WHEN MOM WAS 90, still sharp as a tack, she told me a story of unwanted advances toward her when she was a teenager. She got away. Her telling of it was prompted by a big story in the headlines at the time. We’d been discussing it.
I then told Mom my story about the brother of a friend. My friend’s brother was 19. I was 12. I got away. I ran faster than he did, plus he was stark naked, so once I was outside the house he’d called me into, I was in the clear. To this day, though, I dread to think what might have happened if he’d been standing between me and the door. (Sorry to plant an unpleasant graphic in your head, friends, but I have a point and I will get to it.)
I ran home and sat on our front steps. I sat there a long time, thinking about what had just happened.
“Why didn’t you ever tell me?” Mom asked.
I had to think a bit. I had to put myself back on those front steps.
“I thought I’d get in trouble for it somehow.”
LATELY, I HEAR PEOPLE QUESTIONING the trustworthiness, both of decades-old memories and those who, having kept silent so long, suddenly feel the need to speak up. To those people I would like to say, “You’ve been very fortunate indeed, not to have such a story in your life.”
Mom remembered quite clearly what happened 75 years earlier.
I remembered quite clearly what happened 50 years earlier.
There came a moment when it was time to tell. There was permission and an open door. I was glad the two of us had the conversation.
I know Vietnam vets who experienced things nobody should ever have to experience and still can’t talk about it. If they ever suddenly feel the need, I won’t say, “Why bother with all that now?”