The Sound of Silence

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The Sound of Silence

 



Author’s Note: I had no desire to write this book while my parents were alive. Now they are gone and the book’s completed, I still wonder if it should be published. It certainly hasn’t proved to be a catharsis; maybe it was motivated by a need to get the entire sad episode of my life down on paper while I still can; or perhaps it was even a compulsion to confess to the guilt of my silence. And of course, it could be all three and more. Nonetheless, it has also occurred to me that it may be of some slight use, perhaps even comfort, to those people who have experienced the same sort of thing. They will know whether or not they want to read it. That’s why there’s only one excerpt, and it’s been taken from the prologue because I think it’s relative.

 

Excerpts

From the prologue...

 

           When a person ignores shameful events that should never have been ignored; when one fails to do what is right, either through ignorance or convenience; when someone does not stop to ponder on what might happen to others rather than just themselves; then they must live with the consequences. Age will never ease the guilt that rises from one’s past misjudgments. Age does, in fact, exacerbate it.

 

           My father’s phone call was such a significant event, the final act in a tragedy that should have ended three decades before. The call took place one evening in the autumn of nineteen eighty seven. It began with a minute or two of the usual preamble--how are you, and what have you been doing, all that sort of thing--and then he got down to the real reason for the call. There had to be a real reason. He rarely called otherwise. This time it was to tell me that he had been arrested. There was no need to ask why. My father was a pedophile, and I knew that. I had simply chosen to believe that he had stopped being one many years before when he assured me and everyone else, including his divorce lawyer, that he had indeed stopped, and there had been no subsequent overt evidence to contradict his word.

 

           The real purpose of the phone call was to ask if I would advance funds in order for him to hire a defence lawyer. The line fell silent for a minute or so as I pondered the question, figuring what to say. Yet there could only be a single response. I told my father I would loan him the funds on the condition that he pled guilty. There was also no need to ask if he was.

 

           He replied that he’d think it over, and he’d call me back. He never did. That was the last time I spoke to my father. He died just over two decades later in January of 2009, at the age of ninety one. At the time of the call, he would have been approximately the same age as I am today.

 

***


           Once off the phone, my mind raced and not necessarily with the noblest of thoughts. The first was that ‘the problem’ was finally out in the open, and what did that mean to me and my family? This was selfish, of course, but after more than thirty years since first becoming a victim of father’s sexual predilections, many of the old fears still remained, such as the publicity, the gossip, and the shame. Those were instinctive, but all the other fears that had once terrified a thirteen old child had long since disappeared: the effect of father’s exposure on my mother and her situation, the embarrassing reaction of school friends, the threat to the security of our family’s everyday living, and even the breakup of the family itself. By the time of father’s phone call the latter had long since taken place, and the rest of it no longer mattered. And, as I gave it a bit more thought, neither did anything else. The imagined publicity, the gossip and the public shame, if they had ever existed at all, they were not my problem. Nor had they ever been. They were my father’s. Yet even so...

 

           Over a quarter century has passed since the phone call and my father’s crimes proved to be far more blatant than I had ever been aware, all of which came out during prosecution of the court case. Soon, other considerations began to haunt my mind. A new sense of shame began to take hold and with it a growing sense of guilt, two feelings that have intensified as the years pass by. Age has brought with it a renewed focus on those two regrettable lists that lengthen during one’s lifetime: the things we should not have done, and the things we should have done. Each forever competes with the other in length, but in this instance the shame and the guilt could be readily found on either list.

 

           - I should never have kept my mouth shut about my father’s sexual abuse.

 

           - I should have told someone, anyone, but particularly the authorities.

 

           Instead, I remained silent, and others were hurt because of this. In this alone can be found perhaps the only reason that any shame and guilt need ever be felt by the sexually abused victim. It will echo through that victim’s mind, slowly growing louder as he or she grows older, and it will be there until the day they die. It might well be called The Sound of Silence.