I grew up the oldest of six kids, each born one right after the other, three brothers and two sisters to Catholic parents strong in their beliefs. My father, a schoolteacher and football coach who absolutely loved the sport and was very successful with winning seasons. My mother worked for JCPENNEYS and even though she didn’t make a lot of money, she loved getting out of the house. Teachers in Iowa don’t make a lot of money so money was always very tight in our household
I was born on March 11, 1962. My mother was not yet married to my father. I was considered a sin, forcing my mother and father to join in marriage due to their religious beliefs. My earliest memories are of my mother informing me that she never wanted me nor did she love me. This verbal reminder continued throughout my youth. My father was a big burly man, obvious to anyone that he had been a football player himself in his younger days. While my younger siblings got love and attention, I got beatings from my father and verbal abuse from my mother on a daily basis.
As I grew older, I tried my best to win my parents affection. I was a jock, a natural at sports, small and speedy. I excelled at wrestling, winning tournament after tournament at the young age of six. I was a football star at the same age in peewee football. In seventh and eighth grade, I was extremely popular due to my athletic abilities. However, during these same years I made up excuses to my friends and adults about the bruises covering my face. I kept the secret of abuse hidden from everyone, afraid of what they would think of me and afraid of what would happen to my parents.
In high school, I realized I would never earn my parents love, so I stopped trying. Even though I remained a jock, I also became a jock who did drugs. Drugs were my escape from reality. I went out and roamed the streets night after night because staying home meant abuse.
Roaming the streets introduced to me kids much older than myself. I was popular, a jock, son of the winning football coach, these older kids welcomed me into their world. Trouble started finding me, or maybe I found it. At the age of fifteen, I came home from school and was greeted by police officers. My parents were done with me; they no longer wanted me in their home. Handcuffed to a chain around my belly; shackles placed on my feet, I was whisked two hours away and placed in a juvenile home for boys. After thirty days, the counselors in the juvenile detention center realized I did not belong there. They informed me that I was to be released, but they had not yet informed my parents. I informed the counselors that my parents would never allow me to live with them, they did not want me, never did. Of course, the counselor thought I was exaggerating, until he discussed my release with my parents. My only option was a foster home. I explained to the counselor that if he told my parents that I’d be placed in a foster home they would let me come home because my father was an important man and he could not allow the town to know the truth that he had thrown his son away. The ploy worked and I was sent home.
Once I arrived home my parents informed me that they would be moving and I was not moving with them. They did in fact move six hours away and left me there, homeless, abandoned. At fifteen years-old I lived on the streets that summer spending days hungry, sneaking into the school to use the facilities. A group of Harley bikers noticed me, they knew who I was since most of them had been in my father’s classes; all of them were much older than I was. One in particular helped me. He let me live in his house, demanded I go to school, forced me to accept a sports scholarship to college. He saved my life.
After college, I moved to Illinois and when twenty-five years passed, I paid a visit to that town, ready to face the pain I had buried deep inside of me. I went back for my high school reunion. It was a two-day reunion; I drove nearly six hours to get there. My stomach ached, tense, in knots, afraid of the demons I left there so many years ago. I brought my girlfriend with me, if she had not been with me I would have never made it. Several times, I wanted to turn the car around and turn back but she helped me cope with the fear and feelings that were suddenly spewing forth from me.
Once we arrived, things went smoothly. Everyone was pleased to see me, I had stayed away far too long. The first night of the high school reunion was held in the local tavern. I mingled with everyone and proudly introduced my girlfriend and bragged about my beautiful daughter. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a man, drunk, dressed poorly, staggering in the background, head dropped, hair a total mess. I recognized him immediately. I grabbed my girlfriend’s hand and walked with her to where this man was standing with a distinct drunkard lean.
“Do you remember me?” I asked.
The man squinted his eyes together so they were slits, trying to focus them on me. He slowly shook his head causing beer to splash out of his glass.
“It’s me, Brian Smith,” I said to him.
He looked at me puzzled, no recognition of who I was, the name meant nothing to him in his current state of mind.
it’s me. I’m the boy you took off the street and let
live with you,” I informed.
His eyes filled with tears, he swallowed hard to fend the emotion off. “Everyone thinks I’m a loser, just a stupid drunk. I really needed to hear that. Thank you.”
We talked for a little while. He asked where I lived, how I was, what I did for a living and I happily shared each bit of information with him. He asked me how my parents were and if I seen them. I informed him that my parents had gotten counseling, expressed their sincere apologies to me and that I had forgiven, but had not forgotten. I shook his hand, holding it for an extended time before saying our goodbyes.
just saved his life,” my girlfriend said to me as we