated I had it about right. I answered, my son and I need each other and I need my daughter to know me.

I made the wrong decision for the right reasons-- the worst of many such decisions I have ever made.

A friend of mine-- one I value greatly, is on his way to Kuwait and that is only one of two legs of his journey, of course. I once told him my regret -- and God knows I grieve-- that I never joined up. How I tried to redeem that mistake when the Amy raised its age limits for chaplains-- but always a year or two behind by birth date; and I told him how I lost my family anyway; how I see that as being the Captain and leading three into the desert behind enemy lines and after capture by that ruthless enemy, alone, escaping, and nearly caught again trying to get two of my own out with me. I told him, that if any of those I believed to be my brothers in arms had so much as cared that I was missing in action-- perhaps at least three could have been saved.

Spiritually, I was every bit as wounded and tortured as Marcus in Lone Survivor-- and know what it is to see your own lost in a battle you alone survived. Within a week, Marcus found and was found by his brothers in arms who rejoiced so with him at his rescue. with something like that in mind, I told my solider friend that I needed a group of soldiers around me-- people who would know that I would not leave them for dead, and who would also honor the "No man left behind" code-- that it was something unknown in the Church and long gone from the secular world -- even in Texas. His answer? "You are exactly the man we look for in a chaplain." That is a tie for first place for compliments in my life.

But back to Texas specifics (although all of this is tied together in my mind):

I think it was last week that I finished a book written by a soldier in Hood’s Texas Brigade about his experiences during the Civil War. He admired and honored his enemy when they were shooting at him, and when he was shooting at them. He explained that he knew they were fighting for the same principles he fought for. He also added that he did not just fight for the nation, but her fought for Texas.

Today, I finished reading Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor. It is about his ordeal as a Navy SEAL in Afghanistan against the Taliban. He also, mentioned in passing, but tow or three times in passing, that he fought for his nation and for Texas. Often in his book, he indicates his frustration that so many Americans do not understand warriors—especially Christian warriors. He then reassures himself to the reader that Texans understand.

I recently learned the names of my paternal grandmother's ancestors. She was very young when a much older brother sent for her so as to save her from the poverty on the farm. Perhaps she never knew, but I also learned that her grandfather, great uncle, and great-grandfather were Texas Rangers-- all three of the first 18 men ever to join the Ranger Corps.

So, where is my battle? Did I leave it on the porch with an empty bottle of beer near the back gate of Camp Pendleton back in 1998? Moreover, I find myself wondering, Where is my battalion-- who are my brothers (and sisters) in arms?

Copyright © 2008 W. Crews Giles

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Plagiarism (Part III)

Soon after, I redeemed myself for myself. Twin brothers—not identical by any means—were among my new friends. One was quite big, the other, not much bigger than me. Toward the end of the day, there was talk all over the school about the big fight that was going to take place at Cobb’s Lake after school. It was silly to me then, but the story going around was that the two brothers had some disagreement and honor was at stake and, further, that the fight was not merely between the brothers, but between their friends.

After school, I saw the small brother, K____, in the hall and heard a couple of guys taunt him on their way out as they were excitedly heading to the old stock pond we called Cobb’s Lake. He just shook his head, and kept walking toward his locker.

“So, I guess the stuff I heard I true?”

“I am going to get my ass kicked. I am not looking forward to it.” He told me what had started the disagreement, and that what hurt most was that it made their friends pick sides. “Not only did I lose most of my friends, but I get to go get my as kicked as a bonus prize.”

“Whose with you?”

“No one, that I know.”

“Eh—let me put my books in my locker, and we’ll go get our asses kicked together.”

“Really? My brother is pretty big you know?”  He laughed. We walked to the stock pond together.

There were well over a hundred people there, and over a dozen declaring the were fighting with H____.

H____ mocked, “Looks like it is you against all of my friends, so I guess I’ll let you off easy, and beat you up all by myself.”

“No. I’m with him.” I spoke without any bravado, and feeling no bravado.

“I thought you were my friend?

“I am. I am also K____’s friend.”

“Well, then stay out of it.”

“Nope, You got a group there that are not my friends, and I would back you up if they had said to you what they said to your brother, so that is why I am here. Right is right.”

Someone I didn’t know yelled, “Giles, if you want to get your ass kicked, it alright with me.”

“I think most of you are here because you think H____ is big enough to take care of you. No one is taking care of me, so I am up for seeing what happens—and I bet I’m right—most of you are tough only when you feel safe.”

K____ put his hand on my shoulder, turning our backs to the mocking gang, and said, “Man, you really are a friend. Let this be between my brother and me. I only want your help if anyone else tries to pile on. Dig?”

“I’m not starting anything, but I am mad as Hell and I want someone to try me. But I will stay cool, and back you up.” 

A few others nearby overheard our private conversation and a couple walked up and said, “If it is more than one on one, we’ll step in, too.” 

Some that had not stepped up threw in their support in a well.

K____ turned and said, “I’m ready, brother. But you should not have brought anyone else into this. Just you and me. Let’s go.” 

K____ got his ass kicked in a seventh-grade sort of way-- a black eye.  It was over in about a minute. No one else got involved. But I was ready to step in and get busted up for doing the right thing, and while others may have doubted my sincerity (and I don’t think any did), I sure didn’t. Nor did I doubt myself in that regard again. I found my gut and knew it. I got my own ass kicked a few times over my teenage years because of it. In every case, I won the moral victory.

What I learned in that year before becoming a teenager, was that despite the opinions of others, I did what I thought was right and offered my best whether I would be rebuffed, falsely accused, slandered, punished.... or showered with unexpected praise.

I also learned that a few—a very small few-- thought that was an important part of who I was, and those few, I called friends.

Copyright © 2008 W. Crews Giles

Plagiarism (Part II)

The new school year began with me in seventh grade which, in our district, meant I was now in junior high school. 

Just before the end of sixth grade I had been diagnosed with dyslexia, and over the summer, was enrolled in an experimental class out of SMU.  I went from a reading comprehension and vocabulary of a third-grader to the reading comprehension and vocabulary of a post-graduate level college student in three months.  My body, however, was not keeping up.

I was one of the smallest kids in the school. That summer, a kid picked a fight with me, and (to my shame) I walked away. I had never done that before, and I hated myself for it. My ego was shot before that happened, but I was so surprised by my own reaction, and the fear I felt when challenged— not to mention the awareness that everyone but me seemed to be growing-- that I dreaded starting school that year. I was certain that I would be picked-on, and humiliated on a daily basis.

It was not that way at all. But I did suffer a tremendous set back right at the start. I was heavier than I had ever been—and I have never been overweight. All my weight was in my arm and shoulder, because I spent all summer riding my bicycle and swimming.
I had a ten speed, but did not know anything about cadence. I kept my bike in too low a gear, and pushed hard against the pedals. I had no idea that this mistake in form had built up bulk in my legs—I thought my leg were getting fat. On the other hand, I swam using fast twitch muscle tissue, and so instead of bulk, my arms were conditioned and quick, but with relatively little muscle mass except for the shoulders. Being so short for my age, I must have looked rather lopsided.

As a result, I could press over 750 lbs with my legs, but not even my own weight with my arms.  Worse, it would turn out to be, that I had no leg speed. Because of my leg speed, I could not compete with my now lankier friends, and did not make the football team with them. I was crushed. That devastated me, because I had looked forward to junior high mostly because of my expectation of playing the national sport of Texas.

I was certain that I would be unpopular and have a miserable three years in the new school. Ah, but then there were dances! And my distancing from my family had resulted in a sort of Lone Ranger attitude. I didn’t have anyone to back me up, but I had somehow become extroverted. While the other, much older looking, guys grouped together I was out finding girls who wanted to dance.

Way back in first grade, about the second week of school, my naivete became a joke-- for about one hour. The kids in the class-- all of them strangers to me-- were talking about "cooties." I had never heard the word, and they teased me for not knowing anything about girls and cooties. As they explained it to me, I sat there at my desk, becoming increasingly certain that everyone of them was crazy.

But at recess! 

At recess, all of the guys were outside the fenced playground area on the open field. All of the girls were inside where the see-saws and swings were. One pretty little girl, Ann, had my attention. She was wild, and fun to watch. She did what she wanted to do, alone or with anyone else who wanted to join her. I was amazed.

A few minutes later, I was running around and chasing a ball a few of us were tossing around, when I noticed a crowd of boys taunting Ann, much as they had taunted me in class. I stopped playing and went to the chain link fence which separated them. In fact, it was the same subject, Ann claiming that there is no such thing a cooties, and the boys saying she had them. She said something about the story was that you got it from kissing a girl, and not just touching, and that it wasn't true anyway. I was ready to defend her, when she taunted back at the boys, "You are all just scared of girls, that is why you make up those stories-- you are to scared to kiss a girl!"

Someone said, "Crews? You don't believe in cooties? So prove it." Ann looked at me differently. Not angry, not taunting, but peaceful. Her short page-boy haircut blowing in the wind, and it got quiet. I walked over to the fence and she said, "You aren't scared to kiss me, are you." It was a declaration to the others not a question.

"No. And I don't believe in cooties."

"Let's touch tongues. It i the real way to kiss" she said. 

Through the chain link fence we lined up our lips inside one of the diamond openings of the chain link and kissed, touching tongues so everyone could see.  "Ewwwww!" was the most common reaction from the boys and the girls. A whistle blew, and the startled teachers were trying to decide what to do. I could see no problem. There wasn't anything that made me want to go "Ewww," in fact, it was kind of nice. 

So Ann wanted me to walk home with her, and I was happy to have a new friend only two or three blocks away. Her family had just moved there and she invited me inside. We went up to her room. There was no furniture, and no toys. Clothes on the floor, and an empty closet. She got us some koolaid and we sat on the floor talking. She showed me around the upstairs and her Mom's room. It was a wreck and a mattress on the floor was the only furniture. 

Back in her room, she asked me to sit on the floor, commented that I wasn't afraid of girl's and said she wanted to show me something she had seen her Mom do with her husband. Ann lifted her short plaid skirt, spread her legs and began peeing through her panties onto the floor. I was seven, so had no guess what she had seen and may have been trying to act out. I was out the door five minutes later, very confused, and not so intrigued with my pretty new friend anymore.

But back to Junior High...

I did not know then that many girls had crushes on me, but I was naive, self-loathing, acutely aware of all of my lackings, and oblivious to any strengths I might possess. My father seemed amused that I was enjoying girls a much as I did—especially when he had to drive me to the dates I kept getting. One night, early in the year, he asked me about my new hobby in this way, “You know, old Schnicklefritz used to chase cars all the time, but I always wondered if he knew what to do with one if he actually caught one?” I said, “Dad, I’m not sure I have it worked out yet, but I am having a great time trying to find out.”

I got accepted on the school newspaper staff, and instantly made a new set of friends. The notoriety that would come from that surprised me, and I enjoyed being told that I write well and that I have a good sense of humor. I was being supported and thought highly of, and did not understand why I had such a different image with my classmates than I had in my family. Actually, I still do not understand that.

Early in that Fall semester, one class required a creative writing assignment. It had to be a short story told in the third person but on any subject. I loved trains, and read several books on them, including history books on my own time. So, I took what I had learned, gave my story an historical setting, and wrote of a train wreck in the third person.

I sat down one evening, excited with my idea for the story which I had been working out in my head for days, and began to write. The words flowed out, and I had finished the assignment in about an hour—a little over the page length of the assignment but I had no way to shorten it and didn’t think it would be counted against me. I reread what I had penned, and was satisfied. I actually liked it, and hoped the teacher would, too.
I came downstairs to share it with my parents to get their opinion and any suggestions. After I finished reading it to them, I sat on the foot of their bed and said, “Well, is it okay?”  
Silence was my answer. My mom stared at her knitting and did not look up, but glanced sideways at my Dad, who said to her, “Are you thinking what I am thinking?”
She answered, “I think so.”
To me, my Dad says, “Let’s go upstairs to your room.”
I was confused by this, but followed him up to my room.
“Where are all of your books on trains?”
I knitted my eyebrows questioningly, and pulled my small but beloved collection from the étagère and handed them to my father. He took them and said, “Let me have the paper and I am going downstairs. I'll call for you when we are ready.”

He left, closing my door which suggested I was confined to my room.
I was called downstairs about an hour later.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Son, the story is good. But your mother and I question whether or not it is your story. You know, you cannot copy something out of a book and call it your own?”
“Yes, I know that. So you thought I copied that story from one of my books?”
“Do you have any other books upstairs?”
“No. And I gather that you ask, because you have already found out that I wrote that. It isn’t in any of those books, is it? Sorry to disappoint you.”
“M_____, talk to him, and I am going upstairs and search his room.”

He left, and I sat down on the foot of their bed in exasperation and I did my best to look neutral as I began to seethe inside.

My mother filled the time by telling me how they may have been wrong, but they had never seen me turn out such work before and so I should understand their suspicions. It didn’t take my father long to return and with a sort of laugh that indicated some level of surprise, he spoke kindly to both of us, saying, “I guess he really did write that. I don’t know what to think.”

“Well,” my mother aid, “it really is good, and we are pleased. You may go."

I got up, picked up my train books, my paper, and stopped at the door, and spoke, looking at them both and noticing neither could look back at me, “I came down for your opinion and any advice. I now know your opinion of my story—it is good. I also know your opinion of me, and therefore, I no longer seek your advice. Goodnight.”

They said nothing.

Despite my stern and harsh manner, I cried in my room that night.

The next day, I woke, went downstairs to pour a cup of coffee (I had begun my love affair with coffee when I was five), and instead of sitting at table with the family, took it back up to my room to read again my story and decided it was still a work I was proud of producing. I wondered how long I would have to wait for a grade, and really thought I could get a good one. I arrived at the class-- my second one of the day and was horrified when the instructor surprised all of us by announcing that we would read our papers aloud in front of the class.

Many of those who were called on either claimed or really didn’t have their assignments ready. I was tempted to say I left mine at home if called upon. I was watching the clock and noticing the pattern the instructor used to call out who would read next. At first, I felt better because I would have another day to get ready to read my story out loud to my peers.

As he went down each row, starting to his left, I would be the first of the last row. But several of the stories were very short, and five persons, straight, claimed not to have their paper ready or with them. It was getting close to me. There was ten minute left in class when my name came up. “Do you have your paper ready, Mr. Giles?”

“Yes sir, but I would rather have another day—I had not planned on reading it.”

“Neither has anyone else. Come on up front.”

I walked up and started reading. As I read, my classmates reacted to the exciting parts as if they were witnessing the story for real, they made sounds of disgust at the gruesome description of injuries, and sighed with sorrow at the aftermath. I glanced up from my paper a few time and saw everyone paying attention. No one had been doing that when others had read. It crossed my mind that my peers were acting oddly, smiling at me as I read, nodding their heads, some had eyes wide.  

I finished and turned to hand the paper to our instructor and people started clapping. Someone said, “God! That was great!” Someone else I did not even know, said, “He is going to be rich someday.”

The instructor smiled at me as he took the paper, and said, “I have been reading his papers-- all the term-- and was expecting something good, but that was even better than I was prepared for. Mr. Giles, thank you for sharing your talent with us.”  

I was not keeping up with this unexpected praise and support and had nothing in my mind to say. Time saved me, as the bell rang. Private praise followed me into the hall.

That evening, when my mother got home and I came in from playing with my friends outside, she said, “Did you turn your story in?”
“Yes. No one knew that we were going to have to read it allowed, but I did it.”
“How did that go?”
“It went okay. I’m going upstairs now.”

Copyright © 2008 W. Crews Giles

Plagiarism (Part I)

Before the dyslexia was diagnosed, I was often punished for being lazy in my school work, for my bad report cards, for getting in trouble at school. I was doing the best I could do, but being punished for not trying. To reconcile this, I believe, now, that I began a pattern of behavior that became somewhat ingrained—automatic.

I began to see that for me (and for me, alone) that trying was inconsequential—that only success mattered. That is a lot of drive for a boy to take on. I did not handle it well. If I doubted success, then I weighed the punishment for failure against the work of putting together any attempt and sometimes choosing to accept that punishment as it was immanent anyway and so chose not to even try.

If I did not know that my homework was correct, I simply did not turn it in. If I could not understand the homework, while that was rare, I simply did not go any further. So, the encyclopedias were my main source of satisfaction for my intellectual fulfillment. I could read all I wanted to read, and never be tested over it. I loved learning, I hated testing. I was also treasuring books at the library, having to check them out several times to finish them before being taught how to compensate for the dyslexia.

Likewise, I was once called into the den with my brother, and my mom and dad seated, stern-faced and silent for a long time before they spoke. My father began, “You are going to tell us who did it.” A long time passed before he spoke again, and he stared at me the whole time. My mother looked down, glanced at my brother, and then rested her eyes on me.

Eventually, my father offered a hint, and was visibly angry that he had to do so, so certain was he that I knew exactly what he was talking about, “The matches.” I was clueless. I looked at my brother to see if he was any more in-the-know than I was, and he shook his head and shrugged, but he was not about to say anything and draw my father's anger away from me and risk it being turned on him.

“The matches,” I repeated, and waited for him to make that a sentence.
“You know damn well what I am talking about! Come here!” I stood up and moved toward him expecting to be turned over his knee and beaten. He stood, instead, and walked to the landing of the stair case. “Come here!” I followed him, now thinking I was to be marched to my room to receive my punishment. I had never seen my father this angry, and I was racking my brain to come up with some sin which I had committed (although it was good training for a priest), but it I impossible to make a good confession of the sin unknown to you.

My father grabbed my head and forced me to look down at the carpet of the triangular landing of teh staircase. Where he violently forced my head to face was three or four burnt matches on the carpet. I was so scared, and could not understand what was happening and the force my father used to twist my head was hurting my neck. My brother came over, and said, “Maybe he doesn’t know—I don’t think he knows.”

For a moment, my brother got the wrath, “Are you saying you did this?!”
“I don’t know anything about it, and I don’t think Crews does either,” he said.

“Both of you sit down!”

We did, and my Mom spoke, , “We don’t believe you.” She was looking at me, not my brother. You brother was at football practice until I got home. You were the only one alone in the house.”

“But I didn’t do it,” I said, “I was outside almost the whole time.”
My Dad answered with ignoring my claim of innocence as if I had not spoken, “The picture of you standing at the top of the stairs lighting matches and throwing them down the steps—I can’t imagine what you were thinking. Do you realize that we could have lost everything I have worked so hard to provide to you and your mother? Did you even think about the dogs?”
“I don’t know why you think I did anything like that.”
“So what? my mother asked, “Were you smoking my cigarettes and just putting them out on the carpet?”
“I don’t know anything at all about it. I can’t believe you are so angry and so certain that I did something like that.”
That was pretty much it. I was thrown over my father’s knee and spanked so long and so hard, that I ceased to struggle. I was seething, I was outraged, and I was humiliated because I was crying.

I had pretended not to notice that my parents had thought I was stupid for so long, (“He’s never going to be more than a shade-tree mechanic” I once heard my mother say to a friend of hers about me) but there was no pretending my righteous indignation on this point. When my father let me go, I stood, walked to the steps, wiped my face and with rage well beyond what I had seen in my father’s face, that little boy that I was yelled, “If it had to be one of us, it had to be M___. Better yet, Mom is the only with matches in this house, why don’t you beat her, you asshole?”
“You want more trouble?” My father threatened.
“No, but it doesn’t matter, does it? Because you are going to punish me whether I did anything or not! You want to do it again? I WILL burn this God Damn house down… Big Man!” I snarled the last two words.
My mother yelled, “Both of you just stop!”

I guess I made my point. I think they saw in my rage the real ability to do something so drastic, a threat I was willing to carry out. I could never have done it, but it was a useful threat because they obviously believed that not only could I, but that I had already tried and failed.

I knew, at that moment, that my parents had no idea who I was, what went on inside me, or what standards I set for my own conscience. I never forgave them, nor did I forget. It was neither the false accusation nor the punishment-- It was accrual of their false claims about me, their readiness to expect the worst and the least of me and it was the “perfect brother” they told me they wished I could be like. It was a dozen years of all these sort of experiences that became clear.

I retreated from my family—distanced myself, and am not sure anyone noticed. I was in my room building models, outside playing football and tossing Frisbees, learning tennis, exploring the world on my bike and beginning to realize that girls are kind of nice to be around.

Oh, as a sort of post-script-- The next week, my mother's maid saw the melted patch of carpet on the stairs and came to mother apologizing for them.  Her sister had joined her and sat on the staircase, smoking, while my mother's maid worked.  Apologies to me did come from my parents, but I saw no contrition.  That is, like most post-moderns, they were sorry that got caught being wrong, but they were not sorry for presuming my guilt.

Copyright © 2008 W. Crews Giles

The Sign of the Cross

About that same time as that catechism class, my brother told me about a friend of his who believed he was called to be a Priest and had been praying for a sign from God. I have often looked back on the story by brother relayed about his friend and wondered if he was trying to illicit something from me—perhaps he suspected my secret?

At any rate, his friend had told him that after quite some time of praying, daily, for a sign, this is what seemed to be the answer to his prayers:

He said that his family was having a garage sale and he had been in the driveway and in the alley watching, when he decided to go around the side yard to enter the house from the front door and get something to drink. When he came back out and going back toward the alley where the garage sale was taking place, a man in a nice suit came walking around from the garage toward the street. The man stopped, called him by name and held out a small box, saying, “I am told that you should have this.”

The boy took it and the man simply walked away and around the front of the house. My brother’s friend took the lid off the box and inside the box was a sliver crucifix on a chain. He ran the few feet to the front corner of the house but the man was nowhere to be seen—he had simply vanished.

Pretty neat.

A few years ago, I looked up his name in the current nation-wide Clergy Directory that was on my desk. His name was not listed. Perhaps a tragedy.

I never divulged my secret to even my brother.

Copyright © 2008 W. Crews Giles