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#230275 - 06/11/08 06:24 AM Thank you, George
roadrunner Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 22045
Loc: Carlisle, PA
This is another one of those occasions where I find that I am writing too late. I knew you were ill with cancer, George, but frankly, I did not yet have what I wanted to say framed clearly in my mind. I was also still lumbered with many of the negative images I had of you from when I was a teenager. Though you and Lois were among Mom and Dad’s best friends and you personally always treated me well, I felt uncomfortable around you.

There was a big reason for that, and I will get to that in a minute. But I was also a struggling teen with confidence issues, and your very tall stature, your shuffling gait, your free and easy manner and your sharp and sometimes really gross sense of humor made me feel ill at ease. I didn’t know how to behave when you were around. I never knew what you would say next, and when you paid attention to me I would usually become so confused I just wished for some trapdoor to open under me so I could fall through it and escape.

But you were a good and decent man, and I just hate admitting that I didn’t see that. Or maybe I just didn’t pay attention to it – I don’t know. But you bestowed a precious gift on me one summer, a gift that took me decades to understand and appreciate. This is why I am writing to you now.

Do you remember that in the spring of 1964 you bought that terrible dump of a house in Steelton? This was another of your “projects”, and I remember you being so excited about it as you described it to Dad. The house was a plum for the picking, you thought. It needed so much work that no one would buy it; the price was therefore very low, so you snapped it up with the idea that you would make the necessary repairs, rent it for a time, and then sell it and make a tidy profit. Wrong! The more money you sank into that house the more it seemed to demand; it was like a financial black hole. By the time you had finished the external work you were overextended and didn’t have enough to hire anyone to deal with the interior.

That’s where I entered the picture. My Mom handed me the phone one evening and it was you: could we meet the next day to “talk business”? I immediately felt uncomfortable, but clearly you wanted to offer me a job of some kind. I know you meant well, George, and I also recall you telling me that you had already run this past Dad and he had said it would be okay. Almost any other boy would have been delighted at what you were about to propose to me.

But George, I wasn’t just any boy. I had been sexually abused from the age of 10 until I was 14, and when you called me I was 15. That was only a year after the abuse had ended, and I was an emotional wreck. I trusted no one, I was afraid and anxious all the time, and I felt absolutely worthless – or rather, good for only one thing. I simply could not imagine that I had any skills, merits, or talents (except for one), and as you talked to me the next day I was overwhelmed at what you said to me. You offered me a summer job repairing and painting that house: you named a fixed price for the job, and you assured me that while I would be working on my own, you would always be just a phone call away and if I ran into problems you would explain things and help me.

What an opportunity for a 15-year-old boy! I was too young to apply for working papers, but now all of a sudden I had a good-paying job where I would be on my own and could set my own schedule and – this was important! – play my transistor radio as loud as I wanted all day long. How totally totally cool!

But I reacted with fear and disgust, George. I thought, “Look at this, even my Dad’s friend can figure me out.” It never occurred to me that you were really going to trust me with such a job, relying on my abilities and assuming that I would be responsible. Instead, I thought the fee you named was what you were willing to pay for me to make myself sexually available to you all summer; the house would just be a place where you could help yourself whenever you wanted. But by then I had no boundaries and zero self-esteem, so after my initial negative reaction I got practical and thought to myself, “Okay, it’s not like I don’t know how to do this. At least this time I will get paid.”

So I accepted. And as the first day of the job approached I sank deeper and deeper into self-loathing and despair. I wished I had killed myself years earlier, as I had planned and attempted when I was 11 and then again when I was 12. I lay in my bed at night filled with horror and thinking: “It’s going to start again now. I can’t stop it. It’s not up to me.” I felt like I was being dragged into some terrible machine that would mangle and destroy me, yet leave me intact for the whole process to be repeated the next day. The hell of abuse was closing around me again and I could do nothing to escape.

That first day my heart was racing as I got on my bike. I had a change of underwear with me, of course; I just assumed you would hurt me as bad as you could. That's what sex was, after all, or that's what it was so far as I could see; it was what adults do when they want to hurt a kid. I was flooded with feelings. Maybe you would kill me right on the first day; how merciful that would be! I hated you for figuring me out, and I hated myself for being me. My self-loathing swelled as I rode down to Steelton. You want sex with a teenage boy? Okay. I will show you things you never dreamed of.

So imagine my surprise when I walked into the house to find you shuffling around amid piles and piles of paint cans, brushes, rollers, drop clothes, tool kits, sandpaper in many grades, nails, saws, hammers, etc. Before I could pick my jaw up off the floor you had your arm around me and were walking me through the house talking about color schemes, offering ideas for repairing and replacing bad woodwork, and complaining about faulty plastering here and there. At first I thought, yeah right – we’re just heading to the bedroom. But no. We blitzed through those rooms like we did through all the others, and soon we were back down in the kitchen. You opened the fridge, which was full of Coke. I had never seen so much Coca-Cola in all my life! You told me to help myself and let you know when the fridge needed to be restocked, then you tossed away the lunch Mom had packed for me and showed me a phone number on the kitchen table. It was for a little Italian place down the street. I was going to get hungry working so hard and you insisted I should eat well. Whenever I was ready for my lunch I should just call them or go down and see what I wanted; they would run a tab for me and you would cover it. No baloney and cheese sandwiches on one of George’s jobs!

You asked did I have any questions. My head was still reeling and I didn’t know what to say. Then you just wished me well, reminded me I should call if there’s any problem at all, and went out to your truck and drove away. You just left! You hadn’t touched me in any inappropriate way, you hadn’t mentally undressed me, you hadn’t cornered me or groped me … nothing! I don’t know how long I stood there alone in the living room, totally confused and trying to think what I should do next.

I did finally figure out that you really did expect me to paint and fix up this house, so I started and soon I got into a daily routine. I would work away as the Rolling Stones and the Who blasted from my radio, practicing my dancing as I painted (my friends Barb and Franny had taught me how to dance that spring), sipping Coke all day long and exploring the delights of Italian cooking. I really got into the job and soon I was loving it. But there was one thing I could not understand. What were you waiting for? I was there for the taking – any time. Each and every time you showed up to check on me or answer my questions I thought, “Okay, today he will make his move.” And when you didn’t, that confused me. What was wrong? Did I look scared? Was I ugly? Did you think I would tell? Why would I do that? No matter how many times you proved how safe you were, I kept telling myself that you were just playing it cool. Things would start one day soon.

It went like that all summer. I finished room after room and the house really began to look nice. I felt appreciated and I liked it when you were pleased with my work. I tried to concentrate on my job and wished you didn’t “know about me”. But … you must know. Otherwise, why did you ask me to do this job? Sometimes I would look around at my work and want to feel proud, but I couldn’t. So many days I stopped and cried, wishing I wasn’t a whore and trying to figure out what’s wrong with me.

At the end of the summer I was finished early and had the whole house clean and ready for flooring to be done. I wanted you to see I had done good work; I wanted you to like me. And I didn’t want you to mess with me. “Please don’t fuck me” – the phrase rang in my head and seemed to echo through the empty house. But it seemed too much to expect. My heart was racing again as you looked over the house and raved about my work and how clean everything was. You offered to take me home, and I thought, “Aha! Here it comes. He will do me in his own house. Now I get it.” But instead you threw my bike into the back of your truck, we piled in, and you drove me home. In my driveway you paused, pulled out your wallet, and gave me a generous tip. I don’t remember the amount, but it was a lot for 1964. Then you shuffled back over to your truck and drove away.

You were gone. The job was done. Nothing had happened. What was going on? I didn’t get it. I was confused and I ached inside. I liked the idea I had done such a good job, but I hated being me. What was wrong with me? Upstairs I collapsed onto my bed in tears. Was I so ugly? Why didn’t you want me like Mr. ---- had for 4 years? I felt abandoned and lost. I was overwhelmed by my feelings and fear just crashed over me. What was wrong with me? I remembered praying when I had been little and I thought of doing it again. But I was too scared; God only lets abuse happen to retards and rejects. Mr ---- had told me so himself and he must know; he was a big deal in the church.

It’s been almost 44 years since that summer. I regret to say I sank a lot lower after that, George. Alcohol and drugs almost finished me, but that’s not why I am writing to you. I will have been clean 33 years this Fourth of July, I married in 1981 and have a wonderful family, both my kids are in college and doing well, and I entered a career as a university academic in a field I love. I was not able to begin dealing with my abuse issues until late in life, but I am doing well now. I know what happened to me wasn’t my fault, not in any way. I have jettisoned most of my bad feelings about myself and every year I am more and more at peace with myself. I am happy, George. It’s okay to be me.

But where is all this going? As I began working in therapy and seeing how utterly false all my old childhood feelings about myself had been, I began to look back and reflect on that summer. On how, no matter how well you treated me, I still expected the worst. That showed me the terrible tight grip that the false lessons of abuse can gain over a boy. I began to understand that these lessons don’t just go away when the boy grows up and becomes a man; I could sense the difficulty of the task before me. But at the same time I was learning that I had been worthwhile, special and important all along. I had not seen it, but you were a good man. You cared. But you cared because I deserved it. This revelation was one of the many I wept over in that stormy first year in therapy.

In the course of my professional work I have also had the opportunity to work with many young people, and most recently with young men struggling to deal with the terrible burden of sexual abuse. So many of them feel as I once did: that the abuse was their own fault and that they are worthless and good for only one thing. But you know what? Every time that subject comes up I tell them the story of painting your house in the summer of 1964. I use it to show the guys how all the bad feelings they have about themselves can feel so real and yet be so completely false. And you know what, George? They get it. They really do. And they love the image of you shuffling around and telling me which color goes where, while I stand there astonished, expecting something else entirely. It sticks; they remember it. When they once again fall into the trap of believing those old false feelings, all I have to say is, “Well, remember what I told you about …,” and usually I get interrupted with a laugh and the comment, “Oh yeah! George’s house!”

I recently read a discussion on the question of whether things happen for a reason. Do they? I’m not sure. But George, the kindness and generosity with which you treated me that summer has turned into something far larger than either of us. It has become a symbol that I can use to convey a message of hope and healing to others. It’s a beacon that shines across the years and allows others to see that the fight is one worth fighting and that it can be won, regardless of how destroyed we think our lives are at the moment.

I regret I was not far enough along to tell you all this yourself before you died. I didn’t yet understand. But that utterly broken boy of so many years ago sees more clearly now. Both he and I want to thank you. I will always remember your gift, which was perhaps all the more colossal because you bestowed it upon me, and now upon so many others, just by living your life – as a good man.

Larry


_________________________
Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking my freedom highway.
Nobody living can make me turn back:
This land was made for you and me.
(Woody Guthrie)

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#230276 - 06/11/08 06:41 AM Re: Thank you, George [Re: roadrunner]
MemoryVault Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 03/01/07
Posts: 693
Loc: NJ
What a beautiful and powerful letter, Larry!


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#230285 - 06/11/08 07:49 AM Re: Thank you, George [Re: roadrunner]
Gerald2007 Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 08/03/07
Posts: 157
Loc: Southeastern US
Larry,
Tears are rolling down my face as I write this. I am so glad I saw your post and read it.

It is a moving and powerful reminder of the damage our CSA has caused each of us. It is also a story of hope and of healing. I thank you for it.

I recently attended the Weekend of Recovery in Dahlonega. During the closing exercises, I was about to thing and to say the following: "At the core, I am worthy of my self-love". I see that so clearly in your story about George and the struggle you had with that concept too.

Again, thank you for the post, a beautiful story of healing and hope. And, thank you for being here for me and for so many others.

Take care,
Gerald

_________________________
Alumnus: Weekend of Recovery - Dahlonega, May 2008 and May 2009
We are bound together by the pain of the past and our hopes for the future.

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#230290 - 06/11/08 08:39 AM Re: Thank you, George [Re: Gerald2007]
tazrad Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 04/22/08
Posts: 88
Loc: FL USA
Larry

Thank you for sharing.

Gregg


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#230315 - 06/11/08 10:57 AM Re: Thank you, George [Re: tazrad]
Nyjah Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 07/14/07
Posts: 610
Thanks for sharing this bro, it's really cool that he was there to help you out in that way. It sucks though, that it was so hard to trust him. Tell him how you feel now bro, he can hear you.


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#230368 - 06/11/08 04:28 PM Re: Thank you, George [Re: Nyjah]
rehpotsirhcs Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/10/07
Posts: 204
I'm sorry he died, Larry. But, I'm so glad he showed you how a respectable and trustworthy adult behaves around a teenager. If he had "fucked you all summer" it would have torn you up inside emotionally and led you to believe that all the negative feelings about your self and your worth are true. What's great about this experience is that you are now able to torture me and the other guys with the story of what happened. Now you can help us see how our negative feelings and thoughts are distorted by the abuse. There are good men in this world, Larry, and I am so glad you are one of them.

Thanks for helping me,
Chris


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#230370 - 06/11/08 04:33 PM Re: Thank you, George [Re: roadrunner]
Stephen_5 Offline
BoD Emeritus
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 09/12/00
Posts: 667
Loc: Northern California Foothills
Larry,

I'm crying at my computer at work. That story is so compelling and so familiar too. It's taken me years to finally trust people that are worthy of it. I have been so skeptical of everyones motives whenever they were nice to me or complemented me or praised me. I just knew that they wanted something from me in return. Because that is the way it was when I was eleven........

Take good care of yourself,

Steve

_________________________
I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.
Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)

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#230389 - 06/11/08 06:12 PM Re: Thank you, George [Re: Stephen_5]
Hauser Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/12/05
Posts: 2962
Loc: United States
I remember you telling us of George in past discussions, Larry. A very poignant moment in your life, that's for sure. What would you call it? A moment of grace? Yes, that is what I would call it.

I would like to voice an observation about you Larry, and pleez tell me if I'm wrong ok?

As cool as this story, and all the elements surrounding it, are. I feel that, in matters of importance as to how your adult life was to form in the not-so-distant future, that you owe much more to that professor in college who saw what direction your life was going. He asked you to heed his advice and to sober up and to get your shit together, because he saw something in you and didn't want your life to get thrown away, or at least horribly emptied of some of the most fulfilling elements in life that we, as men, value and find purpose and meaning in.

But this is not to de-emphasize the significance of this experience in your young life, your were VULNERABLE, NEEDY, and a SITTING DUCK. You learned that not everyone has ulterior motives.

And.................

Just think if he WAS a perp and took advantage of young Larry. What kind of adult man would young Larry have turned into had this day gone awry? Even MORE bitter? MORE angry? MORE suspicious of everyone's actions? MORE thoughts of suicide? That this story had a good ending is great..........

But this is all speculation..........and I'm just talking. Thanks for sharing this Larry.


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#230391 - 06/11/08 06:51 PM Re: Thank you, George [Re: Hauser]
king tut Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 02/13/08
Posts: 2469
Loc: UK
I love that story too, it really does explain things so well, and makes things familiar and understandable rather than one of those things that are just a little too distant to be able to properly deal with.

I think George would be very happy that he has influenced you and so many others including me in such a good way just by leading a good and decent life himself, that's a really special thing and i think it says something important about the good people can do even in the small things they do, it's rather similar to the concept of giving a smile to a stranger in the street, and then that smile propagates throughout people and time and may end up being very important to somebody.

It is indeed a memorable story and it's amazing sometimes how just you mentioning concepts like this one through example can instantaneously bring me back to the position of knowing whats false and whats true and being able to connect with my feelings in a grounded way. You are a good story teller too lol, i could listen to you for hours probably, and it's a real talent to be able to make me laugh even when i'm feeling down.

thanks for being so understanding and taking the time
Lewis

_________________________
"...until lambs become lions"

I love you, little lewis, and i will never leave you. We are the same. You brighten my day, and i will make sure that i brighten yours. Hugs and kisses.


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#230401 - 06/11/08 07:23 PM Re: Thank you, George [Re: king tut]
roadrunner Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 22045
Loc: Carlisle, PA
Alan,

How incredibly perceptive of you! Yes, it's clear that over the past months I have been working on my recovery in terms of assessing and appreciating the impact that important safe people had on me when I was young. I had not thought of that at all, but clearly that's what's been happening. It's of course a sensible thing to do, but at the same time I could have been looking at many other things too. Why this angle? And why now? I don't know. Maybe I should think about that.

And you are so right, my friend. One thing that the episode of painting George's house highlights in my mind is how absolutely vulnerable I was. Your term "a sitting duck" is spot on. I could have been had so easily by any predator who spotted me. Maybe I was even looking for someone to prove to me that I was as worthless as I felt. I really don't know.

I can talk about George and his house because for some reason the memories are so clear, but there are other things that are just a fog or entirely blank. For example, I remember being up in my room, feeling so unhappy and unwanted because George had never made his move, and I recall wanting to crawl into the back of my closet but not doing it because that would look really strange to my Mom if she came up looking for me. But that's it. I don't recall anything else. I know my parents had planned something special for dinner to celebrate me finishing the painting project, but I don't recall anything further than that. I also don't remember other thoughts about all this after that day.

And yes, it's a sobering thought, "what if ...." I really don't have answers, but the possibilities are pretty grim. As it was, the next five years were already going to take me to a very dark place, and perhaps that's what I have needed to explore these past months - the broken boy that I was after the abuse ended, and what that meant for the young man who headed off to San Francisco. After all, George is right at the beginning of this period, and Art is the guy whose decisive influence turned things around for me after I got back. The two of them kind of frame things for that part of my life.

Much pondering,
Larry

_________________________
Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking my freedom highway.
Nobody living can make me turn back:
This land was made for you and me.
(Woody Guthrie)

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#230466 - 06/11/08 11:43 PM Re: Thank you, George [Re: roadrunner]
Trucker51 Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/20/08
Posts: 2826
Loc: Denver, CO
Larry:

Or maybe George knew that something was wrong, and he tried really hard to help you along.

My mom's stepdad tried really hard to help me along early in my life. He was the owner of a mid-size truck line and a cattle breeder. He taught me to drive and took me on the go-carts, bumper cars, and the Wild Mouse when I was just a kid. I was already having lots of problems at that point and everytime that I saw him he really helped distract me away from my problems. I was so vulnerable then and he treated me like a young partner. He always tried to encourage me right up until he died of a heart attack when I was just 13.

I too had a college professor who took me under his wing. I did so well until my first marriage collapsed. I'll never forget how much he helped me. He was Cleveland's former Planning Director, Professor Krumholz. They even tried to get me to come back three years after I had dropped out. They offered me a $9.00/hour internship at the Cleveland Transit Authority back in 1993. I'm still kicking myself that I wasn't able to accept their offer. Maybe now would be a good time to ask about it again.

Sadly, when I really could have used a guy like George at age 15, there wasn't one to be had. Your letter is very powerful, and I hope that George gets it. I have long wished that I could have written my grandfather to let him know how helpful he was to me and why.

Thanks for sharing.

Mark

_________________________
"We stay here, we die here. We've got to keep moving". Trucker Mark



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#230514 - 06/12/08 05:40 AM Re: Thank you, George [Re: Trucker51]
roadrunner Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 22045
Loc: Carlisle, PA
Mark,

Originally Posted By: Trucker51
I have long wished that I could have written my grandfather to let him know how helpful he was to me and why.

Why not do it now? I think you will be surprised at what shows up on the screen/page, and I bet it will help you to focus some of your feelings and thoughts. Or at least that has always been my experience. Just write with the idea that the letter will never be sent to anyone; that will allow you to be totally honest with yourself.

Much love,
Larry

_________________________
Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking my freedom highway.
Nobody living can make me turn back:
This land was made for you and me.
(Woody Guthrie)

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#230626 - 06/12/08 06:44 PM Re: Thank you, George [Re: roadrunner]
Trucker51 Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/20/08
Posts: 2826
Loc: Denver, CO
Larry:

Thanks for the suggestion. I have thought about it for so many years. Your letter to George was really cool, my man. It made me think of my grandfather again. My grandfather was always around during my early upbringing and I always wonder what he thought or what he realized. He was by far the most influential positive adult male role model of my early years. His death was a great loss for me. I really never got the chance to let him know how much his support meant to me. I have tried to pay him back by helping my disabled friend's son. Nine years ago he really had nothing to look forward to, and this Fall he will start college, so very optimistic about his future. I know how much I mean to him, as he and his mother have told me so, so many times.

Thanks again for sharing your story.

Mark

_________________________
"We stay here, we die here. We've got to keep moving". Trucker Mark



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#231346 - 06/16/08 05:01 PM Re: Thank you, George [Re: roadrunner]
michael banks Offline


Registered: 06/12/08
Posts: 1755
Loc: Mojave Desert, Ca
Thanks Larry for sharing,

People who were kind or nice always scared me the most because I wonder what they wanted. MY prep came across as a caring person at first. Thanks for the insight.


one day at a time--Mike--

_________________________
To own one's shadow is the highest moral act of a human.
-Robert Johnson-

"IT ought never be forgotten that the past is the parent of the future" John C. Calhoun

WOR Alumni Sequoia 2009

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