Sunday, February 5, 2012

When Everything Changed (Blissfully Series)

Throughout 2012, I'll be sharing stories about myself on Sundays as part of this Blissfully series. My life has already had its share of good and bad moments, but these are the ones I consider the most important.


Happy sad house fire

I have to confess: I've been coming up with excuses not to write this post for the past few weeks. My life, my perspective on life is a good one, but it hinges on a set of dark events in a relationship that I'd never wish on another person.

Relationships are funny in that they can seem to be traveling along one trajectory for the longest time. Then without warning, that trajectory can suddenly and permanently change--for better or worse.

I mentioned in an earlier post how I was always a happy child. I'd run up to strangers in public and give them hugs. I always smiled (still do, in fact). And I attribute this happiness to my home life.

My brothers and I would sleep together in the same room and bathe together in the same tub. We'd cuddle with our parents on the couch. Our parents--both of them--would tuck us in and hug and kiss us good night.

We were all so affectionate that I'm not even sure when the lines started getting crossed. Instead of taking baths with my brothers, I was taking them alone with my father--unaware there was anything weird about that arrangement.

I was around six years old when I started becoming aware. That's when my father took it upon himself to teach me a new sort of kiss in which he'd put his tongue--huge and warm--into my mouth, and I was supposed to do the same back to him.

"It's called a French kiss," he said, "and you need to put it in my mouth longer. Like this."

That's when everything started to change, and something new and strange began to dominate my life. And it's when I started keeping a secret that would not be told for nine long--and lonely--years.

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Check out these other posts from the Blissfully series:

33 comments:

Karen said...

Having been a foster parent for 13 years, back in the 80's and 90's, I've listened to many children tell me what was wrong in their family. My skin never developed that thickness that it takes to listen to these stories without crying inside.
As I read your post, I sat here quietly, overwhelmed, thinking of you as a child, and remembering those other children. It never gets easy to feel so helpless when a child has already experienced that defining moment in their lives.
I commend you for heing able to write about it.

Margaret Fieland said...

That's a terrible secret for a child to carry around. I hope that whomever you shared it with treated it with the seriousness it deserved.

Kim said...

My heart just stopped beating as I read your post today. Suddenly, I felt sadness, fear and hurt that you had to hold this inside for all these years.
If there were any way to send a hug of support from PA, I sent it. I wish you strength through your family and friends.
:(

Dr. Pearl Ketover Prilik (PKP) said...

Sometimes it is easier than other times to see the fine gossamer threads that connect us all... Yesterday discussing with The Anthologists a new collection in honor of those who move beyond childhood abuse... Today your story told starkly and true with the clarity of the child that was and the man who grew to be on that day when everything changed. It is a long journey for some from the darkness of secrecy and confusion to the light of renewed trust and love ....some never make it through...you shine.

As Karen, I listen to lives touched in such ways ....and am awed by the capacity to trust, to love, to release the secrets and to shimmer... Often people say they "had no choice" but to "survive" but you, dear friend, had a choice to remain cloistered in your own private happiness or to share,... That is the shimmer of which I speak. Bravo.

phawkenson said...

Many poets and writers grapple with the lines we cross when we attempt to share the emotions and experiences that include our family's privacy. Share what you can in whatever way feels honest. Childhood pain bubbles up in unexpected ways, and when it does, as it does for all of us in different ways, we need to release it, not try to press it down. I applaud your bravery.

Michael Grove said...

The good, the bad and the ugly. You've got tremendous guts to lay it out there like that. I've got a slightly different perspective today and an increased admiration for you if that was even possible.

De said...

Oh, Robert. I commend your raw honesty, and willingness to share these shadows with others. May writing them down bring healing - to you, and to many who have suffered similar abuse. My heart sinks for what you had to endure...but SINGS, as I know the kind of amazing father you are today, to so many beautiful boys. That is grace. That is hope. That is the joyful story you now write.

Andrea (Andee) Beltran said...

I'm sending hugs of support along with Kim, Robert. I cannot imagine the courage it took to write this post. My heart goes out to you. You are a vision of healing and hope.

The Happy Amateur said...

I thought the story would be about a house fire you lived through, I was prepared for a tough read, but totally unprepared for what I found. It was a shock. I wish I could find the right words that could help somehow. You are very brave, Robert, and you're doing fine, and will be fine. You've got your family, your five (!) kids, you're a "pie-in-the-face-taker", you write great poetry, and host a wonderful blog, you have your life. I wish you and those dear to you lots of happiness. Take care,
Sasha

Hannah said...

Any words I try to place here seem to lack the true feeling of sincere sadness I feel for what you've endured. You're an amazing person, a super inspiration to me and so many others, Robert. Thank you for ALL that you do!

Linda H. said...

When I read the title When Everyting Changed, I had thought you'd write about the birth of your children or marrying Tammy or about your health ordeal the other year. I never expected to read this and my heart goes out to you. I think De has already voiced exactly how I feel so I'll just say, "Yeah...what she said!"

I admire your strength, Robert. Keep going strong.

Cat York said...

You've been such an inspiration to so many people. My heart broke open reading your post today. To hear that you had to hold this inside for so long, and somehow found a way to be the person you are now... I can't imagine.
Stay strong.
I love knowing that you smile and sing so much.
Your blog is an honest and thoughtful place.

D said...

:-(
I just want to add my voice to the many, even though I'm not sure what to say. I know how difficult, and how important it is to share about things like this. So thanks for being brave.

Gail said...

I am so sorry. No child should ever have to experience this.

Nancy said...

I just finished listening to Jaycee Dugard read her book "A Stolen Life." As difficult as it was to tell, she said, she knew children (and former children) needed to be encouraged to tell their stories, particularly when they had been hurt by adults. It's a terrible betrayal of trust to make the child carry the guilt. I hope today gave you some relief and freedom.

Sara said...

Robert--my heart breaks for you and rejoices for you at the same time. You've obviously overcome much. I'm sorry it took that pain to get there. No child should ever have to endure it, and no adult should ever inflict such things. Thank you for your bravery to share and allow us to know you better, and for letting us hurt with you. Blessings.

S.E. Ingraham said...

Robert - when everything changed - indeed. I cannot imagine what it has been like for you wrestling with this painfulness all these years ... Your raw courage and the explicit manner with which you tell your story are deeply touching and commendable. As more than one before me has said, you've gone up a notch in my estimation and that's considerable ... thank you so much for putting yourself out there like this. As a parent, I ache for the little boy you were and the man that still hurts ... be well. You deserve to find peace and I hope writing about this helps you get some.

JeannetteLS said...

I started reading your blog only recently. I started it for the writing advice as I share the light and dark on my blog and begin the process of writing a memoir.

But I stayed because of the sensitivity and tone of some of your entries. Your heart. It shows whether you are sharing something like this or your professional knowledge.

Thank you for letting us in in such a personal way. And like the others who have commented before me, all I can wish for you is the release in not having a secret, and peace as you, too, grapple with the humanity of the person who did this to you.

It is no easy process--it is a lifetime process. You already know that, though. Be gentle with yourself.

CD said...

As a female molested by my "mother," I know that deep pain and twisted confusion and shame caused by incest perpetrated by your same-sex parent. I have read that it is even more shaming for a male to be victimized, so I can only imagine your pain.
Two of my dear brothers committed suicide because of what our "mother" did to them. People say I am strong, and a survivor, but I know how it really feels some days, no matter how much healing you do and no matter how many people really love you, and I truly pray for you.
I know the feeling of always needing to tell, so that people will understand you better, yet having the fear of either not being believed or of being shunned by those who find it uncomfortable. That alone is a constant inner battle.
Keep doing what you do. You have a way of reaching out that is beautiful and pure and redeeming. Some survivors are not capable of such.

Amy Morgan said...

Robert,
I too have just recently begun to follow you and have spent quite a few hours working my way through your previous posts. The sensitivity, intelligience and humor in your writing ill prepared me for the raw honesty in this post. So painful to read of your innocence lost...but I rejoice in the life you have now and the man I've come to know through his writing. Thank you for sharing this with such grace and courage.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to everyone who's commented. I've read them all, and each one means a great deal to me. Thank you.

As the Blissfully series will show throughout this year, things did get worse at times, but I always ultimately found a new door to open and enter. And I'm in a great place now.

Heather Marsten said...

Robert, thank you for sharing this. First, after reading your other posts, I'm so glad you broke the pattern and are a good dad for your kids. But the hurt in this post runs deep.

I was abused by my father with my mom's full knowledge. He used to play find the soap in the bath tub with me, then went on to other games. Funny about the house fire behind you. As a kid, when my parents were asleep I used to get up to feel the walls to see if there was an electrical fire - I think it was the depth of the violation expressed by that gesture.

There is a site you might want to check out by Cec Murphy that deals with men who have been abused.

http://www.menshatteringthesilence.blogspot.com/

There really is healing from abuse - there will come a day when these memories will not be laced with so much pain. I am praying for you.

Heather.

Lisa A. said...

I think all of us have three versions of our childhood - the public one, the family one, and the private one that is the true whole of all those parts. Your raw honesty wends all of those versions into one, and that is a very courageous thing to do.

Amy Barlow Liberatore said...

Robert, well, all I can say is I understand. In our society, it's much more difficult for boys/men to talk about this, particularly when it's their father. You are brave, honest, and you will help more men free themselves from the unearned shame/blame that all survivors carry. God be with you as you continue your journey. Love, Amy

Anonymous said...

I cannot think of words adequate to express my admiration for your courage and openness. Very few of us would be able to put ourselves out in the open like that for all to see.

Thank you so much, Robert, for being the kind person and the kind of person that you are.

Carol A. Stephen

Khaalidah said...

This was probably the most courageous sensitive post I have ever read. You have such heart to admit this aloud, and I hope that you have been able to find peace with what has happened.

Pam Lemke said...

I'm sorry.

ellen said...

You seem so brave in the face of things that cannot be undone. thank you for reminding us of the true power of the pen. and thank you for trusting us with your story. that could not have been easy at all.

Chats with a Cheeky Old Broad said...

Robert - my heart cries when I read your blog -- and think of the millions of other children who've been taken advantage of - abused - lost their childhood, due to horrible actions from people they trusted. May we never become neutral toward this abuse but always hate it - fight it - and pray for healing. gail

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Again, thank you, everyone, so much for your comments and support. You're all moving me in positive directions that will hopefully benefit others. Thank you so much.

Karen said...

I am a guardian for GAL. I've see children in situation very much like your past experience. It's hard to face those adults in court, stand beside them while making a report and not want to turn and tell them what I think of them. But...I can't. I have to work toward an accepted solution for the child's best interest and tell the court what I think. And I've seen wonderful results. Thanks for your post, it can help others to heal.

kristi weber said...

big hugs to you for writing about this and sharing. my heart breaks to read this but it also helps me understand, as your friend, things that i didn't quite understand when we were teenagers. no matter what you choose to share with the world about this difficult time in your life, just know that you are learning to look at the experience from many angles and it is helping you to keep growing as someone who can love and be loved without blurry lines and confusing situations and discomfort. you really have survived something difficult but allowed it to shape you with qualities that are opposite of the pain you endured.

Kerry said...

Hi Robert - Now I know why I was drawn to your blog. I don't follow very many (only one other). I was once married to a man similar to your father. I am now attempting to write about it. Your words are superb. Your strength has encouraged me.
Thank you.